Understanding a fundamental concept of CCE

As a classical Christian school, Rochester Classical Academy (RCA) will have many features that distinguish it from other educational offerings. One of these features—the Trivium—forms the structure of the entire Classical Christian Education (CCE) experience. The Trivium is the division of the K-12 years into three distinct stages: Grammar, Dialectic (also known as Logic), and Rhetoric. Each stage has particular features that are emphasized above but not to the exclusion of features found in the other stages.

The Trivium is based on the recognition that God has built us all in a particular way with phases of development that are an essential part of what it means to be human. Therefore, an educational model that puts God at the center should respect and embrace His design for humanity.

Each successive stage of the Trivium builds on the last with the goal of forming students who are well-equipped to take on any body of knowledge and build the kingdom in their families, their communities, and their professions.

Grammar: The Art of Memorizing

Kindergarten through 5th grade

During the Grammar years, students have a high capacity and enjoyment of repetition and memory work. Therefore, the Grammar stage within CCE schools is marked by an emphasis on memorizing the basic facts of every subject. RCA will use songs, chants, and rhymes to aid this memory work. Some examples include:

  • Arithmetic (multiplication tables, arithmetic rules, counting by intervals)
  • Science (categories of plants/animals, species, periodic table of the elements)
  • Geography (bodies of water, mountain ranges, continents, countries, states, capitals)
  • Astronomy (names and types of planets and their moons, constellations)
  • History (names of rulers and their years, wars, major world events, American founding documents)
  • Bible/theology (scripture memorization, names of Bible books, key figures, catechism)
  • Language (parts of speech and their uses, Latin declensions)
  • Music (hymns/patriotic songs/nursery rhymes, notated music terms, instruments, styles and style periods, composers)

Dialectic: The Art of Thinking

6th through 8th grades

The Dialectic (or Logic) years are marked by an increased interest in taking the basic facts of what students have learned and understanding their relationships to each other. Students’ tendency toward debate during this time is channeled into crafting coherent and sound arguments in both written and spoken communication, especially through the introduction of formal logic as a subject. The study of logic then acts as a bridge between the study of language and the study of math, philosophy, and science, and teachers encourage the use of dialogue and debate in every subject. Other examples of the Dialectic stage approach include the development and testing of scientific hypotheses, the introduction of algebra and trigonometry in mathematics, and music theory.

Rhetoric: The Art of Communicating

9th through 12th grades

The capstone of the Grammar and Dialectic stages is the Rhetoric stage, which is the practice and refinement of communicating well in all fields of study. After studying the basic facts of each subject (Grammar) and learning how to arrange those facts into well-reasoned arguments (Dialectic), each student must develop the skill of communicating those arguments to others in a compelling and winsome manner.

This stage in students’ lives tends to be marked by an increased concern with what others think of them and a desire to express themselves. The Classical Christian approach acknowledges this by helping students develop their minds and articulate their thoughts to others. Having been well-equipped with the tools of grammar and logic, and trained in the art of rhetoric, students who finish our course of study will be prepared to present their scientific findings, research, art, writing, musical compositions, and faith convictions in an engaging and persuasive manner.

One way that RCA will highlight the completion of the Trivium stages is by requiring a written thesis and oral defense of every senior, work that is on par with what is done by college graduates. To do so, however, will not be an unbearable burden on the students because the work will be the natural outcome of the Trivium process. RCA believes that no matter what changes take place in our culture and the job market, clear thinking and convincing communication are timeless and invaluable skills for all.

Cutting with the Grain

To teach within the Trivium framework is to cut with the grain of each student and not frustrate the design God has placed in each of us. Within the Trivium structure, the other distinctive elements of CCE can take their proper place, leading to greater realization of each student’s God-given potential.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Although Rochester Classical Academy is just starting out, it will be part of a much older and broader movement of reclaiming true education in the name of Christ. Below are links to other schools’ definitions of the Trivium. Our hope is that by reading some or all of them, you can see that RCA is not looking to invent something new for Rochester, but rather tapping into a tradition of centuries-tested richness and proven success. 

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