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The Well Trained Mind: Thoughts from Chapter 8

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 8

General Thoughts: I think that the potential Achilles heel of any Classical Education program, whether in a brick and mortar school or at home, are the STEM subjects; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Whenever an educator undertakes the teaching of science, that is a big mission. As a classroom teacher, science was the area I felt weakest at teaching, so I was grateful to have coworkers and colleagues to sponge ideas and lesson plans from.

p:158 My margin notes point out that yet again the authors are sanctioning letting children go off on learning tangents, and this being another example of child-directed education. YES, I KNOW that means different things to homeschoolers versus public school teachers. 🙂

p: 159 The WTM plan for scheduling science is similar to public school classrooms around that grade level. In third grade for example, I would expect science to be on the schedule about twice a week in a normal classroom.

p: 160 Here’s a peak at the science notebook my son Bruce brought home from Kindergarten. I was very impressed by what his teacher had their class doing. The journaling and observations are similar to what is being suggested in the WTM. (These are examples from different time points from last year, and not current reflections of what Bruce is capable of doing now of course.)

Bruce’s teacher brought in goldfish and snails for their unit on life cycles. This is pretty typical curriculum for five year olds, but I really liked how she tied in writing and scientific observation.

p 186: I really want to get one of the Science in a Nutshell kits. If I hadn’t just made a big book purchase, as well as having just ordered All About Spelling, I’d probably get one right now. Maybe for Christmas…

Here are some other science kits we have tried:


  1. Claire H. says:

    I would expect an elementary school class to teach science 2-3 times per week but unfortunately in the post-NCLB era many schools have decided to eliminate it entirely from the curriculum until 5th grade (when it’s tested) 😦

    I have a tendency to alternate between science-heavy and history-heavy periods. I don’t set out to do it that way, and I’d actually like to have a bit more balance on a weekly basis. The thing is that we take a topical/unit studies and if my kids really get into the particular topic, I hate to disrupt it. Looking at it from the big picture, they’re getting plenty of both subjects.

    Bruce might really like Dr. Bernard Nebel’s elementary science curriculum Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. I haven’t personally used it but have heard raves about it.

    • Jean says:

      “I would expect an elementary school class to teach science 2-3 times per week but unfortunately in the post-NCLB era many schools have decided to eliminate it entirely from the curriculum until 5th grade (when it’s tested) :-(”

      Sadly, this is true. I’ve even had a teacher or two tell me that she’s not allowed to do science in older classes because the test is not as important as the math or reading tests. My daughter’s friends do some science, but it’s not hard to do more, and more deeply. This last year we did biology and dissected a bunch of critters–even older kids were jealous!

      I’m very invested in giving my kids a strong STEM background, and I’d be thrilled if they went on to major in STEM fields.

      • jenbrdsly says:

        Thankfully, the other school I taught at made teaching science a strong priority. I think the idea of doing hands on experiments is the best way to go, and a perfect example of Constructivism in action. Our school district right now uses Foss Science kits, which are so much better than traditional textbooks in my opinion. No wonder your daughter’s friends were jealous!

    • jenbrdsly says:

      I haven’t seen that one, but will check it out.

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