A Foundation for Life-Time Learning
The three essential tools of learning of the Trivium are grammar, logic and rhetoric. These three stages emphasize teaching students how to learn, not what to think. They constitute a fully developed method of teaching which follows the developmental stages of children through a three-part process of training the mind to learn.
In her insightful overview of the Trivium, the late Dorothy Sayers, a contemporary of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, outlines these three tools. As she puts it, students up to age eleven or so are "poll-parrots," having an innate ability to absorb and retain information. They derive great pleasure from chanting, reciting, and memorizing because it is their natural way of learning.
As students enter the next stage, around grade 6, they naturally begin to question more and to understand the relationship between the facts they have learned. They begin to move from the "what" to the "why." This is the "pert" stage of argumentativeness and inquiry as they question most of what they are told. In this stage, students are taught how to ask questions, to solve problems, and to argue logically. The development of sound reasoning requires a thorough knowledge of the basic facts, or grammar, of the subject at hand, and so builds on the grammar stage.
And lastly, by about grade nine, having gained a strong foundation of knowledge, as well as critical skills of logical argumentations, students enter the "poetic" stage. The Rhetoric stage is the time for the maturing scholar to weave together the knowledge of the Grammar stage and the reasoning skills of the Logic stage with the craftsmanship of elegant discourse.
Grammar, logic, and rhetoric are not subjects in themselves; they are the essential tools of learning that students bring to bear on a variety of disciplines (language, math, history, science, etc.).
St. Timothy’s seeks to instill within its students the tools of grammar, logic and rhetoric. Students who have acquired these tools gain the mental discipline needed for further study throughout their lives. They use grammar skills to quickly learn new material, logic skills to understand the relationship of the subject being studied with other subjects, and rhetorical skills to present their educated opinion on matters under discussion. This rich and rigorous educational model produces students who have the ability to learn independently, to analyze logically, to think critically, and to communicate clearly.