Wednesday, July 7, 2010

LHP Review: Doing "Classical Education at Home" at a School

Bauer, Susan Wise and Jessie Wise. The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home Third Edition. New York: W. W. Norton, 2009. 814 Pages. Cloth. $39.95. (LHP)

"This educational bestseller has dominated its field for the last decade, sparking a homeschooling movement that has only continued to grow. It will instruct you, step by step, on how to give your child an academically rigorous, comprehensive education from preschool through high school. Two veteran home educators outline the classical pattern of education—the trivium—which organizes learning around the maturing capacity of the child's mind. With this model, you will be able to instruct your child in all levels of reading, writing, history, geography, mathematics, science, foreign languages, rhetoric, logic, art, and music, regardless of your own aptitude in those subjects.

"Newly revised and updated, The Well-Trained Mind includes detailed book lists with complete ordering information; up-to-date listings of resources, publications, and Internet links; and useful contact information" (publisher's website).

It has been seven years since my entire educational outlook was reoriented. I went to public schools from Kindergarten through University and then one of our synod's seminaries to prepare for the ministry. I always felt that something was missing. My public education didn't mesh with the ideas I had heard about education (reading, writing, arithmetic, Shakespeare, Latin & Greek, the ancient and modern "classics," and a good foundation in Western Civilization). Then I discovered why that it was so.
Dewey and Progressive education had taken over. I don't mean that it just became the dominant or majority view. Progressive ed took over. Even LCMS elementary schools and colleges were not immune. Those of the old German gymnasium model brought over by the Saxons were closed, turned into high schools, or morphed into a more secular model of higher ed.
And so, in Laramie, Wyoming, I attended my first Conference of The Consortium on Classical and Lutheran Education. The Seven Liberal Arts had little to do with what it means to be a modern "liberal" and everything to do with an education for a free citizen. Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric are the basic building blocks.
Home educators rediscovered this kind of education, now dubbed "classical," and led to a renaissance of sorts. Many schools have been birthed by home school associations and Christian congregations. The congregation I serve is the home of Martin Luther Grammar School and I serve as Headmaster.
And I recommend this book by a mother and daughter team.
Although intended for home use, many books and resources are already in use in our classrooms and more will be soon. The authors share personal experiences, opinions, and good common sense as they discuss resources, curriculum, and the nuts and bolts of educating the next generation.
To get a quick sense of the book, read the Overview (xxi ff) and then the three Epilogues at the end of each stage of education (215, 458, 612), providing a glance of a K-12 curriculum at home or at a unique new/old kind of school.
Don't be overwhelmed by the size. It is this big and this trusted and this popular for a reason.
It is weak on "religion." In some ways I was disappointed by that (639), in others relieved. I'm not sure why Christianity/faith isn't a bigger part of the picture for these educators.
I was thrilled to see how little emphasis was given to computers and technology (198). Yes, you read that right. They can become a crutch and promote educational weaknesses (and plain laziness) later on.
Bauer and Wise are to be commended for such a comprehensive overview and guide to old education that is new again.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.