I read the original Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise many years ago when I was new to homeschooling. My older two children were quite young at that time and I had great dreams for my homeschool. The reality of educating two children with special needs soon intervened. Nevertheless I have tried to incorporate some elements of classical education into our eclectic homeschool.
The latest revised edition has much to offer for anyone interested in classical education. This type of education is based on school-aged children’s development with the emphasis on three distinct stages: Grammar (Grade K – 4), Logic (Grade 5 – 8), and Rhetoric (Grade 9 – 12). In the Grammar Stage, children are supplied with facts and images. This is followed by the Logic Stage in which children are given the logical tools necessary to organize those facts and images. Finally, in the Rhetoric Stage, high school students learn to utilize facts to express conclusions.
Bauer and Wise discuss how to cover academic subjects including math, history, geography, science, foreign languages, arts and music utilizing this framework. Several of these subjects are covered in a four year rotation so that children are exposed to them during each developmental stage (this can be adjusted if there are several children in a family so that all children are studying the same thematic subject). They emphasize the interconnectedness of knowledge.
The authors include suggested resources for each stage and academic area. They offer info on starting home educating a classical curriculum in the middle of a child’s development as well as tips for helping students with special needs. Information on grades, record keeping, and planning for college is also included.
I have heard that Susan Wise Bauer exhibits anti-Catholic sentiment in some of her history texts (I have not read them). I found no such bias in this book. In an effort to appeal to all groups, the authors encourage individuals to study their own faith and to be exposed to the beliefs of others. Catholics could use this text as a solid foundation for creating a classical education for their children while including and interweaving information on our faith and history. The Well-Trained Mind is a must-read for anyone interested in this type of education. They also have a website with additional information at welltrainedmind.com.
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