In 1947, Dorothy Sayers stepped up to a podium at Oxford University and gave a piercing critique of our modern educational system. She bemoaned the industrial complex that had turned education into a factory, teaching children in repetitive ways. Students were proficient at gaining knowledge, she explained, but could not think critically, solve complex problems, or master the art of learning. Sound familiar?
Sayers called for a return to the Classical Method of education which was born in ancient Greece and widely used during the Renaissance. The underlying theory is that children learn in stages – first through memorization, then through logic and reasoning, and then through persuasion and communication.
According to the Trivium, grades K through 6 (known as the Grammar Stage) are devoted to acquiring knowledge of facts such as dates, words, grammar rules, language structure, math tables, and scientific terms. Grades 7 to 8 (known as the Logic Stage) are focused on using the facts to develop logic, critical thinking and the construction of sound arguments. Grades 9-12 (known as the Rhetoric or Poetic Stage) are geared to developing communication, persuasion and writing skills. Classical schools today also incorporate geography, history, art, music, science, astronomy, philosophy and classical languages (Latin and Greek) into these stages.
While the Classical Method is miles apart from today’s public schooling environment, here are some ways to bring the best practices into your home.
- At the pre-school stage, recite rhymes, poems, chants and songs with your child to build their knowledge of letters, words, numbers, math facts, science facts and names of places.
- During the early reading years, introduce your young learner to classical texts like Aesop’s Fables and the Thornton Burgess nature stories. Encourage them to evolve over time to reading from Plato and Charles Dickens.
- As your child moves into the logic phase, encourage them to think before they talk. Have them become comfortable with thoughtful pauses during a conversation. Today, we encourage children to speak up loudly before they have even developed a coherent thought.
- Always encourage your child to connect topics such as math and nature, or grammar and history. Give them the example of a birdwatcher who designed the world’s fastest train based on the beak of a Kingfisher.
- Have an international outlook in your home and encourage your child to pick up a foreign language, whether classical or not.
Try out these lost tools of learning in your home. The essays in our reading comprehension, nature, geography and history worksheets provide you with hundreds of classically-derived activities. Check them out and send us your thoughts!