Classical Education
Classical Education has been used since Ancient Grecian times, possibly starting with Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. The Ancient Grecian philosophers knew that there had to be one unifying idea that made sense of everything in this world. They called this idea the logos. “This quest for a unifying principle of life and being is at the heart of classical thought and classical education. Because of it, classical education is logocentric.”(Circle Institute)

Homeschoolers have adapted this classic approach to meet their criteria. Many Christian homeschoolers use this as well including the Bible as one of their textbooks, thanks to Medieval European churches using classical education for their monasteries.

In more modern times, Dorothy Sayers brought classical education back to the limelight. She believed that schools “spent too much time teaching subjects, and too little time teaching students how to think.”(Circle Institute) She applied the Trivium to child development stages, and teach children to their natural abilities.
In the early 1990’s Douglas Wilson wrote Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning and started a movement of classical education with homeschoolers and Christian Schools alike. Another author, Susan Wise Bauer wrote The Well Trained Mind to apply Dorothy Sayers trivium to homeschoolers.

What is Classical Education?

Classical Education, according to Sayers’ trivium is a three-pronged system matching the stages of a child’s life. For elementary age children, they are learning the basics, and absorbing the facts. These are referred to as the “Grammar Stage.” The second stage, the middle school years, is referred to as the “Logic Stage.” In this stage students become more analytical. They are no longer so interested in the what, but they do want to know the why. The third and final stage of classical learning is the “Rhetoric Stage.” At this stage, usually at high school age, a child learns to write, and speak with force and confidence, as well as originality. They are no longer repeated what they have read, or heard, but drawing their own conclusions and expanding on those.

It is important to remember that Classical education is taught by spoken and written word, not by images, such as photos and television. These two learning styles need different ways of thought. Using language, and therefore creating pictures in your mind forces the brain to work harder. The brain must make a word, or series of words into a concept. Learning through television and videos is more passive. It requires less work. While reading or listening to a parent read the brain must do its function of thinking, not resting and taking a break.

The Grammar Stage

The Grammar stage is usually the elementary years, oftentimes first through fourth grade. Young children do not have the maturity in development or thinking for abstract thinking. They are focused on concrete truths. They may ask the why’s of something, but they really need and want to know the what. Classical educators believe that children need to be “saturated” in the “what is” to grow and be able to move onto the Logic Stage (Miller). The grammar stage is the stepping-stone to greater thinking. It is the flag football team practices before moving on up to tackle football and real games.

The Logic Stage

For grades five through eight, children shift from concrete thinkers to abstract thinkers (Wise Bauer). This shift can happen at any time, but usually occurs between fifth and seventh grade levels. Concrete thinking and analytical thinking work harmoniously together side by side. This is the age where a child can actually begin to think outside of the box. A student who has reached this shift begins to question the why, the how, and the underlying issues that caused “X” to happen in the first place. Classically trained students ask questions, answer questions, and see what they learned in elementary school in a different way. Much of what they were taught in the lower grades is repeated for a deeper understanding of the topics (Miller). This is the dress rehearsal for later years.

The Wisdom Stage

The third and final stage of Classical Education occurs during high school. Logic is reasoning well. This is a very important skill to have in adulthood, and must not be skipped in a student’s educational experience. With logic a person can enter a debate and support his views with validity (Miller). Without logic chaos would ensue. The Logic Stage is the first game of the season, opening night of the play. Everyone comes out prepared for the life and games ahead of them. Classical education is easily adaptable to a families needs. Some families use classical methods for history, and other methods for other subjects. The building blocks of life are, like most clothing, not one size fits all. If you like the idea of classical education, try it out, there is always a different method if it doesn’t work for you.

For more information on classical education check out:
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition) ~ Susan Wise Bauer
The Lost Tools of Learning and The Mind of the Maker ~ Dorothy Sayers
The Case for Classical Christian Education ~ Douglas Wilson
Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style ~ Laurie Bluedorn

Circle Institute, The

Miller, Christine, Classical Home-schooling

Wilson, Doug. Recovering The Lost Tools of Learning (1992).

Wise Bauer, Susan. The Well Trained Mind. (2009)
Sayers, Dorothy. The Lost Tools of Learning. (1947)

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