Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"The Well-Trained Mind" Then vs. Now Pt. I

I first read The Well-Trained Mind when my oldest, Miss Scarlet, was 4 1/2. Being the Type A personality that I was (and still am, albeit to lesser extent), I read the entire 764-page first edition cover-to-cover. That's right, I read not only the "grammar" (elementary) section, but also the "logic" (jr. high) and "rhetoric" (sr. high) ones as well.

In retrospect, that probably wasn't the best idea because I felt rather overwhelmed and intimidated. My oldest wasn't even starting Kindergarten for several months, and I was reading about classical rhetoric; studying the Great Books (only some of which I had read myself); algebra, trigonometry, and calculus; high school science including reading original sources like Hippocrates, Archimedes, Copernicus, Kepler, Gallileo, Harvey, Darwin, Newton, Einstein, etc.; and studying both a classical and a modern foreign language. Yikes! It was akin to a couch potato reading about a training regimen for a double Ironman ultra-triathlon. Very inspiring, but completely intimidating.

It didn't help that in the first edition of TWTM, the authors listed a 6 hour daily schedule for 1st grade. I have since learned that it was the publisher's idea to include the schedule; in the 2nd and 3rd editions of the book, it has been replaced by more general guidelines.

I sat there having just finished TWTM, thinking to myself simultaneously "WOW! What an amazing educational philosophy!" and "How on Earth am I going to be able to pull this off?"

To be continued...

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Journey to "The Well-Trained Mind"

This month marks the 5th anniversary of when our family began homeschooling. Five years ago, we had no plans to homeschool beyond pre-k, and we weren't even sure we'd do that as we were on the waiting list at several preschools. Miss Scarlet's name never did get off the waitlist anywhere, and by February it had become clear that our search for an elementary school was going very poorly while homeschooling was going very well.

One of the books that I read while trying to find a school for Miss Scarlet was former Secretary of Education William Bennett's The Educated Child. I came across it at my local library and found his vision of the "Core Knowledge" model of schooling very inspiring. It had all the elements I wanted in a curriculum for my children- classic literature, phonics, old-school grammar, mastery of math facts & traditional algorithms, real history with an eye towards cultural literacy rather than political correctness, and so on. I came away from the book very much wanting a Core Knowledge school for my child- and feeling dismay at how far short of that the options we had available to us were.

I was seriously considering enrolling Miss Scarlet in the local K12 online school, the California Virtual Academy, for the following year because it offered a Core Knowledge-based curriculum and Mr. Bennett sat on its board. Then a veteran homeschooler I had met at a local park day suggested that I read The Well-Trained Mind. I requested the book through the inter-library loan, and read the whole thing through.

I was both awe-inspired and totally intimidated.

To be continued...