WHAT IS A CLASSICAL EDUCATION?
We teach students to read well,
and think well.
A classical education is the cultivation and passing on of wisdom and virtue, steering the student’s mind and character towards
TRUTH, GOODNESS, AND BEAUTY.
It uses teaching methods that have stood the test of time. It provides a setting where students are immersed
in the very best ideas and works that are the heritage of western civilization as they are taught to
READ, SPEAK, WRITE, AND THINK WELL.
This is the model of education that was used in the ancient world, through the middle ages, and until the early 20th century, and is how many of the great thinkers and leaders of the past, from Aristotle and Plato to C.S. Lewis, were taught.
A classical education uses pedagogical methods that tap into the best way children learn, based on a three-part process called the “Trivium.”
Grammar: Young children having an innate ability to absorb and retain information. They derive great pleasure from chanting, reciting, and memorizing because it is their natural way of learning. Learning and memorizing phonics, grammar, the multiplication table, historical dates and figures, scientific facts, all help build a necessary foundation to the future enjoyment of learning.
Logic: As students enter the next stage, around grade 6, they naturally begin to question more and to understand the relationship between the facts they have learned. They begin to move from the "what" to the "why” in a stage of argumentativeness and inquiry as they question most of what they are told. In this stage, students are taught how to ask questions, to solve problems, and to argue logically. The development of sound reasoning requires a thorough knowledge of the basic facts, or grammar, of the subject at hand, and so builds on the grammar stage. Perhaps most importantly, this stage teaches students to differentiate between truth and falsehood.
Rhetoric: Lastly, by about grade 9, having gained a strong foundation of knowledge, as well as critical skills of logical argumentations, students enter the "poetic" stage. The rhetoric stage is the time for the maturing scholar to weave together the knowledge of the grammar stage and the reasoning skills of the logic stage with the craftsmanship of elegant discourse.
Grammar, logic, and rhetoric are not subjects in themselves; they are the essential tools of learning that students bring to bear on a variety of subjects (language, math, history, science, etc.).
The Trivium as Stages in Child Development
We wish our students to be familiar with the great ideas and works of history. We teach our students: good quality children’s literature, a foundation of historical facts, sacred music by great composers, beautiful and inspiring poetry, and the wonder of the created world around them. We focus on books, writers, and subjects that have been taught for centuries because they have stood the test of time and are worth knowing. Writers such as Shakespeare, Dickens, and J.R.R. Tolkien; books such as Charlotte’s Web, the Odyssey, and Treasure Island; poets such as Keats, Frost, and Rossetti; composers such as Bach, Mozart, and Vivaldi. How can elementary students learn what appears to be so advanced? We lay the foundations at each level of learning and build upon them. Children are naturally drawn to what is true, good, and beautiful and eagerly take up the challenge.
Classical education takes a coherent approach to learning. Since all knowledge is interrelated, our curriculum directs the students to make connections between the subjects. For example, when the grade 1s and 2s are covering ancient history, they are excited when reading Old Testament bible stories that mention now-familiar places such as Ur, Mesopotamia, Canaan, and the Euphrates. In the later grades, the reading of Vergil's Aeneid and Homer’s Odyssey supports the students' study of Greek and Roman history, of Latin grammar, of English composition, the nature of heroism, and of man's understanding of the divine. It is also a systematic approach that allows students the opportunity to make connections between past events and the current flood of information in our culture.
For thousands of years, the approach of classical education has been the primary tool for forming both courageous, effective leaders and humble, holy citizens, both of this world and the next. It is sometimes called “leadership education” because it builds skills needed for leadership and good citizenship: logic, debate, public speaking, clear reasoning, researching, writing, and communicating. Education should not simply be about job training; it should be the formation of the soul, the training of the will, the ordering of the passions, the development of discipline and courage, and the cultivation of the imagination.... all of which orders the human person to seek the true, good, and beautiful in the ONE who is Truth, Goodness, and Beauty Himself.