New Castle News

Community News Network

November 5, 2012

Home-school proponent well-versed in controversy

At dusk on a farm near the confluence of the Chickahominy and James rivers, about 26 miles west of Williamsburg, Va., home-schooling pioneer Susan Wise Bauer is out raking manure.

She cleans her sheep pens, douses her four horses and her donkey, Athena, with bug spray, and fills water troughs for her goats. It had been 103 degrees that afternoon, but the setting sun has brought in a breeze to cool the tomato fields and peach and apple groves on Peace Hill, a property that has been in her family for several generations.

"I love livestock," says Bauer, 44. "There's something about animals: You just feed and water and clean them, and then they are content."

The farm offers Bauer a respite from battles she has fought with her detractors in America's increasingly diverse home-schooling community.

The English professor, historian, author of 18 books and holder of a doctorate in American studies from the nearby College of William & Mary is one of the forces behind America's burgeoning home-schooling movement, which is growing about 7 percent each year. The National Home Education Research Institute estimates that there were 2.04 million home-schooled children in the United States as of 2010, about 4 percent of the nation's school-age population. That's almost double the 1.2 million home-schooled children in 2000. A June article in U.S. News & World Report said that home-schooled children graduate from college at higher rates than their peers, earn higher GPAs and are better socialized than most high school students.

Bauer is best known among home-schoolers for "The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home" — written with her mother, Jessie Wise, a former teacher — which has sold more than half a million copies since its first publication in 1999. Classical education focuses on the great books of Western civilization, Latin, and lessons about morality and virtue, and is based on the medieval European curriculum that divided learning into the "trivium": grammar, logic and rhetoric. The concept of fusing classical education into modern teaching was popularized by a 1947 essay by British author Dorothy Sayers called "The Lost Tools of Learning." But it was Bauer and her mother who provided parents with a template.

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