Homeschoolers, is 'The Well-Trained Mind' book the best homeschool curriculum?

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Dear all,

I am very new to homeschooling and have been wondering about the best homeschooling curriculum. What I need is something that equates a bit of what the public school system does plus some more.

Is 'The Well Trained Mind' the best curriculum for homeschooling? (I have read the rave reviews on Amazon.com). Are there any other better resources?  What curriculum did you find most effective?

Suggestions from experienced homeschooling parents are very highly welcome. Thank you so much.

I don't think it is possible to say there is one best curriculum as a lot will depend on your child and your families cicumstances. I do think it is an excellent book, both inspiring and with lots of great information. Most people I believe probably do best with a combination of curriculums pulling the best/what works for them from each one. For instance for my son (age 5) we use:

Reading: Robinson curriculum, Sonlight, Old fashioned Education, Ambleside Online, Great books
Math: Jones geniuses, worksheet genius.com
Language Arts: Writing with Ease, Spelling Workout C, First Language Lessons for the Well trained Mind, Daily Language Lessons
We are also doing the Memory work from Classical Conversations on our own which includes: history, geography, math, grammar, latin and Science facts

I agree with what linzy said: There is no best curriculum - it very much depends both on your child and on you. I think that book is a good book to buy and read, but there are endless other resources each with their own pros and cons. Most people I think use an eclectic curriculum - it basically means that they pull things from everywhere - especially if you have a bright child or are doing early education then very often your child will be ahead in one or other areas and a full curriculum will not work for them.

For my DD (age 4) we are using:
The ordinary parents guide to teaching reading - I do not use this book as they tell you to - I am just using it as a guide as to what phonics I can teach when
Reading from different readers and books that I pick myself
Horizons K for math as well as Singapore 1a at the moment
For writing I am using games and traceable worksheets off the internet as well as self made handwriting worksheets
And then I am pulling things from the internet and using books from the library for thematic units to teach various things in history, geography, science, social studies etc while incorporating more reading and language arts, writing and arithmetic into the themes. We are also using Hands on Homeschooling the 4 year old curriculum for further thematic ideas and also for games to play with her as she is a very hands on child.

When I homeschooled my DD for the first year I used Sonlight P3/4 and just read to her while doing various activities - but she was only 2.5 years old at the time and this worked well with LR for reading and some beginning readers and then counting activities and games for math.

I might consider what your expectations are and what you are hoping to achieve with homeschooling. It is the first place to start. Why are we doing this in the first place. Dorothy Sayers article, "The Lost Tools of Learning" is a wonderful place to start. Obviously, since you're familiar with "The Well-Trained MInd" you are aware of what is called classical education. If that is where you are starting, I would consider reading "Classical Education and the Homeschool" put out by Canon Press. You might also want to read "Repairing the Ruins". Canon Press has some good suggestions and so does Veritas Press. Both of these publishing houses have a distinctly Christian world-view, so just be aware of that. 

But as a veteran homeschooler, there really is no one good curriculum. There are lots of them. Each child is different. Susan Wise Bauer gives some good advice. If you spend some time on the forums at her site, you will also get some really good ideas from parents who have worked with curriculum and can tell you the advantages and disadvantages of each. You will find what works for you and your family.

We are particularly fond of Jones Genius Math right now. There isn't another program like it. I think it would have saved us years of grief had I found it 11 years ago. I am also very fond of narration and real books. And in the younger years as many hands on activities as possible.

First, on the question of whether this is the "best curriculum."  Ever the contrarian, I've gotta say--I don't think it is known whether there is a best homeschooling method for everyone.  Partly that depends on how "method" is defined, but partly it depends on research that might be difficult (or even impossible) to perform.  Certainly it is a very common view that because students differ greatly in how they learn, the methods that work appropriately for them will vary.  But then, as I said, that depends on what counts as "method" and how we distinguish one method from another.  I don't know, for example, whether we are following the "Well-Trained Mind" classical homeschooling method.  Definitely we aren't following it exactly, but we happen to be doing many of the things the book recommends.

Here's what people mean when they say there is no one best curriculum, they simply mean that not all homeschoolers choose the same curricula.  Some swear by Saxon math, some by Singapore.  Basically, you have to think in-depth about your goals in teaching a particular subject, learn about the main options, and try to figure out in advance which approach appeals most to you.  Then be prepared to change your mind...

But these easy observations hardly mean that there is no one best method.  It might be the case that there is one best method of teaching, if the method is broadly-enough delineated, and we stipulate that the teacher of the method is adequate.  Sometimes a method is poor simply because the practitioner is incapable of using it, or unwilling.

My opinion of the book is that it's the single best book written about homeschooling, but unfortunately, that isn't saying that much, because most books about homeschooling are really lame.  If what you're looking for is a list of topics to study, you might want to look up the common core standards: http://www.corestandards.org/ just as a reference point.  Another good book for simply listing topics or benchmarks, which reads something like a "homeschooler's curriculum standards," is Rebecca Rupp, Home Learning Year by Year.  (This would be a very rigorous curriculum.)  Another handy topic guide would be The Educated Child by William J. Bennett (and others).  A good grade-by-grade list of books is Books to Build On.

What The Well-Trained Mind does better than any other book I've seen is to describe, in depth, a whole system of education, together with specific book recommendations (and often alternatives).  The other books I've listed here are more like catalogs; WTM is more of a system, the distillation of much reflection and experience by some very intelligent women.  I don't agree with absolutely everything they say, and wouldn't take all their advice, but then, who would?  Since it's such a huge system, not many will fall in line at every point.  If you're homeschooling, it's probably because you want to do things your own way.  Besides, it's a pretty ambitious program, and many homeschoolers of a low-key stripe (lower-key than us :biggrin: ) wouldn't dream of using the whole thing.


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