Classical Education Basics

Truth, Goodness, and Beauty: Classical Education Basics

At its core, Christian classical education can be simplified to the following:

  • The Aim: To cultivate wisdom and virtue so that the love of God may abound more and more.
  • The Method: To show the interconnectedness of all knowledge through the contemplation of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.
  • The Tools: The Trivium, classical books, art and music, integrated curriculum, and idea-focused instruction.

At Austin Classical School, we believe that “education is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue, and since wisdom and virtue are cultivated when a soul is nourished on truth, goodness, and beauty, we must teach our children truth, goodness, and beauty.”[1] Classical education involves introducing the mind to the “great ideas” through the “great books” in order that students can effectively join the “great conversation” of the ages. In order to help our students join in this conversation, ACS will employ the Trivium.

In brief, the Trivium is comprised of 3 stages: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.

  • The Grammar stage (grades K-6) is focused on laying foundational knowledge in all areas of study. Teachers employ developmentally appropriate methods such as memorization, recitation, and songs with grammar students.
  • The Logic stage (grades 7-8) takes the foundational knowledge gained in the Grammar stage and expounds on it. Students in this phase are naturally argumentative and are beginning to ask difficult questions about their world.  Analysis and critical reasoning are the chief mental acts of this stage. Developmentally, logic students learn best through debate and discussion.
  • The Rhetoric stage (grades 9-12) is the culmination of the Trivium. The student of rhetoric takes the foundational knowledge gained in grammar school, the analytical skills of the logic stage and begins producing and defending his/her own ideas. Thesis defense and eloquent written and oral communication are the hallmarks of the rhetoric stage.

Apart from obvious differences in curriculum and instruction, classical education differs fundamentally from traditional education in its focus on the interrelation of all knowledge. While traditional education teaches math, English, and history as isolated “subjects,” classical education seeks to show the interrelation of all knowledge. Math relates to science which relates to logic. Literature relates to history which relates to art and music. Christian classicists take the connection further by pursuing the interrelatedness of all knowledge under the sovereignty of God through theology.

Classical education seeks to stir the heart and the intellect to invite curiosity and ignite a passion for learning. It is less about training for a specific, temporal vocation and more about learning to think and live with an eternal purpose.

Recommended Readings

Austin Classical School encourages you to read the following works to gain a deeper understanding of and appreciation for classical, Christian education. Please note that although these works as a whole have influenced our philosophy, we do not hold to every element of the authors’ ideas in the core values or practices of Austin Classical.

  • An Introduction to Classical Education – Christopher A. Perrin
  • “The Lost Tools of Learning – Dorothy Sayers
  • “Education is…” Sonya Shafer
  • The Well-Trained Mind – Susan Wise Bauer
  • Wisdom and Eloquence – Robert Littlejohn & Charles T. Evans
  • Kingdom Education – Glen Schultz
  • Classical and Christian Education: Recapturing the Educational Approach of the Past – Gregg Strawbridge
  • The Case for Classical Christian Education – Douglas Wilson 

[1] Circe Institute Website