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A Classical Conversation

Join the conversation! An eclectic group of folks have joined in to carry out the classical conversation; some of these folks may share or represent views we don't hold. We need them to be dialectic and have a classical conversation, and they need us too! So thanks for being patient with us and our fellow participants.

Category contains 219 blog entries contributed to teamblogs

Peace Talks

Posted by Kate Deddens
Kate Deddens
Kate was born overseas, attending International Baccalaureate schools in Iran, I
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on Wednesday, 02 October 2013
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We all know, from watching political events unfold as well as from negotiating with our children over school work, bed times, chores, and sibling squabbles, that ‘peace talks’ are a way to resolve conflict. How many of us realize, however, that the activity of conversing in itself teaches us how to be peaceful?

 

Having conversations is a tremendously important part of education! Learning how to dialogue with others is not simply working together productively, it is also a way to build fellowship, establish stable, healthy relationships, and achieve community goals. It is an important process in which, perhaps, we most consistently fulfill the highest aspects of our humanity as creatures made in the image of God, from whom the peace which passes all understanding flows.

 

Is not speech the special ability that sets human beings apart from every other creature? It is through speech—in conversation with others, with ourselves as we are conscious of our own thoughts, and with the Lord through prayer—that we learn! Learning is not an accumulation of facts, but occurs by questioning, connecting information, examining it, and articulating governing principles and truths from it.

 

Prime opportunities for learning, therefore, arise in conversation. We are essentially forced, through the need to communicate our ideas with other people and to hear and understand the knowledge and points of views of others, to ask questions, integrate concepts, study them, and draw collaborative conclusions from them. The question for educators, then—whether we are homeschooling parents, tutors, or teachers—is how best to nurture these good conversations.

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How Classical Conversations Teaches Us to Communicate Culture

Posted by Matt
Matt
Matt Bianco is married to his altogether lovely high school sweetheart, Patty. T
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on Tuesday, 01 October 2013
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“People and other creatures would be known by their names and histories, not by their numbers or percentages. History would be handed down in songs and stories, not reduced to evolutionary or technological trends.”

-Wendell Berry

 

What is culture, civilization, community? Do we live in a civilized community because we have tagged and identified everyone with a nine-digit social security number? Does that kind of technical efficiency define what it means to be civilized? Is the human soul satisfied because it can describe a person statistically: height, weight, race, religion, and gender?

 

Community is far more than these things; it is the songs and stories that we can tell about one another, about our forebears.

Math for Fun: How to Count to Infinity

Posted by Jonathan Bartlett
Jonathan Bartlett
Jonathan Bartlett is the director of The Blyth Institute, a nonprofit organizati
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on Monday, 30 September 2013
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Infinity is one of those mathematical concepts that seem to befuddle everyone. It is simultaneously easy to understand, but hard to grasp. What is infinity, how do we use it, and why is it important?

 

First of all, infinity is not really a number; it is more of a concept. It means that a set has no boundaries. The set of all integers (i.e., counting numbers) has no boundary. In other words, if you dream up a very large number, there will always be some other number that is larger than that number. There is no integer called “infinity,” but we say that the set of all of the integers is infinite because it has no boundary.

 

Additionally, not all infinite sets are the same size; the different sizes of infinity are called cardinalities. However, this brings up a question: how would you know if two infinities are the same size or different sizes? To answer this question, we actually need to forget the ways we normally compare things.

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The Dividends of a Challenge Education

Posted by Lisa
Lisa
Lisa Bailey, a homeschooling mom from North Carolina, has served Classical Conve
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on Friday, 27 September 2013
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Well here we are, six or seven weeks into this academic year. For most of us the dust is settling: we are growing accustomed to getting up and out of the house on Classical Conversations day, we are remembering what we like in our packed lunches, and everyone in the family knows where to go when we get to community day. However, in our community, I can tell the “old timers” from the “first timers” among our Challenge parents fairly easily.

 

The “first timers” hurry wild-eyed into the Challenge room, latching on to the tutor as she sets up for the day. “How are we supposed to get it all done? Does anybody finish all the work every week? Should my student already know some of this? You know we never did Challenge before, right?!” They are looking for enlightenment. They are looking for answers. They are looking for understanding. They are looking for a hug. Some are looking for hope for the future. Some are looking for a reason to quit! I want to offer a few insights that should provide hope and a reason to STAY!!

Memory Work: A Personal Journey

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Thursday, 26 September 2013
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Timeless Thursdays: Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

 

For the last six years, I have encountered some of the same questions over and over again from families who are wondering about memory work. Why should I introduce difficult concepts to a young child? Why should I teach my children to memorize and recite things that they cannot understand? Isn't it a waste of time to memorize things that they will just forget?

 

My family started the Classical Conversations Foundations program in 2005 when my oldest child was six. He has now completed each of the three cycles of memory work twice and has just been awarded the honor of Memory Master for the fourth time. Reflecting on our journey, I realized some truths about memory work that I did not understand in the beginning.

Shakespeare’s Language and the Evolution of Human Intelligence

Posted by Andrew Kern
Andrew Kern
Andrew Kern is founder and president of the CiRCE Institute, the founding author
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on Wednesday, 25 September 2013
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I was watching a bit of Brannagh’s Hamlet tonight and luxuriating in the language (some of which I understood) when my dear wife asked for my opinion: “Do you think the groundlings actually understood what was going on in those plays?”

 

I said I thought they did (that is probably a subject for another article).

 

Then she asked for another opinion: “Why do you think people today can’t understand it?”

 

I must warn you, I am about to say something that will sound caustic. You probably want to cover your children’s ears while you read this.

 

The reason we cannot understand Shakespeare or read the King James Version of the Bible or grapple with Milton or almost any poetry is because we systematically school children in our culture to become increasingly stupid. Charlotte Mason uses the term “stultify” to describe what we do.

 

I understand that sounds very harsh, so I need to defend the position.

 

First let me say that this problem is systemic and cannot be blamed on any particular teacher or parent. Those who govern American education at the highest level are highly irresponsible, do not understand the effect of systems on education, and bear primary responsibility for this folly. In addition, text book publishers have profited immeasurably from poor theory, so they bear high responsibility as well.

 

What then is the problem?

Challenge: The Icing on the Cake (How to Manage Foundations, Essentials, and Challenge at the Same Time)

Posted by Courtney Sanford
Courtney Sanford
Courtney Sanford has been home schooling with Classical Conversations since 2005
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on Monday, 23 September 2013
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I used to think that Foundations was the best time of homeschool life. It is fun to sing the songs, read the picture books, and take lots of field trips. However, now that I have two teenagers in high school (Challenge I and Challenge II) I am experiencing some payoff for all the hard work that I have poured into them!

 

I spent years training my children to develop good study habits. I modeled, coached, pleaded, reminded, and I made checklists. And now, they are applying those habits on their own!

 

Every morning since birth, practically, we have had breakfast and started math right away. It is as normal as brushing your teeth. When a student begins Challenge A, they add a second habit to their day: Latin.

 

These two habits get each day off to a great start. My high school students know to do this without having to ask me about it. This gives me time to spend with my Foundations-age student, who still likes me to work sample math problems with him, and who still needs me to keep him on track. (Actually, I could say that about every subject with a ten-year-old boy.)

Sports Scholarships

Posted by Shawn Stewart
Shawn Stewart
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on Monday, 23 September 2013
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We helped some friends of ours find a private college for their son a couple of years ago. I helped negotiate a deal with the Vice President of Enrollment. The school agreed to accommodate the amount the parents were able to spend. All that was left to do was get the two parties together.


Shortly after, I was surprised to learn from the family what a huge factor a one thousand dollar soccer scholarship had been in putting ink to paper. We knew in advance what the college’s published costs were. We knew how much would be discounted from that price to make it possible for their son to go there. Neither of those factors changed, but the college became a lot more appealing to the family when one thousand (roughly one-tenth) of the discount was labeled soccer scholarship.

I am not saying that athletic scholarships are never legitimate. However, there are certainly times when they seem a little like a trade-in allowance to me. When I am buying a car, what really matters is how much money comes out of my bank account to get me behind the wheel. The ancillaries, such as how much was specifically offered as the trade-in value of my fifteen-year-old Honda, are not so important.

Dispute, Deny, Distort, Discard: The Constitution in the Crosshairs

Posted by Brian Tonnell
Brian Tonnell
After 22 years as an Air Force pilot, God poked Brian in the chest and said, “Yo
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on Friday, 20 September 2013
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Satan tried it first1. Dispute: “Did God really say?” Deny: He didn’t really say that. “You will not certainly die.” Distort: Here’s the real truth. “God knows that when you eat from it ... you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” And the final result? Adam and Eve discarded God’s words. Dispute, deny, distort, discard.

 

Once Adam and Eve were no longer grounded in God’s ideas, what did they have to fall back on? Their own wisdom. They did what was right in their own eyes. And history continually reminds us that this is a recipe for disaster.

 

Surely we would never fall into that trap!

 

Even the casual observer will recognize that our culture is losing—more likely, has lost—its basis for Truth. There can be no doubt that our country was founded on biblical principles. During the early days of our country, the preponderance of America was Christian. Even if not all were religious, there was at least a pervading belief in the rightness of biblical principle. This foundation in biblical principle helped steer our culture down the morally right path, whether in government, the courts, the public square, business, or private homes.

Loving God

Posted by Kate Deddens
Kate Deddens
Kate was born overseas, attending International Baccalaureate schools in Iran, I
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on Thursday, 19 September 2013
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The first thing about Classical Conversations that attracted me was some of its signature verses, such as Proverbs 24:3-4 (KJV):

 

Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established: And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

 

As classical, Christian homeschoolers, my husband and I were deeply persuaded by this biblical expression of the classical stages of the Trivium (eloquently expressed by Dorothy Sayers in her essay, “The Lost Tools of Learning”): knowledge correlating with the grammar stage, understanding corresponding to the dialectic stage, and wisdom coinciding with the rhetoric stage.

 

We understood the stages of the Trivium to reflect the learning progress of children as they grow to adulthood as well as to mirror the universal way in which people pass through degrees of learning about any new material. Thus, we saw in these verses not only a biblical confirmation of classical principles, but a beautiful vision of how applying these principles would result in a life blessed by the Lord: Knowledge of information provided the wealth, the fertile ground for growing in understanding; this in turn produced the wisdom by which a sturdy, godly house might be built.

The Right Order—slavery in a modern world

Posted by Robert Bortins
Robert Bortins
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on Wednesday, 18 September 2013
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“I freed thousands of slaves, and could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.” 
― Harriet Tubman

 

As modern day Christians we abhor slavery. We know we are born into the slavery of sin and Jesus died to set us free from sin. We have accepted Him as our Savior, because we recognize that we are slaves to sin. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Genesis tells of the creation of the world and the order in which it was created. The Bible is filled with order. The fact that the world can be known and the reason Christians and not pagans have led the world in scientific discovery is because Christians recognize this order. Sin was brought into the world by the disordering of what God had ordered. Adam and Eve did not want to stay in the order He created, but they wanted to be like God (Genesis 3:5).

 

Since The Fall there has been one main cause of sin: the disorder of desire. The Ten Commandments illustrate this point. All sin is a disordering of desire. Slavery is closely linked to a disordering of priorities, from both the master’s standpoint and the slave’s. The master would be better suited to be a leader of a free man, and a man is better off free. If not, then we do not need to be freed from sin.

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Discussing the Constitution

Posted by Matt
Matt
Matt Bianco is married to his altogether lovely high school sweetheart, Patty. T
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on Tuesday, 17 September 2013
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Today is September 17. How many of you knew today is Constitution Day in the United States? Robert Byrd, a Senator who hailed from West Virginia, established the day as a Federal observance in 2004. September 17th was chosen because it is the day the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution in 1787. In fact, today marks the 226th anniversary of that momentous signing.

 

The Constitution is an exciting part of your child’s education for a variety of reasons. First, information such as that discussed above becomes a part of your child’s memory pegs, upon which he can attach additional information. The Foundations child will remember this as one of the historic events in his Classical Acts and Facts History Timeline cards.

 

Second, Patrick Henry described the Constitutional Convention as an event at which he “smell[ed] a rat.” What did he mean by that statement? Since education that is contextual and prescriptive provides the best education, you can ask prescriptive questions about the Constitutional Convention. Should the United States have called a Constitutional Convention? Should the United States have replaced the Articles of Convention with the Constitution? Should Patrick Henry have refused to attend the Convention? Should Patrick Henry have fought to have the Bill of Rights amended to the Constitution? These are the sorts of questions that can engender an excitement about an event like the Constitutional Convention, especially among dialectic- and rhetoric-aged students.

How to Study a Latin Verb

Posted by Kathy Sheppard
Kathy Sheppard
Kathy Sheppard has a B.A. in Latin from the College of William and Mary and a M.
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on Monday, 16 September 2013
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I admit it has been many years since I studied a Latin verb for the first time. However, I recently had the opportunity to work on Greek verbs in the present tense with one of my friends. It reminded me of two things: first, Greek is so much easier to learn after knowing Latin and learning the Greek alphabet and second, one must have a plan in order to study successfully.

 

Here is how I go about teaching Latin verbs (and also a handout). First, I always start with the English because we always want to start with what they know. I review definitions such as transitive and intransitive, principal parts, tenses, and conjugations of English verbs (I love, you love, he/she/it loves, we love, you all love, they love). Verb persons are always a bit tricky to describe. Students, however, love to discuss point of view in novels and the fact that first person point of view has a narrator in on the action and third person point of view has a narrator who is apart from the action. Principal parts are like verb DNA and show us how we can form every form of the verb (over 300 forms). After I am certain students have a working definition of a verb in English, we move on to Latin.

Classical Education Is like Making a Cheesecake

Posted by Lisa
Lisa
Lisa Bailey, a homeschooling mom from North Carolina, has served Classical Conve
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on Friday, 13 September 2013
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I recently asked a group of young children at Foundations Orientation if they wanted to learn how to make cheesecake. Always ready for an adventure and primed to have snack time sooner rather than later, they enthusiastically agreed. “So, what do we need to get started?” I asked. Answers were abundant, and eventually we sifted through them and decided that, first, we needed a recipe. The ingredients suggested might surprise you: cheese (cheddar, maybe?), crackers, ketchup, and candy bars, along with the more expected eggs, sugar, and butter. We also determined we needed some tools, such as a mixer, a spoon, a measuring cup, and a pan.

 

“Ok,” I said, “So now that we have all our “stuff,” we are done making cheesecake, right?” A chorus of groans greeted this assessment. They protested that we had not DONE anything yet! We had not used the tools and the ingredients had not even been mixed together. So, I assented to the notion that we still needed to work a bit more; we should definitely use all the tools and mix the ingredients. Then we would be finished. But no, it appeared my sous chefs thought we needed to bake the cheesecake in order to really finish the process. Therefore, I asked, “After we bake it, then we are done, right?” Well, here is the thing: These guys had been thinking about cheesecake for quite some time. You might say they were really invested in the cheesecake; they did not just want to make it and bake it, they wanted to eat it! One little guy said, “What’s the point of making it if we don’t get to taste?!”

 

Actually, parents, this is the question I would ask you: What is the real point of Foundations if you are not going to stick with it through Challenge?

Mental Freedom

Posted by David Bailey
David Bailey
David Bailey is the founding pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Stokesdale
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on Thursday, 12 September 2013
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Charlie Brown never kicked a football held by Lucy Van Pelt; somehow he fell for her deception every time. She made a fool of him. I feel sorry for Charlie and I comfort myself in knowing that I could never be so effectively and repeatedly deceived. At least I used to think not.

 

In July, I preached a sermon called “Freedom from Sin” (http://www.crossroadsnc.com/media.php?pageID=10) and I began noticing how I fall prey to deception in my thought life. In a blog post, “Lies that I Believe,” (http://dkbailey.blogspot.com/2013/07/lies-that-i-believe.html) I catalog a series of my erroneous, recurring thoughts. Daily I charge toward the football, believing what is not true: “Hurry up.” “It’s too late.” “You need to be nervous.” “God will leave you hanging.” “You don’t deserve joy.” “You can’t get all your work done.Only by God’s grace can I break the cycle.

Man in the Moon, God in the Sun

Posted by Ruth Holleran
Ruth Holleran
Ruth and Robbo, her husband of 25 years, live in a house they built in Vermont.
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on Wednesday, 11 September 2013
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On the flight into Raleigh to deliver my son to Mandala Fellowship, I shared with him the printout of a poem I had just discovered, “The Church-porch,” by George Herbert (1593-1633). It is the first of three parts of a larger work called The Temple. My son was impressed no less by his insights than by his manner of delivery. When we came through the gate in the Raleigh airport and saw 2nd Edition Booksellers, we stopped on a whim to check out the poetry section. To our astonishment, we found it! It became my parting gift of wisdom to my quadrivium-bound son.

 

“The Church-porch” counsels the young adult how to handle himself in the world. Herbert wrote it specifically for those who flee from didactic preaching. Poetry, Herbert said, may find its way to the heart of one who cannot or will not hear wisdom preached. The verses are rich in jewels of apt analogies. You can find the entire piece here. I have taken three counsels to heart: to feed on the true, beautiful, and good; to avoid common errors of parenting; to learn how to educate for nobility.

 

I direct my reader’s attention to stanzas 16 and 17:

Homeschool and Leisure—those words don’t go together!

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Tuesday, 10 September 2013
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When I hear the words homeschool and leisure together, I don’t think of them as a fit. I’m not sure it’s possible to conceive of parenthood and leisure in the same sentence. Over the course of this summer, however, I’ve been convicted to rethink my conception of both school and leisure. A number of my friends were reading Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper. Since I rarely meet a book I don’t like, I purchased a copy at a conference.

 

Did you know that our word for school actually means leisure? On the first page, Pieper talks about the possibility of us rebuilding the Western tradition. He argues that the foundation of our culture is leisure, “that much, at least, can be learnt from the first chapter of Aristotle’s Metaphysics. And even the history of the word attests the fact: for leisure in Greek is skole, and in Latin scola, the English ‘school’” (19). This was such an astounding revelation that I had to set the book aside for a day to contemplate what this could possibly mean.

Travel Tips and Teaching

Posted by Beth Watson
Beth Watson
Beth Watson graduated from Cairn University (formerly named Philadelphia Biblica
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on Monday, 09 September 2013
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Our family LOVES to travel! We have adopted the goal of visiting all "50 States before they graduate" as our own. Besides the hundreds of photographs I take while we travel, we have two main methods of documenting our travels.

Math and the Nature of Reality

Posted by Jonathan Bartlett
Jonathan Bartlett
Jonathan Bartlett is the director of The Blyth Institute, a nonprofit organizati
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on Friday, 06 September 2013
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It is easy to be deceived about the true nature of both math and reality based on elementary mathematics. When we are young, we look into very simple mathematical operations: counting, addition, subtraction. It is interesting that in these first operations we learn that there are no exceptions and no strange cases. Any number can be added to any other number and it works exactly the same. Addition is commutative (the two addends can be swapped) and associative (it does not matter what order you do it in). Thus, addition is simple, flexible, and reversible. Subtraction is slightly harder as the order of operations starts to matter, but it remains true that any number can be subtracted from any other number. Multiplication is more complicated, but everything still works.

 

The first inkling we get that mathematics is not the perfect beauty that we imagine it to be is in division. It turns out we can divide any number by any other number, except zero. Here we have the first exception to a methodology; the first instance in which the numbers simply do not work, but we treat dividing by zero as a radical outlier.

 

Going further into math, we learn to graph functions. The functions we graph are usually nice and smooth. y = x makes a nice line, and y = x2 makes a nice parabola. The functions we study in fundamental mathematics are all smooth, all continuous, and usually defined for nearly every point on the graph.

How to Ask Better Questions (and Why It Matters)

Posted by Jennifer Greenholt
Jennifer Greenholt
Jen Greenholt was an early participant in the Classical Conversations Challenge
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on Thursday, 05 September 2013
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Why is it so difficult to ask good questions?

 

This year, I have been part of a team working on Leigh Bortins’ forthcoming book, The Question: Teaching Your Child the Essentials of Classical Education. Leigh’s book is a survival guide for homeschooling through junior high and high school. As you can probably guess from the title, she proposes that asking a lot of good questions is the key to surviving the teenage years while training your child to think and argue well.

 

Asking questions is not limited to teaching, however. People ask questions when they are curious, afraid, enthusiastic, frustrated, angry—in short, to cope with the whole range of human emotions. Asking questions is essential for succeeding at any job, building and maintaining relationships, and being a responsible citizen and community member.

 

Asking questions is as natural as learning to talk. Asking good questions requires greater effort, but it does not have to be a mysterious skill limited to philosophers and college professors. Everyone is capable of asking better questions with a little concentration and practice. To prove my point, I want to share with you two common mistakes that I make when asking questions, and ways I have learned to avoid them.

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