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What is the Trivium?

Classical Learner

In this continuing blog series, we are examining Classical education and the way in which we implement it to educate students at Hill Country Christian School. Classical education occurs in three distinct developmental stages known as the Trivium.

Stages of the Trivium

The Grammar Stage

The first years of schooling are the Grammar Stage, not because students spend the entire time studying English, but because these are the years in which the building blocks for all learning are laid. In the Grammar Stage, students enjoy memorizing and naturally absorb information. Therefore, during this period, education involves not just self-expression and self-discovery, but also the learning of facts. Hill Country students learn rules of phonics, spelling, and grammar; poems; the vocabulary of foreign languages; the stories of history and literature; descriptions of plants, animals, and the human body; the facts of mathematics—the list goes on. These tools prepare a student for the second phase of Classical education, the Logic Stage.

The Logic Stage

The second phase of the Classical education, the Logic Stage, is a period when a student begins to pay attention to cause and effect, the relationships between different fields of knowledge, and the way facts fit together into a logical framework. By middle school, a child begins to think more analytically. Middle school students are less interested in discovering facts and more interested in asking, “Why?” During these years, the student begins to apply Logic to all academic subjects. The Logic of writing, for example, includes paragraph construction and learning to support a thesis. The Logic of reading involves the criticism and analysis of texts, not simple absorption of information. The Logic of history demands that the student find out why the War of 1812 was fought rather than simply reading about the events. The Logic of science requires that the child learn the scientific method. These tools, combined with the tools learned in the Grammar Stage, prepare a student for the final phase of Classical education, the Rhetoric Stage.

The Rhetoric Stage

The final phase of a Classical education, the Rhetoric Stage, builds upon the first two stages. Students have acquired the knowledge and skills necessary to arrange facts into arguments. At this point, the high school student learns to write and speak with force and originality. The student of Rhetoric applies the rules of Logic learned in middle school to the foundational information learned in the early grades and expresses conclusions in clear, forceful, and elegant language. Students research important themes and present these concepts in papers and speeches. They finish Hill Country well-prepared to become life-long learners who influence the world for Christ.

Parents interested in learning more about the Classical methodology of education are encouraged to read Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning by Robert Littlejohn and Charles T. Evans.

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