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.