Classical Education

Teaching them how to learn, not what to learn.

Classical education equips students with the tools for learning, teaching them how to learn, not what to learn. It seeks to produce individuals who are skilled, lifelong, self-directed learners, able to reason with ideas and express their conclusions in clear, compelling, elegant language, through both the written and spoken word.

Teaching in the Trivium

The Trivium is divided into 3 stages: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.

Classical education following an academic methodology that is based on the Trivium. It uses time-tested teaching methods which correlate with the child’s natural development so teaching and learning go “with the grain,” not against it. This gives the child a broad liberal arts education. ​


The grammar stage focuses on laying the building blocks, or the “grammar” of each subject area.


The logic stage builds on the facts learned in grammar school and students begin to analyze the order of relationships.


In the rhetoric stage, students express their thoughts and ideas in oral and written form.

Grammar School

The grammar stage focuses on laying the building blocks, or the “grammar” of each subject area. These are things such as rules of phonics, how to spell, grammar rules, poetry, vocabulary of a foreign language, rich stories of history and literature, descriptions of scientific fields of study such as plants, animals, and the human body, as well as the facts of math, just to name a few. Children at this developmental age are naturally good at absorbing and retaining information, and the majority of them thrive on repetition. As Susan Wise Bauer, author of The Well Trained Mind, states, “How many times has your child watched the same movie over and over again, or wanted you to read the same book to them over and over again. Their minds love information. Their minds love to retain. So this stage of classical education capitalizes on this stage of their brain.” This is done through a lot of fun activities such as, songs, chants, jingles, and timelines.

Logic School

The logic stage builds on the facts learned in grammar school and students begin to analyze the order of relationships. Students begin to gain understanding of the “how” and “why” of the content studied and not just the information. For example, instead of just reading the story about the War of 1812 as in grammar school, they learn “why” the War of 1812 was fought. Instead of just learning descriptions of animals or what plants need to grow, students learn the “how” with the scientific method. Logic students begin to see that all branches of learning are interrelated and make connections between different fields of knowledge. As children gain the capacity for abstract thought, they study the logical constructs of arguments and are taught to recognize truth from falsehood.

Rhetoric School

The rhetoric stage builds on the first two schools and completes the students’ “tools of learning” as they express their thoughts and ideas in oral and written form. Students apply the rules of logic learned in middle school to the building blocks of information learned in grammar school, and expresses their conclusions in clear, compelling, elegant language. It encompasses the skills of critical thinking, logical reasoning, persuasive writing, and powerful speaking. Students learn to construct credible and strong arguments as well as specialize in subject areas of interest. All subjects come together as one whole, and students are able to see and understand the big picture.

A deeper look at classical education

The Classical Academy Trivium Application Chart

This chart, drawn from the essay “The Lost Tools of Learning” by Dorothy Sayers, summarizes the stages of learning. For an even deeper look at classical education, we invite you to read this book for yourself.
Grades PreK-2nd, Approx. ages 4-8

Student Characteristics
1.    Obviously excited about learning
2.    Enjoys games, stories, songs, projects
3.    Short attention span
4.    Wants to touch, taste, feel, smell, see
5.    Imaginative, creative

Teaching Methods
1.    Guide discovering
2.    Explore, find things
3.    Use lots of tactile items to illustrate point
4.    Sing, play games, chant, recite, color, draw, paint, build
5.    Use body movements
6.    Short, creative projects
7.    Show and Tell, drama, hear/read/tell stories
8.    Field trips

Grades 3-6, Approx. ages 8-11

Student Characteristics
1.     Excited about new, interesting facts
2.     Likes to explain, figure out, talk
3.     Wants to relate own experiences to topic, or just to tell a story
4.     Likes collections, organizing items
5.     Likes chants, clever, repetitious word sounds
6.     Easily memorizes
7.     Can assimilate another language well

Teaching Methods
1.     Lots of hands-on work, projects
2.     Field trips, drama
3.     Make collections, displays, models
4.     Integrate subjects through above means
5.     Teach and assign research project
6.     Recitations, memorizations
7.     Drills, games
8.     Oral/written presentations

​Grades 7-8, Approx. ages 12-13

Student Characteristics
1.    Still excitable, but needs challenges
2.    Judges, critiques, debates, critical
3.    Likes to organize items, others
4.    Shows off knowledge
5.    Wants to know “behind the scenes” facts
6.    Curious about Why? for most things
7.    Thinks, acts as though more knowledgeable than adults

Teaching Methods
1.    Time lines, charts, maps (visual materials)
2.    Debates, persuasive reports
3.    Drama, reenactments, role-playing
4.    Evaluate, critique (with guidelines)
5.    Formal logic
6.    Research projects
7.    Oral/written presentations
8.    Guest speakers, trips

​Grades 9-12, Approx. ages 14-18

Student Characteristics
1.    Concerned with present events, especially in own life
2.    Interested in justice, fairness
3.    Moving toward special interests, topics
4.    Can take on responsibility, independent work
5.    Can do synthesis
6.    Desires to express feelings, own ideas
7.    Generally idealistic

Teaching Methods
1.    Drama, oral presentations
2.    Guide research in major areas with goalof synthesis of ideas
3.    Many papers, speeches, debates
4.    Give responsibilities, e.g. working with younger students, organize activities
5.    In-depth field trips, even overnight
6.    World view discussion and written papers