The Trivium in the Eyes of a Five-Year-Old


As parents in classical education, we've all heard of the Trivium.  On the flip-side, because it's a Latin word, it also carries some measure of weirdness.  We know what the Trivium is . . . and yet we kinda don't.  How does the breakdown go again?  So sometimes it's helpful to think of classical education and the Trivium from a slightly different angle.

For instance, instead of trying to recite something like this:

The Trivium is an age-old method of teaching, highly revered among The Chosen of Parents, in which children ages 5-9 enjoy the Grammar Stage, a time of rigorous instruction in facts and figures, in drilling and in chants, and in the importance of discipline, discipline, discipline; and in which children ages 10-13 are exposed to the Logic Stage, namely, to the high mountain air of logic and sharp rationality, discerning truth, exposing falsehood, questioning, answering, and explaining, and, as good Saint Paul said, rightly dividing the word of truth; and in which children ages 14-18 discover the pristine Rhetoric Stage, learning to dance in the ecstasies of speech, persuasion, and beauty, recognizing the creative splendor in the world through the Author of All Things, together with the thrilling joy that comes from first gaining, then sorting, and then beautifying knowledge . . . .

we could instead (thank heaven), illustrate it like this:

"The Trivium in the Eyes of a Five-Year-Old, or, 15 Minutes Building a Lego Bullet-Castle":

Step One (The Grammar Stage): Dump out entire Lego set on kitchen table.  Allow good portion to spill onto floor.  Sort pieces into various lengths and colors while singing snippets of "Frozen" and "Green Grow the Rushes" repetitively. Name and handle each piece as you prepare to determine what you will build.

Step Two (The Logic Phase): Determine that you feel moved to build a castle, preferably one that "shoots bullets."  Begin building a square base, observing that pink Lego pieces are ill-advised for this project, and that Barbie dolls will not be the castle's inhabitants.  You'll want to assert publicly that this is not a rolling castle, like Ezekiel's throne-chariot, and therefore will take no wheels, and that neither is it a flying castle, as in Gulliver's Travels, and therefore will take no sails.  You should accordingly erect ramparts, turrets, and cannons only.

Step Three (The Rhetoric Phase): Construction nearly complete, you now confirm that all castle sections are of uniform color, that all flags are flying high, and that all cannons are aimed skyward.  Most importantly, you'll want to be sure to parade this castle around the house, showing it to parents, singing its praises, energetically pointing out its most notable features, referring to it regularly as "My Bullet-Castle," and firing off several exhibition rounds from the cannon.  It is your crowning achievement, your glory.  Just think if you had stopped along the way!  Part of a bullet-castle is no bullet castle at all.  And you've inspired your family and friends to similar great exploits.