Friday, February 28, 2014

Plato, Socrates and 6th Grade

Though my daughter is in 6th grade now officially, we took some time out to read aloud the last dialogue, Phaedo, of Socrates together, looking at the meaning in more depth than we had previously in 5th grade. In Waldorf education, each level is meant to build on the foundation you have built in the past, taking it to new levels and new places in each cycle.

Why did we choose to go back to the Greeks? Why, in order to better understand the Romans, of course! Valentine, 12, chose a project that highlighted the lives and features of 15 Greek/Roman gods and goddesses. She realized early on that the Roman gods were often a newer, renamed version of their Greek counter-parts.

Roman civilization borrowed so much from that of the conquered Greeks. Romans were smart that way; they adapted and adopted the culture of the peoples they overtook in order to better rule. Their law and forms were instilled everywhere they went, but the writings, beliefs and wisdom of the new part of the empire became enmeshed with what it meant to be Roman. Nowhere is this as true as with the Greeks.

Socrates was a precursor of so much that is part and parcel of our Judeo-Christian heritage. Many times in literature there is an explanation of how this or that "came about through the christianization of the world", but some of those very points can be found in the dialogs of Socrates. One example of that is the notion that suicide, as an idea, is immoral. In many cultures, it was viewed as an honorable way to redeem a failed life. Socrates disputes this, saying that we belong to the gods, they created us and we may not destroy their creation. Sound familiar?

The Waldorf sequencing of teaching makes sense as it follows a child's development. What makes sense in homeschooling, however, is knowing where your own child is in her journey and meeting her there. Build on the old wisdom, it has always been there and it will guide you to new places. Look around you and into your reading with new eyes each day. Have fun, this is childhood, a time for joy!

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