100.03 – Educational Philosophy Review – The Classical Approach
This week we are looking at the Classical Approach to Homeschooling.
The classical approach is based on the theory that there are three stages to learning (known as the Trivium):
- The Grammar Stage (ages 6-10) – mastery and memorization of facts.
- The Dialectic Stage (ages 10-14) – study of logic – taking the facts and discussing, analyzing, interpreting and debating them.
- The Rhetoric Stage (ages 14+) – use of language – taking the facts and analysis and developing the use of oral and written language to express ideas.
The Classical approach is, at its heart, a method, not a curriculum, but in homeschooling circles it has come to be more. Generally Classical homeschool curriculum emphasizes Latin, logic, and classic works of literature and writings. It tends to be rigorous and very structured.
- Good for the college bound academic type of student.
- Good for families who like structure and a rigorous approach to education.
- Good for those who are interested in ancient literature and Latin.
- Not good for those who don’t enjoy memorization or recitation.
- Can be overwhelming to implement “properly” (according to the way most people see classical education).
- May not be good for families who desire a more relaxed approach.
- May not be good for special needs children or any child who struggles with learning, although the company Memoria Press has a program designed for special needs kids if you’re interested in trying it with a SN child.
- Those who love the Classical Approach generally feel very strongly that it is wonderful and will advocate for it strongly. This can cause some to feel pressured to conform, or to feel left out if they choose a different path for their families.
- The idea of stages of learning is obviously a good one. We all know that young children learn differently than older children, and that a foundation of facts is necessary before deeper connections can be made and concepts can be digested, so the very basic thoughts of the stages are good for any homeschooler to consider as they begin to plan their approach.
- However, as you begin to consider your philosophy of education, you should know that deciding there is one right way to do things is always a dangerous path. You set yourself up for trouble if you think, “This is the way I will always homeschool.”
- Trying to follow a 100% Classical Approach might be overwhelming, but you can easily study a bit of Latin, read a bit of classic literature, and memorize some things without feeling like you must completely follow the Classical Approach.
- Remember, the curriculum you choose to use is a tool; the method you choose is a guide. The critical thing is your child. Adjust your tools and methods for the child and you can’t go wrong.
- The original source for Classical Education is Dorothy Sayers essay, The Lost Tools of Learning.
- A more modern and fully developed take on it (trust me, this is almost an encyclopedia) is Susan Wise Bauer’s book. The Well Trained Mind
- NOTE: Keep in mind that this is a resource. Even SWB doesn’t do everything she mentions in her book. Pick and choose what works for you and your family.
- There is also a book by Diane B. Lockman called Trivium Mastery: Classical Education From Birth to Tween: Homeschooling Handbook for Grades K-8 In this book she suggests that all three stages can be implemented at any age, so this is a different view worth checking out.
- Full Curriculum can be found at