Using the Socratic Method in Your Homeschool

Have you heard of the Socratic Method?  Could you/Do you use this method in your homeschool? Do you think it would work well with the ages and personalities of your kids?Socrates-QuoteJust what is the Socratic Method? Here’s a little background:

The Socratic method is one of the oldest pedagogic techniques used in the classroom. Developed by Socrates over 2,400 years ago, the strategy uses thought-provoking question and answer sessions to promote learning.

This student-centered approach is challenging and engages students in analytical discussions; and aids in expanding their critical thinking skills. Educators facilitate open-ended collaborative discussions and dialogues with their students.

Ideally, these questions are open-ended, seeking thoughtful responses.

The Socratic method of teaching questions critical thinking by tearing down old ideas and replacing them with new ones.

The modern Socratic method of teaching does not rely solely on students’ answers to a question. Instead, it relies on a very particular set of questions that have been designed in a way that lead the students to an idea. By using questions, the teacher has the opportunity to get their students involved and excited.

By starting with questions to which the students know and understand the answer, the teacher helps the students to learn new concepts. This creates an atmosphere where students are truly learning as opposed to an atmosphere where the students are parroting information and forgetting it.

The Socratic method promotes learning by encouraging students to pick apart their underlying beliefs, assumptions and ideas about a topic through critically analyzing, reasoning and rationalizing them to find the answers deep within.

So, after reading all that, can you see the Socratic Method playing a role in your homeschool now or in the future?

A couple of weeks ago, we spent several days at Colonial Williamsburg.  The historical interpreters there are utterly amazing.  I think this experience got the kids thinking in a way that went beyond the “facts.” For example, as the American Revolution began the Governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, issued a proclamation that shocked the citizens of Williamsburg.  He offered slaves their freedom if they joined the British side.

So, here are some questions we talked about…

  • How do you think slaves reacted?
  • How do you think the colonists reacted?
  • What do you think this did for the British cause? What did this do for the American cause?
  • If you were a slave, would you join the British? What chances would you be taking?  What about your family? Would you trust the British? What were the penalties for slaves who “ran away”?

Governor's Palace Colonial WilliamsburgWe also heard the story of Aggy of Turkey Island.  She was a slave who essentially became her master’s wife.  They had two children together. Upon her master’s death, he left her everything including her freedom and the children’s freedom.  But the master’s brother claimed that he had left debts; therefore, all his property (including Aggy and her sons) should be rightfully his in order to clear these debts. (Remember that at this time, colored people (slaves, free blacks, Native American Indians) did not have the right to testify in court.)

The questions and discussions we had about Aggy and her predicament were intense.  The audience raised some comparisons about legal/illegal immigrants – and about those who have to show their papers to “prove” their rights to be here with their families (with their American citizen children).  Again, it shows how complicated society is (then and now).

Last year, the kids and I had some *amazing* discussions as we talked about some of the different types of government and of some of the leaders in the world: Types of Governments Worksheets – World Leaders If your kids are upper elementary or middle school, you might want to delve into this with your kids.  We talked about how leaders keep their power… and talked about some of the events that are happening *right now.* This really amazed/stunned the kids. (Can’t think of another word at the moment!) These notebook pages are currently free (let me know if you see something that needs to be updated!):

Types of Government Worksheets

These kinds of deeper discussions are the ones that really take my kids into the complexities of history. For that reason, we love reading books and diving into the stories of history… and taking trips like this one!

But, you can also have deep discussions about science and technology… how research is done, the moral and ethical implications of creating new technologies and more!

I posted this discussion over in the homeschool den chat a week or so ago if you want to join in the discussion!  Hope to see you there! ~Liesl


Sources for this information above about the Socratic Method:


See you again soon here or over at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page! Don’t forget to Subscribe to our Homeschool Den Newsletter. You might also want to check out some of our resources pages above (such as our Science, Language Arts, or History Units Resource Pages) which have links to dozens of posts.  You might want to join our free Homeschool Den Chat Facebook group.  Don’t forget to check out Our Store as well. :) Homeschool Den StoreHappy Homeschooling, everyone!!  ~Liesl

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