Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Resources for Teaching Kids Philosophy

One of the things I had wanted to do this school year was to start Philosophy back up again as a special subject. I am now thinking maybe we should do a Zoom Philosophy Club starting in January? Love and miss teaching it!!!!

If we did this I would either give each family participating a copy of our book, Little Big Minds: Sharing Philosophy with Kids by Marietta McCarty, so that they could read some background and discuss some thinking questions about each topic and/or philosopher we were going to discuss, or I could simply send out provocative questions beforehand that kids could talk about with their families. Either way, I think is is really important that the children have enough "think time" before we gather to chat.

My students always loved Philosophy because one of our discussion rules was that you (adult or child) called on the next person when you were done speaking, so that no one would inadvertently interrupt you while you were still forming what you wanted to say. The kids liked that I had to raise my hand too, and that sometimes I wouldn't get called on right away!

Little Big Minds: Sharing Philosophy with Kids

by Marietta McCarty

Most of my blog posts from teaching Philosophy are from years ago at The Tidewater School. After I left I turned the classroom blog over to my co-teacher and, when my co-teacher retired, the school deleted our blog... which was heartbreaking for me! So now they are gone. But I do have a few notes on the Waldorf Curriculum website, where you can see all of the topics and all of the philosophers Marietta includes in her book. With the Waldorf curriculum, starting in 6th grade is a good option when you study the history of Ancient Greece and get to Plato and Socrates.

Interestingly, Gareth Matthews has noted that kids STOP doing Philosophy spontaneously after the nine-year change (although he doesn't call it that). Children have fully "landed" on the Earth and begin to be interested in more practical matters, perhaps. Like Housebuilding.

So I think it would be fun to do Philosophy and have Zac (age 5 1/2) in on the sessions too, to see his point of view. He's still young enough that he is fully tapped in to his curious self, and he doesn't think any of his questions or ideas are silly. He doesn't have that hesitation kids get later on. And he's full of questions about things like God and Death right now. He asked me just the other day what the difference was between your brain and your soul.

And for the older children I think it would be balancing if we bring Philosophy back to them, especially if they've stopped asking those tough questions, and let them rediscover the joy of childhood wondering! Part of me thinks there is no better time for Philosophy, and The New York Times agrees (What is Freedom? Teaching Kids Philosohpy in a Pandemic, 06/25/2020).

And then part of me thinks that there is enough hard stuff in the world so we all need something lighter! I mean, when The New Yorker writes a 100% serious article about how to form a peaceful protest if Trump stages a coup (What Can You Do If Trump Stages a Coup?, 10/24/2020), you know things are pretty out of whack.

So I am still pondering the question of Philosophy for this year.

I love Marietta's book and have taught with it the most, but if you're curious about teaching Philosophy to children, there are lots of other resources. When I was a Philosophy major at Smith and getting interested in teaching it to kids, there were only a few people I could find writing about the subject in 1999 (Gareth Matthews, Matthew Lipman, Vivian Gussin Paley). Now there are many more resources! Here are some books, and if you know of websites please share the links!

Thanks to the Philosopher professor parent in our homeschool co-op who turned me on to this great series: Plato & Co.!

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