Classical Christian education is modeled upon the most proven form of education ever developed. The classical method was conceived in Greece and Rome. By the 16th century, classical education was used throughout the Western world. This educational system produced the greatest philosophers, leaders, and scientists in the Western world from the time of the Greeks until the late 19th century. Paul to Aristotle to Socrates to America’s founding fathers received this educational training. The effectiveness of this educational system resulted in the outstanding advances in mathematics, science, philosophy, architecture, art, and literature that were accomplished between the 10th and 19th centuries.
Unfortunately, it took modern educators only 50 years to destroy this educational system. Modern education focuses on teaching subjects with progressive teaching methods. Classical education focuses on teaching students HOW to learn and giving them the tools of learning in preparation to tackle any new environment with great success. More than ever, thinking, articulate individuals who are able to think logically, acquire new skills rapidly and implement ideas independently are in high demand regardless of the field. Classical Christian education has a history of producing these types of students.
Why is classical Christian education so effective? The model is based on the Trivium, a series of three phases of learning. In the Grammar stage (grades K-5), students are excellent at memorizing. During the Grammar stage students exercise their minds by learning the grammar of English and Latin or other languages, the grammar or rules of mathematics, of history, and of science. The Dialectic or Logic stage (grades 6-8), takes a very different focus from modern education. “Having learned from grammar how to talk,” writes C.S. Lewis describing the Trivium, “we must learn from Dialectic how to talk sense, to argue, to prove and disprove.” (“Seven Liberal Arts” 188). Again in this stage, the classical student uses a variety of subjects on which to practice the Dialectic art of logic, disputation and discursive reason. Rhetoric, the final stage (grades 9-12) of the Trivium, teaches the student rhetoric, the art of speaking, communicating and writing effectively over all subjects from math to theology to music to visual arts. Therefore, one of the most compelling arguments in defense of the Trivium is that it corresponds to the natural patterns of child development.
The pedagogy, or method of teaching used in the various stages of the Trivium, by necessity, is diverse. Children are themselves unique individuals that learn in different ways and at different paces. Especially in the Grammar stage, the use of many ways to memorize or learn the facts include chants, songs, drills, lectures, readings, dictation, tests, charts, flash cards, and a wealth of additional multi-sensory options. It is in the Dialectic and Rhetoric stages that pedagogies shift drastically from “traditional” modern education. Socratic Dialogue is introduced, appropriately, in the Dialectic stage and carried through the Rhetoric stage. Although it is not the only pedagogy used in either stage, it is the least familiar to those educated in “traditional” American classrooms. Taking its name from Socrates, the tutor of Plato, Socratic Dialogue consists in asking the student questions to lead him to an apprehension of truth. The dialogue is intended to serve as a forum for analyzing “the way things are,” namely, reality, and for refining critical thinking to get a hold of truth—a concept almost entirely lost on our contemporary society. The Medieval scholars found, as have contemporary classical educators, that a line of thoughtful questions was one of the most effective ways to get at the reality they sought.
Download our curriculum overviews for each class.
To learn more about Classical Christian Education:
Increasing Academic Achievement with the Trivium of Classical Education by Randall Hart, Ph.D.
The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers
The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson
The Case for Classical Christian Education by Douglas Wilson
Classical Education and the Homeschool by Douglas Wilson, Wes Callihan, and Doug Jones
The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Gregory
Repairing the Ruins edited by Douglas Wilson
Classical Education by Gene Edward Veith, Jr. and Andrew Kern