Looking to understand the nuts and bolts of how to begin a classical education without much other commentary? Check out The Well Trained Mind. The authors, Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer (mother and daughter team), give specifics on how to classically educate from preschool through twelfth grade. This is why it’s considered standard reading in the classical homeschool community.
If you’re already familiar with the classical model, then you’ll recognize much of what they have to say. At this point (finally!), this is true for me. Here are some quotes from the book, which help define and explain classical education:
“First, (classical education) is language-focused: learning is accomplished through words, written and spoken, rather than through images (pictures, videos , and television).” (p.14)
“Second, a classical education follows a specific three-part pattern: the mind must be first supplied with facts and images, then given the logical tools for organization of those facts and images, and finally equipped to express conclusions.” (p.15)
“Third, to the classical mind, all knowledge is interrelated. Astronomy, for example, isn’t studied in isolation; it’s learned along with the history of scientific discovery, which leads into the church’s relationship to science and from there to the intricacies of medieval church history.” (p.15)
Finally, “Classical education is, above all, systematic – in direct contrast to the scattered, unorganized nature of so much secondary education.
Systematic study allows the student to join what Mortimer J. Adler calls the ‘Great Conversation’: the ongoing conversation of great minds down through the ages.” (p.17)
This is all starting to click for me, because it’s my second time reading The Well Trained Mind (& many other classical education books this summer). The first time I borrowed a friend’s copy and this time I’m reading my own & marking it all up! After reading it the first time, I knew I wanted my own copy, even if all I did thereafter was reference the resources.
Speaking of resources, in the book you’ll find:
1. lists of recommended curriculums for each step of the way. This is especially helpful if you’re looking for a (math, science, reading, etc) curriculum that works with the classical model.
2. book lists for every age, including historical biographies. I love knowing a book is trusted and well-written before I check it out or buy it!
3. sample schedules that show how to fit in all the recommended steps. This is especially helpful for when it all starts to get a little overwhelming.
Each stage (grammar, logic, rhetoric) has a designated part of the book, which as I was reading, kept reminding me of the baby toy, nesting cups. One upon another they build into something more. With each stage, you’re not really removing anything, but simply adding yet another layer to the beginning skills. The best work you can do with a classical education is to first build the solid foundation of basic skills, which your student will build upon each year. Remembering that doing this well will go a long way to producing a lifelong learner of your child. “Home education teaches children to learn and eventually to teach themselves.” (p.10)