What is Classical Education?

Learning to learn for oneself is the goal of classical education. Developing the mind through a three stage process known as the trivium, the student will be able to use their analytical powers to master any subject. This does not mean the student no longer needs a teacher, but that the student is now able to make books their teacher without someone explaining the meaning of the books for them.

Classical education is built around the natural stages of human development. As the child's mental powers naturally develop the stages of training adjust accordingly. The three stages of the trivium take place in the early years through adolescence. At this point the student has now fully developed their skills in grammar, logic and rhetoric and is able to learn and master any subject. The student is now ready for the quadrivium which is associated with early adulthood or the college years. In this stage the student will specialize in specific subject areas. The student will then be ready to move on to carrying out the duties of their chosen profession in the apprenticeship phase. This phase would be associated with an internship or a junior associate in a given profession progressing toward becoming a master in the field.



The trivium is a three stage process which takes place during the period of development we commonly refer to as elementary school and high school. It follows an age appropriate path comprised of grammar, logic and rhetoric.

Grammar Normally associated with the elementary school years. This is the stage that the building blocks for all other learning is laid. The mechanics needed to carry out all the subsequent stages are acquired here. During this phase of a child’s mental development, the student is like a sponge capable of absorbing large amounts information and actually enjoy memorizing new facts. Naturally this is the time to fill the child’s head with the rules of language and mathematics with activities such as memorizing multiplication tables, phonics and spelling rules and the fundamentals of grammar and language. Traditionally this stage included studies of Latin and Greek to reinforce the student’s understanding of the mechanics of languages and grammar and also to be able to read the early Classics without translation.

Logic – Also known as the Dialectic stage is where the process of reason is honed and developed. Typically associated with the middle school or junior high school years. This is when the student naturally begins to ask questions, challenge authority and begins to make arguments based on the knowledge acquired in the grammar stage. It is best to make use of this time by challenging the student with formal logic, algebra and geometry proofs, paragraph and thesis construction, the scientific method and determining why a historical event occurred not just memorizing that fact that it occurred. The ultimate goal is for the student use analysis to determine why something is true or why something is false by looking at different facts and ideas and finding connections.

Rhetoric – Normally associated with the high school years. This stage is where the student begins to use the mechanical skills acquired in the grammar stage and the analytical skills acquired in the logic stage to criticize their own work, persuade others and defend against others. Sometimes called the poetic age, in this stage the student is traditionally exposed to a variety of poetry and prose to assist in developing their ability to not only construct logical arguments that are grammatically correct but also to articulate information in such ways that are aesthetically pleasing. At this point the student will have the necessary tools and discipline to be able to study and master any subject and to begin specializing in areas of interest. The student should now be fully equipped to learn for oneself.

Da Vinci Vitruvian man


After completing the three stages of the Trivium, the student is ready to move onto the Quadrivium. This stage is normally associated with post-secondary education and can take on a number of forms. The student specializes in particular areas of study in preparation for actual work in a given field. In the traditional classical sense, the quadrivium, meaning “four ways” consists of arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. The Dialectic Method and the Socratic Method are commonly used by classical educators in this stage.

Arithmetic - is number outside of space and time

Geometry - is number in space

Music - is number in time

Astronomy - is number in space and time



Normally associated with the post-graduate years.  After completing the quadrivium or other post-secondary education the student is ready for practical work in a given field or profession under a tutor. This phase would be associated with an internship or as a junior associate in a given profession progressing throughout one’s career to becoming a master in the field. The apprentice performs the normal business activities of the master, progressing until they develop the ability to perform them without supervision, eventually becoming a master themselves and performing the function of a tutor to an apprentice.