What is Classical Education?

The Classical Method

Classical education is not better because it's old. It's better because it has been tested and proven in the laboratory of time.

To understand the power and potential of Classical Education in a student’s life, it will help to know the heart and history of the classical method.

In Summary

Historically, students trained under the classical model learned the fundamentals of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, and then used their developed skills of critical thinking and reason. They studied virtue and art. They understood Truth as the foundation for knowledge and the source of wisdom. Success was measured in content of character as well as in breadth of knowledge. Learning was a style of living and not a means to an end. Educators recognized that the mind, as Plutarch, the Greek philosopher, historian, and writer, said, “is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.”

The Learning

Classical education builds the experience of learning around the natural developmental stages of children.

The methodology of teaching is modeled after Dorothy Sayers “Lost Tools of Learning.” Within this context, education happens with the flow of childhood development, in three distinct phases known as The Trivium (which means “The Three Way Path”). When children are young, they love to memorize. It’s life-giving to them. When they grow to their middle school years, they argue and debate. They thrive within the process of discovery. As they mature into young adults, they want to determine their course and plan their movements. The Trivium becomes the framework for learning within classical education.

The Trivium

1. Grammar Stage: K-4th Grade
The first stage of the trivium is Grammar and applies to students from Kindergarten through 5th grade. Children at this age love repetition and routine. By making this a part of their daily lives, the foundations for learning are established. They develop the disciplines of learning (times tables, fundamentals of reading and grammar, etc.) through repetition, song, and play.

2. Logic Stage: 5th-8th Grade
In this stage, the structure and fundamentals learned during the Grammar stage are applied so that students can begin to understand the concepts. Students at this age (middle school years) are prone to debate and arguments more than the early years because of their naturally developing curiosity. Through the Logic phase, they develop the ability to distinguish between good thinking and bad thinking. The disciplines of discernment, reason, and logic are taught within a richly discussion-driven environment.

3. Rhetoric Stage: 9th-12th Grade
The final stage of classical education is where all of learning comes together. It is called Rhetoric. It is within this stage that students learn to synthesize information to form and articulate their own opinions—opinions that are built upon the rules of learning (Grammar), with sound reasoning (Logic), and within the framework of Absolute Truth.

The Result

As we have studied successful classical schools, it is clear their graduates demonstrate preparedness for college and the academic and philosophical challenges that come with it.

The statistics prove it.

They can speak, write, think, debate, and lead.

Because they’ve learned grammar, logic, and rhetoric, they can identify what is True and how to talk about it and live it out.

Classical education is not education just for utility's sake, but to prepare students to live a life of joy and goodness.

CCA graduates will create…build…lead…serve…and inspire.

“The reading of all great books is like a conversation with the finest minds of history.”
~Rene Decartes

Curriculum Overview

We are returning to age-old wisdom that has traditionally been used to educate and form our young people and preserve our rich western heritage.

Here’s how we do it:

  1. Teacher led classrooms: Modern education emphasizes what is often called “child-centered” learning. We agree that students are the object of a proper education and that the purpose of teaching is to ensure that each student masters the material and develops the personal discipline that gives rise to knowledge and virtue. This requires teachers who are attentive to the unique strengths and weaknesses of their students and who are adept at imparting knowledge to every child in their classroom, without compromising either curricular rigor or pedagogical soundness. Historically, this was not always the case in American schools.

    But too often today, “child-centered” learning makes students not only the object, but also the subject and the author of their own education, where the primary purpose of teaching is no longer to impart true knowledge and virtue but rather is to come alongside students on their own, unique path of “self-discovery” and “self-expression.” This approach, like the harsh indifference of some traditional schooling before it, is an abdication of the teacher’s obligation to lead all of her students to a knowledge and love of what is true and good and beautiful.

  2. Primary sources in physical books: Books have always been the main source of knowledge and wisdom in the human experience. We believe children should read the greatest books ever written. To that end, we prioritize books over experience, utilize primary sources whenever possible, and use textbooks that convey knowledge, rather than another’s interpretation of history. Why read what someone else thinks Socrates said or meant? Why not read what Socrates said for himself? If we want our children to be able to make well-informed opinions and become strong thinkers, we should not give them textbook information tainted with an author’s bias. Rather, we should return to the source and engage with the original author himself so that, through question and discussion, the student can join the great conversation.

  3. Developing the whole person through mastering our core virtues: We believe in the strength and enduring truth of the 7 classical virtues. To this end, we emphasize mastery of the traditional 7 virtues and trust in their formative influence: prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, faith, hope, charity.

As a Hillsdale College Curriculum School, we use the Curriculum developed by Hillsdale, a sample of which you can view here. Some highlights include:

  • Core Knowledge Sequence (not to be confused with “Common Core”)
  • Explicit Phonics
  • Singapore Math, a traditional approach to mathematical thinking
  • Integrated fine arts and music
  • Reading the classics and great books in literature classes
  • A classical approach to science
  • Study of Latin
  • Grammar and composition instruction

We intend to add a grade per year until K-12 is served. Looking ahead, our high school curriculum highlights:

  • 4 years of in depth study of history
  • 4 years of in depth study of literature
  • 4 years of in depth study of science (biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy)
  • 4 years of in depth study of mathematics (geometry, algebra I & II, pre-calc, calculus)
  • American government
  • Moral philosophy
  • Logic and rhetoric
  • Economics
  • Art and music

The Role of Technology

The primary use of technology in the modern classroom is the immediate access to vast amounts of information, with little concern paid to proper understanding or contextualizing of this information. Used in this way, the role of the teacher becomes little more than a facilitator of on-going fact acquisition, rather than a steward of wisdom to be passed down to and inculcated in the minds of students. The students, meanwhile, are reduced to little more than “empty vessels” who have a vast knowledge of how to access information, but lack understanding of what to make of this information or how to own knowledge for themselves.

Coupled with this problematic approach to technology is the grave temptation toward endless distraction from social media, gaming, videos, and communication available at a moment’s notice from the student’s pocket. Exposure to this level of temptation before discipline of the mind has been attained condemns the student to never master these base inclinations and order the mind toward contemplation. In addition to these distractions, personal devices often enable unvirtuous and cruel behavior in a realm beyond the reach or guidance of adults.

Our extraordinary advances in technology are in many respects the product of our free society founded upon classical principles and, properly utilized, can be employed to great human benefit. But because technology should serve people and not the other way around, CCA has adopted a strict cell phone and technology policy in our school. If our children’s experience of the world is constantly filtered through technology, they will be far less likely to enjoy the benefit of genuine human interaction or engagement with the true beauty that abounds in our world. Healthy human connection is the foundation for their development into men and women of character and virtue.


We recommend the following resources for learning more about classical education.



  • The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
  • The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom
  • Classical Education: The Movement Sweeping America by Gene Edward Veith, Jr. and Andrew Kern
  • The Making of Americans: Democracy and Our Schools by E. D. Hirsch, Jr.
  • Cultural Literacy by E. D. Hirsch, Jr.
  • The Great Tradition: Classic Readings On What It Means To Be An Educated Human Being edited by Richard Gamble
  • The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory
  • Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong: and What We Can Do About It by William Kilpatrick


“The root of honesty and virtue lies in good education.”