Sunday, 20 May 2018

                           Socrates with S'mores, 

Bringing out the natural philosopher in your child.

                                                            Part one Socrates

  As soon as a child can speak he begins to wonder about the world around him. Young children want to touch, explore and examine everything. They ask question after question in an attempt to discover the nature of the world.  In this respect, they have more in common with the ancient philosophers than do most adults. Socrates too sought to understand and illuminate the world around him through questions. The Socratic method of teaching refers to  teaching through asking leading questions. Unfortunately Socrates questioning angered those in power, and he was put to death. To me, every time we brush off a child's eager questions of the world, or force them to endure monologues which are aimed at teaching the established narrative rather than seeking truth, we kill some part of the natural wonder and joy of learning in a child. Even when we do do absolutely know the answer, or at least think we do, how much better to allow the child the joy of discovery, to present the evidence we can find and let them from their own conclusions. True, it isn't the safest way to teach, my children have not always come to the same conclusions I have, but I view my job as being to teach them how to think, not what to think. A famous quote attributed to Socrates tells us "the unexamined life is not worth living". It is easy of course to say such things without meaning them, but Socrates did mean what he said, as evidenced by his choice to die rather than give up questioning anything and everything. The foundation of my educational philosophy is to question everything.

 Now not all of our education is centred on the Socratic modelled, nor do I teach an entirely  Classical Education, I will go into the other half of our educational in part 2 - S'mores, and in fact that is the most fun part, but I view the basics of a classical education as the essential underpinning of any well rounded education. Wikipedia defines the Classical education movement as a Western phenomena. According to their site "The Classical education movement advocates a form of education based in the traditions of Western culture, with a particular focus on education as understood and taught in Classical antiquity and the Middle Ages."  There are of course alternatives for other parts of the world, and in particular the  Vedic version fascinates me, but my children our European and I have based their education on their own native culture, history, religions (yes Europe has had more than one religion) and heritage. That isn't to say we don't learn about others as well. It is simply that we focus on the basics of any good education regardless of locale, the old fashioned three r's : reading, 'riting, 'rithmatic  + what I consider the 4th r, or requirement of a well rounded education, rambling, or outdoor activities (more on that in part two) and the history, literature and heritage of their own culture. In addition a classical education includes philosophy and the sciences. A classical education would traditionally include instruction in Greek and Latin as well, but while this would have been essential at one time, to read so much of the Classical literature, I do not see these languages as particularly relevant today other than the basic understanding of Latin names and classifications of plant and animal life. We have decided to use our time on other subjects instead.

  It would not include the many practical skills a child needs to learn, but I imagine it was assumed a child would learn these at home. A classical education, in and of itself does not prepare a child for any career other than teaching. It has drawbacks as does any other strictly adhered to method of education, but that does not mean it does not have value. We combine elements of a classical educations with more modern pursuits, such as computer assisted learning, computer building and electronics; as well as outdoor skills, building a fire, shooting a bow, or finding wild food; martial arts and defensive; and the bare necessities of domestic life, how to cook, sew and clean clothes.

 In General we focus on our own history, culture, literature and religious beliefs, though we do include those from other nations as well. After all, we believe every story has many sides. A classical education traditionally would include tuition in Greek and Latin. We do not pursue these subjects as the odds of the children remembering them are slim and the amount of time devoted would take from other subjects. While part of our studies are devoted to the essentials, we also include anything the children take an interest in. Some of our previous unit studies have included prehistoric plants, insects and even diseases; biological and chemical warfare; parasites that effect some degree of mind control (zombie makers), and the evolution of weaponry. Our current project is an on going study of fire and we have been making plans and gathering materials to recreate a primitive armoury, everything from fire hardened spears to a bola, sling, and possibly an atlatl. The children are also desperate to create thermite, and believe they could do this wish aluminium powders and rust. I haven't researched the safety aspects of this  to decide on whether to give consent yet. The classical subjects form the roots of education, but the whole philosophy is more like a tree with many branches. Every day is another adventure.

For more information on classical home schooling , from slightly different perspectives please see:

Or if you just want a really quick definition:

A good  Socrates for children:

A philosophy book we are using now:

See also my older post on books that teach values.


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