The Classical Learning Approach

There are several different learning approaches for teaching your children to be productive, educated learners. Today we’re going to discuss the Classical Learning Approach.

The Classical Learning Approach to education has produced great minds throughout history. The majority of America’s founding fathers received a classical education. A modern proponent of this approach was British author and medieval scholar, Dorothy Sayers. In the 1930s, Sayers warned that schools were not teaching children how to think, but were teaching them everything else. She believed if young adults could no longer think for themselves, they could easily be influenced by tyrants.

The Classical Learning Approach to education will give your child a rigorously academic and comprehensive education from preschool through high school. The classical pattern of education is based on the Trivium which organizes learning around the maturing capacity of the child’s mind.

The Trivium has three parts and each part corresponds to a developmental stage of childhood. The Grammar Stage covers early elementary and focuses on reading, writing and spelling, the study of Latin and developing the skills of observation, listening and memorization. The goal of the Grammar Stage is to develop a framework of knowledge by acquiring basic language arts and math skills.

The Dialectic Stage covers the middle school ages. The goal of this stage is to equip the child with language and thinking skills capable of detecting fallacies in an argument. This stage involves Latin study along with the possible addition of Greek and Hebrew. Course work includes the reading of essays, arguments and criticisms instead of literature. History deals with learning how to interpret events. Additional studies include higher math and theology.

The third phase of the Trivium, the Rhetoric Stage, attempts to develop a student who can use eloquent and persuasive language, both written and spoken. Children are ready for the rhetoric stage by age 15.

There are several questions to ask yourself before using the classical learning approach with your child:

1. Does my family enjoy reading good literature?
2. Do my children enjoy a rigorous academic program?
3. Am I willing to spend time studying so I can teach them things I never studied?
4. Does my family like to study and discuss ideas that have influenced civilizations?

What are the strengths of the classical approach?

• Tailored to the mental development stages
• Teaches thinking, verbal and writing skills
• Can develop self-learners
• Used to produce great minds throughout history

What are the weaknesses of the classical approach?

• Requires significant amounts of teacher preparation
• Teacher and student need to be academically inclined
• May have too much focus on the ancient disciplines and classics for some families

You’ll discover that every teaching approach has its strengths and weaknesses. The key is discovering which approach fits best with your family’s lifestyle and will help you and your family to stay focused and consistent.


The Lost Tools of Learning – Dorothy Sayers
Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education – Douglas Wilson
Repairing the Ruins: The Classical and Christian Challenge to Modern Education – Douglas Wilson
An Introduction to Classical Education – Christopher Perria
The Well-Trained Mind (Revised and Updated) – Susan Wise Bauer

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Reference: The Elijah Company Catalog

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