This article was updated in 2023.
For comprehensive guidance, please see The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, 4th Edition by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, published by W.W. Norton, 2016. ISBN 978-0-393-25362-7
In The Well-Trained Mind, Susan Wise Bauer and her mother, Jessie Wise, make the following recommendations for a complete language arts program. For a visual representation of their suggestions, check out the Curriculum Map. Download the Curriculum Map to get a version with hyperlinks to our product pages.
|Grades 1-4||Grades 5 and up|
|First Language Lessons, Levels 1, 2, 3, or 4||Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind|
The text The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease is an optional 4-year guide for teaching elementary writing. Use this book for all four years if you wish to use your own writing samples for narration, dictation, and copy work.
Writing With Ease Levels 1-4: The workbooks include both the scripted Instructor Guide and the Student Pages (prepared narration, dictation, and copy work materials).
Use Diagnostic Tests to determine correct level. More information follows.
Writing With Skill, Levels 1-3. Both Instructor Guide and Student Workbook required. Start at Level 1.
Optional: The Creative Writer, Levels 1-4. Not a substitute for expository writing.
|Learning to Read / Reading||The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading (phonics) and your library card. You can read more from Jessie Wise’ FAQ about Phonics and Reading.||Literature selections aligned with history or areas of interest. See The Well-Trained Mind.|
|Spelling||Your choice. We recommend Spelling Workout,
by Modern Curriculum Press. Start spelling when
the student has mastered phonics.
|Finish spelling; move into vocabulary study.|
You can learn more about all of these materials --
- By reading the product description on each product’s ordering page
- By clicking the Sample button on each product’s ordering page;
- By looking at the FAQs in our Customer Help Center;
- By searching the articles and videos produced by Susan Wise Bauer and others. These provide further guidance about how the products fit together, and provide teaching tips and planning assistance.
Well-Trained Mind curriculum is available from our website and from many other vendors. PDFs are available only from Well-Trained Mind Press. eBooks of some titles are available from Apple, Google Play, and Amazon.
More About the Recommended Books and How to Use Them
The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading: Click this link to read Susan Wise Bauer's article about the importance of teaching phonics. The 2022 revision updated the Instructor Guide and added a (required) Student Book.
First Language Lessons (FLL) and Writing with Ease (WWE) are designed to be used together, but you can mix and match with other curriculum. FLL covers grammar, punctuation, and mechanics; WWE covers writing skills - narration, dictation and copy work. The exercises in WWE reinforce the concepts taught in FLL.
FLL includes dictation and narration in some lessons. If you are using WWE, you need not do the dictation and narration in FLL (especially for a child whose fine motor skills are still developing). If your student needs additional practice in dictation or narration, the exercises in First Language Lessons can act as a supplement to Writing with Ease.
Student Placement - First Language Lessons: Start a first- or second-grader in Level 1. (Level 2 builds on Level 1, so start at Level 1.) Start a third- or fourth-grader on grade level (3 or 4) because Levels 3 and 4 repeat everything found the previous years and introduce new concepts. A 5th grader who has not had explicit grammar instruction will benefit from completing Level 4 before beginning Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind.
The books for First Language Lessons Levels 1 and 2 are Instructor Guides only. The student responds orally, not in writing. Levels 3 and 4 introduce a writing component, so we added student workbooks to the curriculum. Tell me about First Language Lessons.
Student Placement - Writing with Ease: Start a first-grader in Level 1. For older students, use the WWE Diagnostic Evaluations to determine the correct level for your student. You can learn more about the Diagnostic Evaluations in this article from our Customer Help Center - FAQ.
A student will not necessarily be in the same level of WWE and FLL. Use the Level for each that suits your student's abilities. Tell me about Writing With Ease.
Intermediate and Upper-level Students
Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind is a complete grammar course for intermediate and upper-level students. Some students are ready to start in grade 5, especially if they have completed First Language Lessons, Level 4. A little more maturity helps most students, so start in grade 6 or higher if you wish.
The parent/teacher teaches from the scripted, multi-year Core Instructor Guide. This is a one-time purchase. Students work with different content in each "color" of The Student Workbook and the Answer Key. To get started, you need the Core Instructor Guide and a Student Workbook and Answer Key. You can use the different "colors" in any order; the material is not "leveled" as in our other curriculum, but cyclical. Tell me about Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind. (This FAQ includes a link to the Scope and Sequence.)
Two optional references help with grammar rules and diagramming: The Grammar Guidebook, and The Diagramming Dictionary. Read a full description of GftWTM in our FAQs or watch this video (or read the transcript) of Susan Wise Bauer describing the curriculum. Here is a link to the Scope and Sequence. For additional practice in sentence diagramming, use How to Diagram Any Sentence.
Writing With Skill, Levels 1-3 (WWS) is a complete pre-rhetoric course delivered in three levels which build upon one another. Always start with Level 1 and proceed through the three levels in order. We recommend beginning in grades 5, 6, or 7. Students can begin in later grades with some modification to allow time for rhetoric-level writing instruction. Students who struggle with the narration and dictation skills in Writing With Skill, Level 1 can establish a firmer foundation by working through Writing With Ease, Level 4. Tell me about Writing With Skill (This FAQ includes a link to the Scope and Sequence).
In 2014, based on the first years of customer feedback, Susan Wise Bauer wrote an article updating Writing With Ease, Writing With Skill Recommendations. These recommendations are "baked into" The Well-Trained Mind, 4th Edition, published in 2016. This article describes a few options that can help you find a way forward if your student is starting "out of sequence."
Families "starting in the middle" (new to homeschooling after the early elementary years), Chapter 48 of The Well-Trained Mind, 4th Edition, "Starting in the Middle", has advice to help you gain traction.
Well-Trained Mind Press books and books by Susan Wise Bauer are available in paperback (some in hardback) through our website and from other resellers. The digital formats (MP3 and PDF) are available only from our online store. Some titles are available as eBooks from their respective vendors (Kindle/Audible, Apple Books, Google Play).