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Two-Thousand-Mile Thoughts on Teaching the Trivium

Imagine this scenario:

As we travel across West Virginia, three boys are loudly singing "Take Me Home Country Roads" by John Denver (at the top of their lungs), the rain is pelting our windshield so hard that it sounds like a helicopter is about to take off right there in our car, and I am trying to shout over the noise to share with my husband all the profound thoughts I am having as I read Teaching the Trivium beside him in the passenger seat. For some reason, he is just not comprehending anything I am saying.

All I can say is, my poor husband.

Because I did not finish it beforehand, I ended up reading a couple hundred pages of Teaching the Trivium while on a two-thousand-mile road trip. I finally finished reading it while in Washington, DC of all places, pondering such things as…

“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16, KJV).
“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time” (Colossians 4:5, KJV).

The days are evil and they will consume our time. We can easily waste our time pursuing an outsider's agenda. We need to apply wisdom in order to buy back some of that time for the Lord's use (Teaching the Trivium, page 115).

This book gave me so much to think about—I was still chewing upon it a thousand miles away from the place where I finished reading it.

About the Book:

Teaching the Trivium by Harvey & Laurie Bluedorn starts out with some general arguments for homeschooling and classical education while providing a biblical vision for homeschooling. The Bluedorns thoroughly explain what is meant by the trivium and provide a compelling case for a classical, Christian education. They also provide an in-depth look at teaching the classical languages, logic, and rhetoric, and they give guidance on the selection of literature in a classical, Christian homeschool setting. If you are new to homeschooling or new to classical education, this book gives thorough answers to many of the questions you may have.

This book is rather large (over 600 pages), but the appendix which contains many resources and articles related to homeschooling, accounts for nearly 200 pages. This is a book I will likely refer to over and over again.

My Two Cents:

It was encouraging to find that the Bluedorns highlighted the "Different Methods and Approaches to Homeschooling in Light of the Trivium," since many people think that a classical education means you do not pursue anything but "boring-old-rote-memorization." For some time, I have believed that a classical educator has an eclectic style because classical education is a model that is pursued with various approaches. We all use different tools as we educate our children. I know some classical educators who use a Montessori approach, others who love unit studies, and even more who tend towards a Charlotte Mason approach (who was indeed a classical educator herself; “living books” are very much a part of classical education). The whole thing boils down to this: "each method and approach has its place." It was a relief to read that our natural bent is an acceptable tool for learning classically.

My favorite part of the whole book was The Practical Trivium, which contained anecdotes while providing a suggested course of study for each of the levels of the trivium. The chapters titled "Early Knowledge Level (Ten Things to Do Before Age Ten)" & "Later Knowledge Level (Ten Things to Do with Children Ages Ten through Twelve)" were the two that applied most to our home, but the Understanding and Wisdom Level chapters provided quite a bit of insight. You can read the article "Ten Things to Do before Age Ten" on the Bluedorn's website TriviumPursuit. Matter of fact, you can read several excerpts from their free articles page (start with those listed under Articles for Beginners) and download some free samples from several chapters (among other things), from their free downloads page.

Four Final Thoughts from Teaching the Trivium:

  • To prepare my children for the logic stage, I can simply play board games that teach them early logic skills. (Now this I can do!)
  • My children do not need organized crafts and projects to do throughout the school year. Give them Play-Doh, construction paper, and other craft supplies and let them use their imaginations. I have already seen how valuable this approach is! It takes the pressure off of me and encourages them to use their own creativity in expressing what they know.
  • Before age ten, be sure to focus on vocabulary, for it is a major indicator of intelligence. (Have you ever tried reading the Declaration of Independence? At the time of its writing, the average person of much younger age could read and comprehend it. The common people understood the sentence construction with the complicated subjects, verbs, and clauses. Although I am still not sure I can diagram it correctly, I think I am starting to understand it. There is nothing like a trip through our Founding Fathers' history to help me recognize how little I know and understand.)
  • "Our goal [at the grammar stage] is to develop competence in the tools of inquiry: reading, listening, writing, observing, measuring" (Teaching the Trivium, page 101). This single thought is one I have been trying to wrap my mind around for months now and it has been transforming how we approach our school days. We are still figuring it out, but we are developing a more intentional literature-rich environment and using a tool (our classical notebook) for recording our observations, writing about them, and improving our listening skills. It is so simple, so deep, and so rewarding all at the same time!

Although there exists so much more within this book, the above highlights helped to reset how we approached home education. For more on the simplicity of the classical method during the early elementary years, refer to the article, "Finding Freedom in the Grammar Stage."


CATEGORIES: Articles, Big Ideas: Truth, Beauty, Goodness and more!, Classical Christian Education, Dialectic Stage (ages 12 to 14), Grammar Stage (ages 4 to 11), Rhetoric Stage (ages 14 to 18)

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