Sam and I have been making our way through the ancients, or at least the children’s versions of the ancients, for our reading time during the school day. We’ve read through their children’s Bible, some early mythologies, a comic on the Trojan War, and about Odysseus. Currently we are reading Aesop’s Fables, but the next is Plato and Aristotle. I have not had much luck in my search for 1st grade readingmaterial on those two Greeks, however I did stumble upon a book about teaching kids philosophy that got me excited.
Big Ideas For Little Kids: Teaching Philosophy Through Children’s Literature by Thomas E. Wartenberg,
“includes everything a teacher, a parent, or a college student needs to teach philosophy to elementary school children from picture books. Written in a clear and accessible style, the book explains why it is important to allow young children access to philosophy during primary-school education. Wartenberg also gives advice on how to construct a ‘learner-centered’ classroom, in which children discuss philosophical issues with one another as they respond to open-ended questions by saying whether they agree or disagree with what others have said.
From my first glance at the book covers I was intrigued. One of the main reasons we decided to homeschool our children is because we feel public schools don’t do a great job teaching kids to think. With emphasis on testing and college prep, there is little time to spend on logic, critical thinking and certainly not philosophy; but philosophy is a helpful building block for many other subjects.
Big Ideas For Little Kids is written for teachers to use in the classroom, but even if your home class size is one the material is still relevant. Wartenberg gives an easy to follow list of “advice for leading a successful philosophical discussion among elementary-school children”. He also includes tables, charts, and discussion questions to help you and your child/children dissect the story. From Frog And Toad Together by Arnold Lobel to Emily’s Art by Peter Catalanotto and topics such as epistemology or the philosophy of language, this small book covers a lifetime of lessons.
The book is a great tool for any teacher mom, but I think especially for those with inquisitive kids. My Sam is a question asker. While I try to remain patient through his barrage of daily questions, I rarely give them the full attention or time they deserve. I look forward to going through the stories and questions recommended by Wartenberg and being able to give Sam a special time each week where his questions are not just discussed (although not necessarily answered), but also highly encouraged.
Chances are you can find this book at your local library as I did, but if not it is easy to get online at retailers such as Powell’s or Amazon. You can also check out Thomas E. Whartenberg’s website, Teaching Children Philosophy or his philosophy site for middle school children, What’s the Big Idea?