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The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home Hardcover – August 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Wise, a former teacher and current home education consultant, explains that she decided to home-school her three children because the local public school "was a terrible environment socially" and ranked academically as one of the lowest in the state, and the private school she and her husband had chosen seemed unable to stimulate and challenge her children. Bauer, her older daughter and now an instructor at the College of William & Mary, adds the student's perspective. Together, they provide detailed information on a home-school curriculum for a type of classical education called the "trivium." Within each of the three stages of learning (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) are suggestions for lessons, how-to tips, and lists of resources. A common criticism of home schooling, that children have inadequate opportunity for social and emotional development, is also addressed here. For home-schooling a child or supplementing the education of one attending a public or private school, this book is a good purchase for most public libraries.ATerry A. Christner, Hutchinson P.L., KS
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Jessie Wise, a former teacher, is a home education consultant, speaker, and writer. Her daughter, Susan Wise Bauer, whom she educated at home, is a freelance writer and teaches British literature at the College of William and Mary. Both live in Virginia.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 764 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (August 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393047520
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393047523
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #609,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Susan was born in 1968, grew up in Virginia, and was educated at home by pioneering parents, back when home education was still unheard of. She worked as a professional musician, wore a costume at Colonial Williamsburg, toured with a travelling drama group, galloped racehorses at a Virginia racetrack, taught horseback riding, worked in radio and newspaper ad sales, learned enough Korean to teach a Korean four-year-old Sunday school, and served as librarian and reading tutor for the Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Center in Williamsburg, Virginia.

In her less haphazard adult life, she earned an M.A., M.Div., and Ph.D. She has taught at the College of William & Mary in Virginia for the last sixteen years. Susan is married and the mother of four.

Susan's most recent book for Norton, The Story of Western Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory (2015), guides us back to the original texts that have changed the way we think about our world, our cosmos, and ourselves.!

Her previous book, The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had (2003), is a guide to reading the classic works of fiction, poetry, history, autobiography, and drama. Norton also published The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (with co-author Jessie Wise); originally published in 1999, this bestselling guide to education in the classical tradition was revised and updated in 2004 and again in 2009.

For Peace Hill Press, Susan has written a four-volume world history series for children, The Story of the World, for Peace Hill Press. Volume 1, Ancient Times, was published in 2002 (revised edition 2006); Volume 2, The Middle Ages, in 2003 (revised edition 2007); and Volume 3, Early Modern Times, in 2004. The final volume, The Modern Age, was published in 2006. She has also written a best-selling elementary writing program, Writing With Ease.

Susan is also the author of The Art of the Public Grovel (Princeton University Press) and many articles and reviews. Visit her blog at

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#5 in Books > History
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

526 of 542 people found the following review helpful By Waterfall2 on February 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Book Review: The Well Trained Mind, A Guide to Classical Education at Home, by Jesse Wise. I enjoyed this book for it's curriculum guidelines for homeschooling using the classical style of home education. Written by a homeschooling parent and her adult homeschooled daughter, this book lays out the principles of the Trivium, the three-part process of training the mind. She says that this is diametrically opposed to the principles of unschooling, because here, the parent "supplies the mind with facts and thinking skills." This gives a clue as to the approach. It's not child-led. It's very structured.
Although I had a little trouble with the idea of teaching very formal academics to a younger child, I liked the progressive nature of the Trivium, I liked the clear structure of the curriculum, and the extensive resource lists, and I liked the emphasis on classical works. The trivium, as she states, is language-based and not image based, so there is very little hands-on and art and music mentioned. I think the problem with this approach is if you have a child with another type of learning style. There is a lot of reading and writing. It may not work well with all kids. I also note that there is little if any discussion on how to teach multiple children, or where to start if you don't do this from the beginning, and a lack of discussion in building loving family relationships. It sounds like 12 years of academics with little time for much else. I think if you use this book, you need to soften the process with good relationship building and family skills.
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322 of 335 people found the following review helpful By MFS on April 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
My family long ago adopted a "so many books, so little time" approach to learning. If you and your family are also stimulated by great books, the lessons of history, the wonders of science, and the magic of learning another language, then you will discover treasures in this volume, to say nothing of superb recommendations for mastering a program of academic excellence. Jessie Wise has assembled THE reference book for people who choose to blend the best of family-centered, home-based learning with a rigorous quest for academic excellence. Her own experience is obviously Christian in perspective, but, where appropriate, she presents excellent alternatives for secular homeschoolers in her year-by-year approach to classical education, including books, schedules, and resources. So stop wandering the library, bookstores, teacher supply stores, and Internet. Save yourself time and money by referring to the meticulously researched resource lists presented in The Well-Trained Mind. (Note that movements exist within movements, and homeschooling is no exception. Unschoolers, school-at-homers, unit study devotees, John Holt fans - the list goes on and on, and the dissension among the ranks grows louder (and nastier) as each submovement asserts its preferences and points its finger at the shortcomings of the others. But while Wise's book is decidedly not one for those who subscribe to pure child-led learning and unschooling, she does not denigrate the choices these homeschoolers make.)
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101 of 103 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
People choose to teach their children at home for many reasons. If you are running away from a formal school environment because you don't like "rigidity," then perhaps the system described in this book is not for you.
If, on the other hand, you are contemplating teaching your children at home because public (and even private) traditional schools have watered down the content of your children's academic learning, and you truly want to give your child a world-class education at home in the classical tradition, you need look no further than this remarkable resource.
The authors have compiled a complete list of what to teach, where to find the resources with which to teach it, and, if you need it, some suggestions for working out a schedule that will accomplish it all (The authors acknowledge that the schedules in the book won't work for all families, but are merely meant to be examples).
Mind you, this book describes a system of rigorous education that requires dedication on the part of both parent and student. Any parent who has chosen to homeschool their children, though, already has proven that they have the necessary dedication to follow this program. The authors do not give credence to popular notions that children need watered-down, video- and photographically-enhanced stimuli to learn. They encourage parents to teach their children to read early, read constantly, and eventually to learn to search for answers to questions on their own. Children of the video age may find it difficult at first to actively learn, but if they are to be well and truly educated, and become lifetime learners, they cannot learn any other way.
You can use this book in many ways.
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73 of 74 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
If you have done any research into the field of homeschooling at all, you have probably been submerged in a philosophical quagmire, just as I was earlier this year. Hmmm, I like the idea of unit studies, but don't they sometimes end up leaving children with gaps in their education? I like living books, nature study, narration, and letting a child explore their interests, but isn't the Charlotte Mason approach a little too freeform and child-led for me? Workbooks are thorough, but what if my child is an active learner? When asked about my homeschool philosophy, I usually replied that I was eclectic, borrowing what I liked from different methods. My concern about the classical approach was that it seemed cold and rigid to me. No more! This book presents a very balanced version of the classical approach, fearlessly updated to incorporate the best of all we have learned in the homeschooling field. You can have Latin, but you can also have the benefits of unit studies, projects, and field trips. And the best part about this approach is this family's unique experience and perspective. These are real people who are living out this book daily, to the third generation. What an amazing thing to have intergenerational input to the homeschooling experience! The book is very readable, is intuitively organized, and contains meticulously researched resource lists. This book could constitute your entire homeschool how-to library, and you would be lacking nothing! If you have been looking at all the homeschool approaches, and you can't decide which one you like because they all have pluses, try this book. One caveat--if you are an "unschooler," you probably won't care for this method. However, if you think THIS method is rigid, you will choke if you read books by hard-core classicists, so save yourself now. In conclusion, this book describes a rigorous, yet flexible and child-friendly classical education method, and I highly recommend it.
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