“Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves. This classical pattern is called the trivium.” (Susan Wise Bauer)
- It goes with the grain of a child’s developing brain. In each phase, the child is taught in the way that the brain best receives information. This engages children, stimulating their love of learning. (See more on these phases – Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric)
- It is historical. Classical education uses history — from ancient to modern — as its organizing theme. Other subject areas are linked to history. For example, a student studying ancient Greece in history will read the literature of ancient Greeks, such as The Iliad and The Odyssey. An art student may learn linear perspective while studying examples of classical Greek architecture. Math and science topics might include a discussion of Greek mathematician Archimedes’ inventions. Much modern education is so eclectic that the student has little opportunity to make connections between past events and the flood of current information. In a Classical setting, each grade usually “lives” in one time period for an entire year studying history, art, literature, music, math etc. allowing even the youngest student a chance to make connections, notice motifs, trace reoccurring symbolism and exercise his mind in a scholarly way. Knowledge operates as a web instead of separating it into distinct categories. Literature gives insight into history, which informs the study of theology, which informs art and on and on. It all overlaps and the boundaries between disciplines are light and fluid.
- Stands in opposition to an educational individualism. A classical education ushers even the smallest child into the Great Conversation that has been ongoing throughout history. It brings them into a historical community. What have all the great philosophers, writers and leaders spoken down through the ages? How do their thoughts enlarge our own, shed light on current events or press us to see beauty? What truth do they uncover? This approach also enhances learning about things outside of the Western tradition. Those tools of the mind place and sort any other ideas that a student encounters within an organized and historical framework.
- Develops mastery by apprenticing the masters. If a person wants to become an excellent musician, we would encourage them to find a great musician and learn his ways. Only after years of that kind of discipline does a true musician emerge – able to bring his own perspectives and interpretations. In the same way, a classical education takes, for example, an approach that if you want to be a skilled writer you imitate, investigate, unpack and “live with” authors who are great and have stood the test of time. Of course, there are creative and engaging ways to go about this venture, but you don’t become more creative simply by listening to your own voice. The more literary tools that have been honed, the greater capacity there is for real creativity.
For a more thorough discussion of Classical Education see the links below:
- An Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents by Christopher A. Perrin M.Div., Ph.D.
- The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers