Monday, February 2, 2015

The Trivium - My Dumbed Down Version

Today was not one of those amazing homeschool days... well, it was not a particularly amazing any type of day, by any standard actually, from my perspective. Sick kids, less than 4 hrs of sleep, kids knocking over things & making giant messes... I was a wreck before 9am. Anyway, so that is why I am going to write about something totally unrelated! Hahaha! If I think about my day too much, while somewhat unstable, I'm sure whatever I write won't be reading-worthy.

So, the trivium! This is the basis of a Classical Education. Now, I am not going to go into a ton of detail, but I hope my basic rundown will pique your interest & cause you to look into it more.

Trivium means "the 3 roads," and these 3 roads are the pathway to learning. Well, they are actually 3 stages of learning - the grammar, dialectic & rhetoric stages. We'll take a quick look at each one & then I'll give you an example of what this looks like as a child & what these stages look like when learning something new.

Grammar - also known as the poll-parrot stage. This consists of lots of repetition and recitation. Kids are in this stage from about age 4-9 or 10. During this stage, you want to focus on teaching them the basic foundations in all the different subjects. Memorizing math facts, memorizing grammar rules, memorizing basic science laws, learning historical events & gaining a basic grasp on the order of  their events. All of these things are easy for little kids - they love to memorize, and their brains are made to store all this information well!

Dialectic - this stage is full of what's & why's. My kids aren't here yet, but I hear that this can be an incredibly fun & frustrating stage. Children's brains during this stage (ages 11-14-ish) are beginning to connect dots. They are primed for learning how things work & why things work. So, you can expect lots of questions! Now, if your kids have gone through the first stage of the trivium, they are in a great position for this stage - they know all the facts they need to really start to understand all the why's.

Rhetoric - this stage is where they learn how to use the facts, the knowledge of why & how, to effectively persuade others towards the truth. Rhetoric is not "just talk" but it is persuasion aimed towards the truth. And around ages 14-18, especially when armed with years of classical education, teens are in a great position to effectively use all that information, stored effectively, to learn the art of persuasion. They can read great literature and understand the historical contexts, because they memorized & learned about the time those people lived in. They can make great strides in science because they already have the facts stored away in their brains - no need to spend countless nights crying over not undstanding atoms, trying to memorize the table of elements or Newton's laws... the information was stored efficiently & is now easily accessible. This is also a stage where they like to argue, and it's great practice for them! So don't hate on it, let them argue & do your best to keep up ;)

Now, I'm not going to spend time arguing why this is such a great way to learn, possibly the best, but I will give an example to show how this is how we all learn new things best. My example - CrossFit!

When you first start CrossFit, you learn the basics - names of different moves, the general structure of workouts, where a all the equipment you need is stored, etc. As you progress, you start to learn more of the why's. How do I do a snatch? Why do I need to lift heavy weights for only a few reps sometimes & a lighter weight with higher reps at other times? Why do we need to keep our elbows near our sides when we do push-ups? Later, you gain a burning desire to build your own workout that will be effective. You need to have all the earlier information to do that. Do you see it? The trivium is the natual process by which we learn new skills. Try thinking about a new hobby you undertook, or of a new skill you are learning... write out the things you've learned & see if you can find the pattern.

For me, seeing that the way kids learn best is the same way I learn a new skill, is what sealed the deal with teaching my kids using a classical method. This doesn't mean I don't ever tell my 6 year old why something works a certain way, it just means I focus on making sure he is spending his efforts memorizing the facts of life, science, history & math that will serve him so well later in his education.

Well, my brain is about tapped out, so I better wrap this up. I hope this was a simple, easy to grasp synopsis on the trivium. Obviously, I am no professional, but maybe someday I will be! And now you  know just where to start on your journey if you want to become one too.

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