Defining Classical Education

“Education is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness and beauty. It must be distinguished from training for a career, which is of eternal value but is not the same thing as education.” 1

“The purpose of Christian education is to have our students grow spiritually, intellectually, and socially, and we want them to foster similar growth in society.” “To be of any earthly good, a person must understand the world around him and recognize what it needs. He must be capable of discerning what is true and good and beautiful in society and what is not, and he must be empowered to make a difference through perpetuating the former. In short, he requires wisdom and eloquence.”2

“Not only do we expect our graduates to exercise discernment over their own lives and lifestyles, but we also expect them to be able to persuasively articulate a better way of life to those around them.”2

St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”

Classical Christian education should equip our students to fulfill these statements.

The Seven Liberal Arts

  • “Liberal arts”- as defined in Classical education refers to educating the “free” man (liber in Latin means “free”); historically, the free man was able to pursue a higher education and learn the “art” of thinking.3 Liberal arts educated people; due to the process of learning and broad scope of curriculum have intellectual skills that are transferable to the learning of any subject or craft.2
  • Comprised of the Trivium, the Quadrivium and the Four Sciences as the skeleton of disciplines that need to be mastered.

The Trivium

The Latin word Trivium means “where three roads meet.” All education, up until this century, was structured around these three roads of learning. The ancients called them Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. The Bible calls them simply KnowledgeUnderstanding, and Wisdom. 3

For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. —Proverbs 2:6

It is important to note that the Trivium has a dual purpose; it is the framework on which all of Classical education is designed and correlates roughly to a child’s development. It is also a set of disciplines that each student should master prior to graduation. Therefore, Classical schools often separate their stages of education into Grammar (Primary School or Kindergarten to Sixth Grade), Logic (Middle School or Seventh to Ninth Grade) and Rhetoric (High School or Tenth to Twelfth Grade). This separation is helpful for schools and families, but should not exclude the integration of these disciplines into each stage. For example, a Grammar stage student should be exposed to and get practice in oratory skills which is rhetorical in discipline (Speech Meets and incorporation of progymnasmata). A Rhetoric student will continue to have grammar rules reinforced with their writings to make them better communicators.

The Trivium

  1. Grammar
  2. Logic (Dialectic)
  3. Rhetoric

The Quadrivium

  1. Arithmetic
  2. Geometry
  3. Astronomy (Earth Sciences)
  4. Music

The Four Sciences

  1. Natural Sciences- all other natural sciences stem from these three
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Chemistry
  2. Humane Science
    • Ethics
    • Politics
  3. Philosophical Science
    • Metaphysics
    • Epistemology
  4. Theological Science

As you can see, the Trivium, Quadrivium and the Four Sciences are the skeleton or structure that forms the foundation of Classical Education. The scope and sequence of all grades must then be determined from a top-down approach (12 to K) and then curriculum selected to accomplish this goal. Often curriculum is in a particular subject, so it is then up to the teachers and administration to integrate and incorporate classical methodology into each of these subjects. For example, a science project in the Grammar stage can incorporate science, math, spelling words and even history. Or reading aloud (rhetoric) can help with grammar and history but then the discussion uses logic and ethics. These are all intentional means of instruction and not just happenstance. As students progress, a refinement process occurs as strengths and weaknesses are identified and teaching methods and/or curriculum are altered accordingly.

Classical education is systematic; an organized, interconnected method of discussing subject material as it relates to humanity.

  1. As the students progress, they can then become “critical thinkers” using their reasoning skills to comprehend the way these facts fit together (Logic). They should be more inquisitive and analytical. 3
  2. Foundational elements of a Classical, liberal arts education must be committed to memory early in a child’s learning experience (taught early and rehearsed often such as math times tables, books of the Bible, learning countries and states in geography, phonograms and verb conjugations)
  3. There is a cyclical treatments of subjects where disciplines are repeated on set schedules with the intent of getting the students familiar with the material in the beginning stage then discussing it in depth at later stages (usually repeated multiple times as the child develops and is capable of a deeper understanding and applying it to other topics learned); some topics such as History, Bible and Science are repeated every three to five years while others like Math and Languages are repeated much more frequently (spiraling or scaffolding approach)
  4. Every discipline should be taught as practitioners of that discipline (students should learn to think about science as scientists do by conducting experiments, gathering data from these experiments, analyzing and synthesizing the data and providing a summary report on the topic). 2
  5. Classical education is literature rich (for example, reading Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography in Early American History in 10th grade or the Iliad while studying Ancient Greek History in 7th grade).
  6. The culmination of Classical education is Rhetoric, the development of persuasive communication. Students want to creatively and effectively express themselves and are now equipped to not only think on their feet but to articulate these thoughts clearly. They are able to engage in deep discussions and find truth.

Classical Methods for Instruction1

  • Promote an interconnectedness of all knowledge (God at the center with a Biblical Worldview).
  • Incorporation of sensory learning modes, including visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic learning with each of the disciplines.2
  • Academic rigor emphasizes quality of work rather than the quantity.2
  • Use Mimetic (Didactic) teaching and Socratic Questioning in Logic and Rhetoric Stages.
  • Use primary and secondary source material as much as possible (textbooks may be used as resource material to help meet curricular objectives). A syllabus will be supplied with each course (Logic/Rhetoric).
  • Engage students in the Great Conversation to broaden intellect and ideas.
  • Have high teacher expectations (see Characteristics of Professional Excellence).

The Lost Tools Chart

Derived from The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers (compiled by Tom Garfield), used by permission of Logos School, Moscow, ID.

Student Characteristics

Beginning Grammar (Pre-Polly) Grammar (Poll-Parrot) Logic (Pert) Rhetoric (Poetic)
Grades K-2, Approx. ages 4-8 Grades 3-6, Approx. ages 9-11 Grades 6-9, Approx. ages 12-14 Grades 10-12, Approx. ages 15-18
  1. Obviously excited about learning
  2. Enjoys games, stories, songs, projects
  3. Short attention span
  4. Wants to touch, taste, feel, smell, see
  5. Imaginative, creative
  6. Likes chants, clever, repetitious word sounds (e.g. Dr. Seuss)
  1. Excited about new, interesting facts
  2. Likes to explain, figure out, talk
  3. Wants to relate own experiences to topic, or just to tell a story
  4. Likes collections, organizing items
  5. Likes chants, clever, repetitious word sounds
  6. Easily memorizes
  7. Can assimilate another language well
  1. Still excitable, but needs challenges
  2. Judges, critiques, debates, critical
  3. Likes to organize items, others
  4. Shows off knowledge
  5. Wants to know “behind the scenes” facts
  6. Curious about Why? for most things
  7. Thinks, acts as though more knowledgeable than adults
  1. Concerned with present events, especially in own life
  2. Interested in justice, fairness
  3. Moving toward special interests, topics
  4. Can take on responsibility, independent work
  5. Can do synthesis
  6. Desires to express feelings, own ideas
  7. Generally idealistic

Beginning Grammar (Pre-Polly) | Grades K-2 Approx. ages 4-8

  1. Obviously excited about learning
  2. Enjoys games, stories, songs, projects
  3. Short attention span
  4. Wants to touch, taste, feel, smell, see
  5. Imaginative, creative
  6. Likes chants, clever, repetitious word sounds (e.g. Dr. Seuss)

Grammar (Poll-Parrot) | Grades 3-6 Approx. ages 9-11

  1. Obviously excited about learning
  2. Enjoys games, stories, songs, projects
  3. Short attention span
  4. Wants to touch, taste, feel, smell, see
  5. Imaginative, creative
  6. Likes chants, clever, repetitious word sounds (e.g. Dr. Seuss)

Logic (Pert) | Grades 6-9 Approx. ages 12-14

  1. Still excitable, but needs challenges
  2. Judges, critiques, debates, critical
  3. Likes to organize items, others
  4. Shows off knowledge
  5. Wants to know “behind the scenes” facts
  6. Curious about Why? for most things
  7. Thinks, acts as though more knowledgeable than adults

Rhetoric (Poetic) | Grades 10-12 Approx. ages 15-18

  1. Concerned with present events, especially in own life
  2. Interested in justice, fairness
  3. Moving toward special interests, topics
  4. Can take on responsibility, independent work
  5. Can do synthesis
  6. Desires to express feelings, own ideas
  7. Generally idealistic

Teaching Methods

Beginning Grammar (Pre-Polly) Grammar (Poll-Parrot) Logic (Pert) Rhetoric (Poetic)
Grades K-2, Approx. ages 4-8 Grades 3-6, Approx. ages 9-11 Grades 6-9, Approx. ages 12-14 Grades 10-12, Approx. ages 15-18
  1. Guide discovering
  2. Explore, find things
  3. Use lots of tactile items to illustrate point
  4. Sing, play games, chant, recite, color, draw, paint, build
  5. Use body movements
  6. Short, creative projects
  7. Show and Tell, drama, hear/read/tell stories
  8. Local field trips
  1. Lots of hands-on work, projects
  2. Field trips, drama
  3. Make collections, displays, models
  4. Integrate subjects through above means
  5. Teach and assign research projects
  6. Recitations, memorization
  7. Drills, games
  8. Oral/written presentations
  1. Time lines, charts, maps (visual materials)
  2. Debates, persuasive reports
  3. Drama, reenactments, role-playing
  4. Evaluate, critique (with guidelines)
  5. Formal logic
  6. Research projects
  7. Oral/written presentations
  8. Guest speakers, trips
  1. Drama, oral presentations
  2. Guide research in major areas with goal of synthesis of ideas
  3. Many papers, speeches, debates
  4. Give responsibilities, e.g. working with younger students, organizing activities
  5. In-depth field trips, even overnight
  6. World view discussion / written papers

Beginning Grammar (Pre-Polly) | Grades K-2 Approx. ages 4-8

  1. Guide discovering
  2. Explore, find things
  3. Use lots of tactile items to illustrate point
  4. Sing, play games, chant, recite, color, draw, paint, build
  5. Use body movements
  6. Short, creative projects
  7. Show and Tell, drama, hear/read/tell stories
  8. Local field trips

Grammar (Poll-Parrot) | Grades 3-6 Approx. ages 9-11

  1. Guide discovering
  2. Explore, find things
  3. Use lots of tactile items to illustrate point
  4. Sing, play games, chant, recite, color, draw, paint, build
  5. Use body movements
  6. Short, creative projects
  7. Show and Tell, drama, hear/read/tell stories
  8. Local field trips

Logic (Pert) | Grades 6-9 Approx. ages 12-14

  1. Time lines, charts, maps (visual materials)
  2. Debates, persuasive reports
  3. Drama, reenactments, role-playing
  4. Evaluate, critique (with guidelines)
  5. Formal logic
  6. Research projects
  7. Oral/written presentations
  8. Guest speakers, trips

Rhetoric (Poetic) | Grades 10-12 Approx. ages 15-18

  1. Drama, oral presentations
  2. Guide research in major areas with goal of synthesis of ideas
  3. Many papers, speeches, debates
  4. Give responsibilities, e.g. working with younger students, organizing activities
  5. In-depth field trips, even overnight
  6. World view discussion / written papers

Classical Christian Academy’s Pedagogy (see A Process Driven Academy)

Footnotes

  1. Andrew Kern (CiRCE Institute )
  2. Wisdom and Eloquence, Robert Littlejohn and Charles T. Evans
  3. Harvey Bluedorn (Trivium Pursuit)
  4. A Well-trained Mind, Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise – Click here to read a sample chapter from the book.
  5. “The Lost Tools of Learning”, Dorothy L. Sayers
  6. Classical Christian Academy’s Purpose and Outcome Statements
  7. An Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents, by Christopher A. Perrin