Classical education places primary importance on the fundamentals of learning. There is a certain rigor and discipline about it, but with a primary focus on developing character and virtue. Beginning in the Medieval period of history, classical education has used the three stages of “the Trivium”, a method of learning that is based on the developmental stages of the human mind. In other words, the Trivium takes the natural ways that a child’s mind develops and works with the grain.
THE THREE STAGES OF THE TRIVIUM
1. Grammar (ages 5-10)
During their younger years, children posses a great natural ability to memorize large of amounts of material even though they may not understand its significance. This is the time to fill children full of facts, such as multiplication tables, geography, dates, events, plant and animal classification; anything that lends itself to easy repetition and assimilation by the mind. This phase of the Trivium focuses on exposing children to a wide range of literature and facts in all areas of study, encouraging memorization. Overall, it allows young children to simply soak up knowledge as the young sponges they are at this age. Much of the work is language arts (grammar, spelling, phonics, copy work, reading) and mathematics facts.
2. Logic or Dialectic (ages 10-14)
Students begin to ask “why” and learn about cause and effect. They learn how different subjects and events relate to each other, and how to approach subjects more analytically. This stage also begins their formal study of logic. Students begin to use reason to ask questions based on the information that has been gathered in the Grammar stage. It is during this stage that students no longer see the facts learned as merely separate pieces of information but start to put those facts together into logical relationships by asking questions.
3. Rhetoric (ages 14-18)
The final stage of the Trivium combines the knowledge of the Grammar stage with the logic and abstract thinking of the Logic stage. Here, students begin to write and speak effectively, creatively, and persuasively. They now develop the skills of organizing information into a well‐reasoned format that is pleasing to read or hear. It is also the time of more specialized study and training, as the student has been given the tools of learning that are necessary for the study of any subject. By this stage, the student should have the thinking skills and mental discipline that is necessary to tackle the difficulties associated with any area of future study.