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Okay by request....my review of the Well-Trained Mind (extremely long)

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I want to begin with the explanation that this is my view of the book, that these are merely my opinions on the book.  I know there are many people who love this book and there are many who embrace the "classical education" approach.  I was asked to review the book when I finished it.  I have decided to review the first part of the book: The Grammar Stage because I will probably be putting the book away for a while.

I agree that history is a story and should be taught that way for the 1-4th grades, history should begin when our understanding of history began and progress to the present without jumping around and confusing children, children will learn very well being taught an earth-centric manner and slowly moving down to community and family centric instead of beginning in their community and expanding out to the world; science can (and should) be broken down into full disciplines instead of teaching bits of each discipline each year and growing ever deeper in their understanding;  phonics, reading and math are the most important subjects for the early learners and all else is icing on the educational cake at that age; and lastly we should be aiming for a well-rounded child who has at least an appreciation of all subjects.

Now for what I disagree with: her ideas on what exactly makes up appropriate reading materials for the grammar stage child, teaching Latin to 3rd and 4th graders, her ideas on the use of Computers and Videos, and lastly the vast amount of time she suggests for this young age.

I have 2 disagreements with this book on what is appropriate reading material for the grammar stage.  The first is that she actually has a rant against Goosebumps, Spinechillers, and Sweet Valley High.  She goes on for paragraphs lamenting that the child who reads those books (even for their "free read time") will turn away from "anything that makes his brain work too hard."  In my opinion, that is snobbery that is actually not based in reality.  As a former teacher I watched many, many children who raced their way through the entire shelf of Goosebump books somewhere near middle school and began to pull out the more gruesome tales of horror from Dracula to Frankenstein to Titus Andronicus.  I met many a girl who worked her way through the teenage-crush novels to move on to Emma and Wuthering Heights and The Taming of the Shrew.  It is hogs-wallop that a child will simply turn away from the longer sentences and double entendres present in more advanced books.

The second disagreement is that she seems to believe that all of the pieces of literature one selects should be part of the canon, so much so that in fact the first female author in her list is Jane Austen who was born in 1775 for goodness sakes!  I was very disappointed not to see any of the female authors I learned of and fell in love with: Bradstreet, Wroth, Wollstonecraft, and Abigail Adams!!!  Sigh.  As someone who railed against the canon in my classroom, I am certainly going to teach my children that women helped shape the world too.  Actually my very first criticism of the book came when I noticed how man-centric it was.  I had hoped we had left that behind.

Now teaching Latin to 3rd and 4th graders will teach them to think outside of their personal perspective; however, I believe children would be better served learning etymology than learning Latin.  Her argument is that [Latin makes up] "about 50% of English vocabulary."  This is simply not true.  English is made up of many languages: a good part of English is Greek (think phobias, anything beginning with angio- or ending with -gogue); Anglo-Saxon (like angry, hungry, birth and dead); Celtic (anything ending in ough); Norse (odd ones like berserk and kiosk).  Latin is awesome and if a child has a desire to learn it, then YAY!  BUT most children will be bored to tears with learning a language that they cannot talk to another living soul who speaks it.  Learning French, Spanish, German, Yiddish even will be much more well-received, especially if there is someone in the family or the neighborhood who can understand them!  Learning etymology is awesome and again if a child has a desire to learn it at this young age then...way cool.  But even with my love of linguistics, etymology is really not something a child will want to learn.  Yes, Yes I know that not everything needs to be fun, but I would much rather "force" mathematics, phonetics, grammar, and usable vocabulary than to force things that are so far outside the cultural norm.

Computers and videos definitely have their place in learning.  Her descriptions of a child watching Sesame Street were laughable.  My children almost never "sit slack jawed" while watching videos.  Their minds are constantly working.  They are noticing new vocabulary, yelling out suggestions to the characters, noticing characters we've covered (watching the Viking Apocalypse they noticed Ethelred the Unready and the Viking Leader Sweyn the Forkbeard).  Okay I'll admit that we watch some uncommon movies, but there are times and places for such things and I do not believe she gives them even that much credit.

Lastly, I do not for one minute think that school should take more than 3 hours for a 1st grader.  Her minimum times add up to 19 hours of work per week; divided into 5 days puts a child at nearly 4 hours of work before gym and free reading is added into the mix.

by on Jan. 12, 2014 at 4:31 PM
Replies (11-20):
jen2150
by Silver Member on Jan. 13, 2014 at 7:23 AM
I agree with alot of what you said. When I read her book a couple years back I lked some parts but found following the classic model very daunting. We love technology and use quite often. Fluff books have their place but I don't see the classics as boring. I think classic literature has much richer content. I think a combination is the best way to go. My sons have enhaled Roald Dahl. I read them classics. We are doing Heidi right now and they love it. We don't teach latin currently. I like her idea of learning a language that is similar to English and one that is completely opposite. I think the amount of hours for children that young is ridiculous. Also developing an interest in every subject should be every homeschoolers goal. 2 hours was plenty for my boys at that age. I find I enjoyed her book eventhough I didn't agree with all of it.
celtic77dragon
by Member on Jan. 13, 2014 at 9:29 AM

I mainly use a classical education; though I do have the flavor of some other methods mixed within. So I have been intriqued and waiting for this post. I am pretty sure you do not use the classical method so I was curious how this would turn out.

I assumed this would be like me writing a book review related to unschooling or Waldorf. Which might not be as fair or helpful to those who do use those methods or that are interested in them. So of course I would have preferred a review by someone like Aimee who has used the classical education, knows about the method quite a bit, and has read multiple books on the topic. 

I enjoyed reading this though; it was interesting to get your point of view on some of the aspects of both the method and the book. 

I have no arguements on the issues that you had with the book. It is subjective and adaptable. However, there is little to no information here on what the classical method is, the stages, how and why the subjects are taught, etc. I would consider these to be the more important aspects of the book. 

"Education should be exercise; it has become massage."  ~Martin H. Fischer

bluerooffarm
by Gold Member on Jan. 13, 2014 at 10:06 AM
1 mom liked this

Exactly!  If they get excited about reading, they will!

I'm going to have to check out Knitting Club.  I read Stephen King, so the major curse words don't bother me.  LOL

Once I had learned Spanish, French was easier.  And now DH is learning German and I've picked up on a few words just by listening to a few minutes of it in the car.  So I do believe once you've exercised the part of your brain that learns language, you will do it more easily.

Quoting TidewaterClan: There were children who were quiet as could be but they'd scoop up Percy Jackson, Wimpy Kid, Babysitters, Rainbow Fairy Books, etc. they'd excitedly tell me the parts they loved the next week. Who would want to take that away?

No worries on Latin! My Latin teacher was one of the best I've ever had. She made it incredibly fun and we enjoyed taking her class year after year. It really helped me with spelling and grammar. Picking up some Spanish (and a little French - that pronunciation kills me) has been easier.

So far "Knitting Club" is good. She uses the major curse words about once a chapter. I don't think it's needed for character development, but it's not enough (so far) to detract.


Quoting bluerooffarm:


Quoting TidewaterClan: Thanks for posting this Blue. I volunteered in the library once a week last year and watched children devour books like the ones you listed and move their way to thicker books and even the occasional non-fiction read.



My 3rd grader loves "Song School Latin," lol. It's one of her favorite classes. :)



Thanks for listing what she has in there. That saves me some time I could use reading "The Friday Night Knitting Club" instead!

LOL!  You're welcome!

I have seen it over and over as well.  I think it bears reminding us all that it is totally okay to allow our kids to walk before they run.  Allowing some "brain candy," as my mom always called my Baby-Sitter's Club books, will not ruin their taste for the classics.

I'm probably jaded against Latin.  I truly suck at learning other languages (I can speak Spanish and some French, but it is difficult for me to learn) so remember I am probably coming to it with baggage.  But being a word detective...totally up my alley!

Tell me about The Friday Night Knitting Club when you get into it! 


bluerooffarm
by Gold Member on Jan. 13, 2014 at 10:20 AM


Quoting jen2150: I agree with alot of what you said. When I read her book a couple years back I lked some parts but found following the classic model very daunting. We love technology and use quite often. Fluff books have their place but I don't see the classics as boring. I think classic literature has much richer content. I think a combination is the best way to go. My sons have enhaled Roald Dahl. I read them classics. We are doing Heidi right now and they love it. We don't teach latin currently. I like her idea of learning a language that is similar to English and one that is completely opposite. I think the amount of hours for children that young is ridiculous. Also developing an interest in every subject should be every homeschoolers goal. 2 hours was plenty for my boys at that age. I find I enjoyed her book eventhough I didn't agree with all of it.

I don't see the classics as boring either, but I think introducing them at appropriate times is key.  Her example of little children (1st graders) enjoying the classical Greek literature because picturing Achilles dragging the body of Hector around the city of Troy is cool (which is by far the most extreme point she made on this issue) was the point that completely appalled me.  

My 1st grader is reading Say Cheese and Die during his free read and I am reading him The Magician's Nephew.  I did not say don't teach the classics, I am simply disagreeing with her stance on censoring their free reading time.  I am completely against censoring.  If my sons picked up The Illiad, I would let them read it.  But if they want to read a Graphic Novel I will not say no to that either.

Her tone often seems condescending and judgemental, so I am going to be putting it down for a while.  I would much rather spend my time reading other books until my boys are nearing the next stage of education.

TidewaterClan
by on Jan. 13, 2014 at 11:18 AM
Stephen King uses cursing like an art form, weaving a beautiful tapestry of adjectives and exclamations that fully immerse the reader in the characters' world. Lol - it's true though. Knitting seems forced when they're used, but let me know what you think.

I fully agree on one language opening the mind to others. It was super to read ancient graffiti when the Pompeii exhibit came to Cincinnati. :)


Quoting bluerooffarm:

Exactly!  If they get excited about reading, they will!

I'm going to have to check out Knitting Club.  I read Stephen King, so the major curse words don't bother me.  LOL

Once I had learned Spanish, French was easier.  And now DH is learning German and I've picked up on a few words just by listening to a few minutes of it in the car.  So I do believe once you've exercised the part of your brain that learns language, you will do it more easily.

Quoting TidewaterClan: There were children who were quiet as could be but they'd scoop up Percy Jackson, Wimpy Kid, Babysitters, Rainbow Fairy Books, etc. they'd excitedly tell me the parts they loved the next week. Who would want to take that away?



No worries on Latin! My Latin teacher was one of the best I've ever had. She made it incredibly fun and we enjoyed taking her class year after year. It really helped me with spelling and grammar. Picking up some Spanish (and a little French - that pronunciation kills me) has been easier.



So far "Knitting Club" is good. She uses the major curse words about once a chapter. I don't think it's needed for character development, but it's not enough (so far) to detract.




Quoting bluerooffarm:


Quoting TidewaterClan: Thanks for posting this Blue. I volunteered in the library once a week last year and watched children devour books like the ones you listed and move their way to thicker books and even the occasional non-fiction read.





My 3rd grader loves "Song School Latin," lol. It's one of her favorite classes. :)





Thanks for listing what she has in there. That saves me some time I could use reading "The Friday Night Knitting Club" instead!

LOL!  You're welcome!

I have seen it over and over as well.  I think it bears reminding us all that it is totally okay to allow our kids to walk before they run.  Allowing some "brain candy," as my mom always called my Baby-Sitter's Club books, will not ruin their taste for the classics.

I'm probably jaded against Latin.  I truly suck at learning other languages (I can speak Spanish and some French, but it is difficult for me to learn) so remember I am probably coming to it with baggage.  But being a word detective...totally up my alley!

Tell me about The Friday Night Knitting Club when you get into it! 


MamaDearie
by Member on Jan. 13, 2014 at 11:27 AM
1 mom liked this

Thanks so much for this review! I have to say I whole heartedly agree with your assessment. :-)

jen2150
by Silver Member on Jan. 13, 2014 at 11:27 AM
I think some censoring is necessary though. Young kids are very impressionable. There were many things I didn't let my kids watch that I would have no problem now. I wasn't saying you were saying the classics are boring. There are age appropriate classics. I mostly agreed with most of what you were saying. My son was turned on to reading by reading Garfield comic books. Kids taste in books will evolve as they get older

Quoting bluerooffarm:


Quoting jen2150: I agree with alot of what you said. When I read her book a couple years back I lked some parts but found following the classic model very daunting. We love technology and use quite often. Fluff books have their place but I don't see the classics as boring. I think classic literature has much richer content. I think a combination is the best way to go. My sons have enhaled Roald Dahl. I read them classics. We are doing Heidi right now and they love it. We don't teach latin currently. I like her idea of learning a language that is similar to English and one that is completely opposite. I think the amount of hours for children that young is ridiculous. Also developing an interest in every subject should be every homeschoolers goal. 2 hours was plenty for my boys at that age. I find I enjoyed her book eventhough I didn't agree with all of it.

I don't see the classics as boring either, but I think introducing them at appropriate times is key.  Her example of little children (1st graders) enjoying the classical Greek literature because picturing Achilles dragging the body of Hector around the city of Troy is cool (which is by far the most extreme point she made on this issue) was the point that completely appalled me.  

My 1st grader is reading Say Cheese and Die during his free read and I am reading him The Magician's Nephew.  I did not say don't teach the classics, I am simply disagreeing with her stance on censoring their free reading time.  I am completely against censoring.  If my sons picked up The Illiad, I would let them read it.  But if they want to read a Graphic Novel I will not say no to that either.

Her tone often seems condescending and judgemental, so I am going to be putting it down for a while.  I would much rather spend my time reading other books until my boys are nearing the next stage of education.

KickButtMama
by Shannon on Jan. 13, 2014 at 12:29 PM

We started teaching Latin at about grade 1 a my kids love that we can hold an entire conversation in the grocery store and no one else will know what we are saying...lol. But I disliked more of there Latin curriculum I found - as they were more focused on Latin as the root to English, so I made my own curriculum focusing on the conversational aspects instead. 

I also think the term - everything in moderation - applies, even to homeschooling. Be it fluff, or classic literature, to tv documentaries! And I think the length of a school day should be defendant on the student. My eldest would be a happy clam doing 6 hours of school a day, whereas my youngest is happy with 2-3. 

Quoting AutymsMommy:

Thanks for your thoughts. I actually agree with her about teaching Latin young and I'm okay with doing more hours of school. We more closely follow The Latin Centered Curriculum, so we'll be starting Latin next year in Kindergarten, but I take a lot from SWB's WTHM forums and boards :)


I don't agree with her about fluff. I love reading fluff. James Patterso is staring at me right now :P Had I insisted that my dyslexic daughter only read the classics, she wouldn't be the bookworm she is now (thank you Percy Jackson!).


bluerooffarm
by Gold Member on Jan. 13, 2014 at 12:53 PM

I wouldn't even be able to tell what method I primarily use.  I am eclectic and use what works for my kids.  I know what methods I don't use.  I am not an unschooler by any stretch of the imagination.  Looking from the outside many might actually believe I am using the classical method.  They would most likely wonder why we are not teaching Latin.  Looking at her list of works 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders should be exposed to, my kids have covered the eras in history and have heard of or read many of them, we have covered all of the topics she list for science for those grade levels, we cover grammar and etymology heavily, we read excessively even the youngest who are really just looking at pictures much of the time, we cover classical artists and music along with modern art and music.  

I felt as though what I wrote was extremely long, so I never even got to the stages of education.  

My opinion about the stages or levels is that my kids have always been curious about why and how things happen.  I never have to ask them why the vikings invaded France, they would begin speculating that all on their own.  So I disagree with her expectations of the very young (grammar stage) children.  I think critical thinking can occur much earlier than she expects it.  And she seems to be under the impression that kids will not come to you and ask to learn to read until they are fairly old, I've seen this happen very early.  My youngest son asked me to teach him to read when he was three.  Based on these occurances in my home, I don't see the stages as strictly as she seems to.

I think the stages of a child's development and the way they come to learning will depend a great deal on their environment.  My kids are surrounded by quality videos, they hear wonderful conversations at the supper and breakfast tables, they see how we stop a video and discus what we think is ludicrous or look up a historical fact that we do not know, they are surrounded by books (high literature, fluff, informational books, college tomes, we have it all), they are surrounded by family members who have differing political and religious views and who are able to hold discussions about those topics without name-calling or even making others angry.  I think environment plays a huge part in a child's development and I have always invited my children to give their opinions on topics.  I could be wrong, but her attitude that children are like a sponge and until they are filled with knowledge they have nothing to give would not work in our family.  Children are ushered right into the discussion from as early as they can.

I have not read any other books on the classical method.  And since it doesn't appear from my interpretations of this particular book that it would fit our family, I will most likely look elsewhere for other methods that will fit us better.  I chose this one because it was recommended so highly as a measure of the classical method.  If there is another that is recommended as a better explanation, I would still be curious to see other interpretations of the classical method.


Quoting celtic77dragon:

I mainly use a classical education; though I do have the flavor of some other methods mixed within. So I have been intriqued and waiting for this post. I am pretty sure you do not use the classical method so I was curious how this would turn out.

I assumed this would be like me writing a book review related to unschooling or Waldorf. Which might not be as fair or helpful to those who do use those methods or that are interested in them. So of course I would have preferred a review by someone like Aimee who has used the classical education, knows about the method quite a bit, and has read multiple books on the topic. 

I enjoyed reading this though; it was interesting to get your point of view on some of the aspects of both the method and the book. 

I have no arguements on the issues that you had with the book. It is subjective and adaptable. However, there is little to no information here on what the classical method is, the stages, how and why the subjects are taught, etc. I would consider these to be the more important aspects of the book. 


bluerooffarm
by Gold Member on Jan. 13, 2014 at 12:57 PM
1 mom liked this

LOL that is very true and so beautifully put!  I'll let you know, I've put it on my list!

Quoting TidewaterClan: Stephen King uses cursing like an art form, weaving a beautiful tapestry of adjectives and exclamations that fully immerse the reader in the characters' world. Lol - it's true though. Knitting seems forced when they're used, but let me know what you think.

I fully agree on one language opening the mind to others. It was super to read ancient graffiti when the Pompeii exhibit came to Cincinnati. :)


Quoting bluerooffarm:

Exactly!  If they get excited about reading, they will!

I'm going to have to check out Knitting Club.  I read Stephen King, so the major curse words don't bother me.  LOL

Once I had learned Spanish, French was easier.  And now DH is learning German and I've picked up on a few words just by listening to a few minutes of it in the car.  So I do believe once you've exercised the part of your brain that learns language, you will do it more easily.

Quoting TidewaterClan: There were children who were quiet as could be but they'd scoop up Percy Jackson, Wimpy Kid, Babysitters, Rainbow Fairy Books, etc. they'd excitedly tell me the parts they loved the next week. Who would want to take that away?



No worries on Latin! My Latin teacher was one of the best I've ever had. She made it incredibly fun and we enjoyed taking her class year after year. It really helped me with spelling and grammar. Picking up some Spanish (and a little French - that pronunciation kills me) has been easier.



So far "Knitting Club" is good. She uses the major curse words about once a chapter. I don't think it's needed for character development, but it's not enough (so far) to detract.




Quoting bluerooffarm:


Quoting TidewaterClan: Thanks for posting this Blue. I volunteered in the library once a week last year and watched children devour books like the ones you listed and move their way to thicker books and even the occasional non-fiction read.





My 3rd grader loves "Song School Latin," lol. It's one of her favorite classes. :)





Thanks for listing what she has in there. That saves me some time I could use reading "The Friday Night Knitting Club" instead!

LOL!  You're welcome!

I have seen it over and over as well.  I think it bears reminding us all that it is totally okay to allow our kids to walk before they run.  Allowing some "brain candy," as my mom always called my Baby-Sitter's Club books, will not ruin their taste for the classics.

I'm probably jaded against Latin.  I truly suck at learning other languages (I can speak Spanish and some French, but it is difficult for me to learn) so remember I am probably coming to it with baggage.  But being a word detective...totally up my alley!

Tell me about The Friday Night Knitting Club when you get into it! 



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