Because life is a series of edits

The Well-Blown Mind (Part 2)

In Thought on September 2, 2011 at 5:48 am

After thoroughly immersing myself in everything Well-Trained Mind-ish, I suddenly thought that what I had done so far with the girls on our two-year journey with Sonlight curriculum was not sufficient. But I really liked Sonlight and thought it had enough of a classical bent, so I would use it AND do everything The Well-Trained Mind suggested.

Yes, I was that clueless.

After we moved into our on-campus seminary apartment I began to gather up as many of the recommended resources as possible that the Well-Trained Mind ladies suggested for first grade. I planned to do all of this along with Sonlight Core 1. I made the respective notebooks, bought the Story of the World Volume 1 Activity Pages book, and made necessary copies for two kids at the seminary library.

We began with a bang. Here are the girls (aren't they cute?) participating in the archaeology dig project from the activity book. I remember doing this one and it was a totally awesome project. 

Picture 23

I think we were doing hieroglyphics in the photo below. Or maybe we were using "bear skin" as paper? I can't remember exactly what we were doing, but I know it came from that activity book.

Picture 22
I kept up this pace for about two months, somehow successfully managing both Sonlight Core 1 and just about everything from The Well-Trained Mind. I then crashed pretty hard, abandoning the notebook plan from The Well-Trained Mind and just sticking with Sonlight and sporadic activity from the Story of the World Activity Pages.

It's easy to look back and rationalize that my then-first grader, kindergartener, and three-year-old were getting a pretty swell education, but compared to the ideal of The Well-Trained Mind, I was failing. I gave up on the idea of being able to educate my kids "classically" – it was just too hard to do on my own (and I wasn't really sure I understood what it meant anyway).

In the meantime, Craig took a part-time job teaching at a local classical Christian school with 70 kids in grades 7th-12th. It was a blended model school, and while Craig only taught one class (he was also a full-time seminary student at the time), in the back of my mind I kept hoping the school would be able to offer him a full-time position by the time our kids reached seventh grade so they could attend there.

Wildwood
Inconveniently, our family kept needing to eat, and despite the best efforts by the Headmaster to figure out more employment for Craig the next year, the school just wasn't in a position to offer more classes to teach. So, that spring, he applied at another Christian school (900 students, college prep) for a full-time position in the Bible department and got the job. The school wasn't classical, but it was Christian and a great place for him to learn alongside gifted teachers and under a solid administration.

Westminster
We made it through two more years like this before I stumbled upon a program called Classical Conversations. One of my Internet buddies had posted about her family's experience with this program and I was really interested. I asked her some questions and excitedly trolled the CC website, but discovered there was no program in the entire state of Missouri. That was that, I thought: no Classical Conversations for our family.

A few months later, I attended a homeschool conference in St. Louis with two friends. In the hallway right outside of the main meeting hall, Classical Conversations had a booth and a bunch of books. It didn't appear many people were stopping at the booth, but since I had already checked out their website, I had an idea of what they were about. I grabbed my two friends and we headed toward the booth.

The gal running the booth was happy to share the vision of CC with us. We listened as best we could and walked away. We then went back again and asked her to explain it to us again. We walked away again. A third time, we went back and said, "Okay, help us understand how this works ONE MORE TIME." She patiently walked us through the process again. We signed the information sheet and said that we weren't wanting to start a group, but if one happened to open up we were interested in joining. I distinctly remember turning to both of my friends and saying, "Y'all, I'm happy to tutor at one of these, but I DO NOT WANT TO DIRECT ONE. Please make sure I don't direct one." They agreed with the sentiment; none of us wanted that responsibility.

The conference ended and a week later we found ourselves at a CC information meeting held in our area. There still wasn't a group being formed, but an Illinois chapter was willing to help launch one in St. Louis. Another week later, we all found ourselves at a "mock day" with our kids in which we spent three hours walking through a typical CC day with an experienced tutor. By the end of the day we were more convinced than ever that we wanted to do this with our kids. But still, nobody was willing to start one.

Reluctantly, I sighed, signed, and started the first Classical Conversations in St. Louis.

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  1. I’ve always wanted to read The Well Trained Mind, but I’m afraid to read it for some of the same things you listed above.
    Last year I tried to do our curriculum plus CC and it was too much. So, this year we are doing CC and expanding upon that at home! I am loving it – and yes, we are doing SOTW stuff. :)

  2. The Well-Trained Mind is a useful resource and well worth skimming even if you don’t plan to homeschool using the classical method. I participate on the forums, and I don’t have the impression that anyone follows it exactly as written. I’m an afterschooler (my kids attend the local school) and use SOTW and a Sonlight timeline to supplement my daughters’ history instruction, which is rather lacking and focused more on social studies than history.

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