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In classical education, children start out in the grammar stage.
That sweet, angelic stage where little parrots mimic everything you do and say. Then one day your children enter the dialectic stage.
You ask your child if they’d like eggs for breakfast and in response, you hear:
I HATE eggs. We have eggs every day. Why can’t we have donuts every morning instead of eggs.
Or perhaps you ask your child to complete their chores:
Allie, please take out the trash.
Why do I have to take out the trash? It’s not fair. You should have Ben take out the trash instead of me. You’re always asking me. Why is it always me?!
Diabolical is a good description of the dialectic stage.
The dialectic stage begins as your child enters puberty, sometime between the 5th and 7th grade. And as you read about classical education, you’re going to find that there’s quite a bit of debate as to exactly what ages the dialectic stage covers.
You’ll find people saying the dialectic stage covers the years from 5th grade through 8th grade. And you’ll find some saying it runs from 7th grade through 9th grade.
Simply because kids don’t grow and mature at the same rate.
The key point to a dialectic child is that they argue with absolutely everything you say.
The Dialectic Child
Dialectic kids argue with their parents. They argue with their siblings. And they argue with friends.
The dialectic child has moved from sweetly and cheerfully parroting everything around them to attempting to apply logic to the world.
Instead of cheerfully learning the rules of grammar, they begin to point out every exception. Kids get caught up in the unfairness of life. How the world is unlogical.
Quite frankly, children must go through this annoying stage of life to become rational adults.
Babies and young children mimic adults around them to be safe. They learn how to walk down the street safely, what foods to eat, what not to eat, how to behave, and how to play with friends.
Parroting everything is the best method for the children to learn.
Goodbye, Sweet Parrot. Hello, Diabolical Arguing Machine.
But adults don’t survive well if they simply mimic and parrot everyone around. Adults need to decide what stocks to invest in, how best to save for retirement, what’s the best job to take, and what foods to purchase for the dinner table.
Thinking for yourselves is a basic requirement of adulthood.
Preteens are moving from the parrot stage of childhood to the rational thought of adulthood. So they question everything. Nothing is safe. Our sweet little parrots have turned into diabolical arguing machines.
Teaching in the logic stage
It’s time to teach these diabolical arguing machines to argue properly.
Introduce logic, critical thinking, and long discussions to their education. Spend time encouraging your preteens to think about what they’re saying and why.
In the grammar stage, you focused on memorization and basic skills. You filled your child up with stories of great men and women. Explored the wonders of science. And introduced them to the good, the beautiful, and the true.
You built a solid foundation for your children’s future education.
Now it’s time to take that a step farther.
It’s time to start building on the foundation.
This means in history, you begin to critically analyze world events. You don’t just read about the Lousiana Purchase, but you explore how Napoleon’s Wars in Europe made it a necessity for him. And why the United States of American might want more territory.
You look at the ramifications of the Ancient Greek war with Persia and how it affected Western Civilization.
In science, you stop doing as many presentations. Instead, you teach kids the scientific method and watch them squirm as you keep asking questions designed to make them think.
And in the dialectic stage of classical education, you also introduce logic and critical thinking skills.
Teach Logic & Critical Thinking
Begin teaching logic and critical thinking with logic puzzles. Kids love puzzles! And the puzzles won’t overwhelm your child’s mental facilities.
Introduce critical thinking as your child grows older.
Make them think critically about history, science, geography, current events, and their lives. Enjoy long discussions.
As you talk with your child, ask questions. Make them think. And when you comment about your beliefs and opinions, give your reasoning. Let them understand how you go from A to Z.
And make the discussions fun with tea and cookies.
After spending a few years studying critical thinking with your kids, it’s time to introduce formal logic and principles of argumentation.
Keep in mind, you will not cover everything about formal logic and argumentation during the dialectic stage. Most kids continue their studies of logic and argumentation in high school.
There’s no medal for the child who finishes first! Because education is not a race.
And the goal of the dialectic stage is to gradually turn into teenagers who argue logically.
Who think instead of reacting.
Who are ready for the rhetoric stage of development.
- The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home
- Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child
- The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education