Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book Review: The Well Trained Mind (from Kris)

I really liked this book!  This is the book that gave me the confidence to do my own curriculum.  That said, I only read up til 5th grade.  I figure I'll read the rest when I have a fourth grader.

This is the book to read when you need a starting point.  It is NOT a methodology, IMO.  It gives you a general idea of: what to teach, how long to spend teaching it, sources you can use to teach it, and emphasizes reading in a way similar to TJED (Thomas Jefferson Education), which is simply the classical approach: read GOOD books and read LOTS of them.  

It gives an overview of each subject in school: Spelling, Grammar, Reading & Writing; Math; History & Geography, Science; Foreign Language (emphasis on Latin-which I liked); and brief touches on computers, religion, and the arts.  I know, I know, poor PE got left out.  We're signing our son up for karate and covering it there.
  • "Spend time every day reading out loud, as much time as you can afford."  
  • I liked how they have the child narrate back to you as comprehension lessons.  I have seen how that will help them get better at writing.
  • I love their approach to oral reading, but this is probably because we've spent the last 6 months with 20 minutes/day of crap books.
  • Copywork & dictation
  • I LOVE the chapter overviews.  It gives you a skeleton to build your home school around.
  • I like their approach to math
  • I particularly like the idea of overlapping subjects, similar to unit studies.  For example, incorporate history into your grammar lessons. So you have your child read and then write about Julius Caesar, incorporate some geography and you've covered 4 subjects with one lesson.  I like that approach best!
  • They don't believe in child led education.  I do, with caveats.  They equate it to feeding your kids, saying if they eat it every time you serve it they'll learn to like it.  I say, I still hate the foods I was forced to eat.
  • If you like the idea of interest led unit studies or unschooling this book may not be for you.  I don't agree with having biology one year, chem one year, and physics one year.  Some kids might need that.  But this is one area I think child interest is the way to go.  I can see how they try to link it with history, and appreciate the idea I just disagree.
  • There's less emphasis placed on science and the arts (hmm, just like public school!) and more on reading, writing, math and history.  I might even suggest that could be because they have their own textbooks available on those subjects (except math).
  • I'm just not too thrilled with their own curriculum and it's given me a less positive view of the authors.  I recently looked at their history of the world series (my BA is in world history) and found it, um, lacking.  
Overall though I recommend the book.  Despite the things I don't like I still want to own my own copy.  There's enough good resources and info that I'd like to have it in my home.  If the obstacle for homeschooling is getting started, then this book is fantastic!! 
Check out their website for more info  


  1. Oh awesome, thanks for reviewing. I have this one but it's sitting unopened on my shelf. Like so many others. At least it looks pretty there, right? :)

  2. oooh, I loved this book overall too. A mom in our neighborhood homeschools her kids and uses it as a framework to give her ideas and some philosophy of structure (I'm a fan of structure, although I'm also all about taking that "moment" to find out more about the ladybug crawling all over your arm that you're so fascinated with". I think it's so predictable, having a schedule, that kids feel successful because they've "guessed right" when expecting what comes next, and there is real comfort in that. The neighbor finds math programs she likes, and uses the W.T.M. concept without doing it to the T. I think it's very tempting to want to do it all (for me), but can see how it can create stress quickly, so the real trick is to find out what you like (from teaching in 5 different schools and seeing overall outcomes, for example, I love Saxon Math, and there ARE ways to make it fun.. lots of repetition...) Anyhow, LOVED it and loved the list of resources. And yeah, they toot their own horn too-- I tend to be weary of products people promote that they created themselves- just sayin.

  3. I came across that bookshelf widget I was telling you about...