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The Well Trained Mind: Thoughts from Chapter 7

This is a series of posts I am writing about The Well Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. Although the WTM has a decidedly homeschooling bent, it is an excellent reference book for any parent who is interested in taking an active role in their child’s education.

Over the next few weeks I am reading the WTM again for the second time and blogging about my thoughts chapter by chapter. I want to be conscientious about not violating any copyrights, so I will not be including quotes from the book on my blog. I will however, be referencing specific page numbers from the third edition. I invite you to read along with me, and chime in your own thoughts in the comment section below.

Chapter 7

General Thoughts:

The history and geography section of the WTM is in my mind, one of the easiest ways to enrich a 1st-4th grader’s education through Afterschooling. It would be so easy to take the author’s main idea of a four year study from the ancients through modern time, and use their book suggestions for bedtime read alouds. This is similar to what I am already doing with my SLE inspired reading list. Another way that I intend to incorporate some ancient history into my first grader’s life is through my In the Car Curriculum plan for fall. The WTM book recommendations are great fodder for future reading choices.

My big question about this whole chapter however, is in regards to Susan Wise Bauer’s book series Story of the World, which she recommends as the heart of her history program. When I originally read the WTM I went immediately onto Amazon intending to purchase the first book to read with my son this summer. But the reviews of it really changed my mind. Half of them are glowing, and half of them pan the book and say that it is full of historical inaccuracies. I have searched and searched on the web, but I can’t seem to find any answers as to whether or not SWB has addressed these concerns or allegations. This is all very puzzling to me, because one of the main points of the WTM is that in the Grammar stage memorization before understanding is encouraged/allowable. So why would you have children learn facts that might actually be untrue?

I have hemmed and hawed about purchasing Story of the World, and finally decided to order it anyway. I am an intensely curious person and can just not stand not knowing what all of the fuss is about! I’m intending on making sure my son understands that the book is an artistic retelling of history, mythology and legends tied together, and not necessarily verifiable fact.  Thoughts?

Page 115: Boy do the authors have my attention on page 115 when they describe this page by page history notebook that their homeschoolers would create. The idea is to draw a picture and write a little bit about each person or historical event they study. Over the course of four years, the notebook would become their own student created history book of what they had learned.  I think this idea is fantastic!

Page 118: I love when the authors emphasize that reading skills should not be tied to writing skills. I think the same could be said for math.

Page 120: Regarding learning the states and capitals: My son learned all of the states when he was just five and a half by playing Stack the States on our ipod touch. This is an example of image based learning, which the authors of the WTM discourage. As a teacher, I would argue do whatever it takes, and pull out any trick to make learning happen.


  1. jengod says:

    Haven’t read it, but I suspect the overall idea of SOTW is derived from some early 20th century narrative world histories for children:

    http://www.archive.org/details/worldsstoryhisto01tapp – Free full-text version of the Tappan on archive.org

    http://www.valerieslivingbooks.info/ptp.htm – A Picturesque Tale of Progress, multiple editions over the years

    For the “logic” stage and above, I would probably use these Oxford world history sets (as soon as the price drops or a get a billion dollar gift certificate to Amazon):

    • jenbrdsly says:

      Interesting. Thanks for sharing!

      • Jean says:

        We used the Oxford Ancient set last year and enjoyed it a lot (but my friend who knows a lot about Central Asia didn’t think much of the China volume, and also we spotted a really stupid caption on a photo about King Tut, which was practice for critical thinking).

        I ordered the Medieval/EM set for this year, but B&N says it’s no longer being produced. 😦 Amazon still has it but is not a vendor. I’m not sure what to do yet!

  2. Claire H. says:

    Most of the criticisms I’ve seen of Mrs. Bauer’s history series (both SOTW and her adult one) has to do with her treatment of Biblical stories as historical fact. She is a pastor’s wife, and her books reflect a Protestant Christian POV, though not a “Providential” one.

    I do not personally have a problem with the first volume of SOTW, but did skip some of the chapters in the second volume (medieval times & Reformation era) in favor of a Catholic POV.

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