Classical education is a time-tested and proven educational method which observes a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundation for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves. This classical pattern is called the trivium.
The first years of schooling are called the “grammar stage” – not because students focus only on English but because these are the years in which the building blocks for all other learning are laid, just as grammar is the foundation for language. In the elementary school years, the mind is ready to absorb information. Children at this age actually find memorization fun. So, during this period, education involves the learning of facts such as the rules of phonics, spelling, grammar, the stories of history and literature, descriptions of plants, animals and the human body, and so on. This critical information makes up the “grammar” or the basic building blocks for the second stage of education.
In Middle School, a child’s mind begins to think more analytically and their capacity for abstract thought begins to mature. The students are less interested in finding out facts than in asking “Why?” This second phase of classical education, the “Logic Stage,” is a time when students begin to pay attention to cause and effect, to the relationship between different fields of knowledge, and to the way facts fit together into a logical framework. The student studies logic and applies logic to all academic subjects.
The final phase of a classical education, the “Rhetoric Stage,” builds on the first two stages. At this point, the high school students learns to write and speak with force, clarity and originality. The student of rhetoric applies the rules of logic learning in middle school to the foundational information learned in the early grades and expresses his conclusions in clear, forceful, elegant language.