"Hey, Mom, I have a question. You’re my Mom and Dad’s my dad. You have a Mom - Grandma. And so does she. But how did the first human get born?"
"Dad, could the whole world be nothing but a dream?"
"When I went to the dentist and he gave me a shot, it really hurt. I didn't cry, but I was really scared. Does that mean I wasn't really brave?"
When was the last time your child stumped you with a philosophical question like the ones listed above? How did you respond? If you are like most of us, you tried to reassure your child, but didn't feel like you could really answer his or her question. You know what? You don't have to tell your child the answer in order to discuss the issue that was raised. How?! Well, that’s what philosophy for children is all about.
This website presents all the tools that you need to discuss even the most mind-boggling questions your child can throw at you. The basic idea is to get them to say what they think rather than to stumble over an answer you don't really believe in or to change the subject. All that this involves is faith that your child actually has a lot to discuss with you about the ideas that intrigue and puzzle them. So, instead of panicking when your child gets that puzzled look on his or her face, dive right in and explore together ideas that you are also intrigued by. You'll be surprised at the results.
Here's what one parent says about the site:
"I printed out the book list and questions to use with my son at home. In the last 5 years we must have read Frederick over 200 times, but when I used the discussion questions for the first time, the book took on a whole new meaning for my son. I asked him the questions about working and helping in the community and he came up with so many great responses. We talked about Frederick for over an hour! I really appreciate what you are doing and especially the information that you provide on your website." --Laura Weston
To get a taste of what this is like, take a look at this video-clip. It's a sample from a philosophical discussion among fifth-graders of a question raised in Peter Catalanotto's picture book, Emily's Art. When an art class in Emily's first-grade class results in a clearly inferior drawing being awarded first prize, many questions arise. One of them is how you can judge something so apparently subjective as art. After all, we don't think that it makes sense to say that chocolate is better than vanilla: It's just a matter of taste. Does the same apply to art? Watch what the school children have to say about this...and you will truly be amazed at how they develop the idea that there must be objective standards to use in evaluating works of art!
So even if you are unnerved by the idea of having a philosophical discussion with your 4, 8, or 12 year old, don't let that stop you. Philosophy isn't the esoteric specialty you may remember from that intimidating college course you took and barely passed. Philosophy was born when people began to puzzle about the most basic features of their lives. Despite all the changes of the past two and a half millennia, we still haven't figured out the answers to all of those questions. Just relax and enjoy discussing these age-old problems with your young child or children. You may find that you have a lot to learn from them. And let us know how it goes!