What's This "Trivium" All About?
Classical education centers around the trivium. "Trivium" refers to the tripartite division for the cognitive development of children. In the classical tradition, it is divided into:
- Grammar stage - or the memorization of facts and mastering of academic abilities,
- Logic stage - the organization of facts, and
- Rhetoric stage - the expression of facts and opinions
Practitioners of the classical method of homeschooling believe that these three stages of academic development correspond to a child's cognitive development. Thus, in first through fourth grade equivalents, the focus for the student is on the mastery of basic skills in reading, writing, and math. The grammar stage student will do copywork and dictation for writing to perfect his or her skills, narrate back (and write down) summaries of reading material, and learn the basics of arithmetic. He or she will encounter scientific data and historical dates and people for the first time, and will focus on memorizing lists, dates, and documents.
The logic stage student, roughly 5th through 8th grade, will once again go through the annals of history and the classics of literature, grouped into specific date ranges. He or she will also perform experiments, encounter Latin, and learn logic for the first time. The focus of the logic stage is on the organization of information. Thus, common activities during this stage include creating timelines, performing experiments according to the scientific method, and learn about syllogisms (if a then b; if b then c; therefore, if a then c).
The rhetoric stage student, equivalent to American high school grades 9 through 12, has learned the basics. He or she has been through literary classics twice, albeit often at the appropriate reading level; has covered world history from Biblical times until present; and has covered biology, astronomy and earth science, chemistry, and physics twice before. At this stage, the focus is on expression. He or she will write reports based upon primary source material, often arguing a point of view associated with that source. At this stage, the focus shifts from the study of logic and how facts fit together to the study of rhetoric and artful debate.