One method of formal instruction uses the 'classic' approach. A classical education includes a three-part system to lay the foundation in a student's mind.
The Grammar Stage
The grammar stage encompasses the first five years of school, from kindergarten through the end of the fourth grade. During this period, scholars receive basic instruction that lays the groundwork for additional learning that will occur later. During this period, children are typically eager to learn, and their minds are receptive to absorbing information. The grammar stage, therefore, involves rote learning of facts. Students will learn how to read, phonics, grammar, and spelling rules. Children also begin learning foreign languages, mathematics, history, literature, and science fundamentals.
The Logic or Dialectic Stage
By the time students reach the fifth grade, their minds are capable of a different kind of thought process. Scholars are able to use the information they have learned to approach knowledge in a more analytical way. This logic stage involves students considering cause and effect, and thinking about how facts fit together. Abstract thought enables students to use their foundation of academics to explore additional areas. For example, reading skills enable them to absorb information. They can then process the information, apply logic to it, form hypotheses, and present their final conclusions. Academic study during the logic stage includes algebra, advanced writing, and learning the tenets of scientific method.
The Rhetoric Stage
Once students enter high school, they are ready to begin the rhetoric stage. This final phase of classical education involves building upon and advancing from the grammar and logic phases. Scholars learn advanced writing and speaking skills that enable them to communicate their ideas and knowledge in a concise and understandable way. Students also learn how to apply logic and communicate eloquently. Scholars in this stage begin to focus their studies on the areas that interest or attract them personally. This initial focus enables students to consider career ideas, which is a necessary process while preparing for college and other types of specialized training.
How Classical Education Differs
A fundamental difference between classical education and typical education rests in the focus on language. With a classical approach, learning occurs with an in-depth focus on language. Scholars learn a diverse vocabulary to enable them to express their thoughts and opinions. This form of instruction also links all different types of knowledge. Sometimes connections between academic disciplines are obvious, and other times they can be elusive and ambiguous. Classically educated children learn to look at the world with a different perspective.
While classical education can vary among institutions, most schools of this type utilize the three different phases in their academic approach to teaching. Scholars learn their basic skills and then use them to dig deeper into the fount of knowledge.