Teaching the Trivium – A Review

First book club selection completed! Here’s my review —

Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style is written by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn, “parents of five children whom they have always homeschooled.”  In this book, their expressed purpose is to share with the reader what they have learned through many years of homeschooling.  They remind the reader throughout that homeschooling is a journey of learning not just for the children, but the parents as well.  They humbly admit to making mistakes and changes throughout their journey.  They liken it to a cross-country road trip – if I’m leaving from New York and you find me in Indiana, I’ll be telling a different story by the time I reach Wyoming.  And isn’t that the truth? I hope that as I’m journeying, I’m growing and learning too.  Digging into the Bluedorn’s book afforded me the opportunity to learn from their experience and I’m grateful!

“For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6.  I like where the Bluedorns start – at the Bible.   

“The Scriptures contain all that we need in order to test the usefulness of anything.(p.31) “

“Nothing can be truly known and understood correctly without reference to God.(p.36)” Proverbs 1:7, 9:10  

“This is our first presupposition.  God’s word gives us the correct way to view the world, and directs us how to live in the real world.  It tells us the proper order of things, defines the role relationships, gives us the true presuppositions to establish our knowledge, imparts the holy values to guide our understanding, and establishes the righteous goals to guide us in a walk of wisdom.  Therefore, knowledge of the Scriptures is of first importance.  An education which does not always give Scripture a place, and always make that place the first place, does not measure up to the standard. (p.37)”

And how will our children learn these things? “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.  And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.  And thou shalt write them upon thy posts of thy house, and on thy gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9. God’s provision in the “structure of society for the maintenance and perpetuation of truth and godliness” is found in home training (p.46).  All families are homeschooling their children in one way or another.  It’s simply how families work. Time, methods, etc are what varies.

Let me encourage you.  Even if you know why you are homeschooling and your reasons are faith-based, read the first three chapters. It really helps you to unpack all those reasons with scripture used to guide you. I was both challenged and encouraged through these chapters.  

Now, why choose a classical method to teach a Biblical home-based education?  The Bluedorns give three reasons: 

1) Materials; typically very high quality materials, which challenge us to excel for the glory of God. 

2) Results.  Simply put, “whatever your goals may be, the classical approach lays the broadest and most solid foundation for achieving them.” (p.41)  

3) Methodology.  The classical Trivium method – Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric – is the way we learn anything, whether we know it or not.  “It works well because it matches reality.” (p.41)  “We believe the classical Trivium is rooted in our created nature.” (p.87) I should note — check out chapter 10 – to see their analysis of how various educational methods & approaches can work with the classical method.

My quick and simple attempt at defining the trivium for you: first, trivium is a Latin word which means “where three roads meet.” The three roads being grammar, logic, and rhetoric.  Grammar is the science of language.  Logic is skill in reasoning and critical analysis.  Rhetoric is mastery of creative, expressive, and persuasive speech.  These roads can be considered subsets of each subject (science, math, history, etc), subjects themselves, teaching methods, and developmental stages of a child’s education. They are the stages in which any subject is learned and also the stages through which children progress as they mature.  But just as three roads meeting, they overlap.  

So, moving from these foundations forward, the Bluedorns take time throughout the remaining chapters to explain how they’ve implemented classical Biblical education in their home: chapter 5 – languages, chapter 6 – logic, chapter 7 – rhetoric, chapter 8 – literature, chapter 9 – historical literature, chapter 10 – analysis of methods & approaches, chapters 11-15 what to do broken down by age, and finally chapter 16 – life goals.

Plenty of practical examples are provided, as well as answers to previous readers’ questions.  There are also over 150 pages of articles and appendixes in the back for more reading…including Dorothy Sayers’ The Lost Tools of Learning and a Resource List.  Some of my favorite bits of advice:

– “Every time you read something historical, mark it on your timeline.” (p.316)

– “Do not require your children to sit beside you on the couch perfectly still while you read.”  If you too get frustrated sometimes by the seemingly endless interruptions during read-aloud time, read p.320-321.  

– “The process for obtaining the end is as important as the end itself.  Children remember how we mothers did things, and sometimes why we did things, regardless of how often the perfect result was actually obtained.” (p.321)

– “Have someone read a passage of Scripture, then have everyone in the family, perhaps in turn, ask the father a question about the passage.  Do not let your child ignore God.” (p.322-323)

– “If you sit down and work beside them, they’ll spend more time.” (p.323) 

– “Take field trips frequently.  Give your child experiences from which to build his understanding of the world.” (p.324)

– “Do not do for your child what he can do for himself.  Develop in your child a love for work and service.” (p.326)

– “We have found, in our own experience, that if the area of discipline is neglected, then we may as well forget about academics.  Children will never learn self-discipline if parents do not train them in it.  The child who does not develop self-discipline will fail in many things.” (p.328)

– “Buy tools for exploring, not toys for adoring.” (p.335)

Oh & really, there are so many more! If you don’t have time now to read the entire book, there are great summaries at the end of each chapter.  The practical chapters contain sample schedules, as well, which you might find helpful.  

Be forewarned, the Bluedorns do not shy away from sharing their complete, honest opinions, which you may, at times, find controversial.  I chose to look for areas of harmony, rather than discord, which I’ve shared with you.  Some of their opinions I have held in my mind for further consideration.  Regardless of those points, there is much to be learned in reading Teaching the Trivium.  It will certainly be a book I refer to again during my homeschool journey.  I hope you find the time to read it for yourself!

If you have read it, please share your thoughts! I’d love to hear them! Also, don’t forget to check out the TtT reviews by Melody and Brandy! Thanks for reading along with me, girls!


  1. says

    This is definitely a book that is on my list to read! Maybe after The Well Trained Mind =) Thanks for linking it up to ‘Classical Mamas Read.’ I need to read that part about interruptions during read-aloud time! I don’t mind good questions, but get frustrated once I realize that I’m not even getting a sentence in between questions/comments!

  2. says

    I love the 10 Things to do with your Children before Age 10 chapter from that book. They have it on their website and I read it there. It really made me want to read the entire book! I have it on my list and hopefully will get to it before too long. I love the bits of advice you shared! Thanks for linking this up to Trivium Tuesdays and to Classical Mamas Read…perfect!

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