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From a comment on my (Jim’s) blog by Steve H,
“A great place to start is the small booklet “Classical Education and the Homeschool.” By Doug Wilson, Wes Callihan and Doug Jones.”
Some quotes from the booklet.
What makes classical Christian education so effective? First, it is based on what has been called the trivium. No matter how your child learns, he or she goes through three phases. In grades K-6, students are excellent at memorizing. In grades 7-8, students become more argument-oriented. They are ready to be taught logic and critical thinking. In grades 9-12, students become independent thinkers and communicators particularly concerned with their appearance to others. To this end, classical education teaches them “rhetoric,” the art of speaking, communicating, and writing.
Foundations Academy integrates subjects like literature, history, language, art, math, and science. Students read the great works of Western literature and philosophy. Classical languages (Latin and Greek) help students understand and think with greater depth about the world around them. Formal logic and rhetoric help students become great leaders and communicators. Classical teaching methods range from class lectures, to debates, to Socratic (discussion-oriented) teaching. Independent learning skills are sharpened at all grade levels.
For education to be effective, it must go beyond conveying fact. Truly effective education cultivates thinking and articulate students who are able to develop facts into arguments and convey those arguments clearly and persuasively.
There is no greater task for education than to teach students how to learn. The influence of “progressive” teaching methods and the oversimplification of textbooks make it difficult for students to acquire the mental discipline that traditional instruction methods once cultivated. The classical method develops independent learning skills on the foundation of language, logic, and tangible fact. The classical difference is clear when students are taken beyond conventionally taught subjects and asked to apply their knowledge through logic and clear expression.
In Dorothy Sayers’ essay, The Lost Tools of Learning, she promotes teaching in ways which complement children’s natural behavior. For example, young children in grammar school are very adept at memorizing. They enjoy repeating songs, rhymes, and chants to the extent that they often make up their own. In classical education, the “Grammar” phase corresponds with this tendency by focusing on the teaching of facts. During the junior high years, children often become prone to question and argue. Classical education leverages this tendency by teaching students how to argue well based on the facts they have learned. We call this the “Logic” phase. During the high school years, students’ interests shift from internal concerns to the external. Teenagers become concerned with how others perceive them. This stage fits well into the “Rhetoric” phase of classical education, where students are taught to convey their thoughts so that they are well received and understood by others. The education culminates with the debate and defense of a senior thesis.
We believe that a sense of self-worth comes from accomplishment. The student who excels after working hard achieves a greater sense of accomplishment than one who is given the grade. By holding students to an objective standard, they gain a true understanding of their abilities.
Finally, we believe that learning, hard work, and fun are not mutually exclusive. Learning should be a joyful endeavor – one that presents a challenge.
The most frequently questioned piece of classical education is its use of Latin. Why do students in the Information Age need something so arcane as Latin? Considering the number of quality schools that for centuries taught Latin as an integral part of any good academic training, the instruction in Latin should need no defense. However, like many traditions lost in the name of “progressive” education, Latin’s advantages have been neglected and forgotten by recent generations. Latin was widely taught even in American high schools as late as the 1940’s. It was considered necessary to the fundamental understanding of English, the history and writings of Western Civilization, and the understanding of Romance languages.
1. Latin is a language that lives on today in almost all major Western languages, including English. Over 50 percent of English vocabulary comes from Latin. Training in Latin not only gives the student a better understanding of the roots of English vocabulary, it also lays the foundation for learning other Latin-based languages.
2. Learning the grammar of Latin reinforces the student’s understanding of the reasons for, and the use of, the parts of speech being taught in our traditional English classwork (e.g., plurals, nouns, verbs, prepositions, direct objects, tenses).
the real power is in teaching ALL subjects from the perspective of the Christian worldview.
that facts, whether scientific, mathematical, historical, or otherwise, can only represent truth if they are taught in the context of a Christian worldview. There is no neutrality.
As the name implies, there are three stages represented in the Trivium: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.
Grammar – Grades K-6
During the Grammar phase, children are particularly adept at memorization. Young children learn songs, rhymes, and recite facts with relative ease. Because young children are so eager to memorize that they will make up non-sensical playground rhymes, we challenge them by providing substantial subject matter for them to memorize. Each subject has its own grammar. In science, children memorize facts about nature. In math, children memorize times tables. In Latin, teachers emphasize vocabulary. Throughout each year in Grammar School, classically educated children learn the factual foundation of each subject. We use songs, chants, and rhymes to help children enjoy the learning experience.
Logic – Grades 7-8
The Logic phase involves ordering facts into organized statements and arguments. During the middle school years, children are beginning to think independently. They often develop a propensity for argument. Classical education teaches children in this phase to argue well. The study of formal logic helps students understand the fundamentals of a good argument. Practice in making written and oral arguments helps to further develop these skills. Teachers encourage the use of argumentation in each subject. Again, each subject has its own logic. In science, we use the development and testing of hypothesis. In math, we develop a student’s ability to logically orient numbers through the more abstract concepts of algebra and trigonometry.
Rhetoric – Grades 9-12
Rhetoric is the art of communicating well. Once a student has obtained a knowledge of the facts (grammar) and developed the skills necessary to arrange those facts into arguments (logic), he must develop the skill of communicating those arguments to others (rhetoric). During the high school years, students become concerned with what others think of them. Classical education helps students develop their minds to think and articulate concepts to others. Writing papers, researching, and orating ideas are skills required in all subjects. The Academy adds polish to these skills to create a well-rounded student who can communicate effectively. We leverage these skills through the final requirement of the defense of a senior thesis.
While each component has a primary focus during a particular phase, all skills are developed during all levels. A second grader will develop certain skills in logic and rhetoric. A high school student will still aquire extensive knowledge in specific subjects. Emphasis is simply placed on different phases during different ages.