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The Trivium, a Cornerstone of Classical Education

As you’ve probably noticed, Fortis is different from other schools – public and private – in many ways. We promote character, support values, teach leadership, and use classical literature in the classroom, but those ideas are secondary to the rigorous academic foundation we provide using the classical method. The classical method is truly what sets Fortis apart.

The classical method is a time-honored approach that has, for centuries, produced many of the world’s greatest leaders and thinkers. It emphasizes intellectual inquiry, written and oral communication, and high academic standards. At the heart of the classical method is a pattern of teaching and learning called the Trivium, which is Latin for “three roads.” The Trivium provides three roads to learning: grammar, logic and rhetoric.

The grammar stage is the early elementary years, and it provides students with the skills they need to comprehend facts. Students at this age are memorizing and mastering those early tools for learning such as reading and mathematical operations. Children in the grammar stage are naturally inclined to absorb these basic, core concepts, as well as everything in their surroundings. As a parent you’ve probably already witnessed how easily children at this age can remember songs, rhymes, and commercial brands. In the early elementary grades, we’re tapping that natural ability and channeling it into academic learning.GatheredAroundBook

In the late elementary grades and middle school, children are introduced to the logic stage. This is at an age when children are naturally inclined to ask, “why?” They are ready to dig deeper into subjects and engage in learning at a higher level. Questions are encouraged, and teachers provide students with the tools they need to investigate concepts more independently. In this stage they are also introduced to debate, and encouraged to discuss varying viewpoints and theories. They’re also taught to support their conclusions with facts. Parents know this challenging age, because their children are challenging them and most everything else in their lives. Teachers at Fortis know how to channel that natural desire and steer it toward learning.

After the logic stage, high school students move into the rhetoric stage. This is a time when students build on the first two stages and learn to express their ideas persuasively through writing and speaking. Students at this age are encouraged to think critically, logically, and creatively. They’re learning to express themselves and investigate and defend ideas. The classical method emphasizes breadth over depth, and this final stage prepares students to engage in conversations ranging from modern technology to classical literature. From this foundation, students are ready to take flight and pursue their passions.

Modern education, like what is offered today in public schools, doesn’t take into account these natural, progressive stages of learning. Instead, education focuses on memory work and mastery of various subjects. You’ve probably heard of “teaching to the test.” That’s when students are walked through various subjects only to the extent that they have mastered them well enough to pass a test. This never takes students beyond the grammar stage in all 12 years of their education. They may know plenty, but they have never been given the reins to learn on their own or defend their ideas.

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