I'm not sure I've ever blogged about my educational upbringing before, so bear with me if this is a little repetitive.
I'll skip over my formative years and jump right into my college years. I started out in music education, but discovered quite early on (after taking my first education class) that it wasn't what I wanted to do with my life. Disillusioned with what 'til then had been the main purpose of my life, I floundered around for about a year and a half, not knowing what else I was "good" at or interested in.
By chance, while taking some time off from full-time college attendance to work and take a couple of classes at community college, I discovered philosophy. Long story short, when I returned as a full-time student, I decided to major in philosophy, with a focus on the works of Plato.
I did very well, receiving departmental honors upon graduation. I applied to several graduate schools and was accepted to a couple. However, only the University of Cincinnati offered a graduate assistant scholarship. The program I was in was a combination MA/PhD (that is, not a terminal MA, which normally doesn't get aid). Sadly, I hadn't really done my homework well when researching graduate schools (the "internet" was in its very wee baby stage, folks), and it wound up that UC wasn't a very good fit after all. I dropped the program in favor of getting married and starting a family. The rest, as they say, is history...
Philosophy in the Homeschool
Fast forward twenty-plus years and here I am educating my children at home. In many ways, I think my personal study of philosophy was preparing me for this journey, and it's with this thought in mind that I begin to consider "teaching" philosophy to my oldest children, as dictated by their personal interests.
Independent rebel that I am, I have never been happy just purchasing curriculum that you can open and go. I might use certain things as resources and refer to syllabi and lesson plans to stoke the fires of my own imagination. There is a homeschool resource called Philosophy Adventure(tm), but it doesn't look like it is broad enough to be an introductory overview and it uses a Biblical worldview in its approach. Not wrong, per se...just doesn't suit our needs here. Part of the beauty of home education is having the freedom and flexibility to tweak and adapt resources to suit the needs of a particular learner.
That said, I have not yet written my own lesson plan/syllabus/whatever. I have, however, scoured the internet for resources that can be helpful when formulating a plan to introduce philosophy to high school aged students. Please keep in mind that I actually like to lump critical thinking/logic in with philosophy, as that skill is imperative when it comes to evaluating what philosophers have written throughout the ages.
This is a book I fought reading for quite a long time. I finally broke down and purchased it this summer after realizing that it might just fit the bill for my fifteen-year-old daughter. I am about halfway through it and like how the topics of philosophy are introduced in a conversational manner. For those who follow a "living book" approach to home education (a la Charlotte Mason), this book would be a good "spine" (a backbone to support further, deeper study).
Unsure of how I'd implement this book, aside from reading and discussing, I scoured the internet for resources that might make reinventing the wheel a little easier. Here are some of the resources that I found:
- Sophie's World Teacher's Guide (MacMillan)
- Sophie's World Outline (Word doc)
- Chart to keep track of history of philosophy
- Spark Notes for Sophie's World
Other Introductory Resources
While I have a decent personal library of primary sources to read for philosophy, I strongly feel that it's good for the beginning student to have a solid introductory text. Aside from Sophie's World (which might not suit ever high school learner), and the intro. text I picked up at the thrift store (can you believe I actually dumped a bunch of philsophy anthologies??? sigh...) there have been a few other resources that have recently come across my radar that I haven't yet been able to read through.
- A Little History of Philosophy by Nigel Warburton. I just discovered this book yesterday as I was perusing Twitter, looking for philosophy folks to follow. It looks like it might be a decent overview for a beginning student.
- Returning Questions: A Dialogical Introduction to Philosophy by Joseph Cronin and Otto R. Piechowski. This is a bit more of an academic text, but it's premise is intriguing: "that good philosophical discussions begin with good philosophical questions"--a "how-to" of philosophy, if you will, based on the writings of those who have come before. And, well, professor Cronin was one of my graduate school colleagues, so I view that as a big plus.
In addition to those two books, there are a number of other helpful articles/websites/etc. to help develop a course for high school students:
- IB Philosophy (similar to Advanced Placement)
- Honors Philosophy Syllabus
- Teaching High School Philosophy
- Homeschool in Philosophy Curriculum
How to Think
While up to this point, introductory philosophy has been more in theory than in practice around here, there is one branch which we actually have experience in learning: LOGIC. I'll admit that I was not awesome in the logic class I was required to take in college. My brain just wasn't there yet, you know? However, I have a couple of kids to whom this way of thinking just comes naturally.
Last year we used the Memoria Press materials for an introduction to traditional/formal logic for the two high schoolers here at our house. I think they got a pretty good grasp of it. I'm hoping to continue on with this Material Logic course this year. I also think Classical Rhetoric would be a great course, but I have to sometimes rein in my enthusiasm for classical education, as I know it doesn't appeal to every learner.
So, there you have it...my big brain dump on the topic of introducing philosophy to high school students. Hopefully in the near future I will follow up with a somewhat more coherent treatment on the topic. Until then...happy reading!