The classical method is based on the “trivium,” a reference to the three stages of childhood intellectual development. Until the last century, this approach was the standard of education. Its premise is to teach children to think critically and independently. It emphasizes history and literature. It requires discipline, and it yields intellectual maturity and independence – all essential life skills.
One spring, a friend gave me The Well-Trained Mind, the homeschool “Bible” of classical education. This manual was written by an early homeschooling mom, Jessie Wise (love the surname!), and her daughter, Susan Wise Bauer. They relate their experiences with the failed public school systems and the Wise’s subsequent decision to teach at home. Susan’s academic achievements were stunning – she breezed through college and graduate school on full scholarships and is now a successful professor at William and Mary College – and a homeschool mom!
After devouring The Well-Trained Mind, I applied it enthusiastically, and I still incorporate its advise in much of our homeschool. Our first, and only, completely classical year was a fantastic marathon. I could almost hear my children’s brains snapping to attention and making new neurological connections as we delved into Latin and logic, and explored vast sweeps of world history.
Briefly, the classical trivium comprises the following stages:
The grammar stage, kindergarten through 4th grade. Here, children’s minds are very open to memorization. The classical parent lays a solid foundation of facts, which the child will later use as he learns to think and process connectively.
The logic stage, 5th – 8th grade. This is the “why?” stage. Children notice all kinds of connections and puzzling exceptions to the facts they have learned. During this stage, the parent encourages the child to analyze the information she has learned.
The rhetoric stage, 9th – 12th grade. During the rhetoric stage, teens learn to express themselves. Of course, we all know that teens express themselves; but the classically educated teen actually has something great to express. He or she has internalized and processed a wealth of education, and is now joining the world’s conversation in a clear, objective, and sometimes persuasive way. Crowning glory!
For More Information
Susan Wise Bauer’s manual on classical education:
Click here to visit a forum for discussing classical education and The Well-Trained Mind.
Another helpful manual: