What is Classical Education

The goals of a classical education include

  • setting a high intellectual standard for students as they study and model great writers and their works.
  • giving children a comprehensive understanding of history and a sense of their own place in the world.
  • giving students the tools to continue learning throughout their lifetime.

Students at NorthBay study great works of literature from the very beginning of their education. As they progress in intellectual ability and maturity, they move from reading adaptations toward studying the original works of Homer, Shakespeare, and many other great writers of classic literature from ancient to modern times.

The teaching at NorthBay gives students an understanding of history by telling the “story” of history chronologically. This helps the students understand history as a coherent whole. It also prevents an egocentric outlook. Each student learns his proper place in the world by seeing the broad sweep of history and then fitting his own time and place into the larger picture. Also, students will see the relationships between events (e.g. the effective of the Roman Empire on the development of the early church).

At NorthBay, our classical educational program strives to develop in students a lifestyle of learning that they will carry with them long after their formal education ends. We begin by providing a foundation of knowledge based on history and great books. Then, we teach them to enjoy investigation and learning and to seek out more information through research.

A classical education is implemented in three stages known as the trivium.

The first part of the trivium encompasses grades one through four. Teaching during this stage supplies the student with the knowledge and skills that will allow him to overflow with creativity as his mind matures. The emphasis is on accumulating information – stories of different people and places; names of continents, countries, oceans, rivers; properties of matter and scientific names; the parts of speech and parts of a sentence; math facts; etc. Children at this age enjoy repetition and the accomplishment of memorizing information and storing knowledge. The information learned during this first phase will give students a frame of reference for ideas and concepts, which will be explored at greater depth in the later years. There are two main priorities for achievement at this stage. First, students should aim to master the proper use of language, so that, during the later years, it will be a useful tool for expression, not an obstacle. Additionally, students should master the foundational concepts and facts of math.

The second stage of the trivium, grades five through eight, represents the time when students begin to question why things happen the way they do. They begin to connect all the facts they learned in the early grades and discover the relationships among them. While students continue to gather new facts, the emphasis moves to developing the students’ abilities to evaluate the information they learn, make connections between different facts and events, and analyze the arguments of others.

Students who continue with a classical education in grades nine through twelve enter the third stage of the trivium, the rhetoric stage. At this stage, students have been given much knowledge and have been trained in how to analyze it. Now they work to develop their ability to express their own ideas about what they have studied, with an emphasis on writing and speaking persuasively. They will study the rhetoric of classic authors and analyze the force of their arguments. The training they receive at this stage gives them the ability to think through the many arguments (political, religious, etc.) made all around them and to think critically about the accepted truths of our own age. This training, coupled with teaching from a biblical worldview, can help make students less vulnerable to the world’s deceptive philosophies and can help them develop the ability to defend their own faith eloquently.