Like Spitting into the Wind

As our school grows and time passes, more of our students are moving into the Logic Phase of the Trivium.  In light of current relativistic cultural trends which see man's personal desires as autonomous, and truth as a shape-shifting thespian, we have a key job as educators and parents to give our kids the tools they need to apply universal moral standards to today's ideas.  We have to show them how to judge between right and wrong.  If a new, controversial law is passed, will they be able to point effectively to a fixed standard of truth that is applicable?  Or will they wave their hands despairingly, get shrill, and have nothing much to say?

But today, "right" and "wrong" are strange words.  What can they really mean?  And who's to say?  Surely you aren't telling me that I must conform to your personal beliefs?  You're free to believe what you like -- you have a right to your outmoded religious convictions -- but keep them out of the public square.  Keep them away from my personal choices.

So this is a tricky business.  The Logic Phase should not teach the lofty art of ramming dogma down disagreeing throats.  As an obvious but crucial caveat, unless we teach our children to generously sprinkle their arguments with love, mix them with a few handfuls of minced pride, and bake them with bellies full of laughter, all the perfect syllogisms and proofs they can muster will fly back into their faces, like spitting into the wind.  As someone once said, "There is a deeper right than being right."

So we are beginning to give our children tools of argument and debate.  But as any good carpenter knows, sharp tools in unskilled hands just lead to a bloody mess.

Grace and Peace, Nate Ahern

The Trivium for Life

Life is full of phases.  We enter them, we pass through them, and then we're done.  Just how it's supposed to be.   But as we come out the other side of a phase, we always carry something permanent away.

This is one of the beauties of the Trivium, both for us and our children.  Here's why:

1. In the Grammar Stage, students learn by repetition and singing in class because . . . they love repetition and singing at home ("Mommy? Mommy?  Mommy?" or three-hour loops of a single chorus from Frozen).  It's a phase.  But even though they leave the Grammar Phase in 6th Grade, we want them to carry its basic outlook into adulthood -- like God.  As Chesterton said, "It is possible that God says every morning, 'Do it again' to the sun; and every evening, 'Do it again' to the moon . . . [He] has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

2. In the Logic Stage, students learn how to think neatly in all their classes.  Why not theistic Evolution?  Why did Rome fall?  Why is this story in your history text and not that one?  Why are you right and they wrong?  Who says?  Kids like being argumentative just because at this age.  It's a phase.  But we want them to carry Logic's basic outlook permanently -- like God.  "Come, let us reason together, says the Lord" (Is. 1:18), and "In the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1).

3. In the Rhetoric Stage, students learn how to make their knowledge persuasive and beautiful.  They're interested in making people believe them (especially college admissions officers).  It's a phase.  But we want them to carry Rhetoric's basic outlook permanently -- like God.  "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times" (Ps. 12:6).

What we put into our kids doesn't easily come out -- and when it comes to the Trivium, that's a very good thing.

Grace and Peace, Nate Ahern

Kaylyn Wilson on Classical Education

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.


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.