Monday, April 21, 2014

Philosophy Adventure (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Philosophy Adventure™—Pre-Socratics by Home School Adventure Co. is a biblical worldview philosophy curriculum for students in 6th through 12th grades.  By focusing on contextual reading, writing, and critical thinking, it prepares students to effectively debate their views skillfully.

Philosophy Adventure™ covers a broad variety of subjects focused on the lives and ideas of eight philosophers:
  • Thales
  • Pythagoras
  • Xenophanes
  • Heraclitus
  • Parmenides
  • Empedocles
  • Protagoras
  • Democritus
Luke (grade 10) completed the first two units on Thales and Pythagoras over the last six weeks.  This program qualifies as a cross-curricular program encompassing English, Writing, History, Geography, and Theology.  If you were working with a younger student, you could complete a single unit in well under three weeks.  Used at face value,  the entire program would take approximately a single semester.  In order to turn this into a full year's credit (120-150 course hours), we are adding extra research and writing.  While this program does compare the ancient Greek philosophers with similar minded Christian/Catholic principles (for example, Thales also held the idea of water as an arche, or "first principle" of origin of the earth), Luke took a bit of extra time to delve further into scripture and consider the similarities and differences in schools of thought.  In addition to writing, we have had a number of oral discussions, where Luke was forced to focus on not just the ideas of what he was saying but the articulation of those thoughts.  While the practice in writing is never bad, it is more likely that an oral debate of philosophy and religion is where he will be tested in real life.

The Philosophy Adventure™—Pre-Socratics digital download includes three components: a Student Reader, Student Workbook, and Teacher Resources.   The Student workbook is an item that I really appreciated as the parent-teacher.  It provides unit comprehension questions, geography/map exercises, and writing prompts.  Luke had two complaints about it.  First, the spaces left for writing were awkward (it was too much room for some questions, not enough for others).  Second, the map section was really difficult, because the map in the workbook did not align with the one in the text.  As the parent, I can see the value in this - it forces actually map reading and not just copying.  However, with no orientation points in the second map, as well as being offset from the first, it was difficult to find the places on the map.

The map above (from the text) shows ancient Greece as the westernmost section of the map, while the map below moves further west and includes modern Italy.  It also only goes as far east as Mesopotamia, while the original includes the western edge of India. 

Thankfully, the Teacher's Resources contains Maps with answer keys.  I looked up the answers, was able to see the differences between the two maps, and point Luke in the correct direction.  Once he realized the maps weren't the same (he knew they weren't, but couldn't figure out where the two overlapped), he was able to complete the task.  He also knows that going forward, he may have to shift the maps around and not just copy from one to the other.  (The Teacher's Resource also contains Memory Cards, Timelines, and quizzes with answer keys. The notebook pages do not contain a key, so if you are considering note-taking as a grade, you will have to make sure the student is answering those questions correctly.)

Each unit has three goals - to be engaging, easy to use, and empowering - and  follows the same scheme:

-Philosopher's story: biographic and contextual history
-Write, Think, Speak: assignments to complement the text
-Geographical information
-School of Thought
-Discussion of source material (primary/secondary sources) and comparison with Biblical worldview

Sources (primary vs secondary) and context are discussed early on in the program.  For example, in unit two (Pythagoras), context is shown to be critical in understanding.  This is especially important when studying the Bible and developing a Christian view of the world; it can become very easy to take a single verse or two out of context and reinterpret it to suit the debater's point.  One could actually do this very easily with any source - from the Bible to a modern essay.  The program teaches the importance of looking at the entire passage, both alone and in context with the source's message, when formulating your opinion and debate foundation.

In addition, each Greek philosopher's contemporaries are listed.

I definitely appreciate being able to see these contemporaries placed side by side.  While we will not be studying each of these philosophers and religious figures, it does help to be able to place them in time.  It also makes a parallel study simpler, because you are able to truly compare civilizations in both a parallel and intersecting fashion (especially through following trade routes and interactions).

Philosophy Adventure™ is a great resource for comparative study, both of ancient Greek schools of thought as well as Christianity.  I think it is very important to study other philosophies, in order for you to better understand your own religion.  When you take the time to study other perspectives, it helps you understand your own religious background, because you can see similarities between beliefs as well as understand the differences.  Understanding what makes Christianity unique is critical in an adult acceptance of it; "Because that's what I was told," really isn't enough to adequately defend your faith.

Home School Adventure Co.

The regular price for the digital download version is $39.95, but Home School Adventure Co. is offering TOS Crew Review readers a 10% discount through May 14, 2014. (The discount is also valid on the other Crew-reviewed titles: Philippians in 28 Weeks, Mere Christianity Critical Analysis Journal, and The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Journal Questions.) Use the code CREW-10 at the checkout. 

Click to read Crew Reviews

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