The Trivium

Classical education is a three-stage process: the Grammar, or early years, where facts and information are primary; the Logic stage, where those facts are integrated and arranged to form an argument; and the Rhetoric Stage, where the previous two stages are integrated to “make a case” eloquently, logically and forcibly.  This classical pattern is called the trivium.

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The Grammar Stage

The first years of schooling are when the building blocks for all other learning are laid. Rules of grammar are a part of this, but so are rules of phonics, spelling, poetic structure, vocabulary in English and foreign language, stories of history and literature, math facts — and many more. In grades one through four, the mind is ready to absorb information. Children at this stage actually find memorization fun. Games, songs and memorization techniques are helpful to students and teachers alike. In math, understanding place value and integers are important. In science, questioning and curiosity about the natural world is highlighted, laying the groundwork for a lifelong habit of close observation, comparison and study.

The Logic Stage

In the second stage, by about 5th or 6th grade, a child’s mind begins to think more analytically. Children begin to wonder about cause and effect, relationships between things, how things work and impact each other. The world expands for the middle school child. This natural curiosity should be encouraged, and celebrated.  It is at this time that abstract thought matures. In writing, the structure of paragraphs becomes important; in reading, analyzing texts. In math, algebra begins; in science, the scientific method becomes important. In short, a logical coherence to subject matter emerges as well as the study of logic itself.

The Rhetoric Stage

The final stage builds on the previous two, utilizing the acquisition of facts learned during the grammar years, and the logical sequencing of facts  learned during the middle school years.  Presenting a well-argued, well-researched  conclusion marks this latter stage.  This is where a student begins to express his or her own viewpoint from a basis of  knowledge. A “senior thesis” would culminate this stage, where a student may be called to defend their thesis in writing or orally.