Philosophy Overview
updated July 10, 2024

Recorded here is my own personal collection of articles, resources, favorite links, teaching ideas, and lesson plans. It encompasses many years, from the very beginning of my experience studying and learning about Waldorf to the present time. People from all around the world visit my site and recommend it to others. Welcome!

This site records my journey. I hope my honesty is encouraging and helps break down some barriers that may prevent people from trying Waldorf methods. Because this is an ongoing site documenting my curriculum planning and ideas, some materials are more Waldorf-y than others. Please feel free to take what you like and leave the rest.

Philosophy lesson plans
for children

WHEN to teach Philosophy is a source of great contention; I leave it up to your discretion. I am comfortable teaching it in elementary and middle school. Others would insist high school.

Mission Statement - Consulting Services - Lending Library

My B.A. from Smith College was in Philosophy and I've always been interested in doing philosophy with children. I graduated in 1999 and, before I did, I read everything I could find by Gareth Matthews and Matthew Lipman.

Philosophy & the Young Child, 1982

Dialogues with Children, 1992

The Philosophy of Childhood, 1996

Children are natural philosophers. Why else would they ask so many questions that stump us? And they delight in being able to join in a conversation where they truly have something to bring to the table, something that grown ups respect and see as equal in value to their own contributions. Children have innate wisdom. No one can argue with this! And philosophy encourages them to share their ideas about the world and to know that they are not alone with their big feelings and big ideas and big minds. Philosophy with children is a beautiful thing to add to the classroom culture!

Multiple intelligence theory has recently added a new intelligence, existential. In our class we call this by a child-friendly name: Philosophy Smart. How can we refuse to consider as part of our curriculum something that will give a child an opportunity to revel in and share and be appreciated for the way he or she thinks? I believe that to discount Philosophy would be the same as discounting the value of any of the other intelligences: Word Smart. Art Smart. Math Smart. Music Smart. Body Smart. People Smart. Self Smart. Nature Smart. I think that it would be unprofessional, not to mention highly unethical!

Since 2012 I have been guided by the work of Marietta McCarty, a lovely woman whom I have met and philosophized with, and regard as a friend. Her book Little Big Minds: Sharing Philosophy with Kids is remarkable.

In their February 22, 2016 issue, the Waldorf Today newsletter threw its weight behind this cause, publishing the article, "Why kids - now more than ever - need to learn philosophy. Yes, philosophy."

Little Big Minds: Sharing Philosophy with Kids, 2006

Marietta's book includes tips on doing philosophy with kids as well as suggestions for a variety of philosophical topics. The two rules of philosophy are: "never interrupt anyone who is talking, no matter who they are," and "never laugh at what anyone says unless you are certain they meant it as a joke." In order to make sure each person gets enough time to say what they need to say (philosophy requires extra think-time), I do not moderate the discussions. Rather, each child decides when he or she is done speaking and chooses who to call on next. On the first day we ever met to talk about philosophy, I had my hand up because I had something to say and the children kept passing over me to call on each other, probably because they were afraid I was going to say that our time for Philosophy was up!

Marietta sets her book up with an initial discussion and definition of the topic, then a thorough introduction to two famous philosophers and their perspective or "take" on the topic, and then further personal exploration where the child contributes even more to the discussion as it moves into deeper waters.

Here is her list of topics and philosophers:

    Philosophy - Plato

    Friendship - bell hooks, Karl Jaspers

    Responsibility - Rita Manning, Albert Camus

    Happiness - Epicurus, Charlotte Joko Beck

    Justice - Immanuel Kant, Paulo Freire

    Time - Augustine, Alan Watts

    Courage - Epictetus, Mary Wollstonecraft

    Death - The Bhagavad-Gita, Shunryu Suzuki

    Prejudice - Jean-Paul Sartre, Gloria Anzaldua

    God - Thomas Aquinas, al-Ghazali

    Humanity - Soren Kierkegaard, Elizabeth Spelman

    Nature - Lao Tzu, Baruch Spinoza

    Compassion - The Dalai Lama, Jane Addams

    Freedom - John Stuart Mill, Simone de Beauvoir

    Love - Martin Luther King, Jr., Bertrand Russell

To the left I have compiled my notes from teaching with this book. There are fifteen topics. Know that you will NOT get through the entire book in one year.

Please realize also that there is a difference between books I would recommend as must-haves -- and which are worth tracking down -- and books that I used simply because I already owned them. Use what you have, what you love, and what you think your kids will respond to.

One final note: I find that the best philosophy journals are unlined artist sketchpads. Marietta includes a lot of art exercises as well as writing exercises, and lined paper is not always appropriate. I like the Bienfang spiral-bound sketchpads:

Please enjoy doing this work with your students; feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

*NEW* The Spring 2017 issue of Carlton College's Voice had an article called "Think Big!" which explains the work of professor Daniel Groll, adding that "Groll was inspired by Big Ideas for Little Kids, a book by Mount Holyoke professor Thomas Wartenberg that outlines how to tackle philosophical concepts via children's literature." Wartenberg's website is called Teaching Children Philosophy.

Big Ideas for Little Kids: Teaching Philosophy through Children's Literature, 2009

*NEW* Do Landscapes Change the Way We Think / Why Was Philosophy Born in Greece?

Blog posts from introducing Philosophy to students (and parents):

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