Another Great Book ~ A Classics Based Education It Will Be - Eva Varga

April 16, 20087

I just finished another great book on homeschooling… Anyone considering homeschooling should read this book. Parents who are frustrated with the public school system but fear they wouldn’t be successful teaching their own should read this book.

Let me state for the record that when I decided to homeschool my children, I was honestly intimidated. All my teacher education had brainwashed me. I was convinced that parents couldn’t possibly teach their own children. It had to be done in an institutional setting… professionals with specialized training and expertise. I happen to have a teacher’s certificate. But even now, just 9 months into our homeschooling journey, I have learned more academic material, more about how to manage individual relationships with children, and more about how to teach than I did in any of my teacher-education courses. Teacher-education courses gave me a great deal of good information on how to manage large groups of children. I needed that in schools, but a parent doesn’t need it to teach at home.

The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home
by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. It is very similar to The Thomas Jefferson Education that I posted about a few weeks ago… an approach to my children’s education based upon the classics with a heavy emphasis on reading and writing. Teaching history, science and literature in a four-year pattern; a pattern that roughly corresponds to the periods of scientific discovery.

Ancients ~ 5000 BC-AD 400 ~ Biology/Plants/Human Body
Medieval/Early Renaissance ~ 400-1600 ~ Earth Science/Astronomy
Late Renaissance/Early Modern ~ 1600-1850 ~ Chemistry
Modern ~ 1850-Present ~ Physics/Computer Science

“This pattern lends coherence to the study of history, science, and literature – subjects that are too often fragmented and confusing. The pattern widens and deepens as the child matures and learns. A first grader may listen to you read the story of the Iliad from one of the picture-book versions available at any public library. Four years later, the fifth grader reads one of the popular middle-grade adaptations – Olivia Coolidge’s The Trojan War, or example. The ninth grader, faced with Homer’s Ilidad itself – plunges right in, undaunted. She already knows the story. What’s to be scared of?”

It is strongly based upon ancient approaches to education called the trivium, which covered grammar, logic, and rhetoric as the tools by which a student can then analyze and master every other subject. Loosely, logic is concerned with the thing as-it-is-known; grammar is concerned with the thing-as-it-is-symbolized; and rhetoric is concerned with the thing-as-it-is-communicated

One of the most impressive things about this book is that it doesn’t just provide the theories, reasons, and/or personal accounts for why this approach works. It provides a history of classical education, an overview of the methodology and philosophy of classical education, and best of all (at least in my mind) an annotated lists of books, divided by grade and topic, that list the best books for classical education in each category. In essence, the authors (both homeschoolers themselves!) have done the heavy lifting by filtering through all the materials available today. For math curriculum, for example, they even weigh the pros/cons for all the major curriculum materials (Saxon, A Beka, Singapore, Math-U-See, Calvert, etc.) and thereby make a suggestion for the one that they feel is the best and why. This is why the book is so huge – 810 pages!

Note: Some of their suggestions are of other books they have authored yet they make a strong point of assuring readers to go their own route… choosing what is best for the interests/maturity level/needs/etc. of the students – your children. Their suggestions are just that – suggestions. Potential starting points.

I am so excited to be on this journey with my children. I know there will be good days and bad – bring it on!


  • Makita

    April 16, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    No – but I’ll have to add it to the list! 😀

  • Teacher of One

    April 16, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    I use this as our guide and LOVE it! I have read it twice (grammer stage) and always come away with a new tidbit to store away.

  • Keri

    April 18, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    It IS an exciting journey!
    I just started implementing some of what I’ve read in that book;
    such as latin and writing.

  • Barb-Harmony Art Mom

    April 23, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    We have used this as the basis of our homeschooling for the last four to five years. I am finding that as the boys get older, it is harder to stick with it but we are. Those Great Books lists are very daunting to me. 🙂

    I had the chance to hear both Susan Wise Bauer and her mother Jessie speak at homeschooling conventions and I was totally impressed by how down to earth they are. I highly recommend their books.

    My boys have read the Story of the World series twice and now we are tackling her new history series for adults.

    We are currently combining CM methods with classical ideas and it is a combo that works for us.

    Glad you found the book,
    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  • Makita

    April 23, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Barb – I think CM and a Classics based approach blend perfectly. 😀

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