The Classical Education: Grades K-12

What is the purpose of education? To produce an adult ready for the work force? Or does it address this obvious necessity, but also encompass something greater, something nobler? A classical, or liberal arts, education is centered on the idea of līberātus, meaning “freed, liberated.” It is in this context that the end goal of a classical education is an independent, or “freed,” intellect that is capable of making logical discernments informed by a strong, virtuous character.

Classical education has many interpretations, but here at LCS it is defined by three main areas of focus: Great Works, Great Teaching, and Great Character. Our classical curriculum centers on the great works from the Western canon that have lasted the test of time as vitally important to the cultivation of wisdom. Our classical pedagogy is anchored by the trivium, used as a highly effective instructional method for millennia. And, our emphasis on character utilizes our Core Virtues, which is an explicit part of our students’ classical education. These three areas of focus are the pillars which define classical education at Loveland Classical Schools.

Classical Education is about Great Works

When hearing the word “classical,” most think of “old.” Classical education does involve old things such as the ancient Greeks, classical music, and Euclidian geometry, but this is only the beginning. Students at Loveland Classical Schools definitely study many “old” books and people, such as from Homer, Aristotle, Thucydides, Cervantes, and Milton. However, these historic books and characters are not chosen because they are old, but because they have withstood the test of time and are of universal importance to the study of what it means to be human. Loveland Classical Schools uses a curriculum based in what has been recognized for centuries as the great books and authors of the ages rather than the latest fad or political agenda. We study and discuss the great works because they give insight into our heritage, into ourselves, and into what it is to live a meaningful life. They express and explore universal truths that resonate deep within every one of us.

A critical component of classical education is the use of primary sources. For example, if you wanted to study the Federalist Papers to understand the formation of our government, you could either study the Federalist Papers itself or study what others say about the Federalist Papers. Institutionalized education today chooses the second approach. Many educators feel that the Federalist Papers itself is too difficult for students to learn so they instead look to an "expert" to explain it. LCS knows that students are capable of amazing things when given the opportunity. We prefer to read and dissect original source documents when possible rather than solely rely through someone else's interpretation.

An excellent summary of why we focus on the great works is the following statement by Sir Isaac Newton: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."
By studying the works of our civilization's greatest minds, our students are provided a strong foundation from which they can stand tall. Just as the works of Galileo, Descartes, and Copernicus paved the road for Newton, students learn greatness by surrounding themselves with great people and ideas. Who better to surround students with than some of the greatest of all time: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Melville, Dante, Kant, Orwell, Virgil, St. Thomas Aquinas, Conrad, Einstein, Franklin, and Lincoln, to name a few.

Classical Education is about Great Teaching

The trivium is the classical method of instruction using the "three paths." As a teaching method, the trivium utilizes the stages of grammar, logic, and rhetoric in instruction. This method of education began thousands of years ago by the Greeks, which began with the study of grammar, in order to understand the structure of their language. Then the student learned how to use the language so as to make accurate statements, construct logical arguments, and detect fallacious reasoning. Finally, the student would then learn how to communicate eloquently in the rhetoric stage to elegantly and successfully express their thoughts.

In practice, the grammar, logic and rhetoric stages can be understood as training the student in facts, critical thinking, and communication. To begin, a student must learn the fundamental structure or facts in order to be able to understand the subject.
However, it can be argued that this is where most education stops. In the trivium used in classical education, on the other hand, we next take those facts to infer something that was not previously known; to draw connections and build syllogisms between the facts we've learnt. When the student can successfully and accurately employ logical reasoning, the student then needs to artfully articulate that understanding in a persuasive manner. This is in essence the grammar, logic and rhetoric stages of the trivium that forms the basis of the classical method of instruction at LCS.

As an example, when studying the Peloponnesian War, facts such as dates, personages, governments, motivations, and battles are covered. However, while typical instruction stops there, after going through these grammar items at LCS a logic question may be presented, such as, "What could have happened if the plague had not occurred in the second year of the war?" In order for students to answer, they will need to know what did happen (grammar), and formulate what could have happened in an "if, then" answer that is rationally sound. We tell students that although there is not one right answer in this exercise (because it is a theoretical situation), there are definitely wrong answers if the facts or logical reasoning are not correct. In describing the "if," like "if the plague had not occurred in 29 BCE in Athens," students demonstrate their grammar knowledge. The "then," which is the logic piece, can be something similar to, "then the Athenians would not have lost as many citizens and soldiers, and may have successfully executed their naval strategy in 29 BCE to end the conflict, rather than the war continuing on for 18 more years whereby Sparta and its allies were eventually able to defeat Athens." In this example, students draw connections to what they have already learned to new ideas. When students explain their reasoning, either by presenting orally or in writing, techniques are practiced to develop the rhetoric stage of the trivium.

What is described above is an example of what occurs daily. Another simplified example in math is the instruction of math facts (grammar), student application of those facts to higher-level processes that are new to the student (logic), and the clear explanation of the reasoning for their answer (rhetoric). Further, this method of instruction is the basis for teaching students to read and decode phonemic rules of English in the lower elementary, learn a foreign language, dissect the themes of a text, apply scientific laws to processes, analyze harmonies and scales in music, or employ theories studied in art, to name a few instances. The different stages of the trivium don't just ensure that students know content knowledge (grammar), but continues to develop logical inference, critical thinking, and skills in the art of rhetoric for students to be independent thinking adults who can make their own discernments (līberātus).

Classical Education is about Great Character

Plato describes a group of people bound in a cave with visibility to only the world of shadows. He goes on to describe how one is able to see the real world of people and shapes in the light. Classical education focuses on bringing the student out of the world of shadows and into the light. This process isn't always easy; in fact, it can be laborious and difficult at times. Success in school, as in life, is similar and it is not a guarantee. The learning process may be frustrating and a struggle at times. It is something that requires grit, hard work, and patience. Our motto, fallamur ut floreamus, "let us falter so we may flourish" addresses this head on. This differs from typical methods of education where students are spoon-fed answers when they come across a difficulty rather than work out the answer themselves to find success, learn perseverance, and deeply integrate the solution. These experiences are an excellent opportunity to instill and practice character that will be life-long characteristics of a classically educated student. As Aristotle stated, we are what we repeatedly do.
Loveland Classical Schools addresses the fact that knowledge without virtues and morals can lead to the application of that knowledge to a negative end; there are many criminals that are crafty and intelligent, but are they truly wise, are they living the "good life" that is discussed by Socrates? Throughout the school day, situations present themselves for discussion and study on what is virtuous character and what is worth pursuing in life to benefit our community. Character education becomes a critical component of the academic program rather than reactive discipline. This is another crucial area where classical education is different; to acknowledge and implement that education is not only about learning facts but learning how to be a good person.

Loveland Classical Schools defines classical education as Great Works, Great Teaching, and Great Character. LCS uses the time tested curriculum, teaching methodology and virtues to instill līberātus in our students to fulfill our mission of assisting parents in developing young minds with virtuous character, critical thinking skills, and a passion for learning to become exceptional community stewards.