This post may contain affiliate links. Read our full disclosure for details.
Classical Education and the Trivium
We follow a mostly “classical” homeschooling curriculum based on the trivium described in The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Fourth Edition) by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. A classical education means so much more than reading classic literature, although that’s part of it. It means providing a strong, broad base of knowledge and skills, taught in a logically planned way. Building on this foundation, you create a deep, cohesive education and a student who is an advanced thinker and communicator.
“Trivium” comes from a Latin word meaning “the place where three roads meet”. In Medieval times, it referred to the three basic subjects of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. These were introductory courses in universities which prepared students for more advanced liberal arts courses to follow.
Today, “trivium” in classical education indicates three distinct stages of learning from first through twelfth grade. These different stages are, guess what, called the grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages. A curriculum based on them (1) addresses the different ways that children learn and process information at different ages and, (2) lays a very solid foundation for more advanced college-level learning later in life. Each stage of the trivium builds upon the next for a cumulative wealth of knowledge and skills.
The Grammar Stage
The grammar stage, first through fourth grade, focuses on learning (a.k.a. memorizing) facts, and lots of them! Phonics rules, spelling rules, grammar rules, math facts, and basic science and history facts. Also, it prioritizes practicing the foundational skills of reading, writing, and basic math until these things become routine and automatic. Children at this stage are wired to memorize and absorb facts. They actually love to do it and enjoy repetition! The thought process is that in later years they will be able to focus on the more sophisticated tasks of reasoning and critical thinking. They will have long since mastered tasks like legibly writing complete sentences or spelling basic words.
The Logic Stage
Next comes the logic stage, roughly grades five through eight. This is where the child connects all those facts they’ve been learning and begins to dive deeper. Now instead of simply studying what happens in the world, they begin to study why. They learned earlier that the Roman Empire fell. Now they research why it did and see how events relate to one another. This is the stage in which students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, after they are equipped with a foundation of facts to think logically about. Now they can devote effort and time to reading, writing, reasoning, thinking without spending undue time and effort on basic skills mastered earlier. The logic stage is where everything they’ve learned begins to have real meaning and come together.
The Rhetoric Stage
In high school, ninth through twelfth grade, the emphasis turns to using the knowledge and thinking skills acquired earlier to master rhetoric – the art of expression. Orally and in writing, students study and practice turning factual information and well-reasoned arguments into highly effective expressive work. Learning how to present information so that people will understand it or be persuaded by it is a high-level skill necessary for success in higher education and professional life. Here students study original writings from historical figures, complex pieces of literature and advanced math and science topics. In this final stage the focus becomes areas of interest or aptitude to the student to prepare for potential career paths.
Click below for our curriculum choices for specific subjects and specific grades.