What is Classical Education? | Summit Classical School

What is Classical Education?

Classical curriculum focuses on a three-part process of training the mind. The grammar phase (the early years of school) are spent in absorbing facts, while systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the logic phase (middle grades), students learn to think through the facts they previously learned and construct arguments with those facts. In the rhetoric phase (high school years), they learn to express themselves. This classical pattern is called the trivium. Knowledge, reasoning, and self-expression play a part in all stages. Summit Classical is chartered to serve grades K5-8 and will address the first two stages of the trivium. We will also offer Latin prefixes, suffixes, and roots as part of our language curriculum beginning in third grade.

The early years of instruction are called the “grammar stage.”

These are the years in which the building blocks for all other learning are laid, just as grammar is the foundation for language. In the elementary school years, the mind is ready to absorb information. Children at this age find memorization fun, especially when it is presented through songs and rhymes. During this period, education involves learning of facts rather than learning through self-expression and self-discovery. Instruction is focused on rules of phonics and spelling, rules of grammar, poems, the vocabulary of foreign languages, the stories of history and literature, descriptions of plants and animals and the human body, the facts of mathematics — the list goes on. This information makes up the “grammar,” or the basic building blocks, for the second stage of education.

Around fifth grade, a child’s mind begins to think more analytically. Middle-school students are less interested in finding out facts than in asking “Why?” The second phase of the classical education, the “Logic Stage,” is a time when the child begins to pay attention to cause and effect and to the relationships between different fields of knowledge. A student is ready for the Logic Stage when the capacity for abstract thought begins to mature. During these years, the student begins algebra and the study of logic and begins to apply logic to all academic subjects. The logic of reading, for example, involves the criticism and analysis of texts, not the mere absorption of information; the logic of history demands that the student find out why the War of 1812 was fought, rather than simply reading its story; and the logic of science requires that the child learn the scientific method.

The final phase of a classical education, the “Rhetoric Stage,” builds on the first two. At this point, the high school student learns to write and speak with force and originality. The student of rhetoric applies the rules of logic learned in middle school to the foundational information learned in the early grades and expresses his conclusions in clear, forceful, elegant language.

Character development is an essential component of classical education. The classical model assumes that character can and should be shaped. At Summit Classical School, students and staff will display and demonstrate virtue, character, and integrity. Character formation is a lifelong pursuit, much of it happening long after instruction in the trivium. The examples that students are exposed to now in good literature will give them something to draw on for many years to come.


Summit Classical School is a public classical charter school that opened in Clinton, SC in fall of 2019. Enrollment is now open for the 2021-2022 school year for 5K-5th grades. We opened with kindergarten through third grades and will add a grade each following year. We offer a classical education using the Core Knowledge curriculum.

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