If you have read The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education, you will quickly understand how The Question: Teaching Your Child the Essentials of Classical Education is the follow-up. As Leigh Bortins introduced us to the grammar stage in The Core, she now introduces us to the dialectic stage in The Question.
Our children were created to grow from absorbing facts (grammar stage) to making connections through the asking of questions (dialectic stage). Leigh encourages parents to promote students’ sometimes exasperating question asking with the trusting relationship already developed between student and parent.During the dialectic stage, you are able to respectfully practice the skill of question asking. Did you hear that? Practice it! Practice is key!
Do you not know which questions to ask? Do you not know how to answer the questions your child is asking? Try asking and answering the questions through the framework of the five common topics: definition, comparison, relationship, circumstance and testimony. In The Question, Leigh demonstrates how to do this with reading, writing, math, geography and current events, logic, history, science, and fine arts. By the end, I am sure you will be excited to start these conversations with your child. But, if you are like me—still learning how to teach classically and in need of more explicit help—Leigh shares model questions in the appendix of The Question. Start with those and remember, a dialectic student is naturally inclined to ask questions and seek connections. You are just showing them the way. Together you will learn to ask good questions. You are seeking answers, but learning so much more just through asking questions. Even wrong answers can be good, as they lead to more questions. Your student will learn, among other things: form, principles, laws, discipline, and, ultimately, how to make judgments.
Since the chief goal of classical Christian education is to know God and make Him known, how does all this question asking in the dialectic stage help to achieve that end? Does asking questions lead to doubting? As Leigh writes, “Too often, we associate critical thinking with criticism or even cynicism, something that always tears down, never builds up. That’s not true logic…truth will stand up to scrutiny” (pg. 24). Do you believe this to be true? Just reading those words got me excited, because I know my God and the truth of the gospel withstands scrutiny. I will value each opportunity to answer my children’s questions, in order to point them to the truth.
I admit, I feel fairly safe making such a statement right now, as my children are still firmly entrenched in the grammar stage. So let me ask you, do you fear embarking on these types of conversations with your children? Are they beginning to pepper your daily life with hard questions? It is okay to begin this new stage with trepidation, but it is not okay to stay that way. I encourage you, as Leigh does in The Question, to move forward with your child’s education and your own by using these developmental times of questioning with your child to find answers and to build so much more. In not knowing the answers, but still asking the questions, you are teaching your child that it is still possible to learn. As you explore together, “Knowledge is possible because there are questions with answers and means by which to reach them” (pg. 125). Is that not encouraging?
If you are in the dialectic stage or simply looking ahead, I encourage you to read The Question. I learned a lot from it, but in addition to this I was simply encouraged to enjoy educating my children—an encouragement I have come to realize is in all of Leigh’s books.