What is Classical?

At Grace Academy, we delight in presenting an education that is distinctly Christian and distinctly Classical. While a “Christian education” is a somewhat familiar concept, a “Classical education” is perhaps less so and may benefit from a rudimentary attempt to define it.

At its core, a Classical education is the orderly study of the seven liberal arts, all of which are oriented toward a love of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful as rooted in the nature of God. This method finds its origin in Greco-Roman culture which flourished some 2000 years ago. For the Greeks and Romans, a liberal education was the education of a free person (“liberal” coming from the Latin liber, meaningfree”). It was education not for doing but rather being. It was considered an end in itself, something inherently good and worthwhile insofar as it formed the soul in wisdom and virtue. It was not until the Middle Ages, however, as Christian scholars were gleaning the wisdom of the ancient world, that a Classical education came to be codified and brought into the light of Christ. From this enterprise we receive the the septum artes liberales (the seven liberal arts) as a formalized unity: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric (forming the Trivium), together with arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy (forming the Quadrivium). The Trivium consists of the arts of language—grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric each cultivating well-ordered thought and expression. The Quadrivium consists of the quantitative arts—arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy each cultivating an understanding of number as it relates to space and time. For the medieval scholar, the study of these seven liberal arts found their ultimate fulfillment in theology (the study of God), deemed the “queen of the sciences.” As heir to this Classical methodology, Grace Academy presents a Trivium-based education with inclusion of the Quadrivium within its curriculum, all of which is directed toward love of God.

While the Trivium is not limited strictly to any particular grade, its threefold way of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric does in fact reflect natural human development. The phase of grammar (K-6) emphasizes a solid foundation in memorization, aligning with the young student’s proclivity toward retention and recall through songs, poems, and chants. The transition toward dialectic (logic) begins in grades 7-8 as the student finds himself critically examining the world around him. At this point, the Trivium builds upon the student’s foundation of mastered knowledge and trains in analyzing that knowledge through logical, meaningful argumentation. The final phase of rhetoric assumes mastery of the previous two phases as the student now undertakes the study of beautiful language to communicate truthfully, logically, and winsomely.

Seen properly, each phase is a natural progression in the student’s understanding of truth, built on the strengths of the child at that stage of development. No phase is hermetically sealed from the others. Logic and rhetoric, for example, cannot be separated from a grammar-level study of history. (What is knowledge of the past without being able to talk about it with some degree of logical clarity and expression?) Within each phase, however, the teacher places special emphasis on that particular liberal art to concentrate and strengthen its reach. Teachers at Grace Academy introduce the Quadrivium (or elements thereof) during this process as appropriate to the students’ level. In this manner, we bequeath the legacy of a Classical education to our students year after year in the conviction of its yielding a solid groundwork for a lifetime of learning.