The middle school stage in classical education is also known as the logic stage. The logic stage is characterized by processing, synthesizing, and interpreting information. It is the stage during which students work through putting together the information that they have learned, rather than leaving that information disjointed. It is also where students begin to think critically about ideas: relating knowledge from one course of study to another and growing to show the interrelationship of coursework across all subjects.
In the 6th-8th grades at our school, the students work through a composition class called Chreia/Maxim. This class requires the students to take a saying and expand upon it. An example of this would be to take the saying “Good trees bear good fruit” and to use five paragraphs to connect it to other ideas. These could include the students’ experiences, information outside the immediate context of the saying itself, – such as how Scripture interprets Scripture – and the ways in which seemingly unrelated disciplines come to bear upon the concept: e.g. how even a cursory study of botany informs the understanding of the above saying.
Now, you might wonder how this course does not become an incoherent mess of ideas – since we are talking about middle schoolers writing about sayings in light of their experiences. Well, the beauty of the timing of this course – i.e. in its placement within the K-12 classical framework – is that it falls upon students who are wired to connect the new ideas that they encounter with the things that they already know. This is not to say that the students are naturally well reasoned in their thoughts, but instead to say that their minds are malleable towards proper reasoning. As such, it is our great delight to see students not only writing their own explanations of particular sayings, but also constructively critiquing one another’s pieces. And this writing, receiving criticism, and writing again are precisely the kind of tools that they will need for their continued learning far beyond the walls of our classrooms.
Excelsior ad Dei gloriam!