The goal of education in ancient and medieval times was to teach children how to think and learn for themselves. They were given the tools of learning and then taught how to apply those tools of learning to any subject they encountered. In contrast, modern education generally tends to teach “subjects” or “skills.”
The Ancient and Medieval school curriculum taught three basic tools of learning:
- Grammar: The fundamental rules and core knowledge of each subject.
- Logic: The ordered and logical relationship of particulars in each subject.
- Rhetoric: How the grammar and logic of each subject may be clearly communicated.
These three basic tools of learning (Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric) were called the Trivium. The Trivium is the heart of classical education. These tools of learning, not mere “subjects”, were forged and mastered. Subjects were the material upon which one practiced and developed these tools of learning.
The Trivium is nothing more than a proven and very practical approach to education that works. It is an instructional model that (1) is a common sense way of looking at subjects, (2) approaches the study of subjects in a way that naturally fits with how we learn, and (3) tailors curriculum content to a child’s cognitive development.
Other Elements of Classical Christian Education
With the Trivium as its framework, classical Christian education is also characterized by rich exposure to the history, literature and culture of Western Civilization. Students are immersed in the “Great Books” of our Christian tradition and Western cultural heritage. In the Logic and Rhetoric phase students read fewer “textbooks” and more original source documents and literary works, especially in history and literature. The languages of Western Civilization, especially Latin, are at the core of their academic studies. The development of a thoroughly Biblical worldview is an underlying aim of every lesson and class.
The Trivium is a tried and tested approach to learning. It is not another educational fad that is here today and gone tomorrow. It is a proven approach to learning that in many ways is none other than the progression of knowledge (grammar), understanding (logic), and wisdom (rhetoric) found throughout the Scriptures (especially Proverbs), but here applied to academics. The Classical method will equip our children with the necessary tools to master whatever subject they encounter in life, and more importantly, to tackle the great issues of life to the glory of God.