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The Well Trained Mind: Thoughts from Chapter 9

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 9

General Thoughts:

If any of you follow my blog on a regular basis you might already know my thoughts on Latin. You can find them on my Latin page. The only thing I haven’t said, is why not German? If one of the big reasons to learn Latin is so that you can better understand the English Language, then wouldn’t German be an even better choice? My Magister, Mr. Stasel, use to say that the English Language was half Latin, half German. I’ve never studied German myself, but don’t you decline nouns in German? Wouldn’t that help you learn English grammar just as well? Plus, you could actually use German and put it on your resume as a skill future employers might value. German speakers, please let me know what you think!

Here is a recount of trying to teach Bruce Spanish: http://teachingmybabytoread.blog.com/spanish/

Has anyone used any of the other language programs the authors of the WTM recommended?

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:

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.

The Well Trained Mind: Thoughts from Chapter 6

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 6

General Thoughts: I believe in teaching math from a Constructivist perspective.  I found a lot of the authors’ recommendations to fall in with this philosophy of teaching math quite nicely.  This was really interesting to me, because that seems to be in contrast to the WTM general theories about the Grammar stage, in which it is sometimes encouraged to teach memorization before understanding.  The authors seem to be of a different opinion when it comes to math.

I also found it interesting that the Horizons math program was not mentioned.  Our own family did not have a very good experience with Horizons: http://teachingmybabytoread.blog.com/2011/05/01/horizons-math/   Horizons does not seem to follow the Constructivist model at all, and was not a very good choice for our family.  Interestingly, many parents on the Well Trained Mind Message board swear by Horizons, which makes me wonder if they have read the WTM.

Page 88: I agree with the bottom section of the page when the authors are recommending manipulatives, but disagree with the top portion when they say that it is okay for higher-order math thinking skills to come later.  As a Constructivist, I believe they should be taught concurrently.

Page 89: The toothpick example was really mixed up to me.  On the one hand, it could be considered the perfect example of Constructivist teaching because they are starting adding from the left instead of the right.  On the other hand they use the word “carry” and the teacher is directing the student in which strategy to use.  This would be anti-Constructivist.

Page 93: Saxon Math is published by Houghton Mifflin which also published Math Expressions.  That’s the textbook our local school district uses.

The Well Trained Mind: Thoughts from Chapter 5

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 5

General Thoughts: This was a very enjoyable chapter for me to read as a former K-4 teacher.  I found it interesting that many of the authors’ suggestions are things that are actually in practice right now in many public schools, but labeled or described a bit differently. 

Page 50: To me this seemed like the shift from “Learning to Read vs. Reading to Learn”.

Page 51: The four separate WTM disciplines: spelling, grammar, reading and writing, and but quite different from the Four Blocks model often used in classrooms today.  Spelling is a key element of working with words, but the grammar part was really only lightly covered in the two different schools I taught at.

Page 57:  This page was really fascinating to me, because after reading so many posts on the Well Trained Mind message board in praise of Open Court, I was under the impression that the WTM authors were in favor of that type of program.  But on page 57 they come out strongly against reading texts and are in clear support of using real books.  Am I missing something?  I taught with Open Court for two years and thought it was just okay.  Yes, it had phonics in the younger grades, but the third grade program had a heavy textbook emphasis.  The only real books I had in my classroom were ones I had purchased myself or had been donated.  Here is more on my experience teaching with Open Court: http://teachingmybabytoread.blog.com/ravenswood/open-court/

Page 62: I found it curious that the authors made no mention of Guided Reading Levels, which is a huge movement in public schools right now, and actually ties in quite nicely with what the authors are saying.  Knowing a book’s level helps adults help children make appropriate selections in reading material.

Page 64: The example of a first grader who suddenly wants to write a story is another example of the WTM authors taking what a public school teacher would consider to be a child-directed approach to learning, even though on page 37 (likely speaking to unschoolers?) they come out against that.

Page 65: I really liked the idea of letter writing.  This is something we have been doing with my son at home.  He even has his own address labels!  My question, is why wait until 2nd grade to do this?  The other great idea here was to occasional write down your child’s stories.  I call this “being your child’s secretary“.

The Well Trained Mind: Thoughts from Chapter 4

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 4

Page 27: Fabulous!  Fabulous!  Fabulous!  This was such an excellent description of how to teach language to babies and toddlers.  I followed all of these ideas myself (before I read the WTM) and my children were speaking 8-9 words by one years old, and complete sentences by 18 or 19 months.  The only idea that the authors don’t include however is Baby Signs.  I wonder why the exclusion?  We used Baby Signs a lot with my kids and they knew about 20 signs by one year old.

Page 28: Regarding fine motor skills and writing… There has been a lot of research about working with play-dough and other traditional preschool activities building up the fine motor skills children need to learn to write.  I wonder what the authors did not include this?

Page 29: I love how explicit the authors are when they talk about five year olds really not being ready for a lot of desk work and worksheets.  It is interesting to me that a lot of parents on the Well Trained Mind message boards are so focused on worksheet type activities with their small children.

Page 31: I’ve got to say as a former Kindergarten teacher, I really took offense at this part.  I taught my students so much more than just how to line up!  I taught them phonics, writing, basic math skills, science….  Agh!  I could go on.  Are there bad Kindergartens out there?  Yes.  Are there fabulous ones?  Yes!

Page 33: Regarding letter magnets… My friend Claire turned me on to this one.  My daughter’s new favorite toy is the Word Whammer.

Also on Page 34:  I love how they include Bob Books.  Here are my ideas for games to play with Bob Books: http://teachingmybabytoread.blog.com/2011/03/02/bob-books-boring-but-brilliant/

Page 34: I would like to specifically point out that the authors are not against teaching sight words, but in fact encourage it.  I have seen lots of posts on the Well Trained Mind message board from parents who think that teaching children sight words is anti-phonics, and an example of poor teaching practices in public schools.

Pages 36-37: There is a contradiction here in my view.  On page 37 the authors say they are against “child-led” education, and yet their example on page 36 of teaching a four year old to read because she asked you, is exactly an example of child led education!  I for the record am a proponent of child-directed education, but with the caveat that the teacher or parent is in charge of the general outline, scope and sequence of the education.

Page 38: Regarding handwriting… The last school I taught at used Handwriting Without Tears.  I liked this program very much. 

Page 39: The description of teaching math to young children ties in very closely to a Constructivist approach, even though the authors do not appear to embrace this philosophy.  But I’ll save my thoughts for that for chapter 6!

The Well Trained Mind: Thoughts from Chapter 3

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 3

 Page 21:  Let me preface this by saying that I really do love this book and respect the authors’ opinions a lot!  However, as a former public school teacher I have no idea where they are coming up with this notion that public schools devote inordinate amounts of time to children expressing whatever is inside of them.  In the schools I taught in children were given the opportunity to express themselves, but it was in no way taking the place of learning or the storing of knowledge.  This did not happen in the poorer district I taught in, or the wealthier.  I really do not understand where this viewpoint is coming from.

Page 22: I love the idea of filling up a child’s head with knowledge and stories.  When they explain the grammar state of the trivium in this way I totally get it!  I would also respectfully point out, that a lot of public school primary teachers do this naturally.  Making connections between words, stories and history is also something that can happen in public school.  In fact, you can tie in a whole new level of learning when your class is full of native Spanish speakers, let me tell you!  There are a lot of simple words in Spanish that help make learning large English vocabulary words a lot easier.

Page 24: Here is where my personal philosophy of education, really differs from the WTM.  I do not believe in teaching facts without understanding.  I am a Constructivist, and I believe that true learning comes when children explore, create, and figure out learning concepts for themselves. 

Page 25: I totally agree that one of the biggest challenges some schools face is having to also fulfill the parental role.  At one school I taught at, 100% of the students were receiving free breakfast and lunch.  http://teachingmybabytoread.blog.com/2011/07/09/teaching-in-the-hood/ That meant that the school was providing half of all of their meals each week!  That really boggles the mind and still makes me so sad.  What was happening to my students all summer?  Were they going hungry?  I don’t think that schools are “asserting” themselves in this role necessarily; I think they are being forced into it by society’s failure to deal with poverty issues.

The Well Trained Mind: Thoughts from Chapter 2

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 2

General Thoughts: I found it interesting reading Susan’s account of a Classical Education at home, because I had a very similar education in the Seminar program of the San Diego Unified School District.  It makes me wonder how the educational path of the Wise family might have changed if they had had access to public schools of similar caliber to the ones I attended.  The discrepancy between school districts is one of the great shames of our country. 

Page 13:  Once again, I am probably offending a great portion of America, but I still wonder if grammatical errors are a bigger issue in certain regions, but less of an issue elsewhere.  Certainly when I taught English Language Learners in California I contended with grammar issues, but this was not the case in the wealthier district I taught in.  Children from predominantly upper middle class families in California spoke well naturally, because they had developed the ear for correctly spoken English since birth.  I did teach grammar in the 3rd/4th grade, but I did not spend a lot of time on the subject.

Page 13: I learned how to write persuasive essays starting in 5th grade.  My teacher, Mr. Gray, had a list of 60 “Keys to Understanding Mankind”.  We would choose a key that applied to the book we were reading, and use the key as our thesis statement.  The essay would follow from there.  Eventually we learned to write thesis statements without having to first choose a key.  By high school I was shocked at how so many of my peers (who had not been taught by Mr. Gray), still did not know how to write a five paragraph essay.

Page 14: Regarding high school age students specializing in a certain area… I have often heard that selective colleges look for applicants that are like puzzle pieces.  They want an athlete from over here, a history buff from there, a humanitarian from here etc.  This concept fits in nicely with what the authors are saying.  Competitive college applicants need to be more than just well-rounded students.

Page 15: The four year pattern of studying the ancients all the way to modern time is very similar to the SLE curriculum I studied in college.  Stanford was on the quarter system however, so Winter quarter we studied the medieval period through the late Renaissance, and the Spring quarter was modern times to the present.

Page 16: The authors’ spiraling science curriculum is very similar to what many state science standards already are.

Page 17: It is interesting that she mentions Mortimer Adler, because part of my public school curriculum was Junior Great Books, which he helped found.

The Well Trained Mind: Thoughts from Chapter 1

I have been on the waiting list at our library for the book The Well Trained Mind, written by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, for two months now, and it still has not come.  I finally decided to purchase a copy on Amazon and I am glad I did.  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 will be 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 1

Page 3: I had a big self-to-text connection with Jessie Wise’s experience teaching a classroom of second graders with no break.  I never taught dawn to dusk, but when I was teaching in an impoverished district in Northern California there were no specialist teachers for art, PE, music etc.  I had my students all day except for a 15 minute recess break, and 45 minutes at lunch. Once a week I also had recess duty, which meant the 15 minute break was gone.  I definitely noticed the quality of my instruction declining throughout the day.  I’m sure my students noticed too!  This was a very grueling situation in which to teach.

Page 4: I really agree with JW when she says talks about making sure her children learn to read before school.  That’s what my blog is all about!

Page 4: The experience of the author’s son Bob sounds textbook for a child who is possibly gifted.  This is why I’m such a big supporter of gifted and talented programs, and feel that it is a shame that so many GATE programs have been eliminated.

Page 6:  I am sure that I am going to offend a whole section of America here, but I have heard (strictly hearsay) that public schools in the south are in pretty bad shape.  I think that some of the authors’ views might be different if they had lived in better school districts.  There are really some wonderful public school districts out there.  I live in a great school district myself, and had the privilege of teaching in one too.   But if I lived in an area of America where there were no good school districts to choose from, maybe I would have chosen homeschooling too.

Page 8: Regarding Meme insisting on memorization… In my credentialing program we learned that memorization was the lowest form of understanding.  I wonder if the authors would take offence to this.  Of course, they use memorization at the beginning of the trivium, so maybe they would agree that it is the lowest form of understanding.

Page 10: Regarding the education level of parents who homeschool: My concern as a teacher is when you get situations like the Duggars in “19 Kids and Counting”.  In that show the teenage girls who were home schooled (and home-churched!) are now homeschooling their younger siblings.  I probably cannot express this in any way that will not offend homeschoolers, but as a teacher, the Duggar’s situation makes me nervous.  Where is the outside world in that?  Yes, they are probably having to check in with their local school district, but it is still like they are in their own educational bubble.