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The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  6,630 ratings  ·  780 reviews
This book will instruct you, step by step, on how to give your child an academically rigorous, comprehensive education from preschool through high school. Two veteran home educators outline the classical pattern of education—the trivium—which organizes learning around the maturing capacity of the child's mind: the elementary school "grammar stage," the middle school "logic ...more
Hardcover, Revised and Expanded Edition, 832 pages
Published April 17th 2004 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1999)
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Aug 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book changed my life! No, really!

In 1999, my two boys started school (k and 1st grade) on the same day my daughter was born. We ran so crazy that whole school year that we decided we had to try homeschooling - just to see if life would be any simpler. Lo and behold, it was. And The Well-Trained Mind (aka WTM) was my guide to how to do it.

WTM covers the philosophy and practice of classical education in a homeschool setting. There are other resources on classical ed, but I've found this one t
Apr 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We've been using this book for "afterschooling" for our first-grader, but it's meant to be more for homeschooling. I love most of the ideas in this book and we have found the history lessons especially interesting and helpful. It's very nice to teach Mads a chronological history of the world that isn't U.S.-centered (I feel like I'm filling in the gaps of my own education). She also loves the poem memorization part of the language lessons. We've found this book to be a great resource and guide, ...more
Verrrry interesting.

* for: best for people who have already decided homeschooling is what they want to do and want established, classical curricula. Also for those who want resource references out the wazoo.

I have mixed feelings about this book. The book is written by a mother and daughter pair. The daughter is one of three homeschooled children, but no mention was made of the experiences and outcome of the other kids' educations, and it bothered me. The daughter is wildly successful by typical
Jan 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: education
From an Australian, non-religious perspective...

This is a guide for Neo-Classical Education rather than Classical, eg. the way the "stages" are divided to fit the western 12-year school model rather than applied concurrently in varying degrees as was once the case (and is better-reflected in Charlotte Mason's classical style). It is very rigorous in a fashion more-closely designed to compete with public/private school graduates, but using classical elements to achieve generally higher results (p
Feb 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
10 pages into The Well-Trained Mind, I knew I found what I was looking for. (I actually stopped reading, logged onto Amazon and purchased a brand new copy of the newest edition. I knew I was going to want to have this book forever!) I was surprised because I didn't originally think classical education was the way we would go. But it makes SO MUCH SENSE! Here's how Classical Education breaks down:

Grades: 1, 5, 9: Ancients: 5000 B.C.-A.D. 400, Biology, Classification and Human body

Grades: 2, 6, 1
Aug 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All Parents
The Well-Trained Mind follows the concepts found in A Thomas Jefferson Education, but provides a step-by-step "how-to" guide on how to set up a classical home school. I refer to this as my homeschool bible. What I have learned most from this book is that I don't have to alter my life to fit the outline described in the book, but I have altered the outline to fit and meet our individual needs and goals. I have used it as a guideline. It is a great resource for curriculum, etc. ...more
Mar 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010-read
I've been reading as many books and blogs about homeschooling as I can get my hands on, because in preparation for beginning this journey with my daughter this fall for her first grade year I want to have much of a grasp of my educational philosophy and goals as possible. This book was recommended to me early on in my "just thinking about it" stage by a friend who homeeducates her children, but because the book is well over 600 pages in length I had put it off until I've read other, shorter, boo ...more
Jan 02, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Organized Types who are considering homeschooling
Recommended to Shannon by: Allison Snyder
I'm not a big reader of non-fiction, so it's surprising that I'm starting the 2010 year with it. This book was recommended to me by a friend from high school who is homeschooling her two sons this year and enjoyed this book. It's the first book of this type that I've read and while I liked some of the principles and suggestions, a few things were off-putting.

First, I found the introduction a bit arrogant. Some of the authors' assertions about this method of schooling leading to smarter, brighte
Jan 25, 2009 rated it liked it
This book is often called the Bible of classical homeschooling. Like the Bible, the book offers life-changing experiences for its followers. Many parents happily homeschool (or "afterschool") their kids based mainly on its contents. However, many of the items are best understood not as literal truth, but as metaphor. For example, the first grade reading list includes "Anything by or about Aristotle and Cicero". While that sentiment is noble, I challenge anyone to come up with books about (never ...more
Jan 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
A thick, but quick to read book, especially since several sections do not apply to me at this time. Gives a comprehensive overview of the classical approach to home school. The author has a very thorough, but practical approach to home schooling. This book really gave me the vision of what can be accomplished in the home. It is also an excellent resource, full of lists of suppliers and other books. I especially appreciated the sections on how to make up a transcript for a home schooled child and ...more
Amber G.
Jun 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Great book on classical homeschooling. It gives you a great guide on what to teach each year of homeschooling, but is also a bit ambitious. The author is a homeschool scholar raising geniuses. Even though I could never do all she does in a day, I loved the book for a guide, ideas, and how to keep on track. I would never get rid of the book even if I wasn't homeschooling. I like reading it for my own continued education. ...more
Amy LaVange
Aug 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Parents with school aged kids
Recommended to Amy by: lawn_mama
Shelves: parenting
I truly believe this book to be a necessary read for anyone planning on taking an active role in their children's education - whether they are taught publicly, privately or in any sort of home environment. The curriculum is thorough and well thought, and the writing could motivate any parent to take a stronger role in teaching their child. Loved it! ...more
Dec 05, 2019 rated it liked it
I did not love this one. I might be the only person I know to say that! I’m very familiar with classical education as a whole so that introduction was not new to me. I struggled with the pace and tone, full of assumptions about children’s intellectual development that also seemed to disregard the very real risks of burnout among homeschool teachers. I was surprised at how little attention was given to the developmental necessity of unstructured play for young children and felt there was far too ...more
Jasmine Shadows
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book gave some wonderful insight regarding education. We have come so far from life long learning. Yes this book will make you reconsider the education of your children.
Oct 23, 2017 marked it as xx-dnf-skim-reference
Too much dissing of public schools and other approaches to home-schooling... a tighter focus would be more helpful. I considered home-schooling my youngest, and we even tried it for one year. But I just talked to him (he's got his Associate degree and is making plans to continue) and he says that he's glad he wasn't home-schooled, even though he wasn't particularly fond of school. In his experience, home-schooled college students tend to think that they're smarter and more right than anyone else ...more
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
I love this book! I wish there were more like it! (And perhaps that it was different than it was. I don't want to know what the ideal curriculum is for ME, I want to know what it was for YOU and your kids.)

That being said, when someone does have advice to give I like it when they present their arguments in simple and clear ways, which she does.

For example, I loved her arguments about not teaching reading and writing together. A normal kindergartener can easily read at a 4th grade reading level,
Aug 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To say I "finished" this book is perhaps inaccurate, since by no means did I read every word of this 800-page doorstop and I am sure I will be picking it up again when needed, however, I've completed my first pass through the sections currently relevant to our homeschool. Years ago I read portions of the 1st and 3rd editions, but I looked forward to this new 4th edition, which was billed as updated with (1) currently-available curricula options and revised science recommendations, and (2) expand ...more
Mystie Winckler
Feb 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: education
My biggest critique is her inconsistency. She spends one very short chapter saying you cannot ignore religion in education, that your faith informs your worldview and therefore should inform your education, and yet proceeds to ignore religion and faith entirely in her discussion of education.

The secularists should be made to know at every opportunity Whose world they live in, whether they like it or not, and whose culture they are studying. Why cater to their relativism when it is not your belie
Sarah Bringhurst Familia
Nov 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: education
Susan Wise Bauer lost one star right off for being so annoyingly pedantic. By far the best thing about this book is the resource lists, which are extensive and well-organized. I don't buy into the whole grammar-logic-rhetoric stages of child development (Charlotte Mason had a much better understanding of how children are, in my opinion), and the suggested schedules in the back of the book would probably drive any normal homeschooling family insane. However, Bauer at least does advocate bringing ...more
Jun 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: homeschool
I had some strong feelings while reading this book. There were so many ideas and assumptions about children and education that rubbed me the wrong way. However, as I read more, I found that I begrudgingly agreed with some of the theories and suggestions the authors posit. If you're looking for a thorough approach to the Classical style of home education, then look no further. At least I know now that I'm definitely NOT going to follow this style of education. I suppose it's good to know what you ...more
Stefanie Lozinski
Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it

Considered the "bible" of classical education. I'm glad I read this tome of a book (naturally, I skipped some reference-y parts) before attempting to follow the Memoria Press homeschool curriculum with my son. I have a better understanding of the trivium and of the importance of latin, but most of all, this book helped me to give myself permission to push my child to pursue hard things, even if he does not want to do them. This approach is VERY different than how I was homeschooled, and ther
Heidi McQuay
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
As I'm considering homeschooling this book was extremely helpful. As with any parenting or self help or education book, did I agree with everything 100%? No, but there were some great things in this book. The classical education approach resonated with me and this will be a great resource moving forward. Lots of good information on schedules and curriculum and research behind it all. ...more
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent and inspiring plan for pre-K through 12 education. Great ideas to use even as a supplement to traditional schooling. Wise and Bauer make a compelling argument for homeschooling and using the classical trivium. This style of education is appealing to me, especially using three 4-year cycles of history as the framework for the curriculum.
Wendy Jones
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a superb resource for resources. I quickly skimmed through the sections I'll return to again when we reach the historical time period that accompanies the school year we are on. It's been a great help in giving me more amazing choices for my boys. I'm really looking forward to this school year! ...more
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great resource!
Feb 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Why have I resisted this method of Classical Homeschooling for so long? I've read about this method online, have read snippets of the book in the past, and have even incorporated a few bits and pieces of the Well-Trained Mind philosophy (and products) into our homeschool. But I've never identified myself as a classical homeschooler. I've resisted the method for one reason or another.
Not any more.
Today alone I have read through the section on the grammar stage twice (as well as large chunks of
Rosie Gearhart
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
A helpful resource but far too ambitious in expectations, so much so that it becomes disheartening. If I'm not careful it can make me feel like a failure for not being able to live up to the specific standards set in the text. (Sarah Mackenzie's book Teaching From Rest is a great counteractive to that feeling, by the way!) I do appreciate how much this book has shaped an entire generation of homeschoolers, but I'm finding the thoughts of classical educators like Andrew Kern and Christopher Perri ...more
Feb 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book helped me in ways. In other ways it made me feel like I was not doing enough as a homeschooling mom. the way she describes homeschooling and the hours and curriculum she shoves into a day are not homeschooling to me, but public schooling at home. BUT.. I do love some of her ideas, and I took from the book what I needed.
Kim Davison
Oct 17, 2007 rated it it was ok
While many of the suggestions are good, I find the "this is how you must homeschool" attitude bothersome. I know few homeschoolers who have not read this book. I know none, however, who successfully have stuck with her program. ...more
Jul 04, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: home-s-cool
This is a good book if you are into classical education. Sadly, I discovered my education was a bit lacking. As for using as a homeschool method at my house, I am too lazy. So my kids will be lacking as well.
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From the author's website:

Susan’s newest book for Norton, The Story of Western Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory, was published in May 2015. The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople (2013), is the third in a multi-volume series providing a narrative world history; the first volume, The History

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