One of the principles of a classical education is the study of logic. This might seem overwhelming to a mom who has never formally studied the topic, but it doesn't have to be! There are many great programs available today that will guide you and your students. Studying logic and developing strong reasoning skills is an important and necessary skill.
A Plan for Teaching Logic
Puzzles and games are a great way to start teaching logical thinking. Think of them as a logic "warm-up" - a time when 5th & 6th graders can learn the terminology (syllogisms? fallacies? - it's like another language!) of logic by working on puzzles and games. It's also the perfect time to introduce critical thinking workbooks and programs, which will strengthen a student's ability for abstract thought. Depending on the child's growth and maturity you can start a more formal program in 7th-9th grades.
When to teach Logic
There are some critical thinking programs that start as young as kindergarten and first grade. But those early years are best spent focusing on the basics - learning to read, beginning writing, and basic mathematics. A few logic games could be fun, but don't spend a lot of time on 'critical thinking' at this stage. Young brains really aren't ready for the kind of abstract thought that's necessary for true critical thinking.
The best time to start is when kids reach that 'pert' stage that Dorothy Sayers mentions in The Lost Tools of Learning - when they begin to question things that they used to take for granted. Now is the time to teach those logical thinking skills - so, while they are arguing with you, at least they'll be logical about it!
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How to teach Logic
How do you start teaching logic? With games and puzzles! Save those heavy logic courses for later grades. 5th and 6th graders are just dipping their toes into the logic waters, learning the terminology and beginning to develop their capacity for abstract thought. So, find programs that you can work on together. Discuss current events. If you've never formally studied logic, learning along with your child can be a wonderful tool for discussion.
I really like the Logic Liftoff series for these beginning stages (Logic Countdown, Logic Liftoff, and Orbiting with Logic) because it introduces a wide variety of logical and critical thinking puzzles. You'll cover analogies, sequencing, syllogisms, illogical reasoning, and other topics, through the three books in the series. Each book covers the same topics, getting a bit more difficult with each level.
A second resource that we really like is Red Herring Mysteries. We like to figure out a few of the mysteries over dinner as a family. It's very fun trying to figure out what the 'red herring' is in the story and come up with a plausible solution.
Games are also a great way to practice abstract thought. I listed some of our favorites in this post about favorite math & logic games. Teaching logic doesn't have to be intimidating. You just need a willingness to learn and a plan.