The uniqueness of classical education lies not with the particular subjects pursued nor the specific curriculum employed, but primarily with the method by which knowledge is acquired. The classical method seeks to develop in the student (1) a body of knowledge essential to educated men and women, (2) sound thinking and reasoning skills, and (3) the capacity for beauty and clarity of expression. At FCA, we base our educational approach on the classical teaching model known as the Trivium, which divides the educational life of the child into three stages (grammar; logic, or dialectic; and rhetoric) and takes advantage of the student’s natural capacity for certain types of learning at each of these stages. This method develops logical thinking and reasoning skills which will serve to equip students for a lifetime of learning.
By teaching students how to learn, we provide a solid foundation for mastering the specific subjects encountered throughout their formal education. The subject material and curricula at FCA are carefully chosen to prepare students for a variety of post-secondary educational experiences, but our primary objective is that students gain the skills of learning for themselves. In the end, our teachers strive to instill in students a genuine love and enthusiasm for learning that will remain with them throughout their lives.
The Grammar Stage:
In the grammar (elementary school) stage, the classical approach takes advantage of a young child’s innate capacity to memorize and retain information by teaching the underlying facts and relationships of each subject. Teaching methods often used at this stage of learning include chants, rhymes, and songs that make the facts easier to memorize and remember, as well as hands-on learning experiences that nurture curiosity and creativity. During this period the focus will be on “the basics,” that is the fundamental teaching of Holy Scripture, phonetic reading, mathematics, history, language studies, the arts, and introductory science. Students begin the study of Latin in third grade because of its great value in building English vocabulary, in developing precision in grammar and syntax, in accessing modern foreign languages, and in stimulating cultural literacy. Latin study continues throughout the grammar school and junior high years.
The Logic (or Dialectic) Stage:
The logic stage begins in middle school when the capacity for abstract thought starts to emerge. During this stage students continue to expand on the knowledge base acquired during the grammar stage, but now emphasis is placed on using these facts to create proper sentences, to define terms and eliminate ambiguity, and to detect fallacies. Students at this age love to question and debate. To equip them to argue correctly, we teach them the construction and critique of valid arguments. In this stage we introduce the study of formal logic which equips students to recognize logical fallacies, to identify critical underlying assumptions, and to develop sound reasoning skills. In an age-appropriate fashion, we begin introducing students to controversial ideas and issues that they will encounter throughout their lives.
The Rhetoric Stage:
In the rhetoric (high school) stage, students are formulating their own worldviews and are largely concerned with how they come across to others. Therefore, we develop their capacity for beauty and clarity of expression. Students in this stage take positions on issues and argue for these positions using cogent, articulate, and persuasive communication. In particular, discussion and analysis of controversial and fundamental issues and philosophies will continue, and students will be required to critically examine the assumptions and conclusions intrinsic to their own philosophies and those of the world around them. The students will study the best in literature, the arts, history, theology, science, and philosophy. They will refine their ability to articulate their knowledge. They will learn how to share and defend their faith.