The Well-Trained Mind
If we had to recommend only one guide for How To Homeschool Your Child, it would probably be The Well-Trained Mind. This book is for the homeschool family that is serious about providing the very, very best education for their child. If you want a curriculum where you can order everything from one place, something that is all spelled out for you, and easy to administer, this book is not for you. Instead, what Susan Wise Bauer and her coauthor and mother, Jessie Wise, have done is outlined their choices for the "cream of the crop" in all the subjects that you should teach your child. This way you can create your own plan for your child utilizing the best resources available.
For instance, one of the popular curriculums that many homeschool families use is ABeka. Well, the authors of this book do not tell you that they recommend ABeka. What they will tell you is that one of the best resources for teaching grammar to your child is ABeka's Grammar and Composition. You won't see them recommending ABeka math because they feel that ABeka does not provide the best curriculum for teaching math.
Probably the most important thing that this book teaches, which is imperative for every home educator to understand, is that children go through three stages of learning in their lives. The first level is the Grammar Stage which generally defines most children in grades kindergarten through fourth grade. Children who are these ages are like sponges, soaking up information. At these early grade levels, they are more apt to memorize things easily and learn things through songs and repetition.
The second stage is the Logic Stage which generally categorizes kids who are in the fifth through eighth grades. In this stage, children think through more about what they are learning and can grasp the concept of the "why" behind what they are learning.
The third stage is the Rhetoric Stage which generally describes the more mature learner in the ninth through twelfth grades. They not only can grasp the "why" concept, but also can take learning to another level by asking, "What does this have to do with me?" or "How can I apply what I just learned to my life?"
Because the brain develops in this way and a child's character matures in this way over the educational years, The Well-Trained Mind encourages home educators to take these things into consideration when they teach. For example, in teaching World History, from creation to present day, an educator should teach World History to their child three separate times — once while they are in the Grammar Stage, another time while in the Logic Stage, and once again in the Rhetorical Stage. Lessons, resources, books, writing assignments, all these should be used with these learning stages taken into consideration.
The Well-Trained Mind is packed full of many, many resources for each of these stages of learning for all subjects. They also outline suggested schedules of how much time should be dedicated to each subject at each grade level. When I first read this book, I studied that section and picked it apart. Their schedules were too unrealistic for our family, but I returned back to this book time and time again to read about how they approached certain subjects and to refer back to their incredible lists of what they felt were the best resources and curriculums available for a particular subject.
How To Homeschool Your Child strongly recommends this book.
Susan Wise Bauer, born in 1968, grew up in Virginia and was educated at home by pioneering parents, back when home education was still unheard of. Her mother is Jessie Wise, who co-authored The Well-Trained Mind with Susan. It is through this incredible home education that Susan excelled in her career. She has gone on to earn an M.A., M.Div., and Ph.D. and has taught at the College of William & Mary in Virginia.
Susan, who is married and is the mother of four, has also worked as a professional musician, wore a costume at Colonial Williamsburg, toured with a traveling drama group, galloped racehorses at a Virginia racetrack, taught horseback riding, worked in radio and newspaper ad sales, learned enough Korean to teach a Korean four-year-old Sunday school, served as librarian and reading tutor for the Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Center in Williamsburg, Virginia, and has authored some great books for homeschool educators and people who are serious about learning.
Our 1st-edition copy of The Well-Trained Mind looked like this — with dog-ear-marked pages, torn cover, worn dust jacket, and paper-clipped sections. It got used a lot!
Susan has also written a wonderful four-volume world history series for children, The Story of the World. Volume 1: Ancient Times, was published in 2002 (revised edition 2006); Volume 2: The Middle Ages, in 2003 (revised edition 2007); and Volume 3: Early Modern Times, in 2004. The final in the series, Volume 4: The Modern Age, was published in 2006. One history-major reviewer wrote of Volume 1: Ancient Times:
"The Story of the World is so fantastic, it takes my breath away! The read-aloud text on ancient times presents history in small chunks, and is written in an engaging, story-like manner that delights my children, who are 4 and 6 years old. This delightful manner in no way means that the subject matter is "watered down"; Bauer still introduces children to the facts and terminology that are relevant to the subject."
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