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The Classical Model

TCS Houston employs a Classical educational curriculum. Our course syllabi, class lesson plans, and student assignments reflect this approach. This equips students and prepares them for a lifetime of learning. 

Distinctives of the Classical Model at Trinity Classical School

There are six key aspects to how we implement the Classical model at TCS. These are each described in more detail below.
  1. We teach each subject using three tools of learning: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. 
  2. We teach lessons that combine multiple subjects within each grade level. This is also called "vertical integration."
  3. We feature a logical progression of course material and subjects as a student moves up grade levels. This is also called "horizontal integration." 
  4. We offer Greek, beginning in first grade, and Latin, beginning in second grade and continuing through to Rhetoric School.
  5. We use a range of distinctly Classical teaching methods in both the on-campus and at-home classrooms.
  6. We use Classically-focused content for our reading, texts, and enrichment materials.

We teach each subject using three tools of learning: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. 
We place emphasis on mastering these tools of learning, not only the traditional subjects. These three tools correspond to the student's natural stages of development so they work "with the grain" to effectively educate the student. The phases of learning used in the classical model at TCS are as follows:
  • Grammar. The basic facts or particulars which must be known about the subject. Emphasis is on mastery and memorization of basic facts and figures at an age where children naturally enjoy and absorb information. Examples of this phase could include memorizing the 70 basic phonograms, solving math facts and story problems, memorizing a Grammar of History timeline, studying vocabulary and spelling, and learning Latin. This phase is emphasized in Grades Pre-K through 4. 
  • Logic. The rules by which those particulars are ordered or governed. Emphasis is on teaching logic at a point where children naturally like to argue anyway, helping them to do so in a well-trained fashion. Examples of this phase could include writing to support an argument, learning algebra and mathematical logic, performing critical analysis of literature, and applying the scientific method. This phase is emphasized in Grades 5 through 8. 
  • Rhetoric. The expression, synthesis, and application of a subject's grammar and logic. Emphasis is on clarity of expression, at the point where young adults are seeking to define and express themselves. Examples of this phase could include public speaking and composing in-depth essays. This phase is emphasized in Grades 9 through 12. 

Summary of the Three Phases

   Grammar Phase  Logic (Dialectic) Phase  Rhetoric Phase
Grades in this phase PreK to 4th 5th to 8th 9th to 12th
Student's developmental stage. See the Lost Tools of Learning Poll-Parrot: children naturally enjoy and absorb information. Pert: students enjoy argumentation and finding opposing points of view. Poetic: young adults seek to define and express themselves.
Emphasis for mastery Basic facts and figures. Logic and argumentation. Clarity of written and verbal expression. 
Focus of the phase The fundamentals of each subject. The rules by which the fundamentals are ordered and governed.  The expression, synthesis, and application of the fundamental grammar and logic. 

We teach lessons that combine multiple subjects within each grade level.
Curriculum is aligned vertically within each grade which means that l
essons are interrelated and assignments can span more than one subject. For example, as students learn about ancient Egypt, aspects of that culture would relate to a classroom's study of language, history, and science.

We feature a logical progression of course material and subjects as a student moves up grade levels.
s students progress from year to year, there is a natural flow and continuity to their studies. Sometimes this is referred to as the c
urriculum being "horizontally aligned" between grade levels. Students begin a four-year sequence in Grade 1 that follows an historical timeline and allows related subjects to be taught in a complementary way. A new four-year sequence begins in Grade 5, and a final sequence begins in Grade 9. TCS graduates from 12th Grade will have completed three cycles of courses spanning from Creation to the modern day.
  • In Math, students build on material they have learned and review frequently to ensure mastery. 
  • In History, the progression is as follows:
    Ancient History ► Medieval History ► Explorers, European History, Early Modern ► Modern History.
    This follows the timeline from Creation to the present day. This four-year cycle in History begins in Grade 1 and repeats three times until graduation in Grade 12. Each successive study is in greater depth and builds on the Grammar-Logic-Rhetoric progression.
  • In Language Arts and Literature, students read from books covering their period in the historical timeline. In Logic School and Rhetoric School, students read from original sources from the historical periods.
  • In Science, the Grammar School progression is as follows:
    Life Science ► Astronomy and Earth Science ► Chemistry ► Physics. 

    This follows the historical order in which these disciplines were first thoroughly explored and understood. This four-year cycle begins in Grade 1 and ends in Grade 4. In Logic School, these subjects are covered again in a similar sequence with the addition of anatomy and physiology in Grade 8, as follows:
    Biology ► Earth Science ► Physical Science (Chemistry & Physics) ► Astronomy, Anatomy, & Physiology
    This Logic School sequence allows the science sequence to align with the Rhetoric science sequence beginning in Grade 9. In Rhetoric School the order of the science subjects changes somewhat to align with a "Physics First" sequence and with the TCS Math curriculum.
Illustrative topics, by phase:

   Grammar Phase  Logic (Dialectic) Phase  Rhetoric Phase
 Math addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, time, the calendar, money, fractions algebra, geometry, logic trigonometry, differential and integral calculus, statistics
 Science identification, categorization, understanding the primary systems in each discipline experimentation, exploration, hypotheses investigation, explanation
 History Grammar of History Timeline, geography, historical characters contrasting viewpoints, historical motivations, original documents analysis, global context, original documents, historiography 
 Language Arts phonograms, English grammar and vocabulary, Latin vocabulary, spelling, reading for comprehension, handwriting, poetry, memory work, reading for fluency and comprehension, oral recitation creating and defending an argument, debate, linguistic syntax, literary analysis, Latin grammar and beginning translation   literature appreciation, essays, classic literature, public speaking, Latin translation

We offer Classical Languages beginning in First Grade 
TCS offers an Introduction to Greek Language and Culture in First Grade. Student learn the Greek alphabet, songs with Greek vocabulary, and memorize a scripture verse in Greek.

Latin is a core subject for TCS beginning in Second Grade, which serves to accomplish the following:
  • Students gain the linguistic knowledge necessary to participate in the Great Conversation.
  • Students more quickly acquire advanced English and technical vocabularies.
  • Students master the structure and interpretation of an inflected language, which secondarily improves math problem-solving skills.
  • Students establish a foundation for study in other Romance Languages such as French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, or Romanian.

We use a variety of Classical methods in both the on-campus and at-home classrooms.

Classical methods used in the Grammar Stage:
  • Chants & Rhymes. Students internalize the parts of speech and their functions through chants and rhymes which provide a memorable beat. Students learn the major events of world history by chanting a timeline with hand motions that spans from creation to the modern day.
  • Songs & Hymns. Students enjoy singing hymns such as All Creatures of Our God and King and Rock of Ages at Morning Assembly. Some of the early students of Greek and Latin learn songs which teach vocabulary and the alphabets for each language.
  • Memorization.  Students learn all the sounds associated with the 70 basic English phonograms. Students memorize a collection of poems as part of "Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization," a curriculum developed by Andrew Pudewa. Students memorize Scripture which is recited at Morning Assembly. Students learn a poem in science which explains the properties of matter. Students use flash cards to learn math facts.
  • Presentations and public speaking.  Students regularly make presentations and perform recitations in front of their classmates. Our end-of-semester celebration offers students a chance to share what they have learned with their families.
  • Role play. All Pre-Grammar and Grammar students have an opportunity through history presentations, book parties, and Eloquium to role play a historical or literary figure. Some examples include: Kindergarten students studying early American history dress for the first Thanksgiving feast and compose a paragraph telling about their character; first Grade students dress as a character from Ancient times and present their persona to their class; second grade students, studying medieval times and the Renaissance, dress as someone from that period and also create a family crest which reflects their family values.
Classical methods used in the Logic Stage:
  • Memorization.  Students continue to memorize a collection of poems as part of "Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization," a curriculum developed by Andrew Pudewa. Students memorize scripture which is recited at Morning Assembly, and they often continue to memorize subject-related material through chants and sound-offs.
  • Formal Logic instruction. Through a course in logic, students learn about deductive and inductive reasoning, fallacies, and argumentation.
  • Oral Argumentation. Students learn to present and defend their positions in a face-to-face setting.
  • Composition. Students are trained in the art of skillful writing by learning the fundamentals of descriptive writing, biographical sketches, chronological narratives, and even scientific observations.  

Classical methods used in the Rhetoric Stage:
  • Public speaking. Students continue to present to their teachers and classmates, incorporating more advanced topics and arguments.
  • Extemporaneous speaking. Students have the opportunity to formulate a coherent and well-organized speech about a topic given to them spontaneously.
  • Socratic Discussion / Harkness Table. Students are called upon in class are expected to be able to engage with the subject material, express a viewpoint, and be able to offer constructive input to the class discussion. While we do not use a Harness Table, we apply similar principles.
  • Senior Thesis. Each senior student chooses a topic and crafts a thesis incorporating the learning of his or her time at TCS. The thesis is defended orally in front of a panel of judges.

We use classic content for our reading, texts, and enrichment materials.
The materials chosen for all our classes are well-crafted, purposeful, and timeless; they are not simply what is flashiest, newest, or most heavily promoted by a publisher. Our Language Arts, History, and Reading curricula are based on authors who have written books and texts that are praiseworthy, stimulating, and proven. Our Fine Arts curriculum for the Pre-Grammar stage focuses on artists whose works have endured and have been shown to be excellent and worthy of study. 

We pursue accreditation and training to learn from others with more experience.

Additional Reading

The following resources provide an introduction to the principles of Classical Education:

Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning, 
by Robert Littlejohn and Charles T. Evans

An Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents,
by Dr. Christopher Perrin

"The Lost Tools of Learning," a six page essay on the value of Classical education, 
by Dorothy Sayers

Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education, 
by Douglas Wilson