What is Classical Method?
One of the oldest forms of teaching and many times is confused with tradition or Charlotte Mason methods. Classical education is like looking back in time to many beautiful artworks, music and great books. Classical education is based on liberal arts which includes natural sciences, classical literature, the fine arts and evolution of history. This method teaches children through the 3 stages - ‘The Trivium’ (the verbal arts of the trivium) through concrete, analytical and abstract thinking so children learn to think and make their own conclusions. The use of classical literacy is used to supply context to the child. History is used to provide this context to the child to learn from the past. Using classical texts from ancient times such Herodotus, Aristotle, Alexander the Great etc. The use of biographies can show context of how person behave or how philosophies, principles and concepts were to come about.
The first stage is Grammar (K-4) is where a child accumulates facts and knowledge to lay a foundation for the coming stages. As a child’s mind is ready to absorb information, facts and knowledge through memorisation through repetition, song and chants. This is the period where language skills, reading and composition of writing are important to acquire a large vocabulary list. They need to understand or memorise as many concepts or facts as possible to be able to express understanding in complex ideas and thoughts. Learning a vast amount from all subject areas; language arts, mathematics, history, sciences, literature, spelling rules, grammar, poems and any others. Latin and Greek study is to reinforce the workings of language as well for the child to be able to read untranslated classical readings.
Second stage is Logic (5-8), the process of correct reasoning. This is where the child begins to question ideas and authority, they enjoy a good argument/debate. Using formal and informal studies allows a child to practice these skills in analytically examining and analysing the argument. This lets the child to grasp the information by making connections between facts/ideas, the truth and what is false.
The third stage Rhetoric (9-12) is where the child has already learnt the skills to have concepts (first stage) and to be able to logically criticise their own work (second stage), they will now learn how to persuade others of their own ideas. They move to the third stage where a child can learn to persuade others with facts and ideas through written or speech. They learn to put their ideas into their own works. They also start looking for whatever interests them as this the time they start to look at courses, travel, apprenticeships and other forms of higher education that interests them.
Secondary Education – the quadrivium
Classical the quadrivium or “four ways” consists of arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy (sometimes architecture is taught as well). Today in classical education subjects are called history, nature science, accounting and business, fine arts, military strategy and tactics, engineering, astronomy and architecture. These are taught through historical study and in each trivium stage. So, a child will visit each of these concepts three times through their schooling to give a scaffolding learning. In grammar the child will first learn the concept, terms and skills in the order of development. Then in logic how these elements can be collected, then finally in rhetoric how to yield good, humanly useful and beautiful objects that satisfy the grammar and logic stages. History is the main underlining framework as everything has happened in history so the child can see through the past. The use of classical works and biographies form the main part of the child’s learning. Socratic method is considered the best technique for teaching critical thinking and requires discussion and analyses in order for the child to gain these critical thinking critical skills. The educator’s roles are to ask leading questions and adjudicate the discussion and give facts but never a conclusion. The learning is most effective when children come to their own conclusions even if an argument is strong in debate. Thes discussions and debates can cement the learning as the child has had to use their critical thinking and thoughts to come to these conclusions.