Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer, The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Eduation at Home.

I can't remember now where I stumbled across a recommendation to this book. I was intrigued, though, by the notion of home-schooling--or indeed, any education--based on the classical trivium method of learning. The short explanation of that term is that students would work through material in a spiral curriculum of three stages: grammar, then logic, then rhetoric.

This book does not deal at great length with a theoretical understanding of the trivium, but rather inserts explanatory material as it outlines a modifiable curriculum based on this approach. The authors' project is one that, at heart, I can easily agree with--get kids reading. Get them reading for fun and for learning. Get them to absorb information, then to think about it, and then get them writing to express their views and their conclusions. Keep them reading. Get the to read great books, get them to enjoy the challenge that is learning. In short, as Francis Bacon wrote, "Reading maketh a full man, writing an exact man, and conference a ready man."

Now, sure, I disagree with quite a number of the texts that they recommend in their great books curriculum, and I disagree with a couple of their ideas--I'd put more emphasis in some areas than they do, but hey, that's to be expected. A parent with no formal teaching experience or education could quite easily take this book, put in a great deal of time and effort, and teach his or her kids very well indeed. To the point where most profs I know would be thrilled to have those kids in their classes.

The book, though, isn't really all that fun a read. One has to follow through pretty well all of it to extract any more of the argument than I've summarised in this blog entry, and that will get tedious, because the basic argument is repeated again and again--partially because this book is at least partly designed to help people who haven't studied education. For those who have, reading the Wikipedia description and then Browning's poem, "Development" ought to suffice--except for the resource lists, or generally, to think about how you'd educate your children in an ideal world.