The Trivium

The Latin word Trivium means where three roads meet.” All education, up until this century, was structured around these three roads of learning. The ancients called them Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. The Bible calls them simply KnowledgeUnderstanding, and Wisdom. 3

For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. —Proverbs 2:6

It is important to note that the Trivium has a dual purpose; it is the framework on which all of Classical education is designed and correlates roughly to a child’s development. It is also a set of disciplines that each student should master prior to graduation. Therefore, Classical schools often separate their stages of education into Grammar (Primary School or Kindergarten to Sixth Grade), Logic (Middle School or Seventh to Ninth Grade) and Rhetoric (High School or Tenth to Twelfth Grade). This separation is helpful for schools and families, but should not exclude the integration of these disciplines into each stage. For example, a Grammar stage student should be exposed to and get practice in oratory skills which is rhetorical in discipline (Speech Meets and incorporation of progymnasmata). A Rhetoric student will continue to have grammar rules reinforced with their writings to make them better communicators.

The Trivium

  1. Grammar
  2. Logic (Dialectic)
  3. Rhetoric

The Quadrivium

  1. Arithmetic
  2. Geometry
  3. Astronomy (Earth Sciences)
  4. Music

The Four Sciences

  1. Natural Sciences- All other natural sciences stem from these three
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Chemistry
  2. Human Science
    • Ethics
    • Politics
  3. Philosophical Science
    • Metaphysics
    • Epistemology
  4. Theological Science

Image taken from An Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents, by Christopher A. Perrin

As you can see, the Trivium, Quadrivium, and the Four Sciences are the skeleton or structure that forms the foundation of Classical Education. The scope and sequence of all grades must then be determined from a top-down approach (12 to Pre-K) and then curriculum selected to accomplish this goal. Often curriculum is in a particular subject, so it is then up to the teachers and administration to integrate and incorporate classical methodology into each of these subjects. For example, a science project in the Grammar stage can incorporate science, math, spelling words, and even history. Or reading aloud (rhetoric) can help with grammar and history, but then the discussion uses logic and ethics. These are all intentional means of instruction and not just happenstance. As students progress, a refinement process occurs as strengths and weaknesses are identified and teaching methods and/or curriculum are altered accordingly.