What is the Trivium? This is the classical education curriculum, which is divided up into three distinct phases. The first phase, also known as the grammar stage, is the equivalent of grades 1 through 6. Children at this stage in life haven't fully matured in terms of brain development and cognitive thinking abilities, so the focus is on teaching them concrete facts. The important thing is just making sure they learn facts. Although some kids this young like to know the whys and hows of everything, their minds are really just equipped to absorb the whats.
You can of course explains whys and hows to your child, but the focus is elsewhere in the grammar stage. It's essential for children to learn the whats first, since it creates the foundation on which to build higher level thinking and a basis for philosophical questions such as the hows and whys. Children who are still in the grammar stage generally can't process this kind of advanced thinking. This is due to the fact that they don't have the skills to reason, or the background knowledge to process it.
This is what makes the first stage in the classical education curriculum so convenient. Although the grammar stage is grounded only in the facts, it creates a foundation for all other forms of learning to take place in the following stages. The next two phrases need this solid foundation in order to be successful. The second phase in the classical education curriculum is called the dialectic stage.
A child usually enters this phase anywhere between 5th and 7th grades. A child's mind at this stage develops noticeably, exhibiting cognitive skills that allow him or her to mature to analytical learning. When a child moves from stage to stage, the previous methods are not abandoned. The classical education curriculum is cumulative. Analytical though is simply added and developed side by side with concrete learning. The grammar stage focuses on delivering concrete information, the facts.
The dialect stage switches focus to the whys and hows. In this second stage, these questions become very important. It is in the second stage that the child is able to test the facts already learned to see if they really are true. The ability to determine the truth on their own is a critical step in developing reasoning skills. In a classical education curriculum, children understand the importance and need to question, examine, analyze, and judge while being respectful and honorable. An attitude of disrespect is not needed when asking questions.
When children in this phase start asking questions, teachers and parents can instill positive attitudes by not getting defensive. Setting a positive example helps children understand that you can indeed disagree and still be respectful about it. Classical education curriculum's final phase is the rhetoric stage, which typically begins in the 9th grade and ends in the 12th. The subjects most often covered include math, writing, science, oratory, philosophy, language, history, literature, and music.
This is the stage where all the phases are woven together and put into practice.
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