Classical Education encompasses both the Trivium and the Quadrivium. For purposes of this post I will focus on the Trivium. The Trivium is recently most widely understood as explained by Dorothy Sayers in The Lost Tools of Learning (http://www.gbt.org/text/sayers.html). Dorothy Sayers was herself classically trained, was one of the first women to graduate from Oxford, a member of the Inklings, and a consummate novelist. In her article she outlines the Trivium, which consists of three parts: The Grammar Stage, The Dialectic Stage, and the Rhetoric Stage.
Grammar Stage(K -6thgrade) – the focus is on memory work. The grammar stage is not “subject” heavy. In other words, mastery (“all learning is memory” -Socrates) of information through memory work. The focus is that the student becomes knowledgeable.
Dialectic Stage-(Jr. High) -the focus is on learning the rules of logic and fallacies. Math and writing skills teach logic, as well as the actual study of logic, (both formal and informal, linguistic, and symbolic). The focus is that the student becomes a thinker.
Rhetoric Stage- (High school and beyond) –the focus is on excellent written and spoken communication. The student is now ready to take the plethora of information that they memorized in the grammar stage, organize it with the logic skills they mastered in the dialectic stage and present through the written or spoken word. The focus is that the student becomes articulate.
Latin is of particular interest to the classical student, for the especial reason that Latin teaches its students grammar, in addition to vocabulary and history.
History, as well, matters to the classical student, and is often studied within 3 or 4 year history cycle (Ancient History, Medieval/ Renaissance, Age of Explorers to the Present). The Christian faith, especially as it is revealed throughout history, is the cornerstone of classical studies. As Sayers states, “theology is the mistress-science without which the whole educational structure will necessarily lack its final synthesis.”
The Trivium is not “subject” heavy—in other words, multum non multa (less is more). Mastery, especially of the skills needed to study and the ability to learn, is the focus, rather than overview of broad subject areas. While teaching from a classical perspective might seem initially overwhelming, especially to those of us who were schooled in a traditional, government school; the joys and success of classical education are worth whatever discomfort we might feel.
What are the benefits of classical education? You will grow scholastically as you teach subject material in a new way. Your student’s ability to synthesize information, especially as they advance through the stages of the Trivium, will truly astound you. And ultimately, one’s faith will grow as one learns how to read, reason, and respond to the world and it’s creator in a manner beyond the elementary.
Interested in knowing more? I would highly suggest reading “The Well Trained Mind” by Bauer and Wise, the “Latin Centered Curriculum” by Campbell, “Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning” by Wilson, and going to a Classical Conversations parent practicum. In addition, there are many excellent curriculums now available for the classical student. Among these curriculums, you can find, “Memoria Press,” “Peace Hill Press,” “Classical Conversations,” and the “Institute for Excellence in Writing.”