Classical Christian education has received significant attention and seen exponential growth in the past quarter century by proposing not a new pedagogy and curriculum, but rather an old one. At the heart of classical Christian education is a return to the seven liberal arts, an emphasis on ancient and medieval sources, and pedagogical methods that take into account the frame of the student in each stage of the Trivium. The seven liberal arts are more commonly broken into two categories: the Trivium—consisting of grammar, logic, and rhetoric—and the Quadrivium—consisting of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. One might even call the Trivium the liberal arts of language and the Quadrivium the liberal arts of numbers. In the middle of the twentieth century, Dorothy Sayers boldly suggested that the three stages of the Trivium were closely related to three “frames” of student learning. The poll-parrot stage likes memorization and facts about the world, which she identified closely with Grammar. The pert stage was then a shift to a time when children like to dispute and begin questioning why things are the way they are. She linked this stage with the Dialectic/Logic component of the Trivium. Finally, the poetic stage is when children begin to express themselves and learn how to say better what they want to say, a stage that Sayers links appropriately with Rhetoric. This novel approach has been immensely helpful in jump-starting the classical Christian movement. But despite thousands of Christians flocking to classical Christian schools and classical homeschooling curriculum, widespread misunderstanding or ignorance as to the what, how, and why of the movement persists.
In these introductory articles we hope to answer the what, how, and why of classical Christian education in a brief manner that introduces parents, students, and new teachers to some of the basics of classical Christian education’s purpose, pedagogy, and product. Our hope is that this resource may be valuable to a wide audience, everywhere from parents exploring classical Christian education for their child to a reference guide used for new teacher training in a classical Christian school. As this is intended to be only a brief introduction, we have included suggested resources that go deeper into the topics discussed.
The entirety of Sayers’ article, “The Lost Tools of Learning,” can be found here.
See Recommended Resources Article for recommended primary and secondary source readings.