Classical Trivium by Homeschool: The Well Trained Mind

A Useful “Core Curriculum” Option for Parents

In 2004, college professor Susan Wise Bauer and her schoolteacher mother Jesse Wise, published a book describing their new approach to a powerful homeschooling curriculum. Bringing the classical education of the 1800s and early 1900s full circle, Susan and Jesse adapted the time-proven classical trivium to a resurgent homeschooling movement.

Following are some excerpts from their book, “The Well Trained Mind.” Even parents of children already studying a curriculum that seems to be working, can find some useful and energising ideas in the work of this mother-daughter team.

“… I was nervous when I went away to college. Although I’d done well on standardized exams, I’d never really sat in a regular classroom, facing inflexible deadlines. I was used to taking exams from my mother.

I shouldn’t have worried. I tested out of thirty hours’ worth of college courses; by my second semestor I was taking 400-level courses. I had a host of strange skills: I could diagram sentences; I could read Latin; I knew enough logic to know if an assertion was true or faulty. And I was surrounded by 18 year olds who couldn’t write, didn’t want to read, and couldn’t reason…

… I was ahead of them when I was their age — not because of superior mental abilities, but because I’d been equipped with a closet full of mental tools. My mother taught us the way she’d been taught at home. Our education was language-centered, not image-centered; We read and listened and wrote, but we rarely watched. She spent the early years of our education giving us facts, systematically laying the foundation for advanced study. She taught us to think through arguments, and then she taught us to express ourselves.

This is the classical pattern of the trivium, the three-part process of training the mind.

___ Wise and Bauer: The Well-Trained Mind

More on the Classical Trivium

The history of the classical trivium goes back to the middle ages. It was meant to form the foundation for later learning and achievement.

The trivium is the lower division of the seven liberal arts and comprises grammar, logic, and rhetoric (input, process, and output).

Grammar teaches the mechanics of language to the student. This is the step where the student “comes to terms,” defining the objects and information perceived by the five senses. Hence, the Law of Identity: a tree is a tree, and not a cat.

Logic (also dialectic) is the “mechanics” of thought and of analysis, the process of identifying fallacious arguments and statements and so systematically removing contradictions, thereby producing factual knowledge that can be trusted.

Rhetoric is the application of language in order to instruct and to persuade the listener and the reader. It is the knowledge (grammar) now understood (logic) and being transmitted outwards as wisdom (rhetoric). __ Wikipedia “Trivium”

The trivium was never meant to be the totality of learning, merely the indispensable foundation. Today’s schools have rejected a solid foundation for learning in favor of trendier and more politically correct approaches. The end result of that rejection can be seen in low achievement rates in primary education, and high failure rates in secondary education and college. It can be seen in the catastrophically high college loan levels in the US, with dangerous default rates. Worst of all, it can be seen in the mobs of young people who either drop out of college without useful skills, or who actually graduate with degrees that make them even more incompetent for dealing with the real world than if they had never attended college at all.

More from The Well-Trained Mind

The first years of schooling are called “the grammar stage”— not because four years doing English, but because these are the years in which the building blocks for all other learning are being 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 and training in basic thinking skills: rules of phonics and spelling and how to use them, rules of grammar and understanding good sentence structure, poems, the vocabulary of foreign languages, the stories of history and literature, descriptions of plants and animals and the human body, how numbers work and the basics of mathematical thinking — the list goes on.

Somewhere around fourth or fifth grade, children begin to think more analytically. Middle-school students are less interested in learning facts than in finding out “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 fields of knowledge, to the way facts fit together into a logical framework.

… when the capacity for abstract thought begins to mature … the student begins the study of algebra and applies mathematical reasoning to real-life situations. She studies the rules of logic and begins to apply logic to all academic subjects…

The final stage of a classical education, “the rhetoric stage,” builds on the first two. At this stage the high-school student begins to write and speak with force and originality… The student also begins to specialize in whatever branch of knowledge attracts her. These are the years for [special purpose] camps, [college level] courses, foreign travel, apprenticeships, and other forms of specialized training. __ The Well-Trained Mind by Wise and Bauer

This approach to the classical trivium — as applied to homeschooling — should be seen as an excellent approach to the “core curriculum,” but not as a complete education for a Dangerous Child. Dangerous Child training preferably begins at birth — if not before — and continues throughout a person’s lifetime.

While curricula such as the Robinson Curriculum and the Classical Trivium provide excellent core knowledge, and are appropriate to a wide range of children and families, the Dangerous Child requires much additional training and attention — particularly for developing physical competencies and financial/economic skills.

The Dangerous Child masters at least three ways of supporting himself financially by the age of 18 years. None of the popular homeschooling or bricks and mortar schooling curricula that I have seen provides a child with that head start.

The other peculiar aspects of Dangerous Child training — as explained in the FAQs and the “About” page — reveal why Dangerous Children require so much training time, at least in the early stages before they largely take over their own educational planning for themselves.

More information from the authors of “The Well-Trained Mind.”


More Basic Concepts for The Dangerous Child

The main purpose of this blog is to lay out my ideas for “The Dangerous Child Method of Education and Child-Raising.” This posting may help to create an early outline of what I hope to present more fully in the future.

First of all, the word “dangerous” should not be taken to mean “violent.” Rather than being a violent child, a Dangerous Child when allowed to go about his business is peaceful in mind and body.

Here are some recent popular books which use the word “dangerous” in ways that overlap with The Dangerous Child concept:

The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden

50 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Child Do by Gever Tully

The idea in the two popular books above is to safely acquaint children with activities that contain at least a modest amount of danger. Both books hit back against the over-protective nature of modern approaches to child-raising that have been adopted by societal institutions. When children are sheltered from all sources of danger, they tend to be unprepared to face the real world. This lack of preparedness places children and youth in much greater danger than if they had been exposed to a wide array of dangers, in a reasonably controlled fashion.

But I would be less than honest if I were to claim that the Al Fin Dangerous Child Method of Education and Child-Raising is on the same level of political correctness and societal acceptability as the listed books above. Dangerous Children, as envisioned by the Al Fin approach, will be truly dangerous to individuals and institutions which mean to do harm to them or theirs.

Ideally, Dangerous Child training commences before conception, continues through gestation, and begins in earnest in the neonatal period. But not every child is planned, and not every parent is expert in The Dangerous Child Method at the time of a child’s birth.

A child will be able to enter into The Dangerous Child Method at any age, including any point in adulthood. The training will be more effective, however, the earlier it is begun.

The main reason that earlier training is better, is due to the many “critical periods,” or “developmental windows” which young minds pass through between the uterus and the end of adolescence. The mind is more trainable at certain ages, for particular skills.

The Dangerous Child Method incorporates training in language, music, mathematics, science, art, thinking skills, interpersonal skills including people-reading and situational awareness, basic economics and trade, and a range of physical skills including methods of self-defense and many means of sustaining the human body in a wide range of environments.

Some of the early ideas on The Dangerous Child can be found at: The Dangerous Child Category in Alfin2101

and at “Survival” also at Alfin2101

A number of other articles at also contain material reflecting The Dangerous Child philosophy.

It must be stressed that The Dangerous Child follows a broad and flexible philosophy, rather than an ideology. Ideologies tend to be mass movements with dogmas that are devised, interpreted, and revised by inner circles. These ideological dogmas tend to be unfalsifiable tautologies, not subject to outside challenge or argument.

A Dangerous Child will be the opposite of a typical indoctrinated university student, eco-fascist, or other brainwashed ideologue. A Dangerous Child will be educated in the best way possible: he will be self-educated, teaching himself as he climbs from each hard-earned learning plateau to a higher one. The wider universe will be his classroom, library, and playground combined.

Dangerous Children are acutely aware of the limitations of the human sensory and cognitive toolkits, and will learn to work within those limitations while exploring ways of transcending them.

And to close on a high note, Dangerous Children will be able to support themselves financially at least three different ways by the time they are 18 years old.

Can there possibly be enough time in a short childhood to make a child truly dangerous? There had better be. The alternative — the way western societies are drifting into decayed dysfunction — simply will not do.

Republished from Al Fin Next Level

Dangerous Child FAQs

What is a Dangerous Child, anyway?

A dangerous child is someone who has discovered how to plot his own course in life, and who has acquired the life skills he needs to move steadily toward his goals.

Why do you call them “Dangerous Children?”

Dangerous Children learn skills considered dangerous by most educators and child specialists. They learn these dangerous skills at a considerably earlier age than is typically recommended by conventional child psychologists and psychiatrists.

Can you give some examples of these “dangerous skills?”

Of course. Dangerous children will learn to use power tools, machine shop tools, welding equipment, and construction equipment — including earth-moving equipment, hoists, cranes, and systems of concrete placing. They will learn to operate and navigate in a wide range of transportation vehicles for travel on land, water, and in the air. They will become competent in most of these skills by age 12 and virtually all of them by age 18. There are other types of dangerous skills that students will learn, as well.

Sounds like fun for a lot of boys. Do you expect girls to learn the same dangerous skills as boys?

For the most part. The level of proficiency in each skill will vary according to the interest and aptitude of individual students. Some students will master particular skills, while other students may merely achieve a basic competency. Most team projects in the real world involve various types of hierarchy, with hierarchies of skill levels involved.

What other types of dangerous skills will Dangerous Children learn?

Dangerous children will learn to defend themselves against a wide range of threats — physical, emotional, economic, and institutional. Defence against physical threats will require competency in situational awareness, escape and evasion, and methods of both individual and group defence against superior numbers.

Are there any other reasons why you call them “Dangerous Children?”

Yes. Even more dangerous than their physical skills are their thinking skills. Trained to see through the logical fallacies, the appeals to cognitive biases — and other targeted strategies of government, media, educational, and other types of propaganda — Dangerous Children cannot be led to support cultish political figures, or counter-productive popular causes. They are trained to strike back — physically, philosophically, and in most other ways, when necessary — for maximum impact.

Are you trying to breed some kind of “superman” to take over the world?

The concept of “taking over the world” is alien to the Dangerous Child philosophy, for many reasons. The main purpose of Dangerous Child training is to create solid nuclei of competent individuals and groups around which a more competent and moral society can emerge.

What is the attitude of Dangerous Children toward governments?

Dangerous Children may well come to work for various governments from time to time. But in general, Dangerous Children will tend to minimise contact with government agencies as far as possible. The ideal would be for groups of Dangerous Children to be capable of independence if necessary, but to be generally interdependent with other groups of Dangerous Children or similarly competent and moral groups.

What do you mean by the word “moral?”

The basic moral code of The Dangerous Child philosophy will resemble the ideas laid out in Henry Hazlitt’s “Foundations of Morality.” It is a secular morality which is compatible with a wide range of religions as well as secular philosophies. The core idea is to avoid closed ideologies and tautological belief systems, but to maintain a workable ethical system for interpersonal behaviours at different scales.

Do you intend to try to convert large numbers of educators, psychologists, intellectuals, and government policy-makers to your point of view, or will you “work from the shadows?”

We will be keeping a relatively low profile for the present.

The general approach will be to “hide in plain sight” when laying out the basic framework, as well as when sketching general strategies and tactics. Specific projects for particular locations are likely to remain relatively confidential, from the standpoint of the Foundation.

I expect that a lot of people will feel that you are full of shit. How do you feel about that?

We’re counting on it. In the early stages of development, only a relatively small number of interested persons will be needed. The early approach will necessarily be theoretical and somewhat abstract. As the ideas grow more practical, workable, and proven, more competent persons who share many of our concerns will find their way to the electronic workshop.

This article will be expanded as more questions are posed.

Republished from Al Fin Next Level