Why Classical Education and the Trivium are Important
Classical Christian education takes advantage of natural inclinations of children at different stages in their development to maximize learning. When young children find it easy and fun to memorize, they are given opportunities to memorize all types of facts in various subjects. These facts are the “grammar” or building blocks inherent in every subject.
Once they become teenagers, students like to contradict their elders and they sometimes are even guilty of back talk. These students are ripe for instruction and training in formal logic.
In their later high school years students are focused on shaping their own personal perspective into a comprehensive worldview. The students, eager to achieve independence and longing to express themselves, are taught to communicate eloquently and persuasively through instruction in rhetoric.
It was Dorothy Sayers who proposed this marriage of the three tools of the Trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) to the three stages of children development (roughly elementary, junior high, and high school). Through careful planning with a specific focus on curriculum and instruction, classical educators help students develop skills that, once mastered, equip the children to learn for themselves.
“For the sole end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain”.
Dorothy Sayers in The Lost Tools of Learning
SOCRATIC METHOD is a method of instruction that employs the asking of questions to expose the students’ contradictions in ideas and thoughts to lead them to a logical conclusion.
How this plays out in the classroom: When students ask questions, they are not spoon fed facts; instead, the teacher answers back with another question which leads to further discussion and the students, guided by the discussion, can reach a logical answer.
Latin is a particularly useful language for training the mind to think reasonably and to analyze clearly because of its inflective nature and inherent structure.
It encourages Vocabulary building: 75% of our English language is derived from Latin. One Latin word may be the root for more than ten English words.
It also encourages Analytical Skills: Students who take Latin score higher than students of other foreign languages on standardized and SAT tests.
Why a Christian classical education?
Many students attend church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings, but are unable to connect what they learn in church to their lives Monday through Saturday. Many receive an excellent academically rigorous education; however, this education is secular in nature, based on man’s achievements, not on Christ’s atonement. Many young Christians may believe in the promises of Scripture but that information is disconnected from the whole realm of their educational experience. In a secular humanistic education, man is glorified instead of God. These students aren’t learning how to make wise godly decisions based on Christ, but instead, on how to make decisions to further their own desires and perceived “needs.” They receive a great worldly education, one that can lead to substantial academic scholarships for college, and the many worldly attainments that go with all that, but ultimately the education they receive leads to a dead end. When man is worshipped instead of the true God, the end result is despair. As our Lord Himself said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?”
A Christian classical education focuses on the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, taking the best of classics, of what made Western Civilization great, but filters this through a biblical worldview. Students learn to discern what is true, good and beautiful by centering all education on Christ, who is the Author and Perfector of our faith. This education glorifies God rather than man and challenges the heart and soul as well as the mind.
Classes offered for high school credit:
Language Arts I, II, III, IV*
Sciences: Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy **
History: Ancient, Medieval, Modern, Government, American*
Mathematics: Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Trigonometry
Bible: Old Testament Survey, New Testament Survey, Hermeneutics, Apologetics
Latin I and Latin II
*Language Arts and History classes utilize the Omnibus Series from Veritas Press
**BJU Press used for science curricula; some classes may be dual-enrollment with local colleges
Younger students will be educated by the Charlotte Mason method of learning which includes:
Narration – Narration consists of the child telling back a story that has been read to him/her or has been read by him/her. Miss Mason said that asking a child to narrate, that is, tell back or, for older children, “write down” what he has learned is the best way for him to acquire knowledge from books. Narration takes the place of questionnaires, paragraphs of fill-in-the-blanks, and multiple choice tests. It enables the child to use all of his mental faculties. He responds with his own paragraphs as he tells his version of what is read. When given books of literary quality, his mind does for itself the sorting, sequencing, selecting, connecting, rejecting, and classifying which workbooks, or cleverly correlated curriculum, attempt to teach him.
With narration, a child calls upon the picturesque vocabulary and descriptive powers of his favorite authors. He does not need to stop and look up a list of words that he/she should be gleaning from the text. Any vocabulary he leaves out of his narration now will assuredly and naturally be picked up later. It is ideas that our minds feed upon, not facts and information alone. Give children the opportunity to be in touch with at least one new idea a day through living books and use narration, and they will become real thinkers.
Copywork – Copywork is the key to all studies beginning at age six and continuing through high school. Copywork begins with careful penmanship, learning to make the letters and numbers correctly, producing a few perfect examples rather than a page of work that becomes sloppy. Letters are learned, then simple words, then sentences, paragraphs, poetry, and so on according to the age and ability of the student. The assignments are chosen from their current daily reading, inspiring quotes, or verses from the Bible.
Dictation – We read a spelling word, sentence, poem, or scripture verse, and the child writes what is being said. Dictation is done after copywork has been mastered well. During the copywork time before dictation, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation corrections need to be pointed out and corrected.
Composer Study – Children will be exposed to great minds through music. We will be studying Schumann and Handel in our composer studies this year.
Nature Study – This has an emphasis on close, focused observation of creation. We will have a nature study notebook where we sketch things from nature, identifying those things in a notebook. This also will be done on a weekly basis.
Language – We will be learning the parts of speech (nouns, verbs, pronouns, etc.) using the methods above. Students will study in a simple but fun way to begin their foundation of the eight parts of speech.
Phonics – Kindergarten will be using the Alpha Phonics, a Primer for Beginning Readers.
Spelling – Kindergarten and first grade spelling will be combined with their phonics program. Second grade will be using the Grammar of Spelling for their curriculum. Everyone will have a composition book for their spelling assignments and work.
Math – We will be using Horizons Math, and these are a few of the concepts that are covered: counting, addition, subtraction, place value, time, calendars, money, shapes, sets, graphs, factions, measurements, temperature, multiplication, etc.
Science – We will be studying science using Considering God’s Creation. The students will be discovering science through their senses. We will be studying the plant and animal kingdoms as well as weather, rocks, and minerals.
History – Our history will be American history and our community. Geography will correlate with history and literature. Our reading and narrating will be done from many rich literary books that will take us on a journey from before the Spanish conquistadors arrived until the 1850’s.