Classical Homeschool – Dorothy Sayers


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dorothy Dorothy was born in Oxford England in June 1893.  Her Father was headmaster of the Christ Church Cathedral School, and she was born in the Headmasters house!  She was a homebirth child (a normal occurrence of the time)!

Dorothy was a world renowned playwrite, novelist, essayist and Christian Humanist during the early to mid-20 century.  Her friends included TS Elliott, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and Charles Williams.

In one of her infamous essays, The Lost Tools of Learning, Dorothy suggests that we teach our children everything but how to learn.  In the essay, she suggests we teach a modification of the Medieval way of learning using the Trivium Model .  This model is the basis to the Classical Christian Homeschool Movement of the 20th and 21st centuries

.What Is A Classical Education?

It is an education system based in Western Culture with a focus on education and thoughts as taught during Medieval times.  Originally when The Classical Methodology was founded in the middle Ages, it was the sole purpose to provide a systematic and memorable framework to teach all of human kind (Wikipedia).  Western culture had been using the model for centuries, each generation adapting it.  By the 18th Century, The Trivium and quadrivum methods of the middle ages was being used.  a classical education included the studies of Literature, poetry, drama, history, and art.

Classical Education can be divided into three distinct phases, which are dependent upon human development.

  • Primary Education – teaches students how to learn
  • Secondary Education – Teaches history (a framework for all human knowledge), fills in facts learned in primary,  and develops skills
  • Tertiary Education – Prepares the student to pursue an occupation (law, doctor, teacher, etc).


What Is The Trivium?

The primary portion is often referred to The Trivium – which consists in three parts.

  1. Grammar
  2. Logic
  3. Rhetoric


The Grammar Phase

The Grammar phase consists of language skills, reading and writing.  The goal is the acquire as many words and concepts as possible so that the student is able to understand at varying degrees of difficulty.  A study of Latin and Greek is part of the curriculum – as they are the basis to language.   In western culture, this would be for elementary students.


The Logic Phase (dialectic)

This is the science of reasoning.  In western culture, this would be for Junior High students – who are developmentally beginning to question ideas and authority.  This stage the students are learning to critically think about arguments and analyze them on their own.  Students are learning to reason correctly in the logic stage so that they can apply those skills to Rhetoric.  Both in the logic and rhetoric stages, the students are taught in a Socratic matter – the teacher raises a question, and the class answers.


The Rhetoric Phase

The concepts of Debate and Composition are taught to high school aged students.  According to Aristotle, Rhetoric is concerned with finding “all materials available for persuasion” (Wikipedia).  In this stage, students will read and emulate poets who present their arguments well.


The Quadrivium and Tertiary Education

Secondary education (the quadrivium) is taught in four ways.  It’s taught in the order of arithmetic, geometry,  music and astronomy.  It’s taught in the way of Aristotle and Euclid.    Tertiary education consists of an apprenticeship with a person in a desired profession.


There exists a number of groups and schools (in all age ranges) teaching using the secular and Christian Classical educational model.  It’s also very common in homeschools.

What do you think of the classical model as you understand it.  Do you think it’s a good way to teach?  How do you think students can benefit using this model?


Visit our other posts in the series – addressing different homeschool methodologies


About Lisa

Hey! Thank you so much for stopping by. I'm Lisa - a homeschool mom of 3 (2 boys and 1 girl). I care about the strength of the family in America, and often blog about babies/kids, natural parenting, homeschool, and marriage. Before you leave, please sign up for my monthly newsletter (on the top right). If you do, you will be well rewarded with notification of all giveaways and sales - which will not be announced on the blog. Google+ Profile


  1. Interesting. I can see why you incorporate this too.
    Ann recently posted…Best Parenting BookMy Profile

    • This is the method that the Classical Conversations used. I attended one of their observation sessions. I wasn’t completely sold. I do like the memorization piece – I think that’s important. However, memorizing random facts with no context. Then, several years later – you learn the context.

      It just didn’t work for me.

      But, that’s all part of the Trivium.
      Lisa recently posted…A Day In The Life of a Homeschooling Family – A New SeriesMy Profile

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