Classical Education: The Trivium by Susan Wise Bauer

Last week we had a look at a really interesting introductory video by Martin Cothran.

The following day I had a mind to tease out some of the points of the video and synthesise it somewhat with a more Catholic emphasis.

One leading author in the Classical Education field is Susan Wise Bauer who I mentioned in last week’s post.

Susan has written several books on Classical education which are very good.

She also has a series of books written on history which I would employ with more caution as she comes to it, in places, from a more protestant leaning.

No matter, her explanation of the trivium is worth repeating here to add to what we have already said on this matter….

The grammar stage is a time to build basic skills in language arts (reading skills, writing skills, grammar, spelling) and arithmetic.

In the content areas history, science, literature, foreign languages, art and music your goal is familiarity and enjoyment, not complete mastery.

During the logic stage, you are aiming for initial mastery that is, the child should be developing a sense of the “big picture,” or how different concepts and events link together in a larger pattern.

And during the rhetoric stage, your goal is to teach the student how to think through ideas and express his or her own opinion about them.

Until a student is familiar with history and enjoys it, he can’t move on to the logic stage of critical reflection on how familiar historical events might fit together.

And until he has a grasp of the relationship between historical events and historical cultures, he can’t form an opinion on (for example) Josephus’s record of the wars between the Romans and the Jews, or Plato’s theories about the beautiful and the ideal.

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