I think most everyone would agree with me that one of their goals is to guide their children to think critically, to be discerning, and to arrive at their own ideas.
As a Christian, I love to see my kids following God and gaining understanding about Him. But I also know that they have to come to a relationship with God on their own. They have to struggle with the basic questions of life and death.
I can teach them answers that I have come to through experience and education, but I can’t form their patterns of thinking or cause them to arrive at the same conclusions as I have.
A lot of Biblical worldview and critical thinking books and curriculum directed at families and children go wrong in this area.
This, I think, is where the study of philosophy comes in nicely.
Studying philosophy, not history
Maybe you took a course in philosophy in college and remember reading about dead old Greek guys. And maybe you are wondering how you will ever be smart enough to go over existentialism or the duality of man with your kids (let alone understand them yourself).
You’ve got the wrong idea about philosophy.
Reading about a bunch of old dead guys, while hugely beneficial to understand the evolution of philosophical thought and inquiry, is basically studying the history of philosophy.
Studying actual philosophy is different – especially with your kids.
Philo = love
Sophos = wisdom
Studying philosophy is:
- loving and pursuing wisdom through intellectual means and moral self-discipline
- the critical analysis of fundamental assumptions and beliefs
- investigation into the nature and causes or principles of life, reality, knowledge, and values
- logical reasoning
Basically, philosophy is asking questions, thinking through beliefs and ideas, working through ideas, and evaluating what we hold to be true.
Perhaps I should change my title to “doing philosophy with kids” so it better reflects what I am trying to convey.
This side of the mountain is a nice gradual slope. You can start by writing things that are useful but very specific, and then gradually make them more general. Joe’s has good burritos. What makes a good burrito? What makes good food? What makes anything good? You can take as long as you want. You don’t have to get all the way to the top of the mountain. You don’t have to tell anyone you’re doing philosophy. -Paul Graham in How to Do Philosophy
Common objections to studying philosophy
Some people might think that studying philosophy with your children is a waste of time. Or they may fear that it will introduce them to dangerous ideas that might cause them to rebel against deeply held beliefs.
It’s a waste of time
Again – I want to argue that what most people think of “studying philosophy” is really no more than a glorified history course. Real philosophy asks the questions it does in order to understand, to form opinions, and to train the mind to be discerning.
And we certainly don’t want to make the study of philosophy our principle focus in life.
Some persons search for God, and find philosophy. Others search for philosophy and find God. And some make the foolish mistake — I sincerely hope it’s not one I’ve ever been tempted to make — of making a God out of philosophy. -Geoffrey Klempner in Can Philosophy Be Taught?
We shouldn’t entertain those sorts of questions (Colossians 2:8 is often quoted)
No one is asking you to lay down your faith and the long-held doctrines of the church and teach your kids that any and every philosophical idea has value. That is the opposite of my point.
Everyone has a philosophy they are working from. The key to doing philosophy with your kids is getting them to recognize what assumptions they and the people around them are constructing their beliefs from. That is much better than sending your child into the world only knowing what the right answers are and not being able to engage with people about what and why they believe the things they do.
As far as Colossians 2:8 – Paul was warning against being taken captive by empty, vain philosophies and arguments. In other words – know how to do good philosophy so you aren’t sucked in by bad philosophy.
Philosophy is a necessity if you want to understand our world. Bad philosophy is the source of most of the great errors in our world today. Errors in philosophy are devastating because they affect everything, as an error of an inch in surveying the angle of a property line will become an error of ten yards a mile down the line. -Peter Kreeft in Why Study Philosophy and Theology?
How do you study philosophy with kids?
Now that I’ve made my case, how does one go about “doing philosophy” with their kids?
That is exactly what I want to show you in this series. It doesn’t have to be another school subject and it doesn’t require you to have a working knowledge of age-old philosophical dilemmas.
I want to show you how we incorporate the love and pursuit of wisdom into our daily lives, through tv shows, children’s books, family discussions, fun videos, and more.
I also want to share some of the books and resources we have found extremely useful, and those that we do not recommend.
This is going to be an extensive series on my blog because these ideas have been brewing in my mind for a long time. For that reason, I am creating a page where I will list all my posts and resources. It will be at the top ^ on my navigation bar.