At the core of Classical Education is the trivium, a teaching method which tailors the curriculum to the child’s cognitive developmental stage. There are three basic developmental stages that students go through from childhood to maturity. At each stage of the Trivium, the student's natural inclination to pursue knowledge is celebrated and guided in appropriate and highly effective ways. This methodology is not new, but is one that has enjoyed a long existence, only beginning to disappear with the advent of novel approaches to education in the late 19th century.
The Trivium includes three stages:
During the Grammar stage (essentially K-5), students learn the fundamentals of disciplines (parts of speech, multiplication tables, famous battles, state capitals, etc.) in order to build a framework of knowledge on which later information can be hung. Questions of who, what, where, and when are the focus.
The Logic/Dialectic stage (essentially the junior high years) brings the fundamentals of disciplines into ordered relationships. The goal is to equip students with the thinking skills necessary to recognize sound arguments and ideas and to detect and correct fallacious ones. This stage addresses the questions of how and why.
The function of the Rhetoric stage (the high school years) is to produce students who can use language, both written and spoken, to express their thoughts eloquently and persuasively.
The goal of the Trivium is not primarily to educate students in what to think, but in how to think –thoroughly, maturely, and biblically –toward a Christian moral end.