This is an extended direct quote from
Susan Wise Bauer's book, 
It's a great book- please buy it.

The Four-Year Cycle of Education

1, 5, 9:
Ancient History; Biology

Grades: 2, 6, 10:
Medieval-Early Renaissance; Earth Science/Astronomy

Grades: 3, 7, 11:
Age of Exploration; Chemistry

Grades: 4, 8, 12:
Modern history; Physics/Computer science


The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home suggests that the twelve years of education consist of three repetitions of the same four-year pattern; the ancients, the medieval period through the early Renaissance, the late Renaissance through the early modern times, and modern times. The child studies these four time periods at varying levels—simple for grades 1 through 4, more difficult in grades 5 through 8, and taking an even more complex approach in grades 9 through 12, when the student works through these time periods using original sources (from Homer to Hitler).

The sciences are studied in a four-year pattern that roughly corresponds to the periods of scientific discovery; plants, animals, and the human body (subjects known to the ancients); earth science and basic astronomy (which flowered during the Renaissance); chemistry (which came into its own during the early modern period); and basic physics and computer science (very modern subjects).

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.

The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home is a handbook on how to prepare your child to read, write, calculate, think and understand. The Well-Trained Mind provides information on teaching all the subjects in the classical curriculum for all twelve grades—literature, writing, grammar, history, science, math, Latin, modern languages, art, music, debate, and more.

The first years of schooling are called the “grammar stage” because these are the years in which the building blocks for all other learning are laid, just as grammar is the foundation for language. In the elementary-school years—grades 1 through 4-- the mind is ready to absorb information. Since children at this age actually find memorization fun, during this period education involves the learning of facts; rules of phonics and spelling, rules of grammar, poems, the vocabulary of foreign languages, the stories of history and literature, descriptions of plants and animals and the human body, the facts of mathematics—the list goes on. This information makes up the “grammar” for the second stage of education.

By fifth grade, a child’s mind begins to think more analytically. Middle-school students are less interested in finding out facts than in asking “Why?” The second phase of the classical education, the “logic” stage, is a time when the child begins to pay attention to cause and effect, to the relationships among different field of knowledge, to the way facts fit together into a logical framework.

During these years, the student learns algebra and logic, and begins to apply logic to all academic subjects. The logic of writing, for example, includes paragraph construction and support of a thesis; the logic of reading involves the criticism and analysis of texts, not simple absorption of information; the logic of history demands that the student find out why the War of 1812 was fought, rather than simply reading its story; the logic of science requires the child to learn the scientific method.

The final phase of a classical education, the “rhetoric stage,” builds on the first two. At this point, the high-school student learns to write and speak with force and originality. The student of rhetoric applies the rules of logic learned in middle school to the foundational information learned in the early grades and expresses her conclusions in clear, forceful, elegant language. The student also begins to specialize in whatever branch of knowledge attracts her.

This is an extended direct quote from
Susan Wise Bauer's book, 
It's a great book- please buy it.

But how does it Happen?

Language learning and image learning require very different habits of thought. Language requires the mind to work harder; in reading, the brain is forced to translate a symbol (words on the page) into a concept. Images, such as those on videos and television, allow the mind to be passive. In front of a video screen, the brain can “sit back” and relax; faced with the written page, the mind is required to roll up its sleeves and get to work.

Second, a classical education follows a specific three-part pattern: the mind must first be supplied with facts and images, then given the logical tools for organization of those facts and images, and finally equipped to express conclusions.

Third, to the classical mind, all knowledge is interrelated. This is easier said than done. The world is full of knowledge, and finding the links between fields of study can be a mind-twisting task. A classical education meets this challenge by taking history as its organizing outline, beginning with the ancients and progressing forward to the moderns in history, science, literature, art and music.

The other subject areas of the curriculum are linked to history studies. The student who is working on ancient history will read Greek and Roman mythology, the tales of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and fairy tales. She’ll read Beowulf, Chaucer, and Shakespeare the following year, when she’s studying medieval and early Renaissance history. When the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are studied, she starts with Swift (Gulliver’s Travels) and ends with Dickens; finally she reads modern literature as she is studying modern history.

What About Socialization?!

“The Smithsonian Institution’s recipe for genius and leadership:
(1) children should spend a great deal of time with loving, educationally minded parents;
(2) children should be allowed a lot of free exploration; and
(3) children should have little to no association with peers outside of family and relatives.”

The most convincing proof that home-educated children develop normally is a conversation with a home-educated child who’s bright, engaged, polite, interesting, and outgoing. Home-school graduates get into college and do fine; they get jobs and excel. But it’s important to understand what socialization means. According to the dictionary, socialization is “the process by which a human being, beginning in infancy, acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of his society.” In other words, you’re being socialized when you learn habits, acquire beliefs, learn about the society around you, develop character traits, and become competent in the skills you need to function properly in society.

Who teaches all of this? Agents of socialization include the family (both immediate and extended), the religious community, neighborhoods, tutors and mentors, the media (TV, radio, films, books, magazines all tell the child what’s expected of him, for better or worse), clubs (social or academic), the arts (both in observation and participation), travel, jobs, civic participation. And formal schooling in an institution.

Peer Groups

Taking the child out of school doesn’t mean that you’re going to remove him from the other “agents of socialization” that surround him. Furthermore, think about the type of socialization that takes place in school. The child learns how to function in a specific environment, one where he’s surrounded by thirty children his own age. This is a very specific type of socialization, one that may not prove particularly useful. When, during the course of his life, will he find himself in this kind of context? Not in work or in family life or in his hobbies. The classroom places the child in a peer-dominated situation that he’ll probably not experience again.

And this type of socialization may be damaging. Thirty years ago, Cornell Professor of Child Development Urie Bronfenbrenner warned that the “socially-isolated, age-graded peer group” created a damaging dependency in which middle-school students relied on their classmates for approval, direction, and affection. He warned that if parents, other adults, and older children continued to be absent from the active daily life of younger children, we could expect “alienation, indifference, antagonism, and violence on the part of the younger generation.”

Peer dependence is dangerous. When a child is desperate to fit in—to receive acceptance from those who surround him all day, every day—he may defy your rules, go against his own conscience, or even break the law.In our society, children, taught by their peer groups, learn to survive, not to live with kindness and grace. Exclusive peer groups- cliques- start forming around age five. Even in kindergarten, children are accepted or rejected on the basis of what they wear, what toys they own, what TV programs they watch. Even when adults are supervising, these cliques survive and strengthen as children grow.

We live in an age in which people think a great deal about peers, talk about them constantly, and act as if a child’s existence will be meaningless if he isn’t accepted by his peer group. But the socialization that best prepares a child for the real world can’t take place when a child is closed up in a classroom or always with his peer group. It happens when the child is living with people who vary widely in age, personality, background, and circumstance. The antidote for peer-centered socialization is to make the family the basic unit for socialization —the center of the child’s experience. The family should be the place where real things happen, where there is a true interest in each other, acceptance, patience, and peace, as far as is possible. Socialization in the family starts when very young children learn that they can trust adults to give them answers, to read books to them, to talk to them, to listen to music with them. Socialization continues as the child learns to fit into the lives of his parents and siblings, to be considerate and thoughtful of other people, to be unselfish instead of self-centered.

The trend in our culture is to devalue —even bypass! the family as a basic unit of socialization. But it’s within the family that children learn to love by seeing love demonstrated; learn unselfishness both through teaching and through example; learn conflict resolution by figuring out how to get along with parents and each other. The family unit—this basic agent of socialization—is itself a place to communicate with people of different ages. But socialization doesn’t stop there. As a family, you should make a wide range of friends of various ages. Home-school parent and lawyer Christopher Klicka points out that home-educated children a continually socialized through community activities, Little League, Scouts, band, music lessons, art classes, field trips, and the numerous events sponsored by local home-school support groups. By means of these activities, parents teach children how to live in society and how to relate to others. In contrast, peer groups teach a child either to take direction from the most popular kid in school, or to transform himself into the most popular kid at school, often sacrificing intelligence and character in the process.

This is an extended direct quote from
Susan Wise Bauer's book, 
It's a great book- please buy it.

What about high school?

High-school students demonstrate what sociologist Charles Horton Cooley describes as “the looking-glass self”—they evaluate their worth by looking at themselves in the mirror held up by their peers. Unfortunately, the qualities that lead to high-school success—such as peer popularity and athletic prowess—are precisely those that may be of least use during later life. In contrast, the home-style classical education develops and rewards skills (perseverance, dedication, patience) that will be useful in later life. Is it more important that the high-school years be ones of dizzying social success followed by a lifetime of nostalgia or a time of preparation for a successful life? Of course, high school isn’t a “dizzying social success” for most people.

By the time the student reaches high school, he’s looking at a future that will probably be spent in family life, work, and community involvement. Doesn’t it make sense to spend your training time with these emerging young adults preparing them for the real life they’re getting ready to enter?

In this day of endemic family breakup, teaching your high-schooler to live peacefully in a family is probably the most important feat of socialization you can accomplish. Teach skills of resolving conflict, habits of doing for others instead of self, truthfulness, loyalty, sensitivity.

Look at the general state of peace, joy, and fulfillment at the average high school and ask: Is this what I want my teen to be socialized to? Positive socialization is all about living in your world responsibly, fulfilling your potential, taking advantage of opportunity, making the lives of others around you better. You don’t need the institutional school to teach these values to your child.

Practically speaking, you provide positive socialization through family-based and interest-based activities. The Red Cross offers CPR and baby-sitting instruction. Museums offer special classes. Church and community teams offer sports participation. Clubs for every hobby from photography to stamp collecting meet regularly. Science fairs, debate clubs, swimming lessons— all of these provide opportunities for social interaction.

Nor should you be afraid of being alone. A measure of solitude can develop creativity, self-reliance, and the habit of reflective thought. Socialize, but don’t crowd your schedule so full that the child has no time to think, to sit and stare at the walls, to lie in the backyard and watch the ants crawl by.

(as taken from The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, pages 623-627)

This pattern lends coherence to the study of history, science, and literature—subjects that are too often fragmented and confusing. The pattern widens and deepens as the student matures and learns. For example, a first grader listens to you read the story of the Iliad from one of the picture-book versions available at any public library. Four years later, the fifth grader reads one of the popular middle-grade adaptations. Four more years go by, and the ninth grader –faced with Homer’s Iliad itself—plunges right in, undaunted. She already knows the story. What’s to be scared of?

A common assumption found in history curricula seems to be that children can’t comprehend (or be interested in) people and events distant from their own experience. So the first-grade history class is renamed Social Studies and begins with what the child knows: first, himself and his family, followed by his community, his state, his country, and only then the rest of the world.This intensely self-focused pattern of study encourages the student of history to relate everything he studies to himself, to measure cultures and customs of other peoples against his own experience. And that’s exactly what the classical education fights against—a self-absorbed, self-referential approach to knowledge. History learned this way makes our needs and wants the center of the human endeavor. This attitude is destructive at any time, but it is especially destructive in the present global civilization.

The goal of the classical curriculum is multicultural in the best sense of the word: The student learns the proper place of his community, his state, and his country by seeing the broad sweep of history from its beginning and then fitting his own time and place into that great landscape. The systematic study of history in the first four years lays the foundation for the logic stage, when the student will begin to understand the relationships between historical events.

Classical education, is above all, systematic—in direct contrast to the scattered, unorganized nature of so much secondary education. Rigorous, systematic study has two purposes. Rigorous study develops virtue in the student: the ability to act in accordance to what one knows to be right. Virtuous men or women can force themselves to do what they know is right, even when it runs against their inclinations. Classical education continually asks a student to work against her baser tendencies (laziness or the desire to watch another half hour of TV) in order to reach a goal—mastery of a subject.

Systematic study allows the student to join in what Mortimer J. Adler calls the “Great Conversation:” the ongoing conversation of great minds down through the ages. Much modern education is so eclectic that the student has little opportunity to make connections between past events and the flood of current information. “The beauty of the classical curriculum,” writes classical schoolmaster David Hicks, “is that it dwells on one problem, one author, or one epoch long enough to allow even the youngest student a chance to exercise his mind in a scholarly way: to make connections and to trace developments, lines of reasoning, patterns of action, recurring symbolism, plots, and motifs.”

(as taken from The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, p XX-XXI – XXIII; 13-17; 105-108)

This is an extended direct quote from
Susan Wise Bauer's book, 
It's a great book- please buy it.