Classical education: the Trivium, logic stage, 5-8 grade

Trivium —  3 stages of classical learning method including grammar (memorization of facts in all subjects), logic (explaining the why’s and how’s of a subject), and rhetoric (supporting ideas with facts and communicating them effectively).  Each stage maximizes the brain capacity and psychological stages of development in different childhood periods.


Everyone warns you about the terrible 2’s & puts the fear of God in you wondering what they’ll be up to as teenagers, but the logical stage is overlooked and understated in every parenting book I have read from psychological texts to Dr. Sears‘ attachment parenting philosophies.  Until now.  Having come across the invaluable source “The Well Trained Mind” by Susan Wise Bauer and Jennie Wise, they reference Dorothy Sayers‘ book “The Lost Tools of Learning” throughout, and this is what Ms. Sayers has to say about ages 10-13:

The Pert age…is characterized by contradicting, answering back, liking to “catch people out” (especially one’s elders); and by the propounding of conundrums.  Its nuisance-value is extremely high.


Both of my sons (ok, and yes, myself) had what amounts to rebellious meltdowns in our studies that crept up at age 10 & was flaming full force by age 11.  All 3 of us were bright, curious individuals with loads of potential, but quite frankly had learned so much that we had gotten a little big for our britches, and “just because” or “because I said so” wasn’t gonna cut it anymore.  Nor would learning that which dulled our senses beyond belief, because of course our imaginations alone were rich enough to sustain us.  I am sure that for 1 reason or another, bookworm or not, by age 11 almost every child begins to think they are miniature adults and therefore sufficient authority to decide everything for themselves.  Ha!  If they only knew….but that’s where we as parents come in, right?


  • step 1)  Breathe.  This, too, shall pass.
  • step 2)  Consistency is key.
  • step 3)  Then again, so is flexibility.  *agggh*, I know.  But it’s true.  Just know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.  Kenny Rogers, folks…a mantra that will get you through many a trial & error.


Instead of focusing on the negative, focus of the positive side of your child’s newly developed discernment.  Like I mentioned before, it is truly ok if they learn more than you know about something.  Do not create ceilings for them just out of your own pride’s sake.  Instead take advantage of their knowledge by using it in your own life.  My oldest son became the family’s official tech guy around that age, and both kids enjoy cooking supervised meals.


Also do not let the disrespect slide.  They like to call you out?  Then calling them out will be equally effective — even more so in the presence of company.  I know, I’m cruel.  Hey, when your 10 year old disappears for 30 min. in a community center when you expected him to just go to the restroom, embarrassment can be your friend once you recover and realize he has not been kidnapped, afterall.


During this stage, your child should be fluent enough in reading, writing, and arithmetic to apply these tools into solving complex problems.  They should actually be able to evaluate the problem and figure out 1) what steps/tools/skills it takes to solve it and then 2) finish the task.  By nature, they should be doing more independent work and developing the skill to ask for help appropriately while also not relying on others too much.  Like everything, it is a delicate balance.


10 minutes of parental tutoring

for every 1 hour of independent study is typical.

Some subjects will involve more in-depth conversation (or lecture for those who’re really old school), but these are usually philosophical discussions that reach across every subject line.  Such as nutrition – involves math (weight, measurement, caloric needs, vitamin and mineral content and intake),  social studies (sustainable organic farming and local farmers’ market support v.s. mass-produced factory farms churning out GMO‘s at your Wal-Mart grocery), science (effects of organic nutrition v.s. pesticide &/or genetically modified products on the human immune system).  The reading, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar by example should be ample in articles, videos, etc…used as sources.


Which brings to mind something very important:  your source is crucial.  There is none more superior than a primary source.  (That’d be the “horse’s mouth,” so to speak.)  Secondary sources are acceptable as long as you do your best to know the motivation of who published it.  Are they sponsored?  By whom?  A front for propaganda agendas?  Literally being able to pick and choose the good from the slime of media sources is absolutely crucial, particularly in the digital age of immediate gratification and instant publication.


A big key to maintaining interest in subjects that you pick for child during the logic stage is to find some way, any way, for them to relate that topic to themselves.  Telling my current 11 year old to eat more is not enough.  Reiterating that his muscles must have protein to build, otherwise they waste away, makes him understand clearly that he cannot put off a good diet if he intends to hold on to those biceps he’s so proud of.


For an example schedule to help organize the what, when, & how much to learn during the logic phase, go here.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. top99news
    Jan 26, 2012 @ 06:47:04

    Nice blog and very good article….

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