Transitioning in Classical Education

How do you know when your child is ready to transition from grammar to dialectic to rhetoric? There are many guides out there in the classical education world with recommendations based on age or grade level, but it is really up to the parent/teacher to determine when the child is ready.

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What are signs of readiness?

When a child is ready to move on from grammar to dialectic/logic, I look for her to begin making connections and asking lots of questions. The age/grade levels are a guide only. My daughter began making connections earlier than the recommendations. I didn’t want to hold her back with a too-low reading level or have her get bored with further memorizing. We moved on in our curriculum to the “dialectic level.” We still often read the upper grammar books with the younger siblings because they’re awesome. We continued with memorizing new material. We continued with history timelines. Some things don’t change.

The reading lists on Ambleside Online are a great guide. They are challenging. If they’re too easy, then you need to look to move on to keep the child interested. The key is to challenge without frustration. They don’t necessarily coincide to grade levels.

It concerns me to read articles citing that some children shouldn’t expect to even move on to the rhetoric level (can’t find the reference, but I remember reading this recently). I feel it’s my duty to get my children to that level where they can eventually surpass the master and self-teach. Rhetoric is Socratic dialogue and critical thinking about what is learned. (Dictionary definition: “The art of speaking and writing effectively.”) I think this is one area in which our schools are sorely lacking–as is most of society! The idea of “can’t” permeates our mindsets. If no one else (or very few) achieves it, then it must be impossible or improbable.

My younger girls are well into the grammar stage now and I’m loving it. And now, I’m looking for Elizabeth to begin moving into the dialectic stage. She’s not quite there. There are some gaps I need to fill. She is learning more logic and philosophy, so it’s helping heaps with her connections. We’re upping her writing requirements and she’s shown great improvements even in a month! We’re moving into algebra. That frightens me a bit, lol.

You can always look into these guides to help you determine if your child is on a certain level: What Your X Grader Needs to Know. The biggest problem with these is that they’re geared mostly towards school children and those pesky grade levels. But they’re a jumping off point. They’re helpful.

Parents should know their children best and monitor challenges to observe when it’s best to move into the next learning level. I love this about homeschooling. I learn along with my children and know them intimately: what their interests are, what they love and dislike, where their passions lie. I know what frustrates them. I can reteach a concept that’s difficult. We can move on when we’re ready. We can skip pages (gasp!). We can do 2nd grade math and 4th grade reading or mix it up however it works best for us.

The three foundations of a classical education:

Grammar Level {Grammar overview}

Dialectic Level {Dialectic overview}

Rhetoric Level {Rhetoric overview}

Here’s an introduction to Classical Education and you can read the Three Pillars of Classical Education.

Some favorite classical education companies/blogs:

“The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life.” ~ Plato