Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review of Philosophy Adventure

Home School Adventure Co.

Philosophy is one of my loves. I am three hours short of having a degree in it from a Catholic university (no one does philosophy like a Thomist - seriously). Ever since I started homeschooling I have looked forward to being able to teach my kids philosophy. I consider it my reward for having to deal with things like phonics and addition. Now is when we get to finally learn the fun stuff! Having said that, I recently realized that I am faced with my perennial problem: I tend to want to teach everything. The conundrum is that my 12 year-old, although highly gifted, is not ready or willing to learn everything. And so I need some outside help. Fortunately, Home School Adventure Co. has provided this help most ably in the form of Philosophy Adventure. Even better, Philosophy Adventure seems designed especially for debaters! Color Therese happy!

Philosophy Adventure

Philosophy Adventure is for kids 6th-12th grades, but younger kids could use it with a lot of parental supervision/intervention. 

Philosophy Adventure
So the goal of Philosophy Adventure is not so much to teach Philosophy (although it does that admirably and well), but to teach thinking, writing, and speaking skills through the philosophical ideas of the Pre-Socratics. How does it do this? 

The best way to get an idea of what Philosophy Adventure does is to take a look at the sample lesson, which includes the Table of Contents. Each step of the writing process is taught in sequence, from deciding what to write about to learning the seven-step process, to guarding against contradictions, learning peer reviews, revising, and editing. As students learn the writing process, they learn about eight different philosophers, their schools of thought, and a correct Biblical worldview. Best of all from our perspective, each chapter also includes a public speaking exercise making this course an ideal accompaniment to Therese's debate and public speaking curriculum.

In fact, it's no accident that Philosophy Adventure dovetails so well with debate. Both a speech and debate coach and an NCFCA nationals-level competitor have blurbs in the forward to the book. It is only when you can learn to organize your thoughts well that you can learn both to speak and to write well. And no one could organize their thoughts like the Greeks. No one. If the Romans could conquer the world because they first conquered Latin, the Greeks cornered the market on Art because they understood the art of eloquence. They knew how to speak to people, whether it was through poetry, satire, or sculpture. NCFCA (National Christian Forensics and Communications Association) is teaching my daughter that art. Philosophy Adventure has given her the nuts and bolts behind it. It is the academic underpinning of the art of communication. 

What is Philosophy Adventure Composed Of?

Each chapter of Philosophy Adventure has seven distinct parts:

  • The Philosopher's Story - the biographical component all about the philosopher's life
  • Think, Write, Speak - relevant articles and assignments
  • Geography - to help locate the philosopher locationally
  • School of Thought - a discussion of the philosopher's, well, school of thought (the school with which he is associated)
  • Contrast - comprised of the philosopher's writings (source material) and biblical worldview
The most important thing to know about Philosophy Adventure, apart from its structure and the fact that it is extremely high quality material is that it is simply stunning. I really encourage you to look at the sample chapter because when you do, you'll see pages with full-color text like this one:

The book is, quite simply, a visual treat.

Reading the book is one part of the program. The second part is the Student Workbook. I feel that the workbook is key to the curriculum. It is comprised of several parts. The first two pages of a lesson are essentially recall and short answer questions based on the lesson reading. The third page is a mapping/geography exercise based on the chapter philosopher's location. Finally is the chapter's writing exercise. There is plenty of guidance and help for the writing exercise, but it is definitely meaty and thought-provoking. It is the biggest part of the student workbook.

Finally, Philosophy Adventure's secret weapon for moms is the Teacher Resources download containing a myriad of teacher helps: timeline, vocabulary, maps, quizzes, answers, and more. I have not delved into this resource much thus far simply because I am already having so much trouble limiting myself with how much I want to cover with Therese! Still, it's a wonderful accompaniment to the course. It makes it far less intimidating than it might otherwise be.

Therese (12) and Philosophy Adventure

Philosophy is not new to Therese. Because of my background and the way that I teach my kids, I have imbued our homeschooling with philosophy since Day One. Whenever I can reference St. Thomas Aquinas (and then, of necessity, Albertus Magnus) I do. Referencing St. Thomas requires referencing Aristotle. Referencing Aristotle requires referencing Plato. And so it goes. How much of this has sunk into my other kids' heads I don't know yet, but Therese is different. She understands a bunch. However, we have never had occasion to delve into the Pre-Socratics before, so all of this material was essentially new to her! 

Originally I tried to read this material to Therese and my other three kids (9, 9, and 10). I gave up that idea quickly for two reasons: I didn't want to kill my kids enjoyment of the subject before they ever got to know it (and as accessible as I feel it is, because of his behavioral problems and ADHD, Nicholas (10) was having no part of it and my twins are still a bit too young) and I just can't stop myself from digressing. I knew that if I continued to do that, Therese would never finish a chapter! So I turned her loose. After that, she did quite well!

Following the suggested schedule in the program 

Therese had no problem working her way through the first two chapters of Philosophy Adventure. Her favorite part was *definitely* the Speak assignment section of Day 4. On Day 5 after she finished her assignment and took her quiz she would meet with me to discuss the week's work. At that point, we would talk about all aspects of the week from the philosopher to the geography to the writing assignment. She would review her speaking assignment for me on Fridays as well. 

Costs and Credits and Final Thoughts...Oh, My!

Philosophy Adventure is a wonderful product. It allows you to incorporate several different disciplines into one cohesive course. Even more importantly, it allows you to begin teaching philosophy to your children at an early age, enabling them to begin synthesizing the most important questions of life (Who am I? Why am I here?) with their own Biblical worldview. These questions are as old as time - even older than Christianity - and it is important to see that people have been wrestling with them even before most people were aware of the One True God. Why? Because God himself plants that seed in everyone's heart. Everyone secretly seeks him even when they are not consciously aware of his existence. Philosophy Adventure is the best program I have seen for kids this age to introduce this concept. Add to that all of the other things it gives kids - writing, speech, geography, and logic skills - and it becomes wonderfully comprehensive. In fact, as the graphic below shows, it can translate into some decent high school credit:

At what cost does such a program come, though? It's actually quite inexpensive! I reviewed the all-digital version of Philosophy Adventure, which is available for $39.95. You can also buy other permutations of the products with various components being in digital and physical forms, depending on your preferences. For everything you're getting, the price is incredible. Would it be nice to have it in a full-color physical book? Yes! It's gorgeous. For the price, though, I would definitely recommend the downloadable version if that's what you can afford. It's gorgeous on the computer or a tablet, too.

Therese has been enjoying this course and I have been enjoying something forcing me to slow down and allow her to learn at her pace. The fact that it dovetails perfectly with speech and debate is such a huge bonus. Philosophy Adventure is one of those really great finds that I think everyone can benefit from, especially if it is likely that they won't be continuing on with some form of philosophy later on in college.
To sweeten the deal, the creator of this great program is offering Crew blog readers 10% off any of her great products with this code!
Home School Adventure Co.

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