Classical education uses a three-step process called the trivium that gives students essential tools of learning while working with the grain of their intellectual development. Taking into consideration the natural gifts and abilities characteristic of each of the three stages, a classical education helps a student to progress from knowledge to understanding and, ultimately, to wisdom. The three stages of the trivium are Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.
The Grammar Stage
Pre-Kindergarten through 6th Grade
Young children are naturally gifted at memorization. They enjoy reciting, collecting facts, and demonstrating what they know.
In the early grades, teachers take advantage of their students’ ability to memorize and equip them with the rules and basic facts of various academic disciplines, building a strong foundation for further study.
The Logic Stage
7th and 8th Grade
As students approach adolescence, they are no longer content to accept what their parents and teachers tell them is true. Rather, they want to ask lots of questions and find out the answers for themselves. Most students become somewhat argumentative at this stage.
Classical educators recognize that this is a necessary phase that students must pass through in order to become independent, thinking adults. Through the study of formal logic, teachers help students learn to reason and to think logically through arguments. Debate is incorporated as much as possible, giving students an opportunity to learn to argue in a winsome and respectful way.
The Rhetoric Stage
9th Through 12th Grade
High school students are ready to think great thoughts, to engage in the Great Conversation with philosophers from centuries past, and to learn to express themselves effectively.
Students in the Rhetoric Stage engage actively in their education, reading widely and coming to class ready to have a lively Socratic-style discussion with their peers guided by their teachers. In every class, including math and science, students are encouraged to think deeply and to communicate well.
The capstone of the rhetoric stage is the senior thesis project, in which students spend a year writing a paper about a subject of their choice then present a condensed form of the paper in the form of a speech. The entire upper school body attends the thesis presentations, and a panel of experts has the opportunity to ask questions. In this project, students must utilize the skills they learned in the grammar stage by researching the facts about their subjects.
They must construct logical arguments, drawing on the reasoning skills they learned in the middle school years. And, finally, students must express themselves in a beautiful way, both in their written paper and in their oral presentation. Completion of the senior thesis project helps students to become mature, thoughtful young adults, ready to take on the next challenge that God places in their paths.