Dear Laurie,

I can’t figure out what grade levels relate to the age levels in Teaching the Trivium. I originally plugged in grade 4, 5, 6 for the Later Knowledge chart; 7 – 9 for the Understanding Level chart; and 10 – 12 for the Wisdom Level chart.

However, in chapter 12 I read that grammar instruction should start at age 10, or grade 5. So if I shift all the charts up one grade, then chapter 12 on Later Knowledge level is for roughly grades 5, 6, and 7; the Understanding Level chart is for grades 8-10; the Wisdom Level chart is grades 11, 12, plus one extra year. Is this correct? That is, do you recommend that we continue our home education for a bit longer than if our child was “in school.”

Your next chapter is “Age 19 and beyond.” Again,19 is usually later than most students start college, which takes me back to the possibility that you suggest keeping them home and instructing in that Wisdom Level a bit longer.

I have been struggling with this ever since I read your book over three years ago, but I didn’t want to ask for fear that I would be viewed as one who is looking for strict grade level standards. I’m not! Just like you recommend for these things to happen “around” a certain age, I know that they can also happen “around” a certain grade level.


I have never been able to figure out grades — I didn’t think in terms of grades when my kids were growing up, so I don’t know that I can guide you correctly. I suspect that grade levels were developed more for socialization reasons than for academic reasons. I’m wondering if grade levels are based on evolutionary principles, rather than developmental principles. That would make for an interesting research topic.

How about this:

early knowledge = up through age 9 = up through grades 3-4
later knowledge = ages 10-12 = grades 4-7
understanding = ages 13-15 = grades 7-10
wisdom = ages 16 and up =grades 10 and up

The concept of grades is too vague and varied to be of much value, in my opinion. In my discussions with people over the years, I find it more useful to speak in terms of age since many homeschoolers are certain that in their family the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average, as Mr. Keillor likes to say. What value is it to say that my child functions on an eighth grade level, when eighth grade today must be somewhere near kindergarden of yesteryear.

School ends with grade twelve, but education never ends. If we are thinking and speaking in terms of I need to get my children educated from grades K through 12 and then on to college next — well, then, it is important to figure all this grade terminology out. But if we are thinking and speaking in terms of just educating, then perhaps the concept of grades becomes an unnecessary burden.

That’s one thing I like about homeschooling. We don’t have to be bound by the terminology and way of thinking that controls those who are entrapped by the traditional educational establishment. We can break free from those restrictions.


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