Why is Socrates Hanging Out With My Homeschooler? Teaching Teens to Think

Teaching teens to think. Socrates was a Greek philosopher who loved conversation with his students.  His idea of good teaching was to encourage his students to think for themselves rather than to simply repeat back what they had heard from him or any other teacher.  Sounds like a good approach to me! That’s why Socrates is hanging out with my homeschooler!

Why is Socrates Hanging Out with My Homeschooler? Teaching Teens to Think 7SistersHomeschool.com

Why is Socrates Hanging Out With My Homeschooler? Teaching Teens to Think

When we read with our homeschoolers, it’s important to be equipping them with the observational and critical thinking skills that will make them specific and logical thinkers, because this skill will serve them in all arenas for the rest of their lives.  While some academic learning requires the memorization of facts, teaching literature is an exciting place to instead focus on the art and skill of critical thinking.

What is critical thinking? What is wisdom?

Critical thinking means, in its simplest definition, thinking about thinking.  It means challenging assumptions – those of other people and those of your own mind.

Wisdom is the ability to use our thinking in good ways.

One way to get teens thinking is 7Sisters fascinating, fun Philosophy course.

Philosophy in 4 Questions by Dr. Micah Tillman. 7SistersHomeschool.com
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Another way is graffiti…wait…what?

I remember seeing graffiti once that said, “Question Authority.” Underneath, some other person with no respect for bathroom walls had written, “What will you do if Authority answers?” As a Christian, I want my children to grow up questioning authority in an appropriate way.  Before you decide I’m a heretic who is raising a generation of heretics, allow me to explain.

God loves conversation.  He is not made uncomfortable by questions.

Over and over again in the Bible we see people who were eager to follow after God who dared to ask Him questions.  Our limited human minds, muddled by sin, lack the perfect understanding to always understand God’s wisdom.  God invites, even encourages us to question Him when we do not understand.  That questioning must be done in an attitude of humility, because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but it is not a sign of weak faith when we question Him because we TRULY DESIRE to hear His answer.

There are many earthly authorities, and not all of them (perhaps only a very few of them!) are actually right in everything they are saying.  My children are growing up with the internet available to them everywhere.  Things that are published on the internet appear to speak with authority. I love the joke I saw online recently that said:

“If it’s on the internet, then it must be true.” – George Washington

When I read books with my homeschoolers, I  encourage them to observe the material they are reading and to create questions about it.  Here are some helpful elements to notice:

* Context of the Genre

What type of writing is this?  If I read Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest as if it were the same genre as Elie Weisel’s Night, I will be messed-up-in-the-head when I am finished.  Students need to begin by understanding what type of book they are reading.  Is it fiction?  Is it satire?  Is it autobiographical, biographical, well-documented, persuasive…?  There are so many varieties, and kids need to be instructed to question first the purpose to which the book was written.

* Context of History

Do they understand a little bit about the time-period in which this was written?  Many books are written in reaction to the society in which the author lived and the world events occurring at that time.

* Context of Author’s Life Experience

It takes only a moment to read the “About the Author” section included in so many books.  If there isn’t information at-hand in the book, a quick look at a well-documented resource on the internet will yield basic information that helps readers understand a bit about the person who wrote the words in front of them.  If an author comes from great personal tragedy, for instance, it helps me as the reader to understand and temper the cynicism or anger with which he may have written.

By helping my students to observe the literature they are reading and exercise some critical thinking about it, I can be much less afraid that their minds will be ruined by exposure to something that is contrary to God’s word.  As students grow in wisdom and approach adulthood, it’s important to equip them for thinking critically about the many words that will be spoken to them with authority, genuine or feigned.

And as far as the bathroom graffiti goes, doesn’t it stand to reason that students who question authority in an appropriate manner will RECOGNIZE and RESPECT it when true Authority answers?  God loves to reveal truth to those who seek Him!

One of our most popular Literature courses looks at Great Christian Writers. Download a copy for your teens and help them learn to think!

Great-Christian-Writers-Full Year Literature Study Guides
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Why is Socrates Hanging Out With My Homeschooler? Teaching Teens to Think

Sabrina Justison

20+ year homeschool mom and curriculum developer for 7SistersHomeschool.com. Fred's wife. Writing, drama, music, blogs, kids, shoes, coffee, & books in varying orders on various days. He is God, He is good & He loves me.

7 Replies to “Why is Socrates Hanging Out With My Homeschooler? Teaching Teens to Think”

  1. Fun food for thought!

    This is especially interesting in light of a conversation in my family about a recent sermon and about the billboards proclaiming May 21 as Judgement Day. We’ve had some thoughtful and inciteful debate.

    I am so glad we serve a God who invites us into real relationship – including respectful questioning.

    I pray that I am bringing my children up in a way modeled after that same relationship!

  2. What Sabrina is talking about applies to studying Scripture, too. Oddly enough, Friday’s post is about Bad Hermeneutics (hermeneutics is critical thinking re:Scripture)- along with a video illustrating the idea.

    BTW- George Washington, I know, right? *wry smile*

  3. Seeking answers can be both the means and the goal for a proper education.
    I think that knowing your learning style and those of your children offers a great advantage in provoking them to think critically. As an Abstract/Sequential thinker (I think this is from Cynthia Tobias), I first need to know what the big picture is in order to focus on what I need to do/question now. Once I get the gist of the purpose, I then like to attack my problem in order – step one, step two, etc. Then I am more likely to be able to see, question, and understand any given topic.
    However, the way that I must teach it to my children might be completely different from how I prefer to learn it.. A child may like step-by-step directions; providing them will encourage a comfortable and efficient atmosphere for learning. Giving random directions to a child who seeks structure uses up a lot of brain power (and emotion) on the doing instead of on the learning. Conversely, sticking to a strict step-by-step process for a child who works best when lead by a random question/answer process can be a burden. “Why do I have to wait until the end to ask about the process I am doing right now?” “I know this isn’t finished yet, but I was really wondering about…” “I wonder who thought of this for the first time”. “Hey, I think I have a book about this, can I go check that out?” Providing a broad framework and a generous amount of personal control to the random doer can facilitate some really meaningful critical thinking.
    I really love to have an opinion about pretty much everything, and I love the give and take of questioning to help others form and share their own opinions. (Then I try to get them to agree with me, of course.)

  4. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 – God tells you to question authority, even – and discern what is good and what is not. There are many authorities in the world – including culture itself. I think the key is to recognize that there IS good authority, and then be able to ascertain whether each authority is good or not.

    The trouble with teaching your kids this is you can potentially end up with people like me, who get criticized for being too critical. From my perspective, I don’t think I am too critical, I think that most people aren’t critical enough. The unexamined life, and all that.

  5. Questioning things and grappling with the possible answers helps us to own those answers. Tempered with a knowledge of scripture and wisdom from the Holy Spirit, questioning the things we read is a good thing.

  6. Great thoughts, Sabrina. My son recently brought home a book he had read in a college course, The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. My son highly recommended this book so I have begun reading it. Keller makes a very strong and convincing point about our need to question and reason out our faith as well.

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