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Understand the Trivium

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 120 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.

Grammar – Grades K-6

During the Grammar phase, children are particularly adept at memorization. Young children learn songs, 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 grammar. 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.

Logic – Grades 7-8

The Logic phase involves ordering facts into organized statements and arguments. During the middle school years, children are beginning to think independently. They often develop a propensity for argument. Classical education teaches children in this phase to argue well. The study of formal logic helps students understand the fundamentals of a good argument. Practice in making written and oral arguments helps to further develop these skills. Teachers encourage the use of argumentation in each subject. Again, each subject has its own logic. In science, we use the development and testing of hypothesis. In math, we develop a student’s ability to logically orient numbers through the more abstract concepts of algebra and trigonometry.

Rhetoric – Grades 9-12

Rhetoric is the art of communicating well. 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. We add 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.

While each component has a primary focus during a particular phase, all skills are developed during all levels. A second grader will develop certain skills in logic and rhetoric. A high school student will still acquire extensive knowledge in specific subjects. Emphasis is simply placed on different phases during different ages.

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