A Classical Education Through Each Stage of the Trivium

Classically homeschooling my children has always been an easy choice for me and the one that made the most logical sense. A classical education is taught in three stages that are based on the development of a child’s thinking process, allowing us to teach them information as they can absorb it. These stages are also called the Trivium.

A Classical Education Through Each Stage of the Trivium

What are the stages of a Classical Education?

The three stages, the Trivium, of a Classical Education are the Grammar stage, the Logic or Dialectic stage and the Rhetoric stage.

Grammar Stageages 4 – 11 or grades K – 4 / 5. At this stage, a child’s brain is like a sponge, they can soak in information and repeat it back even if they don’t understand it. They enjoy memorizing and take pride in accomplishing it. This is the time to give them lots of facts to memorize. Use this time to play games, explore and enjoy their natural curiosity.

Logic or Dialectic Stageages 11 – 14 or grades 4 / 5 – 8. Somewhere around age 10 or 11 you start to notice that your sweet child has become Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. They want to argue about EVERYTHING! This argumentative child has reached the next stage in the Trivium and suddenly knows everything there is to know. You can now thank your lucky stars that you no longer have to teach them. You are done homeschooling. But should you choose to continue, as I know you will, and get past the “I know everything” concept, you will have a child that is curious, that questions everything, and one you can have lots of discussions and dialogue with. This is the time to cultivate a desire for learning that will last a lifetime.

Rhetoric Stageages 14 – 18 or grade 9 – 12. The final stage in the Trivium is when a child matures, applies logic, critical thinking and reasoning to everyday topics and discussions. They can have more in-depth conversations about real-world events. The rhetoric child can express their opinions based on logic and reasoning backed by their research. They can debate. They can make valid arguments. In the blink of an eye, your child has become a mature person that you enjoy conversing with.

The goal of each stage(grammar) absorb, (logic) understand, (rhetoric) apply – gets them to the ultimate goal of a classical education……being lifelong learners. Using a classical curriculum teaches them to analyze and apply critical thinking, form their own opinions and worldviews and to see the beauty in God’s design.

  • Memory Work is the basis for the other stages as it prepares the child with facts needed in later grades. When they have memorized math facts and grammar terms, then start Algebra and Composition in high school, there is no need to constantly go back to a reference sheet because he can’t remember the difference between an adverb and adjective. Algebra lessons move quicker because he can mentally recall math facts.
  • The Great Books are used for an integrated history and literature approach, with Socratic Discussion and summaries. This approach has your child reading fewer books, completing fewer subjects but doing a more in-depth study.
  • History is studied on a 4-year cycle, with science and geography integrating with history. By high school, your child should have cycled through history twice.
  • Science is studied in the grammar stage as exploration and discovery. In the logic stage, as research and documentation. I prefer not to use texts for science but there are some great classical science curriculum you can use.

Classical Curriculum in each Stage of a Classical Education

I have graduated two of my children now in the 10+ years I have homeschooled using the Classical Education method. I have three left, grades 11, 5 and 3, so one in each stage of the Trivium. Having graduated two with this method, I am more certain now than ever that I am on the right path. Classical Education can be rigorous, but it is worthwhile.  This is the breakdown of what I have done through each stage with my children and what has worked for us.

Grammar Stage Curriculum Choices – from K – 2 my goal is to focus on the 3 R’s – reading, writing, and arithmetic. Without these three basic skills, nothing else will matter. So that includes Phonics, Handwriting, Math and I add in read alouds that go along with the history, science & geography we are studying. We learn more about science and history through hands-on exploration and projects. Science is mostly experimenting and nature exploring. And memory work is done with games.

Starting at 3rd grade, I add writing, spelling, cursive and oral narrations to go with the read alouds. In 4th grade, we should be finished with handwriting and phonics and able to move to dictation, copywork and written narrations from our reading. I also add a curriculum that incorporates history and geography, such as, A Child’s Geography or Biblioplan “Remember the Days”. At this stage, we will read and create a timeline, and continue with science explorations & experiments.

Memory work is continued throughout the grammar stage with games and creative learning.

Logic Stage Curriculum Choices – from 5 – 8 my goal in this stage is to get my child focused on learning, becoming independent and directing their curiosity and interests into the things they find enjoyable. From 5th to 7th they are focused on writing, math, dictation, copywork, reading and writing longer narrations. History is continued with creating timelines and mapwork. Science moves to researching topics and scientists, documenting their findings with lab reports and sketches, we explore the scientific method further and do experiments. I add in formal grammar with diagramming, Informal logic such as The Fallacy Detective, Art of Argument, or Critical Thinking Books, and we start Latin. In 7th and 8th grade, we complete our grammar and writing curriculum. Dictation is continued, reading The Great Books with discussions and chapter outlines is started. Logic and Latin is continued, history is now studied through the Great Books.

Rhetoric Stage Curriculum Choices – 9th – 12th my goal in this stage is for my child to apply critical thinking, logic and reasoning in both written and oral form.  If I have done my job well in the previous two stages, then he should be well prepared for the Rhetoric Stage. By 9th grade, we are done studying grammar and writing and will move on to Literature and Composition study. If you use a good, strong writing and grammar curriculum, in most cases, your child will only need 3 – 4 years of instruction. I also stop dictation and copywork. Latin will continue, Formal Logic replaces informal logic. The study of the Great Books will encompass History, Literature, and Composition. He reads, annotates, make chapter outlines and summaries, writes different types of essays applying the writing methods learned. He will also create timelines and maps. We start Socratic Discussions as well. In this stage, we use Apologia Science curriculum and try to do a science research project each year, but it really depends on his workload. In 11th and 12th grade, we study Philosophy and Theology and complete a Senior Thesis in his last year. For each high school year, this is typically when I cover each subject:

  • 9th Grade: American Literature / American Government & Economics / Algebra 1 / Physical Science or Astronomy
  • 10th Grade: British Literature / World Geography & Cultures w/World Religions / Geometry & or Algebra 2 / Biology
  • 11th Grade: World Literature / World History / Algebra 2 or Pre-Calculus / Chemistry
  • 12th Grade: Ancient Literature or Shakespeare & Poetry / Personal Finance, Pre-Calculus or Calculus / Pursue Interest-led fields

In addition to the curriculum choices I mentioned above, we have Bible study each day. We have Bible lessons as a family and individual devotions and quiet time bible study. I also incorporate art, music, and electives into their day as I can to make a well-rounded curriculum study. These subjects are not all studied every day. Most are rotated throughout the week, with the core subjects like math, reading, writing studied each day. Ultimately, I want my kids to be able to communicate and stand on their own in the world and I feel like a classical education achieves that. 


About the author

I have been a homeschooling mom to 4 boys for over 10 years. I enjoy sharing our experiences on this journey. I have a passion for history and geography and love creating products and recommending resources for other homeschool families.

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