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Classical Education

Learn why a Classical Education is the best education you can give your child or student.

What is a Classical Education?

Author and Historian Russell Kirk said that the purpose of education is:

“to teach human beings their true nature, their dignity and their rightful place in the scheme of things.”

A true education doesn’t turn you just into someone who is trained in one specific area, like accounting, but rather it teaches you how to become a wise and virtuous human being and, in the process, become better at whatever it is you learn as a skill. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that wisdom is “ordering things rightly.” If you pass this on to your children or students you will have given them the means to have the ‘Good Life,’ the ‘Examined Life.’

A Classical education imparts wisdom and virtue through the study of the liberal arts and humanities. The liberal arts are the fundamental intellectual skills used in every academic discipline and the humanities are the history and literature of Western civilization through which we learn, through precept and example, the ideas and values of our culture.

It is language-based training of the mind that uses a three-part process (stages) called the Trivium. These stages are (in chronological order): grammar, logic, rhetoric. Additionally there are four mathematical skills called the Quadrivium, which includes arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music. The end result is a student who can think for himself and who will want to become a life long learner.

Grammar Stage: The early years are spent in absorbing facts, laying the foundation for advanced study. Grammar is more than merely mechanics of language, and includes all the necessary building blocks for advanced learning. In grades K-4 the mind is ready to absorb information and children enjoy memorization. This stage focuses on the learning of facts: rules of phonics and spelling, rules of grammar, poems, the vocabulary of foreign languages, the stories of history and literature, descriptions of plants and animals and the human body, the facts of mathematics — etc. This develops the basic building blocks for the second stage.

Logic Stage: Beginning in 5th grade, students learn to think through arguments. The child’s mind begins to think more analytically. Students are less interested in finding out facts than in asking “Why?” Children begin to pay attention to cause and effect, to the relationships between different fields of knowledge, and to the way facts fit together in a logical framework.

During these years, the student begins algebra and the study of logic, and begins to apply logic to all academic subjects. The logic of writing, for example, includes paragraph construction and making a point; the logic of reading involves analysis of texts, not simple absorption of information; the logic of history requires that students find out why the Civil War was fought; the logic of science requires that the child learns the scientific method.

Rhetoric: This stage builds on the first two. The high school student learns to write and speak with impact and originality. The student applies logic and the information learned in earlier grades to express conclusions in clear language. Students begin to specialize in areas of knowledge that interest them: classical music, art, college courses, foreign travel, apprenticeships, and other forms of specialized training. In these years, they learn to express themselves.

A classical education is more than a pattern of learning. Learning is accomplished through words, written and spoken, rather than through images (pictures, videos, etc.).

Why the distinction?

Language-learning and image-learning require very different habits of thinking. Language requires the mind to work hard.  Reading requires the brain to translate symbols (words on the page) into concepts. Images, on the other hand, allow the mind to be passive. In front of a video screen, the brain can relax. The written page requires the mind to get to work.

A Classical Education is the education many of us have been denied. (But it’s not too late for your children!)

And Classical programs are popping up all over the United States, many of which can be done from the home.

Here is a link to one of the finest Classical Schools in America (http://www.sequiturbr.com/). Headmaster Brian Daigle is passionate about bringing back the Western Mind through his Sequitur Academy. See for yourself from the folks in the trenches. And if you are interested in an affordable, comprehensive, online, classical program go to Memoria Press at www.memoriapress.com.

Additionally, there is now an alternative to the college entrance Standard Achievement Test or SAT. It’s called the Classical Learning Test or CLT and is currently accepted in more than 50 colleges and universities. Learn more about how your child can prepare for this exam at: www.cltexam.com

Karen J.