A three-part process of training the mind
The classical method of teaching came to prominence in the Middle Ages, and directly influenced the thought of some of the world's greatest philosophers, scientists and leaders. Its roots can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece. More than any other teaching philosophy, the classical method forms the basis of how many of us think about education. It's used in some of America's top colleges, including Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Notre Dame and Princeton. The core idea behind classical teaching is that the most important thing students can be taught is the ability to self-learn.
Practitioners of the classical method believe that the human brain develops in three distinct stages: grammar, logic and rhetoric. These three basic components are called the "trivium."
- Stage 1: Grammar. During the grammar stage of development (from birth to age 12), the child is taught to read, write and listen. The basic concepts of science are introduced, although the child is given only facts to memorize, and not presented with theoretical concepts (since the child is still unable to reason).
- Stage 2: Logic. Logic, the second stage of the trivium, introduces the child to reasoning. Also called the dialectic stage, this stage typically runs from when the child is 12 to 14. Critical thinking is encouraged, and the child learns to be analytical and to comprehend abstract concepts. Simply put, the child begins to ask "why?"
- Stage 3: Rhetoric. The rhetoric stage is the final component of the trivium, and takes place when the child is high school age. At this time, the child (now a young adult) learns to combine traditional study mechanics and the newly achieved critical mindset into a single, comprehensive learning strategy. He or she will be able to synthesize learned information into a complex and compelling argument. The child should also begin to form unique, previously untested theories.
There are two prevailing schools of thought when it comes to applying classical education concepts in a home schooling environment. The first is referred to as the single-subject method. This entails only teaching grammar in the grammar stage of the trivium, introducing logic-based subjects such as math, science and business only when the child has reached the logic stage and, finally, introducing philosophy in the rhetoric stage.
Others prefer a more modern take on the classical method, and teach all subjects during all stages of development. However, most parents still divide each subject up into the three stages of the trivium and teach them in order.