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Homeschooling Methods - Classical Education

A Classical Education

The foundation of a classical education is a three-part system of learning called the trivium.  The elementary school years are spent largely memorizing facts. In the middle grades, students learn to think through the study of logic.  In the high school years, they learn to express themselves with force and originality. 

Grades 1 – 4: The Grammar Stage

The first years of schooling, generally grades one through four, are called the "grammar stage.” During this period, education involves learning facts. Young children enjoy and are very good at memorization, even when they may not understand the significance of what they are learning. During these years they are presented with the rules of phonics, spelling, and grammar, poetry, stories of history and literature, the multiplication table, geography, dates, events, plant and animal classifications; anything that lends itself to repetition and retention. In this way, classically educated children are learning the factual foundation of each subject which they will study in depth later. The grammar period also includes a language, usually Latin or Greek, and the children spend time learning and memorizing its vocabulary and grammar.

Grades 5 – 8: The Logic Stage

By fifth grade, a student begins to think more abstractly and analytically.  This introduces the second phase of classical education, the "logic stage." During this time students begin to see and understand cause and effect. The facts they learned in the grammar stage are taking on meaning for them, and they are able to order facts into organized thoughts and arguments. They are beginning to think independently, and to use reason to ask questions. They study formal logic, learn the fundamentals of good argument, and practice written and oral argument. Each subject has its own logic. In science, they learn the development and testing of hypothesis. In math, logic is applied to the more abstract concepts of algebra and trigonometry; in writing, learning to write a well-constructed and defended thesis; in reading, criticism and analysis of books; in history, the “whys” behind the events of the past.

Grades 9 – 12: The Rhetoric Stage

The final phase of a classical education, the "Rhetoric Stage," builds on the first two. Students have obtained knowledge of the facts (grammar) and are able to order those facts into arguments (logic); now they must develop the skill of communicating forcefully and persuasively (rhetoric). Rhetoric is the art of communicating well. At this point, students learn to write and speak with originality. They may also begin to direct their studies in the areas of their interests, and take part in extra-curricular training such as college courses, travel, and other specialized opportunities.


In the classical system of education, academic subjects are all interrelated. The study of history is used as the foundation for organizing all of them, beginning with ancient civilizations and moving forward to modern eras in all the disciplines.

Jesse Wise Bauer, author of The Well-Trained Mind, suggests that “the twelve years of education consist of three repetitions of the same four-year pattern: Ancients, Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation, and Modern Times. The child studies these four time periods at varying levels,” from simple during the grammar stage, to complex during the rhetoric stage. This carries the classical student through all the school years in consistent systematic study.

For further information:

Jesse Wise Bauer, http://www.welltrainedmind.com

Dorothy Sayers' essay on classical education, The Lost Tools of Learning.

Explore Schola Tutorial's online classical education resources.

Find a reading list and more information for home schooling parents at
Classical Christian Home Educators.

Classical Christian Homeschooling is an e-mail loop (and more) for Christian parents.

Methods of Homeschooling:
A Thomas Jefferson Education | Charlotte Mason Method | Classical Education | Unschooling | Eclectic | Traditional Homeschooling | Unit Study Approach

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