Classical Education is a foreign concept to many in this modern age even though it has been the method and philosophy of education that has trained many of the greatest minds for over two millennia. The essence of Classical Education is multi-faceted. At SLO Classical Academy we view Classical Education as a method of education that emphasizes the forging of character, the fostering of wisdom, and the nurturing of a lifelong love of learning. To accomplish this we apply the tools of learning that have formed these great minds for so many years.
One commonly agreed-upon element of classical education is that a student’s learning progresses through three stages of the Trivium: grammar, logic/dialectic, and rhetoric. These stages are loosely divided by developmental levels through which all children progress. The Trivium can also be viewed as modes for learning any concept. First a child or adult must learn the grammar or fundamentals of the subject or skill being learned. After mastering the grammar, the individual is able to fit the concepts together logically in the logic stage. Lastly, the student is able to move from the logical ordering of the subject to the beautiful and winsome expression of the related ideas. A well-developed mind is able to utilize these learning strategies to approach any subject, skill, or new idea with confidence that mastery is attainable through the wise application of the Trivium. Because the Trivium aligns with the developmental growth of the individual, a classical education is most fruitful when it is started early and continued through high school. There are certain skills, knowledge, and dispositions that require maturity. Therefore, SLO Classical Academy has developed a Junior Kindergarten through high school education for developing a fully-prepared young person. While our full program is the ideal, we have found that students who join along the path still find great benefits and are able to thrive.
Classical Education also has the common element of studying those things that have stood the test of time because of their goodness, truth and beauty. The reading and discussion of great books is a hallmark of SLO Classical Academy where the whole family engages in the great conversation that we hold with those from the past who have written works that have stood the test of time, with those in the present as we dialogue about these great ideas, and with those in the future as we write and speak our own thoughts for those who will come behind us. Some of the authors involved in this great conversation are Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, and many others. We have found that, with some coaching, most students are able and actually enjoy reading these great works in their entirety at the appropriate age.
Right alongside this engaging literature, students and families at SLO Classical Academy are guided through a rich study of the historical narrative of our culture. We study history in a four-period cycle of ancient cultures (especially Greece and Rome), The Middle Ages, The Renaissance, and Early American History. Students are also taught the roots of language acquisition through Latin. Latin trains the mind to think in an orderly way, opens up the ancient world in a way few other languages can, improves English grammar and vocabulary, and fosters later modern language studies. Both History and Latin provide content that requires thoughtful engagement with the text through the making of connections between events in history and grammatical structure in Latin.
While it sometimes appears that classical schools emphasize history, literature and language at the expense of math and science, this is not the case. Math and science are areas of strength at SLO Classical Academy. In the same way that other subjects are approached through the use of the Trivium, math and science are taught in a logical and systematic way to build towards mastery of mathematical and scientific language and concepts. Students at SLO Classical Academy are challenged beyond simply utilizing algorithms to solve problems, rather they are taught to think mathematically and scientifically. As in all subjects, advanced students are expected to dialogue with the teacher and fellow students using vocabulary and conceptual ideas that demonstrate understanding. Essential to classical education, students are challenged to understand, think, and communicate their understanding in math and science as they do in all areas of study.
Most of all, Classical Education reawakens the individual who embraces it as a viable method and philosophy of learning. We at SLO Classical Academy love to learn because we have tasted what excellent education can be. The families involved in our school experience rich conversations that are rare in our modern culture. These conversations are sparked by the timeless stories, the eye-opening history, and the thoughtfully designed curriculum and learning opportunities.