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526 of 542 people found the following review helpful
on February 29, 2000
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.
The principle is this: The first years, grades 1 through 4 are the "grammar" stage where the mind is supplied with facts and images (rules of grammar, math facts, phonics, poems, songs, stories in literature and history). And I was glad to see that these four years were just an introduction to facts, not a deep delving. Then, the"logic" stages, in grades 5-8 where the child is given tools to logically organize those facts (including learning outlining, paragraph constructions, organizing skills and analysis) , and the third stage is the "rhetoric" stage, grades 9-12 where the child is equipped to express conclusions forcefully.
The other part of this process is the repetition ever four years. The first ,5,th and 9 th grades study the Ancient times (4000 B.C - 400 AD) and the grades 2, 6, 10 study the Medieval and Early Renaissance (400 AD - 1600 AD) , and the grades 3, 7, 11 study the Late Renaissance and Early Modern (1600-1850)and the Modern to Present times is studied in grades 4, 8, 12. The science is divided also this way: The first time period is Biology and Human body and Classification (Ancients), the second is Earth Science and Astronomy (Medieval times), the third time is Chemistry (Late Renaissance), and the Modern times studies physics and computer science. History is studied with the same four time periods, as is the literature. Everything in a whole year follows the time period. After four years, you repeat the cycle, but with more emphasis on analysis and logic and creativity.
A couple of other things she says: she believes that peer socialization should not take such a precedence in children's lives. That family and neighbors should come first. She doesn't believe in dating in high school. She does throw her personal ethics in here a lot. She also says that children can learn to do more than we think. We can challenge them. She has a lot to say about the literataure and movies that most educators let our kids use for academics. She has a section on testing, transcripts, lists of resources, how to use certain books and resources, complete step by step ideas on developing notebooks, how to prepare the mind to think. I think this book is very good, BUT, like other homeschooling books, it could make you feel inadequate as a homeschooling parent. ON the other hand, if you need some guidance on classical studies, and want someone to lay out a good curriculum for you complete with resources, this is a good book to own.
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322 of 335 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2000
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
on August 29, 1999
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. If you want an all-encompassing guide, complete with suggested schedules, the authors have included them. The beauty of home education, however, is that you have the freedom to modify your curriculum.
So, what if there is a fabulous exhibit at your local art museum, but doesn't fit into the historical period you're studying that year? You go! You CAN go because even the rigorous program described in this book takes far less time than children typically spend in school and doing homework. What if your child has passion for art or dinosaurs? At home, you have the freedom to allow their exploration without sacrificing any other component of their education. Because even if you do everything described in the book, you'll still be finished with time to spare for these "passions."
But if you don't give your child the education described in this book, how will they ever have enough information about their world to know what they truly are passionate about?
Jessie Wise and her daughter, Susan Wise Bauer have been living the homeschool experience for more than 25 years, first as Jessie taught Susan and her other children, and now as Susan teaches her three children. There are few families in America that have this kind of experience from which to draw. I am using this book as the core of my homeschool curriculum (in fact, have used the program for a full year already, having used Mrs. Wise as our curriculum consultant before the book came out), and highly recommend it to parents who choose to homeschool to ensure that their children receive a quality education -- one that is simply not available in public (and even good private) schools anymore.
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73 of 74 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 1999
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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63 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2000
This book is packed with great information! It not only explains Classical Education in terms that are easily understandable but it also has very practical ways to apply it in any homeschool situation.
But please, please, please use common sense when reading this book. Take the principles and apply it in your own way. Some of the reviewers here missed that point. For instance, don't be scared by the schedule the author's just a recommendation! You can figure out your own schedule. The same goes for the curriculum. If you find a book that suits your family all means use it. I feel certain the authors would say the same thing. They are only laying out a framework which needs to be adapted to suit your own family. I believe education is an atmosphere and this book gave me great ideas for creating an even better atmosphere for my children at home.
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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2000
I like the *idea* of classical education, if not necessarily the strict implementation. I was looking for a way to add a little more structure to our hs'ing day without purchasing a canned curriculum and this book has helped tremendously in that regard. The resource lists alone are worth the price of the (in particular, 'Drawing With Children' is my favorite recommendation so far). Not only are there a zillion ideas, but the books I've been led to purchasing have been of the highest quality. While obviously writng from a religious perspective, the author never maintains ALL readers should share this perspective. There are clear warnings and alternative resources listed when recommended materials are religious in nature.
Now the caveats: While exceptional in helping to build History and English skills, this book was dishearteningly weak in Science recommendations. Granted, this seems to be common in the Classical philosophy (some books don't even mention science in the Grammar stage), but I think it's irresponsible given how important a science background is today.
Also, there doesn't seem to be a very high regard for outdoor play and excercise. The authors espouse 2 hours' worth of naptime for all children (quiet room-time for the older ones) in order to save Mom's sanity, but never mentions the importance of fresh air and rigorous physical activity.
For these and other reasons, I strongly recommend this book but caution you to read it with an eye trained to altering the philosophy to suit your own situation. After all, isn't this why most of us are homeschooling in the first place?
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81 of 87 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2005
I like this book as a resource but would not use it, or encourage anyone to use it, as a strict guide for homeschooling. Having homeschooled for several years now while also learning about the Classical Method, I would say that this is a variation at best. In the true Classical Method the ages are different. The Grammar stage lasts much longer than this book allows. Therefore, too much seems to be placed on the child too early. My son is nearly at the age this book considers to be the Logic stage and he (and most of his friends) is no where near that level. He is not an idiot he is simply still in the grammar stage. This stage should last until well into what we in America call Middle School. The Well-Trained Mind, unfortunately, starts it much too early.

Their reason for this is their insistence on going through the eras of history three times. This is unnecessary. While your child may be interested in the study of Ancient Egypt and may pick it up again in High School, there is no reason why he must go through it three times. There is too much involved in history and this method brushes over a lot.

The other problem is the rigidity of it. I was surprised (to use a mild word) to see that they actually give a daily schedule of when to do your work. This is a rarity in the homeschooling community for good reason. One of the joys of homeschooling is NOT being tied to a schedule. I have known too many mothers who have become discouraged due to this. They have small children and they cannot seem to get it all done in the time frame that The Well-Trained Mind recommends.

Before swallowing this as THE true classical method, do some other reading. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Doug Wilson is an excellent resource into what a good classical education entails. You can do a search on the internet for Dorothy Sayers essay "The Lost Tools of Learning" and read, for free, what is a better age recommendation for each stage. There are many other sites if you simply do a search for Classical Education or Classical Christian Education. All of these will give you more insight into the method.
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194 of 216 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 1999
The Well Trained MInd describes a system of home education reminiscent of old-fashioned tutor systems drawing on classical literature and subject matter, including the early study of logic and Latin for 'building the mind.' It will appeal to parents (and students) already interested in an early, firm start in math and reading and its practical ordering of subject areas with precise resource recommendations. It may offend parents concerned about 'the hurried child' syndrome and who would rather 'let kids be kids' a little longer. It is possible that the success the authors describe with themselves and others is due to other factors not carefully studied, such as high motivation and high intelligence. (In fact, the other two children in the family are not described much; it may be that they turned out like Susan (the daughter, product of this program) & the authors are merely protecting their privacy. Still, as a reader, I wondered how the siblings turned out.) It may offend parents concerned about overly-coercive 'programming' of the young child into a highly academic, studious life. Although the Wises certainly tout the importance of early attention to art and music, there is some risk here of over-emphasis on the three R's. Its greatest appeal is perhaps its emphasis on drawing on the whole cycle of human history, from the dawn of Man to the present. Devotees of Ed Hirsch ('Cultural Literacy') will highly appreciate the emphasis on keystones of human culture. Children who successfully follow this program would indeed turn out firmly grounded in 'culture.' Because this is a home education program, families of different backgrounds might choose to emphasize different cultures as focal points although such resources could be harder to find. The central focus of the Wises' program is identifiably Western European but perhaps one must forgive them this unfortunate necessity--is it bias? That could be argued elsewhere. They point out that it is a family's job to incorporate the subject matter of faith and religion & otherwise shy away from prescribing in this area except to include it in the schedule. I appreciated this ecumenical view. Parents timid about homeschooling will appreciate the explicit timeframe described in terms of age; school grade; and daily, weekly, yearly overviews. But one could easily feel intimidated by the caliber of the academics--you'll be looking for a Latin tutor, music teachers, etc., as needed. The program itself appeals to me personally; I was already doing similar activities with my children. However, we follow a more 'Attachment Parenting' lifestyle. So we will not follow the Wises' recommendation of using cribs and naptimes to secure home-education time. We will take a more relaxed approach while incorporating some of their ideas. The danger is always that some parents will go whole-hog without being willing to reject unsuitable portions. I hope readers will be critical and astute, choose what they need, and tailor the Wises' recommendations to fit their family, not vice-versa. One more caveat: I was raised in a very similar fashion to this strict 'classical' approach. Although I welcome the idea of seeing more young adults turn out highly educated in history, logic, and language skills, it is an awkward fit with today's society that fosters quite different values. To choose this program or homeschooling at all, parents need to be responsible about supporting their children through some awkward years of figuring out how to fit in with a world (i.e., beyond college) that has run amok with very different values and ideas.
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2000
If you've always wanted your children to learn with "real books" but have felt more comfortable with the sequentially structured security of a textbook based curriculum, this is the book for you. If you think you must "begin at the beginning and do it all, in order" but are withering under the influence of predigested, lock-step education, you cannot press the Order button too fast. The authors tell you exactly what "all" means, so you can do it without losing your sanity. They also leave enough flex room to allow the breezes of great literature and individuality to cool your overstructured mind. These ladies tell you what books to get and how to get them, what lessons should look like, and how much time to spend on each subject. They do this for 3 different learning levels with 4 different grades (1-4, 5-8, 9-12)in each. They even help with preschool. While providing guidelines and sample schedules for all the core subjects, the authors encourage concentration on reading, written and oral communication, and math. This gives over-achieving, home schooling parents permission to narrow their focus without thinking they've sacrificed excellence. I heartily wish I'd had this book when I began home schooling 10 years ago--buy it!
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2001
After homeschooling for 5 years I found The Well Trained Mind. This book is a treasure trove of classical education philosophy and suggestions for implementation. Don't be scared off by the rigorous schedules, adapt them to fit your situation, but don't miss out on the benefits of an education for your children that follows the natural stages of your child's development. This is called the Trivium and it is one of the components at the heart of Classical education. Let your young children (grammar stage) soak up facts and information, memorize poetry and copy from the masters in writing and drawing. When they're older (logic stage) teach them to think for themselves, to ask "why" and "how". Finally, when they are high school age (rhetoric stage) teach them to communicate with clarity and persuasive eloquence, and to specialize in areas that especially interest them. The Well Trained Mind lays out for you a wonderful blueprint to follow. History is the central focus,not just American History but the history of the world. There are suggestions for how to organize this study starting with the Ancients and moving forward. It shows how to use the western world's "great books", those that have endured the test of time and speak to the human condition. Following the pattern laid out in the book your children will receive an education that will give them a deep understanding of who we are and where we've come from. This will prepare them to meet the challenges (technical, ethical, political,spiritual) our increasingly complex world creates. We have implemented much of the program this past year and my children have all made great strides academically, even though they have various learning styles and abilities. They have loved the organization and pulling together of history, literature,art and science in a systematic way that makes sense. They have even loved learning Latin ! The task of setting forth a classical education may seem daunting but The Well Trained Mind gives you both the "WHY"S" and suggestions for the "HOW'S". It provides guidence and a well thought out model to follow. I refer to it constantly. Our homeschool experience is so much richer for it. If you're just getting started in classical homeschooling this is a must read.
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