The Well-Educated Mind

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When I purchased my copy of The Well-Trained Mind three years ago, I thought I would never be interested in The Well-Educated Mind. I thought I would be reading right along my children as we followed suggestions from The Well-Trained Mind. Who would have time for anything else? I was wrong.

The Well-Educated Mind

The book for homeschooling parents who are thirsty for more

Not that I find myself with “vast chasms of time” on my hands, to use Thomas Jefferson’s expression. But I got my kids on track with their assignments from The Well-Trained Mind and now I find myself curious, hungry, and eager for filling in the gaps in my own education. When I heard The Well-Educated Mind was being revised and re-published in October 2015, I placed my pre-order in September and waited (im)patiently for it to come out.  Continue reading »

Right from the introduction, I was very impressed. The book offers tremendous information about how to read a book. I read How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler last summer and learned a lot, but The Well-Educated Mind offers more precise advice, better organized ideas, and information geared specifically toward the homeschooling parent. Sorry, Mr. Adler!

I have already started down the list of 32 novels, which are listed in chronological order and have been chosen for their meaning in the history of novel evolution. I keep The Well-Educated Mind nearby and refer to it often, as I am still learning how to mark each book and how to read it on the three levels of classical education. And while I do not have the time to do everything Susan Wise Bauer recommends, I think I follow 90% of her suggestions in this book.


How to Homeschool

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Homeschooling is different for every family, but there are six basic approaches or methods:

1. Classical – A child’s brain development naturally sets the stage for the trivium: primary school, or the grammar stage, during which learning is based on concrete tasks and memorizing facts; middle school or the logic stage, during which learning tackles abstract concepts and reasoning from cause to effect; and high school or the rhetoric stage, when learning focuses more on expressing what has already been acquired. This is the method I lean toward heavily.

2. Charlotte Mason – A British educator of the nineteenth century, Ms. Mason is more relevant today than ever, in my opinion. Her emphasis on living books, i.e. regular books (as opposed to textbooks/workbooks), narration, and nature study would bring life into any educational pursuit. I like this approach very much and use it to balance my natural propensity toward rote memorization. Get more information about Charlotte here. Want a free curriculum with a Charlotte Mason approach? Get it here.

3. Unit Studies – The method which took me the most to understand and appreciate, even though I studied under one of its biggest proponents. The Prussian educational method of separating knowledge into subjects, which was used in my public school, had indoctrinated, errr…. trained me well. Once I got unit studies though, I used Before Five in a Row and came to a new level of freedom in my mind about home education. The mother of all unit study curricula is Konos. I find I am not brave enough for it, but it obviously works for a great number of homeschoolers. In conclusion, I use this method sparingly.

4. Traditional – Most of us learned like this in a public school somewhere around the world. Textbooks provide the theory, which you apply while filling out workbooks. Homeschoolers tend to call this method dry and boring, but some children thrive on this. I have a three-year old who asks for worksheets almost every day. Rod and Staff, Abeka and Bob Jones are examples of traditional curricula. Personally, I use Rod and Staff and anything I can find online. There is a vast array of worksheets online. Don’t get overwhelmed.

5. Unschooling – Also known as relaxed homeschooling or delight-based or child-led. I could not be an unschooler, but I like the emphasis on the child’s desire to look into a certain topic. I recognize that the highest point of learning is when a child asks a question. I capitalize on those teaching moments throughout the day. However, I need the structure of a schedule and a carefully laid out curriculum to feel sane.

6. Eclectic – People like me, who pick and choose at least two different methods, curricula and approaches to tailor the education of their children, are called eclectic homeschoolers.

I am leaving out Montessori, Waldorf, independent study, umbrella/charter/online schools and other methods. The best book I have found, which I think any homeschooler should have on their reference shelf, is Cathy Duffy’s “101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum“. The first few chapters explain methods and learning styles. You will walk away with a clearer picture of what your homeschool should be like.

Special note on The Moore Formula

For a balanced education, i.e. one which trains the hand, the heart and the head, taking into consideration a child’s readiness level for formal education, I always keep in mind The Moore Foundation’s philosophy. In fact, it is the overarching method I keep in mind before making any decision in my homeschool.