Classical Education, or the “Classical Method” of homeschooling, is a way of allowing students to use their minds in ways that come most naturally to them. The method, often called the Trivium because of its 3 phases of learning, is thought to mirror the cognitive development of a child’s mind, thus allowing them to learn commensurate with their abilities at every stage.
In the early years, when children are able and eager to soak up facts and information, parents introduce all kinds of facts and information to their students. Because children at this age (roughly the equivalent of grades 1-4) enjoy memorization and learning many new things, classical educators introduce many of the facts (for instance, math facts) upon which later learning will be based. This stage is called the Grammar Phase.
By the time a child matures toward the middle school years (approximately grades 5-8), he is able to ask questions and to see the relationship between ideas. Asking, “why?” and looking at the correlation between events and their resulting effects is characteristic of students at this stage anyhow. Therefore, the classical method takes advantage of this developmental stage by introducing academic subjects requiring this kind of abstract thinking. This is called the Logic Phase.
The last stage of the Trivium, the Rhetoric Phase, is taught during the high school years, when students are finally able to pull together all of the facts and questions they have gathered thus far. Students are encouraged and able to express their own original thoughts by this time and are eager to debate any topic. Classical thinkers capitalize upon this stage of development by encouraging high schoolers to formulate their own ideas and opinions, both orally and in writing. This is possible, trainers believe, in large part because students have been given the right foundation in the earlier years.
Much has been written about the classical method so homeschoolers have a great variety of tools available to help them get started. Start with these, and find others on your own:
The Lost Tools of Learning – seminal writing by Dorothy Sayers
The Well-Trained Mind – books and writings from author and historian Susan Wise Bauer
Classical Conversations – Christian community and training materials
Memoria Press – Christian classical materials and online academy
Classical Homeschooling (old website) with links to new site
Interview with Christine Miller – from TOS Magazine