Burlington Vermont Chapter – Catholic Schoolhouse

A Classical Approach

Catholic Schoolhouse describes it’s program as fostering “Homeschool success through a classical approach.”

What does that mean?

CSH’s Classical approach is founded on the Trivium; which can be described as three stages of learning (based on Dorothy Sayers essay entitled the “Lost Tools of Learning” – quotes taken from this essay)

“ The whole of the Trivium was, in fact, intended to teach the pupil the proper use of the tools of learning, before he began to apply them to “subjects” at all.”

Grammar (birth- around 11) – Learning the “What” – Naming

“First, he learned a language; not just how to order a meal in a foreign language, but the structure of a language, and hence of language itself–what it was, how it was put together, and how it worked.”

Logic or dialectic (approximately ages 12-15) – Learning how to use the “What”

“Secondly, he learned how to use language; how to define his terms and make accurate statements; how to construct an argument and how to detect fallacies in argument. Dialectic, that is to say, embraced Logic and Disputation.”

Rhetoric (ages 16 and up) Expressing what one has learned to others

“Thirdly, he learned to express himself in language– how to say what he had to say elegantly and persuasively.” -Dorothy Sayers “Lost Tools of Learning”

Characteristics of the Three Stages


  • Learning the words and terms associated with a subject
  • Memorizing material comes easily to this age. (Think about 2yr olds learning their ABCs)
  • Learning is even easier when memory work is put to chant or songs


  • Analyzing, asking questions, sorting, comparing, and applying the knowledge learned in the grammar stage
  • Understand the words and the rules that apply to them
  • Dialectic stage because much of the work done in this process is accomplished through dialogue


  • They learn to communicate the truth of the subjects learned in the dialectic stage through writing, speech, or conversation.
  • Use what’s been learned to solve a problem, write an original paper or speech, or lead a discussion. Older teens usually enjoy this process because they long to express themselves and be creative problem solvers. This is the stage where we begin to prepare them to become effective Catholic adults.