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I have been intrigued by the classical education movement. A classical education is one that bases learning off of three stages: 1) the Grammar stage, 2) the Logic stage, and 3) the Rhetoric stage. Children below 5th grade are in the grammar stage. In this stage, facts, general knowledge, and memorization are required. During the logic years, children will start to apply reasoning to their knowledge. Teenagers learn to apply wisdom and judgement in the rhetoric stage. The Well-Trained Mind homeschool book covers philosophies, methods, and curriculum recommendations for providing your child with a classical education.
Susan Wise Bauer and her mother, Jessie Wise, publish curriculum that follows the classical education framework. This review is my opinion on their book, “The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home.” My review will not cover the entire book. I only read the grammar stage portion (Part 1) and the portion about how to educate your child at home (Part 4), as that is what I considered applicable to my current circumstances.
Overview of The Well-Trained Mind Homeschool book:
This books is a resource in educating children at home. General philosophies, methods, scheduling, and curriculum recommendations are covered.
The Well-Trained Mind homeschool book provides an excellent starting point for new homeschool families. Even parents who are experienced in homeschooling and education will likely benefit from the information covered.
- In the pre-school sections, the authors recommend teaching children informally. Follow the child’s lead and create an environment that is conducive for learning letters and numbers.
- In kindergaten, the focus should be on reading, writing, and math. Other subjects can be covered as time allows.
- Their methods are the best I have come across for teaching writing skills.
- Although I am not familiar with all of their curriculum recommendations, the ones I am familiar with are high quality options.
- Includes tips for making any math curriculum more hands-on.
- The authors’ personal experiences in educating children at home seem to be based in the gifted population. The authors point out that due to their methods of providing a literacy rich environment, their own children were reading at the 4th-5th grade levels in kindergarten. The only children I know who could read at a 4th to 5th grade level in Kindergarten are also gifted (defined as an IQ over 130). I would expect that in most cases, following their methods will not replicate this level of progress. Following the authors’ suggestions will help you to create a literacy rich environment. This is beneficial for any child. Just do not think something is wrong if your child progresses at a normal rate.
- The authors recommend teaching phonics and avoiding whole-word methods of reading instruction. They say to have the child sound out each word rather than memorize words. There is no research that says learning through whole word methods prevents reading by phonics. I see absolutely no problem with a child who memorizes words. Children who read through phonetic methods will begin to recognize the words by sight, which is memorization. This is actually what we want to have happen. Children who decode a word every single time they see it will not be able to read fluently (at the rate of natural speech). These two approaches for teaching reading actually have a different set of pre-requisite skills. I have always taught phonic skills in parallel with whole word methods and have not had any problems of interference between the two methods.
- The authors adamantly recommend restricting calculators use until 7th grade. For the majority of children, this is not a problem. For children who struggle to learn math facts, a calculator accommodation is actually beneficial and can help them make adequate progress in a math curriculum.
- The recommendations included in this book are for typically developing children. If your child has learning differences, you may need to adjust the recommendations or seek out additional help. The authors do mention some learning indicators that should lead you to seek out an evaluation.
I definitely recommend reading The Well-Trained Mind homeschool book. This is an excellent resource for parents who are educating their children at home. Much of the information would also be applicable for parents who send their children to school. The preschool recommendations would be highly relevant for any family. Parents could supplement their child’s public or private school education and homework activities using the suggestions provided. I agree with most of the recommendations. Just be mindful that some of their examples, particularly about how their methods produced advanced readers, may not be replicated. The curriculum they recommend is worth investigating and is an excellent starting point for homeschool families.