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Why We Should Teach Children Philosophy

Why We Should Teach Children Philosophy

For centuries children were taught the basics of math, science, and grammar along with a rich education in the humanities, like philosophy and theology. This turned out some of the greatest thinkers of all time, in eras that were significantly less technologically advanced than today.

We’ve got a creativity crisis in the world today.

We’ve sacrificed the higher order learning offered by courses like philosophy, which teaches how to approach problems, see arguments from multiple sides, and how to think about complex situations. Children who study philosophy grow into being more creative adults; they’re more capable of handling problems in the workplace, in their relationships, and in life in general. Studying philosophy teaches them how to think, how to separate valid from invalid arguments, and how to effectively communicate with other people.

Think about the last time you had a challenge with a customer service representative. Was the teen or young adult employee able to resolve the issue creatively or did they just simply rely on a memorized understanding of policies and procedures?

Were they interested in solving your issue and turning you into a satisfied customer or were they more interested in just getting you to quit complaining?

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For those of you, like me, who are at or just beyond the midpoint of our careers, think about the ‘new kids’ in the work place. Are they creative thinkers? Are they effective communicators? Can they negotiate and come up with solutions that benefit multiple parties? Are they able to come up with creative solutions for complex problems, seeing how seemingly separate systems and/or processes interact with each other?

If we’re being honest, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find people like that.

Kids who have come up through the school pipeline beginning in the late 1990s are now graduated from college and hitting the workforce. Other teens, born in the late 1990s, are now popping up in typical ‘teenager jobs’ (i.e. retail, movie theaters, fast food). These are kids who have come through a school pipeline that is full of standardized testing, and rote memorization. Today’s students are being taught what to think and not how to think.

As technological expansion started to explode in the late 1970s, and early 1980s, it became apparent that the Industrial model of education, which has been in place since the Industrial Revolution, had significant weaknesses. These weaknesses led to the beginning of the decline in US student performance versus students in the rest of the world. As the world began to move faster, US students began to fall further and further behind.

Beginning in the 1980s, accountability in education began to grow as a movement. As the Americans saw educational performance begin to falter in comparison to other nations, educators, administrators, and legislators began looking for ways to improve school and student performance, particularly in math and science. This led to the birth of the accountability, or educational standards, movement. Now, almost 15 years after the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), we see that the focus on metrics and statistics to measure student performance hasn’t returned the results that were promised.

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For example:

  • The United States dropped from 18th internationally to 31st in math and science between 2001 and 2009.
  • A 5 year study completed in 2007 showed that focusing on standardized testing pushes teachers to “teach to the test” and sacrifice more complex, higher cognitive thinking assignments.
  • Some schools devote nearly 25% of teaching time to test preparation.
  • Standardized testing is expensive, putting unnecessary stress on school district budgets.

(source: standardizedtests.procon.org)

This increase in standardized testing, (‘accountability’), has only served as a thumb in the dike, temporarily holding off the inevitable collapse of the American education system.

What has this focus on standardized testing changed?

Well, we’ve become more focused on fact and figures that can be memorized and regurgitated and less on the deeper meanings behind them.

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Centuries ago, when most of the sciences were born, the Godfathers of those sciences were well versed in philosophy. Their study of philosophy led them to search for meaning within the universe. Today, students should be taught the basics of philosophy, preferably starting at an early age. Some of the very basic philosophical concepts that every student should learn include:

  • A priori and a posteriori arguments: to understand the differences between knowledge, truth, and experience.
  • Causality: to understand the relationship between two events in the universe, or on a smaller scale, a system.
  • Deductive and Inductive reasoning
  • Logic and logical fallacies: to form better arguments
  • The philosophy of political and economic ideologies: Comprehending ideologies like democracy, socialism, capitalism, and so on, assists in understanding various countries, cultures, and historical events
  • Subjective vs. Objective observations: to understand the difference between facts and opinion

These basic concepts in philosophy are a good foundation for teaching children how to think, instead of simply what to think.

So, as parents, how do we do this? How can we teach our kids philosophy without getting tangled up in endless philosophical arguments with an 8 year old?

It’s actually a lot simpler to do than it would appear.

Many children’s books are built around philosophical concepts such as fairness, truth, honesty, and ethics. So, from an early age, children can be introduced to basic philosophical concepts. Instead of talking simply about the events in the book, question them about the philosophical theme in the book.

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For example, in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day, there are a number of philosophical concepts that can be discussed. You can discuss:

  • Emotions – Discuss what emotions Alexander has, what they are, and how to handle them.
  • Art – Discuss the picture Alexander draws and how art appreciation is subjective
  • Mistakes – Discuss making them, fixing them, and how our actions impact others.

A great resource for divining philosophical discussions from children’s books is TeachingChildrenPhilosophy.org. Then, as kids get older, more complex concepts can be introduced like causality, peer pressure, and morality.

As shown in a BPS Research Digest study, kids who are taught philosophy showed significant improvements on tests of their verbal, numerical and spatial abilities. The study also showed that the positive effects of the study of philosophy were long lasting. When the same students were tested two years later, those who were taught philosophy still had higher test scores while the scores for the control group students either didn’t change or declined.

Philosophy doesn’t need to be an existential exercise, nor does it need to be intimidating. By integrating philosophical concepts into everyday events and discussions, we can teach our kids how to think, instead of just what to think.

And by doing so, we teach our kids how to create a better world.

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Christian Salafia

Rocket-scientist, Nuclear Engineer, Theologian, and creator of the TransformRadio podcast

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Published on November 7, 2018

How to Homeschool in the 21st Century (For All Types of Parents & Kids)

How to Homeschool in the 21st Century (For All Types of Parents & Kids)

In 2016, it was estimated that 1.7 million children were being homeschooled in the U.S, roughly 3.3% of all school-aged children.[1] Although this may not sound like a big portion of the population, the growth rate of homeschooling has been 7 to15% per year for the last two decades.

The burgeoning numbers are not a coincidence. There are tremendous benefits to homeschooling, including one-on-one teaching, adaptability to individual needs and learning styles, a safe learning environment, encouraging learning for knowledge rather than grades, and tailoring a curriculum to the child’s interests.

Is homeschooling something that you have been considering for your family? With all of the tools and resources available for homeschoolers in the 21st century, it may be easier than you think.

How to Homeschool (Getting Started)

After thinking it through, you’ve decided that homeschooling is the right step for you and your family. Now what? Here are the first things you should do to get your homeschooling journey started on the right track.

Figure Out the Laws

Homeschooling is regulated by the state, not the federal government. The first step is to find the current and accurate legal requirements mandated by your state in order to educate your child legally.[2]

The regulations can vary widely, from strict guidelines to no guidelines at all. However, don’t be overwhelmed by the legal jargon. There are many resources and local communities for homeschooling families that can help you figure out the logistics.

Decide on an Approach

Every child’s needs are different. This is your chance to choose the homeschooling style or combination of styles that best fits your child’s learning style and interests. A brief description of seven different homeschooling methods are listed below.

Supplies/Resources

Often times, purchasing a homeschooling curriculum is done too early in the planning process, resulting in buyer’s remorse.

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A curriculum is not always needed for homeschooling, and other types of free or less structured resources are readily available.

Find a Community

Getting connected with a community of homeschoolers is one of the most important parts of building a successful and thriving homeschool environment for your kids.

Look for communities online for virtual support or a local group that you and your kids can interact with. Partnering with others fosters better socialization skills for the students and provides opportunities for field trips, classes, and outings that wouldn’t have otherwise been a part of the homeschooling experience.

7 Different Homeschooling Methods

1. School-At-Home

Also known as Traditional homeschool, School-At-Home uses essentially the same curriculum as the local private or public school but at home.

The lessons can be completed independently, but more commonly, they are administered by a parent or a teacher-facilitated online school.

  • Benefits: formal standards, wide selection of curricula, same pace as peers, short-term friendly
  • Drawbacks: expensive, inflexible, time consuming, parent can get easily burnt out
  • Resources: K12, Time4Learning, Abeka

2. Classical

One of the most popular homeschooling methods used, it borrows educational practices from Ancient Greece and Rome. Subject areas are studied chronologically so that students can understand the consequence of ideas over time.

Socratic dialogue fosters effective discussions and debate to achieve beyond mere comprehension. There is often a strong emphasis on Great Books[3] as well as Greek and Latin.

3. Unit Studies

Rather than breaking up education into subjects, unit studies approach each topic as a whole, studying it from the perspective of each subject area.

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For example, a unit study about animals could include reading books about animals, learning about the classification of animals, figuring out which animals live on which continents, etc. This method is often used as a technique in other more comprehensive educational methodologies.

  • Benefits: promotes thinking about concepts as a whole, not monotonous or redundant, student-directed, bolsters weaker subject areas, beneficial for teaching multi-age students
  • Drawbacks: incomplete, knowledge gaps, curriculum-dependent
  • Resources: Unit Study, Unit Studies, Unit Studies Made Easy, Konos

4. Charlotte Mason

This Christian homeschooling style utilizes shorts periods of study (15-20 minute max for elementary, 45 minute max for high school), along with nature walks and history portfolios.

Students are encouraged to practice observation, memorization, and narration often. With a focus on “living books” (stories with heroes, life lessons, socio-ethical implications), reading plays a big role in this student-paced teaching style.

5. Montessori

Maria Montessori developed this method through working with special needs children in the early 20th century.

With a primary focus on the student setting the pace and indirect instruction from the teacher, this approach includes free movement, large unstructured time blocks (up to 3 hours), multi-grade classes, and individualized learning plans based on interests.

6. Unschooling

Unschooling is a learning model largely based on the work of John Holt.[4] The teaching style focuses mainly on the students’ interests, putting priority on experiential, activity-based, and learn as you go approaches.

For basic skills such as reading, writing, and math, a systematic technique is employed, but testing and evaluations are typically not utilized. Teachers, in general, play more of a facilitator role.

7. Eclectic/Relaxed

As the most popular method of homeschool, eclectic homeschooling is child-directed, resourceful, and non-curriculum based.

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Parents can sample any combination of homeschooling methods and styles or resources. One growing sector of eclectic homeschooling combines part homeschooling with part traditional schooling.

How to Facilitate Homeschooling with Technology

One of the reasons homeschooling is more feasible than ever before is due to the accessibility of tools and resources to enhance the learning process.

Email

Email is a tool that has really stood the test of time. Invented in 1972, it is still used today as a primary means of communicating on the Internet.

It is a great way to share assignments, links, and videos between parent and student.

Google Drive/Calendar

Google Drive offers a multitude of essential programs that can come in handy for homeschoolers, such as Docs, Sheets, Slides, and more.

With its sharing capabilities, easy accessibility, and auto-save ability, it’s easier than ever to organize and complete assignments. It will improve students’ writing and typing skills, as well as eliminate the need for paper.

Google Calendar is an excellent tool for tracking assignment due dates, planning field trips and activities, and developing time management skills.

Ebooks

Rather than invest in physical copies of books, ebooks are a wonderful option for saving money and space. There are plenty of places that offer a free or paid subscription to a wide selection of ebooks:

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E-Courses

When a structured curriculum is necessary for teaching a certain topic, an e-course is the way to go.

From watercolors to calculus, there are e-courses available about almost everything. Including different teaching styles that vary from the parents will encourage students to learn in different ways.

The visual and auditory stimulation will also be beneficial in helping students understand and retain the concepts being taught.

Some recommendations:

Youtube

Youtube is not just a platform for music videos and cats doing funny things. There are a number of Youtube channels that produce quality educational videos, free of charge.

Creating a playlist of videos for various topics is a great way to supplement a homeschool education.

Some recommendations:

Final Thoughts

Homeschooling in the current age looks much different than it did ten years ago. There are more options and more flexibility when it comes to educating kids at home.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the idea of homeschooling your children if it could make a positive impact on your family.

Featured photo credit: Hal Gatewood via unsplash.com

Reference

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