Ask Me a Homeschooling Q about Trivium Mastery…
Q: Why did you write Trivium Mastery?
A: My husband, David, encouraged me to share what I had learned with other moms. First, I wanted to tell other parents how simple teaching the real classical trivium could be. Secondly, I wanted to show them exactly how to teach the 3 primary skills. And finally, I wanted to give them some practical tools for personalizing the homeschool curriculum to the interests, gifts, and abilities of each unique child.
As I mentioned in the foreword to the book, I really wanted to bring these ideas to the forefront so that we could have a dialogue about what is really important in out homeschooling philosophies. So that I hope that you’ll write me, give me your feedback, and ask me your questions as you’re working your way through the book.
Q: Is Trivium Mastery written from a Christian perspective?
A: Yes, my Christian relationship with the Living God informs all of my life experiences and writing, so there are several references to our joint calling to be good followers of Jesus in raising our children. The Greco-Roman pagan version of classical education becomes even better when Christian content and understanding illuminates the methods of exploring big ideas through Socratic dialogue and the Great Books of the Western Canon.
Q: What have you learned about classical education since you wrote the book?
A: I think the most satisfying result of watching my own kids and the case study families is seeing that we were able to truly customize the homeschool experience so that it met the unique needs and interests of each child. Classically-educated teens are delving into specialty areas of knowledge and reading the great classics of the Western Canon that most teens never touch until college.
Secondly, every case study family was able to accelerate the high school studies once mastery of the 3 skills was met. This means they weren’t stuck doing busy work and were able to pursue dual-credit high school/college level work or internships and apprenticeships that final year of high school which makes the high school transcript look even more appealing!
Q: What age kids does Trivium Mastery cover?
A: Typically, most of the skills of the classical trivium can be mastered between the ages of birth and ‘tween (preteen). Of course, every kid is different, so there will be some who encounter delays, but the goal is to prepare the young teenager for tackling the abstract ideas of the post-trivium (translate=high school) classics of the Western Canon. Somewhere between 7th-9th grade, your teen will have mastered most of the skills.
Q: Where did you find your historical facts about classical education?
A: Once I heard about classical education, I began to devour historical surveys, the classic histories of ancient Greece and Rome (especially Livy, Polybius, Appian, and Dio), and the 4th Century Confessions of Augustine in which he outlines in some detail the way that he taught rhetorical skills during the early history of the Church.
Given the ancient and medieval understanding of humanity and their world, they valued the mastery of three fundamental skills for obtaining an excellent education. Stages, if they exist, are not mentioned in the textual evidence, so I can conclude that such stages did not shape the teaching of the trivium back then.
Q: Why did you omit footnotes and a bibliography?
A: I intentionally tried to use a conversational tone and short chapters for the busy homeschool mom as opposed to formatting it like a research paper. If I had the money to publish an updated edition, I would consider adding textual notes and a bibliography. Do you think I should?
Q: How would Dorothy Sayers receive your criticism?
A: I think she would have agreed with my assessment. According to classical scholar, Bruce McMenomy, in his essay, Classical Studies and Christian Education ”she would have been delighted to find out that more people are reading her words today than ever before, but mortified to find her comments enshrined as a kind of formulary for a whole school of education, falling just short of the status of holy writ.” She confessed in her famous lecture of 1947 that she was no expert on child development.
My goal in mentioning Sayers was not to defame her reputation (I enjoy her mysteries and have great respect for her intellectual abilities), but my purpose was to suggest that in reinterpreting the trivium as stages, Sayers failed to embrace the original understanding of the classical trivium. I did not intend to infer that there are no developmental stages in human maturity…rather, I am saying that the original trivium, as practiced by the ancients and medieval Westerners, bears no evidence that they even conceived of this possibility.
Q: What is the trivium?
A: Trivium is an ancient Latin word which means the “intersection of three roads.” The foundation of an authentic classical education, the classical trivium, involves mastering 3 skills (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) before moving on to the study of abstract ideas. In layman’s terms, the young scholar learned how to read, how to think, and how to speak.
Practically, a child can work on all 3 skills at once. Here’s a vivid analogy based on the translation of the Latin: first, authentic classical education is a journey of learning, and secondly, the initial goal is the intersection or future point in time when all 3 skills have been substantially mastered. The scholar who achieves this level of mastery is ready to handle the complexities of higher knowledge.
Q: How did you develop the case studies?
A: Part Two, “Twelve Classical Makeovers,” is my favorite part of the book because I had the privilege of getting to know some really neat kids! If the first half of the book is theoretical, the second half is purely practical. This is where I show the parent how to personalize the content to the child.
To gather the info for these case studies, I selected 5 families from different regions of the United States and asked them to let me write a transition plan for moving their kids from whatever method of homeschooling they were using to the real classical trivium. In total, I interviewed 12 children, boys and girls, between the ages of 5 and 13 years old.
Before we met, each family completed interview questions and sent samples of the child’s work. Then I met with each child one-on-one to determine how far along they were at mastering the 3 skills. I then wrote up a semester plan with detailed action steps for mastering the 3 skills. I also included comprehensive to-do lists for parents and the child. I’ve included the same interview questions and assessment tools in the appendix of Trivium Mastery (and the bonus CD-ROM) so that you can do your own “Classical Makeover.”
After 3 years of using your model, how have the case study families done?
A: Good question! Of the five families interviewed, four of them are still pursuing an authentic classical home education with great success, and the other family (# 2 – Joe and Anne) decided last year to enroll their kids in a small private classical school.
One of the oldest boys interviewed (third family – 13 year old Jack – “Robots and Circuit Boards” p. 187) has substantially mastered the three skills of the classical trivium. According to Jack’s mom, “his interests are so incredibly varied the more he learns, that I’m not sure he’ll ever settle down. I swear that boy could speak intelligently on any subject you tried to hand to him.” Sounds like classical education has done exactly what Mom and Dad wanted…created a young man equipped with the tools and skills to learn anything he set his mind to! After the trivium, Jack immersed himself in learning about nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. He plans to study applied physics in college.
AND GET 2 BONUS GOODIES:
22 page “Classical Makeover” Interview
In this 22 page “Classical Makeover” interview, you’ll see how a real homeschooling mom of a 10 year old boy, 8 year old girl, and 5 year old boy honestly answers questions about herself, her husband, her kids, her homeschooling experience, and teaching philosophy. Plus free shipping!