Using The Well Trained Mind

A friend asked if I would explain how we use The Well Trained Mind classical homeschooling method. Our personal usage, is just that, our personal usage. There are many ways of using this “curriculum”, because it is more a method than a curriculum. The information in the book looks daunting until you realize that they cover 1st through 12th grades. It is a wonderful resource. I don’t stick to it like glue, but use it as a guide. Now that all the disclaimers are out of the way here’s what we do:

At the end of each year…yes the end, I look at what I need for next year. I pick which subjects we want to learn. I then brake down the “recommended time” for each subject into “realistic time” for our family. Three and a half hours of school a day is more than plenty for us. It is a lot like planning a college semester. Our current schedule looks like this

Monday -Thursday

Reading 15 minutes- (factual reading only- two days she picks/two days I assign ). Katherine is an avid reader. She devours fictional books. My goal this year was to introduce her to reading things that aren’t “book-candy”. We will continue this next year. Some of her factual reading included Muse science magazine, A Child’s History of the World (non-middle ages), a Costume Time-Line of History, and Little Falcons (Orthodox) magazine. Some of her favorite fiction books that she read this year are: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Little Women, all seven books of the Narnia series, From I-ville to You-ville, the Box-Car children books, Betsy-Tacy, Grandmother’s Spiritual Stories, and the Ordinary Princess.

Writing 15 minutes -(she writes about anything she has learned that day. I just want to get her used to putting ideas down on paper, therefore I don’t require her to follow grammar and spelling rules….yet.)

Math 60 minutes- Math is the only subject we do five days per week. We found we needed the extra practice. We have tried Saxon, Horizons, and Singapore math. We prefer Singapore.

Orthodoxy 30-45 minutes- We are Orthodox Christians, so that’s what I teach. We started out with 30 minutes per day. Katherine began reading Lives of the Saints, and asked if we could do it for an hour! I compromised by shifting 15 minutes twice a week from history to Orthodoxy. After all, church history is history.

Grammar 30 minutes- We usually don’t need to spend the entire 30 minutes on grammar, but I can. We used Susan Wise Bauer’s (co-author of The Well Trained Mind) First Language Lessons for first and second grade. We are using Shurley English for 3rd grade.

Electives -this doesn’t have a set time. It depends on what activity we are pursuing. This year we did gymnastics, park-days, play-dates, hand sewing, baking, and afternoon discussion teas. I didn’t have time for much else.

Twice a week subjects Monday/Wednesday(MW) or Tuesday/Thursday (TTH):

History (MW) 45-60 minutes- We studied the middle ages this year. We have our Kingfisher History Encyclopedia as a basic text. Then I allowed Katherine to read various books as long as she stuck to the middle ages. Some of the books she has read are: a children’s version of Shakespeare, A Child’s History of England by Charles Dickens, A Child’s History of the World, Story of the World Middle Ages by Susan Wise Bauer, Whipping Boy, Saint Macrina Grandmother to Saints, a children’s Bible, an adult Bible (still reading and discussing Matthew). We started with 60 minutes, but switched to 45 minutes so she could read Orthodoxy more.

Science (TTH) 45 minutes- Our science program was our “weakest link” this year. We read topics, but I didn’t get around to doing very many projects. This year we studied astronomy for the first several weeks. We then switched over to general science. We did get to work with a telescope, “play” with a rocket launcher (with dad), and explore our general curiosity.

Languages (TTH) 15 minutes- We did not study a foreign language this year. Instead I substituted speech therapy. This included a Critical Thinking workbook, matching patterns, and sequencing skills. Next year we are planning on starting Prima Latina. We have also begun to learn Russian. Although languages are important, basic skills are our primary focus.

While Katherine is doing her reading, twice a week Sarah and I have been doing “preschool”. Her school work focuses on core subjects: reading, writing, and math. Sarah has finished two sets of Bob Books (highly recommended), one set of Hooked on Phonics books, and is now reading level one readers. She is also using Phonics Pathways (highly recommended).

Elizabeth sits in the room and plays. I only keep educational toys in the school room.

I keep track of everything with one of those green teacher notebooks. I have Katherine put a book marker where she stops, so it is easy for me to find where she is and write it down. I am referring to Katherine’s old pre-k book while teaching Sarah, but I found I couldn’t just follow Katherine’s old book. Sarah sat in the office and “played” during Katherine’s school. She learned more than I thought and is moving at a faster pace. Bookworm



  1. Thank you for sharing what your day looks like. I love TWTM but need extra guidance for actually implementing the method. Immense help to me, thank you again.

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