What Is Classical Education?


— by Rev. William C. Heine—

Classical education builds on a pattern of learning that is innate in every human being. The technical name for teaching according to this pattern is called the Trivium, which consists of three phases called the grammar phase, the logic or dialectic phase, and the rhetoric phase.  Described from the learner’s standpoint these phases can be called the curiosity stage (grammar), the analytical stage (logic), and the expressive stage (rhetoric).

GRAMMAR—In the first stage (grades K-3), when children are most curious, the classical teacher uses songs, poetry, and repetition to fill the students heads with the words and facts necessary to learn about various subjects. (Grammar means more than just the study of nouns and verbs, it refers to the vocabulary and information relative to any given subject, such as numbers and symbols for arithmetic or maps and legends for geography.)

LOGIC—In the analytical stage (grades 4-6), children want more than “just the facts, Ma’am.” They also want to understand the reasons why subjects are formulated as they are, so the classical teacher will not only teach a subject’s information but also the logical reasoning which under girds that information. (This is why the classical curriculum includes the teaching of formal logic in the upper elementary grades.)

RHETORIC—The expressive stage (grades 7-8) does not refer to the babbling of babies or the chattering of little children. It refers to the reasoned and logical articulation of ideas which are original to the student. In other words, the goal of a classical education is that children will not only know and understand their subjects well, but they will also be able to explain their knowledge, defend their understanding of that knowledge, and use their knowledge to think creatively about whatever interests them.

For now, Martin Luther Grammar School deals primarily with the curiosity stage of learning which uses the grammar approach to teaching and the analytical stage which uses the dialectic (question and answer) approach to teaching. If you have an opportunity to observe in the classroom at Martin Luther Grammar School, you will notice a method of instruction that actively involves students in learning the material (as opposed to a passive methodology like lecturing or observing).

As the year progresses, the children will not only be able to perform basic skills, but, more importantly, the children will be able to recall vast amounts of information from memory as though it were second nature to them. In the upper grades they will be able to explain the ideas that under gird their knowledge. By years end, I promise that you will be amazed at their knowledge (perhaps even surpassing your own in some areas).

If you want to know more about classical education and the methods and curriculum that can insure your child’s success, please contact Pastor Paul Cain, MLGS Headmaster.