What We Teach
Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves. This classical pattern is called the trivium.
--Susan Wise Bauer, The Well-Trained Mind
Grammar is the art of speaking correctly, intelligently, and beautifully. Considered as a liberal art, it includes phonics, formal grammar, etymology (word studies), spelling, basic composition public speaking, and literature.
Our language program is the foundation of our school. At Beacon Hill, we use a method of teaching grammar with a winsome and thorough protocol that draws every student into the learning. It is auditory, visual, and tactile. With this method, we've achieved a very high success rate across the student body in general language abilities.
Memorization is essential to our program. Our students memorize at least six lengthy poems every year which serve as models of beautiful speech.
Logic is the art of correct reasoning. Through logic, children learn to correctly solve problems, understand and construct arguments, and identify fallacies. The formal discipline of logic begins in 5th grade and continues for four years in the following progression:
5) General reasoning skills/critical thinking
6) Informal logic (fallacies)
7) Formal Logic 1
8) Informal logic (argumentation)
Today, many are mistaken in the idea that logic is mathematical by nature, as traditionally this hasn’t been the case. While logical principles can be applied to abstract symbols, it is most essential that students apply logical thinking to the ideas presented in English before them. Thus, we are for the humanizing of Logic as a vital liberal art.
A thorough liberal arts education does not end with grammar and logic. In the classical Roman system of education, students would spend their first years with a grammarian, and then, if funds and abilities were sufficient, they would spend a season working with a rhetoric teacher. They would analyze beautiful and effective speeches, and regularly give speeches themselves, the goal being statesmanship and legal competence. It was a place of listening, watching, imitating, but above all, doing.
Parents sent their kids to rhetoric school with the hope they would become statesmen, but this is not the only useful application of rhetoric. Considering how many vocations require strong communication skills, nothing is more practical than rhetoric—whether one becomes a soldier, a teacher, a lawyer, or a businessman. And since all Christians are called to bear witness to the truth, rhetoric is eminently useful as a disciple of Jesus.
At Beacon Hill, formal rhetoric classes are taught to every student in grades 9-12. In the Fall all students apply their rhetorical skills to the activity of Mock Trial. In the Spring, to formal speech and debate. This is not a place for the mere study of rhetoric but a training ground with continual practice.