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Learning Logic at Home

by Nathaniel Bluedorn

(Revised May 2008.)

When I was 13, my parents were in a dilemma. They wanted to teach logic and thinking skills to me and my brother and sisters, but they did not know how. In the years since the, my parents did find logic books and videos. Some were excellent. Some were hard to use. I've tried to distill their research and my own research into a suggested course of study for homeschools.

For learning at home, I think a logic textbook needs to be:

  1. Self-teaching - most parents never learned logic themselves, but self-teaching materials will help them learn it along with their children.
  2. Christian - logic is inherently philosophical. I think it is better to learn the philosophy of logic from a Christian worldview. Secular texts often include political correctness. However, Christian materials are often not self-teaching and are often hard to understand.
  3. Practical - we need a text which teaches us how to use logic in everyday life, not one which only teaches abstract concepts. Logic can be down-to-earth, or it can be like learning nuclear physics.

You can read our reviews of logic books and materials that are on the market and check out our list of logic resources available online.

Pre-Logic for Children Under Age 13

Before age 13, I think children can benefit from pre-logic mind exercises. Children enjoy sorting shapes into classes, connecting words with a similar meaning, and knowing what follows in a series of things. Studies have shown that these activities develop the cognitive domain in a child's mind. Just as a child practices handwriting skills to improve small motor control in his hands, the brain is like a muscle which becomes stronger and more focused as it is exercised.

Pre-logic activities are optional. There is only so much time in the day, and some things take precedence over others. Do not worry that your child will be irretrievably damaged because you never sat down with him and sorted shapes into boxes. Obviously many children have done fine without these special activities. Children love doing activities which make them to think, and they may find these activities naturally on their own.

Logic Activities

Games and everyday activities may develop your child's powers for thinking. For hundreds of years, old-fashioned games such as checkers, chess, dominoes, and card games, such as rummy and bridge, have stretched people's minds. Modern games such as Uno, Rummikub, Scrabble and strategy games like Risk, are enjoyable ways to exercise your mind.

A natural way to stimulate a child's mind is simply to converse with him. Open the door to deep conversations with your child when he is young and this relationship will continue all his life. You might want to read our article on The President Has a Banana.

Reading good classic books aloud to children is also good for their minds. Authors like Stevenson, E.B. White, Dickens, and Lewis wrote stories which gave children a bigger picture of the world and stimulate them to think about things that go deeper than the surface.

Learning logic is more than just using a logic curriculum. It encompasses all of life. When we talk about learning logic, we're talking about a life-style of good thinking.

Building Thinking Skills

Building Thinking Skills is a set of pre-logic workbooks published by The Critical Thinking Company. These books are well designed. They provide a fun and stimulating sequence of activities which children enjoy. Each page is self-explanatory.

Building Thinking Skills is not sequential. You can jump into whichever book fits your child's learning ability. The Teacher's Manuals include the answers to each exercise. My mother let us do as many pages as we wanted, skipping parts when they were too easy, and slowing down when we came to more challenging material.

If you want to use the books with more than one child, then you may consider using dry erase markers on clear plastic sheets placed over each page. This lets you you wipe off the sheet and reuse it for the next page. This leaves the book unmarked for the next child to use.

Primary & Book 1 can be used before age 10. However, my mother did not use workbooks with us before age 10 because they can be somewhat of a waste of time.

Book 2 can be used at age 10. The Teacher's Manual is not needed; problems are easy for a parent to solve.

Book 3 Figural can be used at age 11. The Teacher's Manual is recommended because problems can be challenging even for a parent. Activities include describing shapes, and words; following directions; antonyms and synonyms; analogy; parts of a whole; mapping and directionality; logical connectives; pattern folding; tracking, rotation, and reflection; mental manipulation of two dimensional objects; etc.

Book 3 Verbal can be used at age 12. The Teacher's Manual is recommended. Activities include deductive reasoning; denotation/ connotation; following directions; map skills; time ranking; degree of meaning; logical connectives; flowcharts; parts of a whole; branching diagrams; analogy; congruence; etc.

Age 13 and Older

Around age thirteen, something happens in a kids’ brain – he begins to ask questions. "Why do I have to go to bed at 8:00 PM? Why do words have meaning? Did God create evil?" Connections are made and he begins to put ideas together which before were just a jumble of information. His head is converting from a disorganized storage shed into a organized information warehouse. He might come up with some logical conclusions which may startle the adults.

I think the key to teaching logic to young students is the materials you use. In professional academia, logic is considered a college subject and children are thought too young to learn logic. But I think children can use logical thinking skills, and the sooner their mind is trained to reason, the better they will be equipped to study other subjects and lead a thoughtful life. But logic textbooks are written for college students and nobody would expect a child to learn math or logic from a college textbook. I believe children are perfectly capable of learning logic if they have materials which present the subject at their level.

Course of Study

  1. The Fallacy Detective teaches logical fallacies and introduces the idea of an inquiring mind. Going through The Fallacy Detective will give you a better idea of what logic is. It will transition you into the world of logic – or help you decide that you don’t want to study any more logic. (Read more on How to use The Fallacy Detective in a Homeschool, or How to use The Fallacy Detective in a Classroom.)
  2. The Thinking Toolbox develops good critical thinking skills including how to analyze opposing viewpoints and the scientific method. Together The Fallacy Detective and The Thinking Toolbox will give you the essentials of practical logic. (Read more on How to use The Thinking Toolbox in a Homeschool, or How to use The Thinking Toolbox in a Classroom.)
  3. Introductory Logic video series by Nance and Wilson covers traditional categorical syllogisms from a Christian perspective. This video series will dive you head-first into traditional Aristotelian logic. (Read more on How to use Introductory Logic in a Homeschool.)
  4. The Art of Reasoning by David Kelley is a standard college-level textbook covering all of logic, including inductive reasoning. This book will prove to be the most challenging, but also very rewarding.

This course of study is only our suggestion – you may modify it to fit your schedule, priorities and individual needs.

This course of study is progressive: each step builds on the one before. A new student needs to be acclimated to logic step-by-step in the same way that math is taught over junior high and high school. I think that a student would have difficulty diving streight into Introductory Logic without some previous acquaintance with logic. He may have trouble adjusting to the higher temperature.

If possible, parents should work through the materials together with their children. Children may become discouraged when they encounter problems they can't solve on their own. Besides, parents often need to learn the logic as much as their children. Individual students can study the materials by themselves, but I believe there is value in class discussion time.

Conclusion

Some people learn logic, and then never use it. It would be a shame to set your logic accomplishments on a shelf, so that your friends can admire them. I think you will discover that logic is as useful as knowing how to read. Logic has taught me how to think, which can be a tremendous advantage when everyone else does not! Logic is not for elite intellectuals. It is for ordinary Christians like you and me.

Copyright April 01, 2000, all rights reserved. 52651 views


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