Friday, December 5, 2014

Liberal Arts: The Trivium

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This post contains an affiliate link to the book we are discussing.

Oh, how I am excited to be discussing The Liberal Arts Tradition with you!  Why am I so excited?  It is because in the past six months I feel like my eyes are being opened to a greater understanding of classical education, but I know that I still have so much more to learn.  This book is going to help me (and you, hopefully!) gain some of that knowledge.

I hope all my American readers had a nice Thanksgiving!  I took a couple of week off from doing much blogging, but I am ready to get back into discussing this next chapter with you!

Hopefully we will get to a couple chapters before taking another small break for Christmas.  So let's get started talking about the seven liberal arts!

The Trivium

If you asked any classical homeschooler to define classical education, you would undoubtedly get an answer that revolves around the trivium.  Up until about a year ago, that is all I thought it was too!  While it is not the entirety of classical education, it is certainly one very important component.  In case you are not already familiar with the trivium, let me share with you the definition found on page 35 of The Liberal Arts Tradition:

"Latin for the three ways, the Trivium is the threefold curriculum of the language arts: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric.  In their most basic sense, grammar has to do with understanding language, dialectic with dialogic reasoning, and rhetoric with the artful composition of texts, written and spoken."


Typically we think of grammar as being a time where young elementary students soak up all the basic information they can about a wide variety of subjects.  This is because of the essay, The Lost Tools of Learning, that Dorothy Sayers wrote in the 1940s.  She likened the idea of grammar to the natural way that students learn when they are young, and gave birth to the idea of the grammar stage.

Did you know that a grammar stage is not something that was a part of the original classical tradition?

"Historically, then, the "grammar" of grammar was not merely an abstract concept meaning "to learn the rudiments of all the subjects."  Rather, it meant learning Latin...This fact has been overlooked by many in the Christian classical renewal, but it is very important to keep in mind."

 Interesting!  So, I think it is good to keep in mind that while memory work is good and necessary, being able to read original works is really what we are after.


This subject of the trivium is often called Logic because it has to do with the art of reasoning.  The book points out, though, that it is more than logic.  From the root of the word dialectic, we can tell that the subject also involved dialogue.

Our children need to learn to ask good questions, sort and reason through information, and process it all into good answers.  On page 41 the book states that dialectic skill is necessary for further studies, but must be 'perfected' first:

The art of dialectic, therefore, will ultimately be an invaluable resource for study of the sciences and philosophies, but it must first be perfected by rhetoric.


This chapter spends a good amount of space discussing rhetoric.  Rhetoric is always interesting to me because I'm just not there yet!  It is like some illusive end goal that seems so far away.

Essentially Rhetoric is the art of eloquence.  We want our students to learn to be well spoken and persuasive.  Of course in the Christian tradition we want them to do this for the glory of God and not for the sake of their own ego.

How are you doing at implementing the three liberal arts of the trivium in your homeschool?  

Does your chosen curriculum reflect the goals of these arts?  

Are you a part of a classical school, co-op, or other formal gathering?  How do their goals line up with this facet of classical education?  

Thanks for reading along this week!  What did you think of this chapter?  Leave comments here on the blog post, or share about it on social media (#ClassicalMamasRead).  I'll be sharing too, so follow me on facebook, twitter, or google+ and we can chat about it there as well!  Don't forget, if you want to share your thoughts about Home Education on your own blog, link it up below so we can all come and visit!

Next time we will look at the trivium in The Liberal Arts Tradition.  If you haven't gotten your own copy yet, make sure you grab a copy so you can join in on our discussions soon!

Classical Mamas Read Link-Up

Did you write about The Liberal Arts Tradition on your blog?  Have you been reading and blogging about another book (for you, not a children's book)?  Do you have a book club going on at your blog (once again, not for a children's book)?  I'd love for you link up here so we can all be encouraged by each other and maybe find another great book to read!

I'm going to keep this link-up ongoing since there aren't going to be a huge number of posts and then anyone new will be able to be encouraged by the other book reading ideas and discussions.  If the number of posts gets too large, I will fix it.

Please note, all posts must be on topic (about a book you are reading) and appropriate (think family friendly).

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  1. I just bought this book and am hoping to get to it this month. My appetite is even more whetted now. :)

  2. It's fascinating the change in classical education from what it was before WW1 and what classical education is now. Learning Latin and Greek so you could read the great books in the original was vital, rather than optional as it is now. It's such a difference!

    The Liberal Arts Tradition is going on by reading list now. I'm curious what else it has to say! :-)

    1. I know you are going to be posting your thoughts about this book soon...can't wait to read them!


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