Classical education is a proven method of teaching which structures learning in accordance with the God-given stages of child development. At Trinity, our curriculum is taught through a three-stage approach to learning called “The Trivium.” The Trivium is the first three of the seven classical liberal arts (grammar, logic, and rhetoric), each of which corresponds to a different stage of a child’s cognitive development. These three stages of learning are described briefly below:
(roughly grades K-6): This stage is called the Grammar stage because every subject has a grammar to it; that is, the basic building blocks of that subject. In English, it is the parts of speech; in literature, it's memorized poetry. In history, it is names, dates, battles, events. In geography, it's capitals and countries. In math, it's addition and multiplication tables. The elementary years of a child’s development are unique in that it is the one time of life where memorization (absorbing large amounts of information) is both natural – and actually gratifying. During the grammar stage of learning, we capitalize on the opportunity during these years to fill our students’ young minds with large amounts of data through such tools as songs and chanting. It is remarkable how much information a grammar student can learn at this time, laying a tremendous foundation for future learning.
(roughly grades 7-8): In the logic stage the Trivium begins to look increasingly different from modern education and makes learning to think its primary object. Students at ages eleven to thirteen are growing new neurons in the part of the brain that controls “executive function” (i.e. reasoning ability). As middle schoolers begin to want to question and argue, the Logic stage takes advantage of this development and equips them to think and argue soundly by training them in formal logic, paragraph construction, thesis writing, the scientific method, and the criticism and analysis of texts. Students begin to apply logic by assessing the validity of arguments and learn to view information critically with a more discerning mind. This stage of dialectic learning takes advantage of a student’s need to know how and why in addition to what.
(roughly grades 9-12): The final stage of the Trivium is the goal of all the others. One of the most valuable tools in our modern world is not simply knowing information (massive amounts of information are available to us easily on the internet), but to be able to synthesize information and then communicate it in a winsome and compelling manner. But as essential as such a skill is to almost any vocation (let alone being a witness of the Gospel), these skills are hardly taught in our schools. Young adults are expected to know these skills without being given the tools. A classical education focuses on equipping young people to communicate with others effectively. In addition, students study the great books of the Western tradition, as they learn from authors whose words and ideas have transformed cultures and history. Learning from these cultural giants, they themselves begin at a young age to cultivate their own voice.
The distinctive of Classical learning is that its focus is less on teaching subjects in and of themselves, and more on teaching children how to learn. Of course, the students study all the normal subjects (and end up remarkably proficient in each), but this is somewhat a by-product of the deeper goal. The subjects are more there to practice learning. Our conviction is that a student who is given the tools of life-long learning is a far better “end product” than a student who knows his subjects, but whose learning ends with his schooling.
Throughout the course of study in the Trivium (K-12), students will study Latin, ancient and modern history, science (including biology, chemistry and physics), math (including calculus), logic, art, music theory and choral music, and literature including Homer, Milton, Shakespeare, Dickens, and Twain.