Great minds have been classically educated over the centuries. Up until the nineteenth century, classical education was the primary means for educating children.
Let me share recent history about classical education & then I’ll hope right into practical suggestions you can use today. In The Lost Tools of Learning, public school teacher Dorothy Sayers says public schools during the 1940’s were teaching children everything except “how to think”.
Sayers decided to do something different from the norm of public education during her time. She began to use classical education, not in a prep school, nor in a private school, but in the inner city of Chicago. Dorothy Sayers was a huge success! The improvements in her students’ knowledge and ability to think was outstanding.
Sayers’ success is an example of how classical education can be used in any & all situations to truly educate children and give them the tools to think and learn. Her use of middle-age classicism is well-worth examining and can be found in her paper, The Lost Tools of Learning.
A classical, or liberal, education is necessary for man to be free. The classical approach is aimed at liberating the student from the teacher. What does that really mean? When you educate your child classically, you will give them the tools of learning and a love of learning so they will learn for a lifetime AND be free from a teacher. They can think and learn on their own. That’s what I wanted for my kids.
Overall, the classical model of education is aimed at apprehending truth, goodness and beauty, just the opposite of American education. Americans are caught up in skills & productivity, missing out on the truth, beauty and goodness of the topic being studied.
3 Stages: The Trivium
To sum up classical education in a nutshell, education is based on the Trivium which divides students into 3 developmental stages. Each stage is part of natural child development.
1. Grammar Stage
Generally speaking, the grammar stage covers the time period of America’s elementary school. In the past an elementary school was actually called a grammar school as it had been called for centuries.
In this stage, children acquire much knowledge and facts. This knowledge may include the phonics of reading, the rules of spelling, the facts of mathematics, the skills of observation, listening and memorization. Students memorize “facts” from a variety of subject areas, so they can apply those fact in later stages of the Trivium.
Throughout these years, truth, beauty and goodness should be shown to the child in what is read and learned.
2. Logic Stage
The next stage of the classical model is the logic stage which is characterized by understanding the facts. Logic students use & apply the information learned in the grammar stage. Students should be using independent, abstract thought at this time.
When you have a child who begins to argue with you and have an opinion about everything in life, you will know your child has reached the logic stage. From my own experience my kids, a 10 year old is not truly at the logic stage, ready to apply and use those higher levels of thinking in discursive reasoning. I believe the ability to reason seems to show itself around the ages of 12 or 13.
Since a child at the logic stage wants to argue, then teach them to argue well with logical conclusions. Students should be able to support what they are arguing and not commit logical fallacies. Usually students at this age are just arguing on emotion about whatever it is they want to do. The logic student learns to overcome emotion and argue logically. Now, all you need to do is get them to translate their knowledge of logic to their own real world. Good Luck!J
Once again, truth, beauty and goodness should be discussed with the dialectic student as he studies. Whether it is World War I or the solution to an algebraic problem, students should see God’s beauty, goodness and truth in the subject being studied.
3. Rhetoric Stage
Characterized by wisdom, the last stage of the trivium is the rhetoric stage. Rhetoric, characterized by wisdom, is the final application of knowledge and understanding. Your children should be able to use language, both verbal and written, in a persuasive and eloquent manner.
Research papers should be assigned each year to allow your rhetoric student to express themselves.
At this stage students should be involved in much discussion of ideas and concepts in all areas of study. If you don’t think a homeschool can have discussions because it is so small, think “dinner table”. We continue to have plenty of meaningful discussions around our dinner table.
As you have discussions be sure to draw the conversation to truth, beauty and goodness. Even a conversation about a wicked man in history or literature can culminate in the lessons about the right way to live in regards to God’s truth.
In conclusion, I believe the classical approach to Christian homeschooling follows the way a child matures. Young kids love to memorize. Middlers like to argue (about everything). Older kids are more apt to discuss because they’re figuring out what they believe & why.
Question: How do you use Classical Education in your homeschool? What do you think of the 3 stages of classical ed?
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