View Full Version : Is anyone else here taking cues from the Well Trained Mind?

04-19-2013, 02:20 PM
Is anyone else here taking some (or all) of their homeschool direction from The Well Trained Mind book by Susan Wise and Jessie Wise Bauer?

If so, which parts are you following closely?

Are there any parts you have departed from?

We use WTM as a guide, and we follow many of their suggestions and order many of the books they list, but we also disregard things that don't make sense for our family... for example we won't be studying Latin and formal logic, and our art classes are all hands-on and creative.

How have you shaped it to better fit you?

04-19-2013, 02:43 PM
i read the book before i started homeschooling, and I think i took from it just the basic idea of how to set up a program, subject by subject. I also liked the idea that kids will study history several times, and i take that to mean that they dont have to memorize it, they just need to get familiar with it, and eventually develop a deeper understanding.

i do not use any of the programs she recommends. and we havent done any language (i tried but failed) and have done very little spelling.

the first year, i made a chart for each kid of what TWTM recommends for that year, and when my school district does for that year, and what I planned to do, for each topic. It helped me become confident.

i havent looked at it since then. this has been our 4th year.

04-19-2013, 04:08 PM
I gained a lot of insight from reading it, even if I don't really follow their program. I agree with this part that Cara said: I also liked the idea that kids will study history several times, and i take that to mean that they dont have to memorize it, they just need to get familiar with it, and eventually develop a deeper understanding. I also apply this idea to science.

Another part that I really liked was the concept that the early phase of education involves a lot of information gathering and exposure, and that learners may not be ready to come up with their own ideas until much later in their education. This really rang true to me, and so I don't pressure my kids to 'be creative' or find connections between abstract ideas right now. Turns out they do a lot of it on their own anyway, and I get to be surprised and delighted without having to coerce them into doing it.

I did find some resources from there that we use: Phonics Pathways and BOB Books so far. I listened to some of SOTW on audio book and, although my son really liked it, I am not a fan of all the Biblical reference (as someone just said on another thread, she treats it like fact and other religious stories as myths), so we won't be using it.

I will likely refer back to it from time to time, as I agree with a lot of the philosophy behind WTM, probably more than any other generalized homeschooling theory I have across yet. But that is not to say I plan on following it very closely.

04-19-2013, 05:57 PM
Ditto to what the others have said. I have a copy of the book, and I use it as a guide to keep me from leaving massive gaps in education, but I use it my own way. We're far more science-oriented than literature-oriented, though we do plenty of reading, and I don't insist on tons of memorization, either. I *do* use logic, but mostly because the kids really love it. I enjoy the philosophy behind the writing - building on previously-learned material, the developmental phases, using living books as resources, etc. - more than the plan itself. It's a good resource, like many other books, but I refuse to hold myself to someone else's standards :)

04-19-2013, 06:19 PM
I listened to some of SOTW on audio book and, although my son really liked it, I am not a fan of all the Biblical reference (as someone just said on another thread, she treats it like fact and other religious stories as myths), so we won't be using it.

Yes, we had to disregard Story of the World for the very same reason. I do wish the book had a more secular-friendly viewpoint. We ended up using Usborne history of the world (which is non-religious) and library books as supplements.

04-20-2013, 12:41 AM
I just joined the forums and this thread is very timely for us. I just started learning more about the classical approach to HSing. I read and liked the Well-Trained Mind, and got excited when I found a Classical Conversation group in my area... only to discover they are a Classical Christian Conversation group. Bummer. So I'm interested how secular parents interpret and apply the ideas.

04-20-2013, 05:47 AM
We follow WTM pretty closely, with the exception of SOTW - we found it boring. :)

04-20-2013, 03:58 PM
WTM and classical resonated with ME when I started. UNfortunately it didn't resonate with my CHILDREN. lol

My eldest has a phenomenal memory, naturally infers and sees relationships between things, and has ZERO tolerance for repetition. So the whole "four year cycle" and rhetoric-logic building, copy work/dictation thing would be a complete and utter FAIL in our home. She flourishes with taking things an inch wide and a mile deep instead. I don't introdice a topic until I am ready to take it to the intro college level at LEAST and then not cover it again until high school.

My second dd is my flower child creative who flourishes with the Waldorf crafty nature, but that covers a steely mind just as razor sharp as her sister. She needs a softer engaging touch but with enough intellectual rigor to keep her engaged.

My 3rd is only 4yo, but he's emotionally intense, precocious in reading and math, and will likely do best with the same sort of relationship intense creative and interactive material as dd#2.

Bottom line: I could form all the educational philosophies in the world, but in the end I am at the mercy of the kids I have. :D Ironically latin and formal logic ARE parts we have kept from WTM! haha It is still a nice framework I refer to from time to time. I do have the kids listen to SOTW on CD from time to time.

04-20-2013, 04:59 PM
I have definitely taken some things. I was educated in a high school humanities program that took its cues from Mortimer Adler's Paideia Proposal, which is another take on the modern classical education. WTM reminded me that that's what I'm striving for in terms of discourse, analysis, and deep engagement with texts, especially primary sources, in high school.

More immediately, I took from it the idea that exposure to lots of content in the early grades builds a framework for kids to hang their understanding on. So the focus of the grammar stage is that exposure, plus those key skills. We do the history cycle, only slightly adapted (we added a year for US history).

There are things I don't love about WTM... I think her take on science is light and her idea of pegging it to the history cycle is silly. I also think that critical thinking can begin much sooner. I'm not convinced about the need for such a deep focus on grammar in writing. We cover it much more lightly. I'm also not sold on Latin. It's a dead language, people. And while that high level of discourse in the "great conversation" is what you're aiming for in high school, realistically we know that many kids will struggle with it. I think it's overall a more rigid system and education has to be more flexible.

04-20-2013, 06:52 PM
I agree with Farrar that WTM is light on science in favor of history, which given the author's background isn't surprising, but I think one has to keep in mind if you have STEM oriented kiddos.

I also agree critical thinking is delayed a bit too much, especially for kids that are innately abstract thinkers (like mine). Although the premise of keeping in mind the different developmental needs of kids (stages) in mind is helpful, not all kids are the same. Many kids are indeed concrete thinkers and cannot handle abstraction until 8-10yo, but others are able to think abstractly at 5yo and find it painful to follow the path laid out for other kids. I think ultimately any program has to be flexible enough to adapt to these types of individual characteristics, and taken as prescribed WTM is (as Farrar mentioned) a bit too rigid. Of course, if you child fits the specs for the program, you may not feel the need to tweak it.

As to latin -- we love it here. If I was fluent in a foreign language, I'd teach it instead, but I'm not. I also have kids who are interested in being MDs, and if not are likely to end up in scientific fields, so latin is: (1) a language that bootstraps later romance spoken languages, (2) great for vocab building in english, and (3) doesn't require good pronunciation (who cares, they're all dead), and (4) VERY useful for anatomy and science. The latin they learn, the rules of grammar (all relevant to spanish, etc) I think is all priming the pump for later studies.

04-20-2013, 09:30 PM
Yes, I agree about the stages. When I've seen other writings or posts from SWB talking about things, it feels like she does have a sense that this is meant to be a guideline and that within that you might be more loose and there is a transition between the stages and so forth, but I know that reading it in WTM it come off very rigidly to me in terms of presentation. As in, you spend these four years doing all this presentation of content but no thinking about it. Then, suddenly, in the logic stage, you're asked to think about it. I just don't buy it. On the other hand, I do think it's useful to pull myself back. When the kids are making connections and analyzing and being inspired by, then that's great. But on some level - at least for content - it's fine if they're just being exposed to it - and I have to keep that in mind. My tendency is to go for depth over breadth. I think that's actually perfect in the logic stage, and kids should get some of it throughout, but that breadth is really important in the grammar stage and I should keep that in mind. That's what I took about the stages.

I feel a bit like she sees kids as progressing through Bloom's taxonomy in some sort of linear way though. Like, 7 year-olds only remember and understand. 12 year-olds get to apply and analyze. 16 year-olds must evaluate and create! But in actuality we know that younger kids can reach the top of that little Bloom's pyramid sometimes. And older kids may struggle. It depends on the kid, the content, etc. In my mind, it's mostly a mess.

04-21-2013, 10:08 AM
Things I like from WTM:

1. Chronological history cycles (though we'll probably end up doing two cycles instead of three)
2. Copywork and dictation
3. Use of "living books" and primary sources instead of textbooks
4. Includes the important skills of critical reading and forming well-supported arguments
5. Exposure to literature and history at a young age
6. Well-rounded and rigorous academics
7. The encouraging attitude of the authors. Rather than holding themselves up as "experts" and talking down to parents, they really make even very structured and rigorous homeschooling seem manageable.

What I don't like:

1. Emphasis on rote memorization in the "grammar" stage and the deferral of teaching the "bigger picture" (i.e. connections and causation) in history until the "logic" stage. As Farrar said, I think younger kids are capable of this to some degree and it makes history more interesting, in my opinion.
2. Little value for creativity in the younger grades, when kids are just naturally bursting with imagination and inspired by the things they are experiencing and learning.
3. The inclusion of Biblical stories as history in SOTW1 (but we just skipped them); and the activities in the SOTW activity guides feel a little like busy work and would hold no interest to my son.
4. Very rigid as far as grade-level expectations, without much guidance for kids who may be all over the map in different subjects or skills.
5. Weak on science in the grammar stage.
6. Very few parents will be lucky enough to have such a bright, disciplined, and motivated student as Susan was, so the book creates very high expectations that may be unattainable for many kids.

04-21-2013, 11:45 AM
I go back to WTM every summer to see what my kids 'should' be doing in the next year. Write down a list of things she recommends and time commitments (30 min of grammar - snort), etc then promptly bury it on my desk. I recommend the book to new homeschoolers because I think its a good basic book and give you a reference but you certainly don't have to do it all. I'v used a lot of the curriculum she recommends and since I hate teaching grammar, I enjoyed her early grammar books where I just read the teacher box out loud. But I never did the copy work or memorization and when we got to diagramming sentence, I decided that was enough. My kids read every night before bed and I still read to them as well so they get a lot of exposure to language and seem to be picking it up just fine with out it being force fed to them. I agree WTM is light on the science, whereas we are very heavy science (both dh and myself have PhD in physics!)
I did use SOTW, went thru 1-3 and again 1-4, but mostly just listening to the audio books the second time around and doing a lot of the extra books in the activity book - found a lot of great books there and my kids love folktales and mythology. When we get to chapters that are biblical stories, we just talk about how they are myths too. But now we're using History Odyssey, and while I really liked the level 1 Modern, I'm not so sure on the level 2 Ancients so far.
So yes, I use WTM but just a reference. I take what I want from it and leave the rest.

04-21-2013, 12:01 PM
2. Little value for creativity in the younger grades, when kids are just naturally bursting with imagination and inspired by the things they are experiencing and learning.

Yes! Little value for creativity all the way around. I think that sums up my biggest issue with WTM. I think SWB would say that creativity has an important place in the life of a child, but it's our job to teach them those skills so they can harness it down the road. I see the point, but I don't really agree. I think valuing creativity is essential at all stages. And it's like a muscle, even for kids - use it or lose it.

04-21-2013, 05:11 PM
It was recommended to me and I really tried, but by the end of the intro section I knew it absolutely was not for us. I skimmed the references and such, but it really didn't seem to jibe well with the idea of homeschooling we wish to pursue right now so we returned it. I agree with Farrar and MonkeyMama, the lack of creative value was a big issue for me. I also didn't like the fact that it sounded even more strict (and boring) than traditional school was. I mean, I didn't even do that much pen and pencil work in college; I can't imagine trying to get my son to do at age 5 what I can't a 25. There are probably kids that this is a perfect fit for, but it's definitely not Kiddo or us.

04-22-2013, 11:20 PM
I appreciate the perspective of SWB, and I love the forum there. I just think her plan is very ... uninspired. SWB recommends programs that are dry and thorough. It's very formulaic, because obviously that is a plan that worked for her, and it's what many people want. It's just not a style I could stick to. My kid would be bored to tears outlining encyclopedias. I also don't think history is the be-all end-all of a proper education, and I don't agree the kids don't need to write their own sentences until, what is it, 3rd grade?

I homeschool two kids, and the oldest one is very, very dyslexic, plus he has ADHD. He has difficulty with language in general, especially with recall and working memory. I have had to use special programs to teach him LA skills, and he has not been ready for the writing she expects in her plans, so I have never followed any of the WTM method closely.

I have tried to approximate a history cycle ... well we did 1 year of ancients, 1 year of medieval, and 2 years of US history with a year of no history in between since my son was half-enrolled in a village school. I tried to do a science cycle for a couple of years, but halfway through a year of Earth & space I knew things had to change. I used Singapore My Pals are Here 3/4 and LOVE the integrated approach (although we went back to physics this year). I taught grammar every year, but won't next year. He has had enough for now, and it's not yet translating into better writing. He needs a LOT more dictation so that is where our focus will be.

I was actually set to do a fairly classical 6th grade year (although a little out of order) with Ancients and Earth science. I was going to have my son use the "guided reading" workbooks with textbooks to help him work through it. It would have been OK, but I think it would have taken the joy out of our homeschooling. And right now he needs all the joy I can give him. I have decided to use Moving Beyond the Page with him, at the older end of the age range, to keep our schooling more interactive and varied. MBTP asks kids to really use what they are learning, instead of just regurgitate it. That's what I think WTM is missing.

My youngest is 5, and has no learning issues. He would probably be OK with any teaching method, and I am undecided whether to do something like MBTP from the start with him, or focus on giving him a firm foundation with classical materials. In K-2, maybe it's fine to just have him write a sentence or paragraph about what he learned. He is very active with a short tolerance for seatwork, so the WTM method would actually work nicely for him in that way (listen to Story of the World on audiobook, use the Real Science Odyssey I saved, do a little narrating, dictation and copywork ... sigh.

04-23-2013, 09:02 PM
I love WTM, however it's a style my children don't respond well to. I take what I can from it and use it more as a guideline.

04-29-2013, 07:52 PM
I love the WTM! We based our curriculum on it this year (minus the Latin), and have been really happy with it. I do think the time recommendations per day/week are a little unrealistic for most students and families, but I loved the practical, helpful guidance from SWB. This book inspired me to homeschool, even if it took me a year to get brave enough to "do it on our own" (we used a private virtual academy our first year of homeschooling). It's the education I wish I'd had.

04-30-2013, 06:27 AM
I love the WTM! We based our curriculum on it this year (minus the Latin), and have been really happy with it. I do think the time recommendations per day/week are a little unrealistic for most students and families, but I loved the practical, helpful guidance from SWB. This book inspired me to homeschool, even if it took me a year to get brave enough to "do it on our own" (we used a private virtual academy our first year of homeschooling). It's the education I wish I'd had.

This is my sentiment exactly - I'm a nerd and wished I'd had as thorough an education as the WTM outlines. :) Like most of the others above, I use it as a resource/reference. I find myself going back to reread sections of it from time to time, but I wouldn't say we are following it. As a framework, it works for me, but like other posters, I think more flexibility and creativity is important, too. And like you, Cafdog, I read this before I decided firmly to homeschool, and found it to be inspirational - so for that, it has been very valuable to me!

04-30-2013, 10:20 AM
I can't imagine trying to get my son to do at age 5 what I can't a 25.

It doesn't advise a lot of writing for that age. It is one of the few sources I have seen that supports the idea that it is okay to hold off on writing while focusing on reading if the child is not ready for it. That is one of the reasons I like it. Although the actual learning goals are high, it seems reasonable to me as far as developmentally appropriate. At a kindergarten level, their guidelines amount to about an hour per day.

As far the lack of value on creativity, I don't like when a curriculum or assignment REQUIRES and GRADES creativity. Real inspiration happens organically, spontaneously, on its own, and can't be forced. Reading something and then being asked to write a poem about it, or a follow-up story, or some other very common assignment is really hard for most people, especially kids. It is too on-the-spot. Rarely does this result in a true, creative work that the student is proud of. You usually just do something to meet the requirement, and then move on, often after many tears and frustration. I saw this soooo often when I was teaching.
By not having these kinds of requirements for forced creativity, I feel like WTM allows you to truly be creative, as long as you make room for it when it happens. When we are working on something, if my son or daughter are suddenly inspired to draw a picture of what is happening, or create a model, or make up a story about a historical figure, I go with it. Nowhere does WTM advise against this; it just doesn't dictate you do it at a certain time. And I love the idea of notebook pages after learning about something in history. I use it for science, as well. It gives an outlet for creativity without forcing a product for evaluation. I don't think I would've thought of that exercise myself, but it is great.

No curriculum can cover everything. I don't feel like 'creativity' needs to be spelled out and categorized. It just happens; you can't teach it.

05-06-2013, 03:34 PM
My kids love SOTW mostly they love the stories and the coloring sheets. I just read the bible stories the same as she presents the other religions and explain that they are the same as the other religious myths. I emphasize the similarities.
I like having the kids copy well written sentences and using dictation as they get older. I use the WTM loosely I never have used any of her programs or books other than SOTW.
I let my kids write and draw on their own as much as they want they just use the formal sentences and grammar so they will know how to write correctly when they are older. I am switching to something else for my son he really hates the grammar book.
I honestly don't know if I will continue using the program I am thinking of switching to child led next year and selling the book. I feel like I have to do it her way and don't really think my kids are thriving.
Also it really bothers me that she mentions her daughter Susan and yet what about her other children. Is she ashamed? Did they turn out differently? Not thrive on TWTM?
Shouldn't we celebrate and mention all our kids even if they are different than us. Sorry not meaning to offend, but this omission has always bothered me.

06-18-2013, 05:32 PM
I always assumed that the "left out" children just didn't want to be examples in a book - not that they had turned out poorly or anything. SWB has also guarded her kids from homeschool infamy too, I think, by not using them as constant examples.

Also, SWB turned out to be a classics professor, so clearly she's the shining example. This is, of course, assuming that being a classic prof is your goal for your children. ;)

06-21-2013, 11:30 PM
i'm following the general program quite closely, with religion lite (that means learning about religion and it's value to our family, but not presenting it as scientific fact). I have also curricula for my children, but within the framework of their world history sequence, their math sequence, science sequence, latin and greek, etc.. we are heavy on history and latin here; I find the latin ties together parts of history and LA really well and will help them grasp their language better in high school. unlike WTM, we are heavy on science, also, but not necessary experimental science yet.

06-25-2013, 08:42 PM
I follow the WTM outline fairly closely. I've used and will most likely continue to use the curriculum suggestions in the book.

I found the dictation and outlining to be very helpful for my kids. My 13 yo isn't exactly in love with all of our curriculum choices, but I suspect he would complain in PS too. He's my little complainer.

07-12-2013, 11:51 AM
I do not follow WTM. However, I love some of the curriculum suggestions over on the WTM boards. So, I do find myself using some curriculums that they like - though that doesn't tend to be until upper elem since my style is too relaxed for much of the younger elem stuff. I'm finding Classiquest Biology not to be light on science. I didn't use any science suggestions before 5th grade however. (We just figured it out as we went and did whatever my kids were interested in until then for science. So, totally not the classical structure then).