Classical Education, What is It?
Classical education is like a very large museum with many beautiful, wonder-filled rooms that could be studied over a lifetime. It is a long tradition of education that has emphasized the seeking after of truth, goodness, and beauty and the study of the liberal arts and the great books. What are the liberal arts? They are grammar, logic, rhetoric (the verbal arts of the trivium), arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy (the mathematical arts of the quadrivium). This approach to education also includes the study of Latin. (You can read more about the study of Latin in Why Latin?) The classical approach teaches students how to learn and how to think.
What makes classical education so effective? It is largely because of its approach to how and when students are taught. Regardless of their learning style, children learn in three phases or stages (grammar, logic or dialectic, and rhetoric), known as the trivium. In the grammar stage (K–6), students are naturally adept at memorizing through songs, chants, and rhymes. If you can get children in this stage to sing or chant something, they will remember it for a lifetime. In the dialectic or logic stage (grades 7–9), teenaged students are naturally more argumentative and begin to question authority and facts. They want to know the “why” of something—the logic behind it. During this stage, students learn reasoning, informal and formal logic, and how to argue with wisdom and eloquence. The rhetoric stage (grades 10–12) is naturally when students become independent thinkers and communicators. They study and practice rhetoric, which is the art of persuasive speaking and effective writing that pleases and delights the listener. Again, it is this approach to teaching students based on their developmental stage that makes this approach so very effective.