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The Joy of Classical Education Conference Handout

Susan Wise Bauer
Susan Wise Bauer

The Joy of Classical Education: A pattern of classical education for the twenty-first century.
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The foundation:
principles of teaching
• Language intensive (reflective, not reactive)
• Trains the mind to learn
• Demands self discipline

The four walls:
Grammar stage learning
Logic stage learning
Rhetoric stage learning
Use of living books and original
(Distinction: skills vs. content)

The roof:
The chronological study of history

“Grammar stage” (elementary school years, roughly grades 1-4)
The years in which the building blocks for learning are laid.
Strengths: the mind is ready to absorb information
memorization is fun and generally easy
Weaknesses: undeveloped capacity for abstract or critical thought
Reading: lay a good foundation of phonics
Spelling: study of rules
Grammar: basic usage and mechanics
Writing: summaries
Mathematics: basic math facts and concepts (arithmetic)
History: focus on stories and biographies
Literature: “What happened?”
Science: exploration of the scientific disciplines

“Logic stage” (middle school years, roughly grades 5-8)
The development of analytical thinking skills and abstract thought.
Strengths: Developing ability for abstraction and criticism
Weaknesses: Immature exercise of those skills
Logic: learn to evaluate validity of arguments
Literature: begin to ask questions about characters, plots,
motivations, techniques
Spelling: increasing application of rules to written work
Grammar: diagramming and outlining
Writing: outlining and using outlines for compositions
Mathematics: move towards abstraction (pre-algebra and
History: focus on cause and effect, on chronology and relationships
between countries
Science: experimentation of the scientific disciplines

“Rhetoric stage” (high school years, roughly grades 9-12)
Learning to write and speak with force and originality.
Characterized by: Development of a specialty
Use of Great Books
Rhetoric: learning the rules of effective communication
Literature: grapple with the central ideas in classic literature
Grammar: continue to reinforce proper usage
Writing: original compositions intended to persuade
Mathematics: advanced abstract work
History: use of original sources to ask how people understood
their own times
Science: develop an understanding of the historical development
of the scientific disciplines as well as their content

History at the core of the classical curriculum

Three repetitions of the same four-year pattern:
Ancients 6000 BC – AD 400
Medieval/Early Renaissance 400-1600
Late Renaissance/Early Modern 1600-1850
Modern 1850-present

Grades 1-4: concentrating on stories and biographies
Grades 5-8: using timelines and beginning with original sources
Grades 9-12: focus on original sources and Great Books

Literature: Done along with history in the same four-year pattern

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Susan Wise Bauer

Susan Wise Bauer is an educator, writer, and historian. She is the co-author of The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (now in its fourth edition), and the author of (among others) The Well- Educated Mind, The Story of Western Science, the Story of the World series, the History of the World series, the elementary series Writing With Ease, and the pre-rhetoric series Writing With Skill. Susan was home educated through high school and has taught all four of her children at home. She has a B.A. and M.A. in English language and literature, an M.Div., and a Ph.D. in the history of American religion from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, where she taught writing and literature for over fifteen years.

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