The Classical Approach

In 1947, Dorothy Sayers articulated the educational concept of the Trivium, an educational model that had been used for centuries. When Douglas Wilson helped found Logos School in Moscow, Idaho, during the 1980’s, he revived this framework to bring about the rebirth of classical education. Presently, over 230 classical schools are operating in the United States, most of which use the Trivium to set their foundational educational philosophy.

The Trivium is simply a means of describing the learning stages of children as they mature. Parents often recognize the stages through which their children pass as they mature. The Trivium focuses the educational method to best develop a knowledgeable, thinking, and articulate student. As the name implies, there are three stages represented in the Trivium: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.

Comparison of Educational Approaches

Classical Christian EducationModern Education
Christ-centered educationMan-centered education
Original documents basedTextbook based
Education for formationEducation for information
Development of critical thinking – “Why?”Development for correct procedures – “How?”
Emphasis on true, good, and beautifulEmphasis on politically correct
Integrated interdisciplinary learningFragmented and disjointed learning
Latin taught as a core requirementLatin taught as an elective
Appreciation of Western CivilizationCritique of Western Civilization
Humanities and fine arts emphasisTechno-rational emphasis
Requires the student to learn how to learnRequires the student to learn how to pass tests
Mastery as working to one’s fullest potentialMastery as measured by test grades
Lifelong love of learning as the ultimate goalGraduation as the ultimate goal
Truth is objective, knowable, and absoluteSelf-actualization, achieving personal peace and affluence
Parents as primary educatorsTeachers as primary educators

Grammar School (Grades Kindergarten-6th)

During the Grammar phase, children are particularly adept at memorization. Young children learn songs and rhymes, and recite facts with relative ease. Because young children are so eager to memorize that they will make up non-sensical playground rhymes, we challenge them by providing substantial subject matter for them to memorize.

Each subject has its own academic language. In science, children memorize facts about nature. In math, children memorize times tables. In Latin, teachers emphasize vocabulary. Throughout each year in Grammar School, classically educated children learn the factual foundation of each subject. We use songs, chants, and rhymes to help children enjoy the learning experience.

Grammar School includes teachers, students, and parents.  The teachers bring new material to the students with enthusiasm that reaches and inspires the hearts of children. An added factor at CPLS that is often not found in other places is the involvement of the parents.  On any day during the school year parents can be found in classrooms helping with projects, reading to the students,listening to memorized scripture or eating lunch with their children.  Without their extra hands, heads, eyes, ears, and time, many things would not be accomplished.

Logic School (Grades 7th-8th)

Middle school students enter as old children and exit as young adults. While they are with us, our teachers and coaches walk with them and guide them as they mature emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

Our academic goals for the School of Logic students include learning how to become self-learners, learning how to manage their schedules and demands, and learning how to think critically and logically.

Some might think Classical Education is attractive, but impractical. But is this true? The pinnacle of our Logic curriculum is the study of logic itself. Our Logic curriculum equips students to recognize errors in arguments, both their own and others’. It is a skill they take into the rest of their studies:

  • into science, where they develop and test hypotheses;
  • into mathematics, where they break down complicated problems into approachable equations;
  • into Latin, where they grasp the order and structure of language;
  • into literature, where they explore authors’ vision and narratives and develop their own coherent ideas;
  • into Bible, where they examine the wholeness and rationality of Scripture;
  • into history, where they examine the consequences of events and ideas;
  • and into the rest of their lives as well.

Nothing could be more practical.

Rhetoric School (Grades 9th-12th)

Rhetoric is the art of communicating eloquently. Once a student has obtained a knowledge of the facts (grammar) and developed the skills necessary to arrange those facts into arguments (logic), he must develop the skill of communicating those arguments to others (rhetoric). During the high school years, students become concerned with what others think of them. Classical education helps students develop their minds to think and articulate concepts to others. Writing papers, researching, and orating ideas are skills required in all subjects. CPLS adds polish to these skills to create a well-rounded student who can communicate effectively. We leverage these skills through the final requirement of the defense of a senior thesis.

What does this look like at Cair Paravel?

  • Our students work and rework themes written on subjects in the Humanities until both the form and substance of their thoughts are eloquent and persuasive.
  • Even in math and science courses, students learn to express their understanding of difficult concepts with words as well as through successful calculation and experiment.
  • In what has become a meaningful rite of passage, each senior, in public, presents and defends a researched thesis in our “Great Ideas” course before a panel of informed judges.
  • Our students examine the Western tradition of art, history, literature, theology and philosophy chronologically, recognizing the “Great Conversation” of the ages-and considering what it means to participate in it.
  • Our classes are rigorous, but not ‘hard just to be hard’: we cannot articulate more than we understand, and we cannot understand what we have not wrestled with: our world is a complex, challenging world–understanding it is unavoidably difficult.

Still have questions?

Check out "Four Myths about Classical Education"

Download the PDF