The Well-Trained Mind: A Book Review


I requested The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide To Classical Education At Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise from the library without looking carefully through the detailed information. I was shocked when my dear librarian friend dropped off an 814 page book! Despite the overwhelming length, I was pleasantly surprised with book.

The overview of the book helpfully explains the purpose of the book and gives a glimpse of what constitutes a classical education:

“The Well-Trained Mind is a parent’s guide to a do-it-yourself, academically rigorous, comprehensive education – a classical education.

What is a classical education?

It is language intensive – not image-focused. It demands that students use and understand words, not video images.

It is history-intensive, providing students with a comprehensive view of human endeavor from the beginning until now.

It trains the mind to analyze and draw conclusions.

It demands self-discipline.

It produces literate, curious, intelligent students who have a wide range of interests and the ability to follow up on them.” (Bauer & Wise).

A classical education is known to include three stages; the grammar stage (not to be confused with English grammar, but rather the basic building blocks across the subject areas) covers the acquisition of facts; the logic stage teaches a student to organize the information they are learning, explore cause and effect, and see how what they are learning is interrelated; the rhetoric stage is focused on making conclusions, speaking and writing with influence, and specializing in areas of interest and skill.

What I loved about the book:

  • It is exhaustive and systematic! I have very few questions regarding practical application after finishing the book.
  • It is practical. Bauer and Wise include scheduling tips, lists of suggested resources, and even include some of the best places to purchase those resources.
  • It is very functionally organized, divided into grammar, logic, and rhetoric stage. Within those divisions, there are chapters for each subject area.
  • I found myself intellectually challenged through the reading of this book and have a new-found desire to fill in some of the gaps in the education that I received. I feel like I really missed out in some areas!

What I didn’t love:

  • The book was so long that I struggled to want to finish it, especially since I was primarily interested in the grammar stage as my children are young. Because of its size, it also wasn’t enjoyable to hold. It would be nice if it could be separated into three smaller books and sold as a boxed set.
  • There is a lot of repetition of resources. As the methods are discussed the resources are listed but at the end of each chapter they are listed again. I understand why they did that because it would be challenging to flip through pages to find the one resource you were looking for when it could all be listed in one place. But, for me, it just added extra pages!
  • I borrowed the 2009 edition from the library, but there is a newer edition available. Likely if I choose to use a classical education long-term, as curriculum availability changes, I will probably have to purchase the next edition after that. Currently there are four different editions of this book because curriculum availability changes so frequently.
  • I must give a bit of a disclaimer about this downside, because my knowledge on a classical education and appropriate curriculum is limited. Sometimes I felt as though the authors were over-promoting their own supplementary materials like First Language Lessons, The Story of the World, and Writing With Ease. I do plan to try at least the first two, however, before I form a stronger opinion about whether they are the best options or not.

Is it for you?

  • If you want an exhaustive how-to guide for classically educating your child at home, this book is for you.
  • If you want to find appropriate resources to help you on that journey, this book is for you.
  • If you are having a hard time understanding how you will be able to teach your children for thirteen years and want to know how, this book is for you.
  • If you are easily overwhelmed, I advise you hold off on reading this book.
  • If you do not want such a rigorous and time-consuming education for your child, this book is also not for you!

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One thought on “The Well-Trained Mind: A Book Review

  1. Pingback: February Reading Challenge Update | Carrie Branstetter

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