Classical Education - What's That?

A “classical education” began about 2500 years ago in ancient Greece and continued to develop through ancient Rome and the Renaissance. It involves a three-part process of training the mind and using traditional standards of teaching, curriculum, and discipline. A classical education holds that humans are thinking creatures and are naturally curious. It values knowledge for its own sake and prepares students to be “good” or virtuous citizens.
The early years of a classical education (K-4) are spent acquiring basic skills and facts to lay a firm foundation for further study. In the middle grades (5-8), students learn to think through the evidence and apply logic. In the upper grades (9-12), students learn to reach conclusions, through thoughtful criticism and analysis, and support those conclusions in persuasive writing and speech. This classical pattern is called the Trivium.
The Trivium encompassed three stages: Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric. Each of these stages is specifically suited to the stages in a child’s mental development. During the Grammar stage of the Trivium, the building blocks for all other learning are laid. Children at this age actually find memorization fun, and possess a great natural ability to memorize large amounts of material even though they may not understand its significance. These building blocks include the rules of phonics and spelling, the rules of grammar and language structure, numbers, the multiplication tables, dates, and events. Young students acquire a large variety of knowledge in language arts, literature, history, science, math, music, art, and geography.
During the Dialectic (or Logic) stage, students begin to understand what they have learned and begin to use reason to ask questions based on that information. Middle-school students are less interested in finding out facts than in asking “Why?” Students learn how to use language to express themselves, why certain events happened in history, how math works and how it is used, how to use a set of facts or events to reach a reasonable conclusion, to use dialog to analyze the great works of literature, and to apply the scientific method.
The final phase of a classical education, the “Rhetoric” stage, builds on the first two. The students apply the rules of logic learned in middle school to the foundational information learned in the early grades to expresses their conclusions clearly and persuasively in writing and in speech.
Vanguard Classical School will use this same, time-tested process. All teachers will be trained in the use of the Socratic method. This method of systematic questioning, designed to reveal the facts, encourages student participation, understanding and confidence. Vanguard will use an explicate phonics program, Riggs: Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking, to teach the elements and proper usage of English language. The Core Knowledge Scope and Sequence will provide the foundational knowledge. The Core Virtues program will support character development. In addition, Vanguard will use classic, time tested literature by the great authors and original text documents for instruction.

More About Classical Education

This monograph was written by a former principal of a sister school, Ridgeview Classical Schools in Fort Collins, Colorado.  We greatly appreciate Dr. Moore's permission to use this article.

A Classical Education for Modern Times