Philosophy for Children

Live, Online Classes for Grades 3-12

Philosophy, among other things, is self-conscious inquiry into the meaning of puzzling and contestable concepts. In ancient times philosophy was known as a search for wisdom or meaning, and many of the concepts philosophers have thought about for thousands of years are ones we use to structure our daily experience: “What is justice?” “What is beauty?” “How can I be sure of what I know?” “What is the right thing to do?” “What is real?”

Philosophy is also known for the cultivation of excellent thinking. One of the most ancient branches of philosophy is logic, which includes informal logic, or “critical thinking.” But philosophy is not only an intellectual pursuit. Philosophers have tried to improve their thinking in order to better explore the philosophical dimensions of experience, such as the ethical, political and aesthetic dimensions, and in order to improve their judgments and actions within these dimensions. Philosophy helps us learn to recognize, for instance, the ethical problems and possibilities in our experience, to think through them carefully, to make sound ethical judgments and to take appropriate action. This is why for thousands of years people have practiced philosophy, not only in universities but also in business offices, reading clubs and coffee houses.

One very important element of Philosophy for Children is stimulus materials that provoke and support the students’ philosophical work. The most effective stimulus materials may be ineffectual without the central practice of Philosophy for Children: the community of inquiry. Participating in a community of inquiry engages young people in important cognitive moves such as creating hypotheses, clarifying their terms, asking for and giving good reasons, offering examples and counter examples, questioning each other’s assumptions, drawing inferences, and following the inquiry where it leads. But inquiry is also a social enterprise, which requires students to share their own perspectives, listen to one another, read faces, challenge and build on one another’s thinking, look for missing perspectives and reconstruct their own ideas. This kind of meaningful classroom dialogue is something most students find irresistible: they can’t help joining in, contributing their own reflections. In this way, cognitive and social skillfulness are acquired naturally and in context, rather than in isolated drills.

Philosophy 3-4

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Philosophy 3-4: Elfie

For Grades 3-8, students read the story of Elfie. Elfie was written as part of the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children at Montclair State University. The story follows Elfie and friends as they discover many distinctions fundamental to inquiry: the differences between appearance and reality, the one and the many, parts and wholes, similarity and difference, permanence and change, and change and growth.

Philosophy 5-6

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Philosophy 5-6: Intro to Greek Philosophy

The Ancient Greeks were the first philosophers, and they asked the most fundamental questions about human beings and their relationship to the world: Is reality stable and permanent or is it always changing? Are ethical values like justice and courage relative?  What is happiness? How shall we best live our lives? Students will read excerpts from Ancient Greek texts and attempt to answer these questions.

Ethics

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Ethics 7+

We have inherited the foundations of ethics from such great philosophers and pillars of Western culture as Plato, Aristotle, Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas. This course draws on this rich tradition and provides a new and profound look at those aspects of human moral conduct which are both obvious and true. Topics include: Good and End, The Hierarchy of the Good, The Moral Being: The Decision, and more.

Socratic Logic

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Socratic Logic

This course is aimed at building a strong foundation in logic and learning how to apply logic through critical thinking: the cognitive ability to recognize, classify, analyze, and construct arguments. The appropriate goal is not to become an argumentative bully; it is, rather, to combine critical thinking abilities with compassion, kindness, and reflection in a way that is beneficial to ourselves, our intimates, and all those with whom we come in contact.


One of our graduates, Hunter Gill, explains the importance of Ethics.

The Moderator’s Role

The moderator is the co-inquirer with the children, as interested as they are in exploring philosophical concepts, improving judgment and discovering meaning. However, when it comes to the procedures of inquiry, the facilitator both guides the children and models for them by asking open-ended questions, posing alternative views, seeking clarification, questioning reasons, and by demonstrating self-correcting behavior. It is through this kind of modeling that the children eventually internalize the procedures of inquiry. Our moderators are taught to neither impose authoritative views on their students nor attempt to validate every student’s opinion in a relativistic fashion. They view their role as helping children to understand and use the tools of philosophical inquiry so that children can construct and re-construct their own answers to philosophical questions. The children should see the facilitator as someone who respects them as persons, takes what they have to say seriously, doesn’t think s/he knows everything, models self-correction and really loves ideas.

The objective of such philosophy sessions is neither to find final answers to the questions that are raised, nor to reach complete agreement among the community. On the other hand, a genuine dialogue ‘moves forward’ in some sense that distinguishes it from mere lively conversation. Philosophy for Children seeks two kinds of objectives: progress in coping with the philosophical questions-which might include adapted beliefs, new hypotheses for experiment or even clarification of the question-and growth in the cognitive and social procedures of inquiry. With these objectives in mind, participants in the community of inquiry typically take stock of their own progress with questions such as:

  • Have we begun to deal with this question?
  • What do we understand now about the question/concept that we didn’t understand before?
  • Are we giving each other reasons for our views?
  • Are we listening to each other?
  • Are we able to stick to the point?
  • Are we able to build on each other’s ideas?
  • Who is doing the talking?
  • Do we correct each other with sensitivity?
  • Are we becoming more tentative about what we claim to know?
  • Do we trust each other?

The most enthusiastic proponents of Philosophy for Children are the children, who find philosophy not only thought-provoking but fun. Parents and teachers likewise enjoy doing philosophy with their children. They appreciate this ancient discipline as a way to help their children and themselves to sharpen their thinking, encounter new ideas, decide what they believe, and get to know others through shared inquiry.

Schedule for 2020/2021

ENROLLMENT IS NOW CLOSED

Time (Fridays, Starting September 4) Course
8AM PST/11AM EST Philosophy 7+ Ethics
9:30AM PST/12:30PM EST Philosophy 8+, Socratic Logic – THIS CLASS IS FULL
11AM PST/2PM EST Philosophy 3-4, Elfie
12:30PM PST/3:30PM EST Philosophy 5-6, Intro to Greek Philosophy

If the class you prefer is “FULL” go to this link  to put your name on the Wait-list for that class (we recommend you also  enroll for another class time, and we will notify you when/if a space in your preferred class opens).

Required Texts

ENROLLMENT IS NOW CLOSED

Yearly Philosophy for Children Tuition

$49500YEARLY
  • 5% Pay in Full Discount = $470

Monthly Philosophy for Children Tuition

$4950MONTHLY
  • 10 Month Payment Plans
  • No Additional Fees