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Okay by 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 (41-41):
by on Jan. 21, 2014 at 5:15 AM

The second part of the response (due to max character limits). 

Quoting bluerooffarm:

The next portion of your post that had a rather attacking tone was:

Quote Celtic:

I do not think the problem was this books interpertation of the method, but instead, it likely was your interpertation of the book that was the problem. But hey, hopefully anyone who is interested in this method/book will educate themselves by reading it for themselves. The method certainly is not for everyone.

I don't really have a "problem" with the book, and I'm sorry if you had a "problem with" my interpretation of the book.  But this particular quotation makes you sound angry. 

Which leads us to this qoute, where you say you are not trying to offend, but again you are attacking with the "you statements":

Quote Celtic:

I am not trying to offend you. I am trying to explain by quoting the book how I personally feel you that you walked away from the book with some wrong impressions of what she was saying. If you disagree with me and the quotes, then that is fine too.

You say "you walked away with some wrong impressions.  But instead of saying what your impressions are using "I" statements, you think it is better in a conversation to use "you" statements.  I have been teaching children for years that "you" statements are directives.  Your tone when you use them is acusatory/attacking.

It was meant to be directive because I meant YOU - I was talking to you Blue. 

Im sorry, but, isn't it at all hypocritical to scold me on how I come across to people in a offensive way while also repeatedly correcting my usage of the English language?! I mean, I know for most people they would just be telling you to kick rocks at this point. 

Is this even about the WTM anymore Blue?  

Quote Celtic:

You called her condescending. So I mentioned her credentials because they are ALL specific to classical education. I just think that someone with a lot of knowledge and experience on a topic, has some level of authority on the subject matter (in this case; classical education). I would expect the same from someone who wrote a book on any area of expertise. I personally wouldn't consider it condescending though.

Now let me explain the condescension.  Yes I agree that it doesn't "jive with her sensablilities"; however, there were ways of stating that she disagrees with unschooling that are not condescending.  For example she could have said something like it is a rare child that will come to the parent in a timely manor and request a lesson on reading.  It at least admits that there are children out there that do fall into that category.  Her tone was condescending.  It has nothing to do with her credentials which is why listing her credentials elicited the response "so what" from me.  No matter how educated a person is in a particular area, I still expect them to at least have the humility to understand that someone who uses a different style of education shouldn't be put down.

She doesn't agree with "child led learning" (which was probably her reference to unschooling) and explains why. A lot of people choose not to use "child led learning".  Just like some people will not use Waldorf as a homeschooling method because it doesn't jive up for them. It really doesn't need to be offensive (though of course anyone is free to be as offended as they wanna be). I know that I am not offended that everyone doesn't do things the way that I do. I like finding my familys own little niche.  

When you stated:

Quote Celtic:

. Im never shy about being honest, and I think that coming in here to write a book review on a book you did not finish, for a method that you do not use - is more condescending than anything you read in that book.

I believe that you are confusing my tone with my purpose.  Again based on your responses, you seem to be under the impression that my purpose of this review was to lambast an entire book AND an entire type of education.  Since that was not my purpose, your assumption does make it sound as though my purpose is condescention or putting it down.  My purpose was (let me reiterate) to speak to likeminded individuals about the book and how they veiwed it.  I was nearly relieved when Aimee admitted that she has yet to finish the book.  Plus, I don't mind that you aren't shy about being honest, but I feel that sometimes you do it by attacking the poster.  

No, I was not confusing tone and purpose.

I was stating that if a person with LOADS of experience is condescending for sharing her knowledge, experiences, and personal views - then what does make you for criticizing it?! It seems hypocritical to me.  

I did not ever feel like you were lambasting a book or method. I even mentioned that I felt like your purpose was to randomly list things that you liked and disliked. 

Yes, I do understand that you think I am "attacking"  (as well as other negative things) a lot. It was kind of hard to miss, lol.  

It is interesting that you didn't notice in my first comment that I had said everything that I am still saying... 

From your very first post, I was actually pretty excited to hear your thoughts about the book and the type of education in general, since you actually use it.  But from your second post on, I heard anger from you, as though I had hurt your feelings by not choosing to educate as you did and possibly that I had hurt your feelings by not writing a review of the book the way you would have, which is why I suggested you write your own post.

Wow, you sure do make a lot of assumptions while reading my responses. 

Could it not at all have been that someone just simply disagreed with you Blue and had the nerve to speak up?!  

You spun this off in a way where you basically told yourself that I somehow give great importance to how you homeschool.


I will not be writing an entire new post (book review) just because you didn't like me adding to a discussion that you started on the subject.

I could never be expected to write a review of the book as another author would.  I am me. It is not that I did not like you adding to the discussion, but it has to do with the way you add to the discussion.  You have expressed some bewilderment before in other posts by the way your posts come across, so instead of just dropping this post, I thought maybe you would like to hear what I hear when you post.  I really hope this helps you to understand my feelings about your posts, but also I'm not the only one who sees your posts from this perspective since, so often, other members jump in in defense of the original posters.  

Who asked you to write a review like an author would? I know I didn't. You are now taking my simple comment of maybe mentioning a bit of something about what the classical education - trivium is, to the extreme.

You do not get to decide HOW people add to your dicussion. You do not have to like how people add to your discussion. I learned that the hard with my first post in here. They told me that posts didnt have to stay on topic and that I needed to have tough skin to handle their criticism (and all I was doing was showing off a schedule that I had worked hard on). 

Oh, I am still bewildered and amazed by a lot of things in this group - one of them definitely being how you choose to analyze my posts/comments. 

There must be a reason that Tide began a response to you with....

Lets just go ahead and leave Kate out of this. I think you did a well enough job of speaking on behalf of yourself here. 

Quote Tide:

Howdy Celtic!  :)   In defense of Blue, 

I say all of this with respect and the hope that we can continue to have conversations in the future and that we can better understand each other.  

Oh, was that the purpose of this Blue? So basically if I interact in the group just as YOU expect me to and improve my grammar skills... THEN we can have better future conversations??? lol. Yeah... umm, go ahead and start kicking those rocks Blue.

It isn't fun being on the outs and I don't mean any ill to anyone... but I am an intelligent hard working grown woman who is respectful and deserves respect.

**Please excuse any errors, I had just got off work early (due to the snow storm) and was pretty tired when writing this**

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