The Language arts of the Liberal Arts are also known as the Trivium. They are Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. These are also the names of the stages of learning. For our purposes here we are concerned with these as arts and subjects. For those committed to a liberal arts education the components named here are enough for the language education of any student.
Grammar is the foundation and is concerned with knowledge. Grammar is part of the trivium, which means three roads and which is most likely the most popular term associated with classical education. It is also used to describe a developmental stage. All of these uses of the word grammar are good and important. For our purposes, we are concentrating on grammar as a subject. I like the way Ravi and Clark say it in ‘The Liberal Arts Tradition.’ “…the study of grammar consisted of everything necessary for interpreting a text –geography, history, even what we might call hermeneutics.” So in addition to the traditional study of English and Latin grammar, students also studied many other things like history, the natural world, etc. Grammar is taught through the mimetic and Socratic modes of teaching as are all seven liberal arts. Read a more in-depth account of Grammar in my post Contemplating the Liberal Arts: Grammar.
Logic is the dialectic core, by dialectic I mean intelligent discussion and debate. Logic or dialectic trains the mind in the fruitful habits necessary for accurate and appropriate reasoning. The words logic and dialectic are used interchangeably throughout the classical culture. Logic is also part of the trivium and also correlates with one of Dorothy Sayers stages of development. Logic is absolutely indispensable. For without it, a student will find it very difficult to harmonize the ideas and concepts they come to encounter throughout all of their schooling. Read a more in-depth account of Logic/Dialectic in my post Contemplating the Liberal Arts: Dialectic.
Rhetoric is tightly tied to action, persuasion toward truth, and eloquence; rhetoric the last of the three roads of the trivium and of Sayers’ developmental stages. The study of rhetoric trains the mind to discover the truth, arrange truth appropriately, write about it convincingly and eloquently, know it by heart, and communicate it to others through speech, in a way, that is fitting and appropriate. Rhetoric is an extension of logic and finishes it. The student of rhetoric is well equipped to stand firm in truth and articulate it to others. Inside the rhetorical classroom, there will be a lot of reading, writing, discussion, speeches, and debates. Read a more in-depth account of Rhetoric in my post Contemplating the Liberal Arts: Rhetoric.
What the Liberal Language Arts could look like in the Classical Homeschool …
- Reading/Literature (high-quality literature, fairy tales, etc. being read to, reading out loud to others, reading independently)
- 5 topics and narration for discussion/comprehension
- Copy work, Dictation, and Narration for writing (Integrates perfectly with handwriting, typing, spelling, and is a natural extension of reading/literature. As tasks become more complex you could transition to written narrations and a Progymnasmata style curriculum.)
- Spelling and Spelling rules
- English Grammar
- Latin and/or Greek (some argue that you do not need an English grammar program when you are studying Latin and Greek,. I am still wrestling with this for the elementary years. I would love to hear your thoughts.)
- Memory-work and living books are chosen based on the other pieces of knowledge an elementary student should gain. Literature is selected for the use of quality language and attention to the ideal type.
- Reading/Literature (begin transition to great books, being read to, reading out loud to others, reading independently)
- 5 topics and narration for discussion/comprehension, add in integrated research tasks using the 5 topics and narration activities
- Phase out copy-work, and increase length of dictations. Use narrations for writing through a progymnasmata style curriculum (Integrates perfectly with handwriting, typing, spelling, and is a natural extension of reading/literature)
- Spelling and Spelling rules
- Latin and/or Greek (English Grammar can phase out during the middle school and be replaced by Latin)
- Beginning Formal Logic, speech, and debate
- Research, memory-work, and living books are chosen based on the tensions a middle school student should begin to harmonize. Literature is selected for the use of quality language and attention to the ideal type.
- Reading/Literature (being read to, reading out loud to others, reading independently)
- 5 topics and written narration for discussion/comprehension, add in integrated reflective tasks
- 11 and 12th, and some 10th graders can start literary analysis, looking at plot, setting, theme, conflict, etc…
- Occasional paragraph-long dictations.
- Formal Rhetoric Program. The Lost Tools of Writing is the only classical writing/rhetoric program that attends to classical teaching methods and all three canons of rhetoric associated with the writing process.
- Latin and/or Greek and you may add another language at this point, but do not take away Latin and/or Greek
- Formal and material Logic, speech/debate (attends to the other two canons of rhetoric)
- Reflective tasks, Research, memory-work, and living books are chosen based on the ideas and truths a high school students should reflect on, wrestle with, and embody through their unique voice. Literature is selected for the use of quality language and attention to the ideal type.
The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education by Kevin Clark & Ravi Jain
The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric by Sister Miriam Joseph
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