curriculum review – the art of argument by aaron larsen

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Being a homeschool mom for something like 20 years now, I have used many programs for Beginning Logic.  I have found The Art of Argument to be my favorite. I am using it presently with a group of about 10 late elementary school to early high school students. Although this is a complete homeschool curriculum that could be simply be given to your child and completed on their own, I am finding having a group of homeschoolers to work through it together is quite the best. Logic is a subject requiring great conversations. which can be, well, um, rather boring when it’s just a mom on the couch with a kiddo or two. Having a larger group, especially of kids this age, can make for some great topics of conversation, as well as rather humorous moments.

This book divides 28 fallacies into 6 types; Ad Fontem Arguments, Appeals to Emotion, Red Herrings, Fallacies of Presupposition, Fallacies of Induction and Fallacies of Clarity. With one fallacy covered each week, it pretty much works for an entire school year. Each fallacy is clearly presented and thoroughly explained.

Examples are given. Most are made-up examples. A few are actual quotes.

Along with reading and filling in the blanks, I have the students keep a notebook with fallacies they find in their world. They bring them to class for us to talk about and determine which type of fallacy it is. They also make up their own fallacies.

This year I ordered the DVD set to go with it. It’s not really something that I feel would be beneficial to sit the kids down in front of to watch. Kids need to do the discussing and puzzling through the topics rather than just watch others do the discussing and puzzling. But I have found it quite helpful to give me some ideas of the direction to go in leading the discussions.

For example. Last week was the Genetic Fallacy, which is “an argument that states than an idea should be discounted simply because of its source or origin”.  The DVD session that I listened to the prior evening had a great discussion that I brought to class. I updated it, and made it fit with where these modern kids are. Unlike the calm, quiet teens in the video, we had a lively, funny, loud and yet serious conversation.

We talked about how we have many beliefs that our parents taught us. Beliefs like creation, evolution, politics, our views on God, the foods we eat or don’t eat, and so much more. Yes, sometimes our ideas can be dismissed by others with the old “genetic fallacy” trick. “You just believe that because you are Christian” or “That can’t be true. You believe that because you were homeschooled”! We talked about how we can so easily do that to others who have not been homeschooled, or did not grow up in a similar environment to ours. It is just as much a fallacy no matter which way it is used. Where we came from doesn’t actually have anything to do with the validity of our belief/argument. We also discussed how important it is to know exactly what we do believe and why we believe it. And even more that that, we should be prepared to explain it in a kind way. Often times we know we believe something, but we really don’t know enough about it. By this age, these kids need to be formulating their views into articulate, understandable and gracious answers. We need to know what we believe and why we believe it.

Which is why when my kids are going through a Logic course, I also like them to be doing a simple systematic theology course. Well, it’s not really a curriculum, per se. This year my oldest still-at-home student is reading Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R.C. Sproul on a nearly daily basis. He then writes a paragraph summary on each topic. I also ask him to find a scripture that he feels best proves the theological topic being explained. He keeps it in an ongoing notebook. This book has 102 topics, so it will last for more than one school year.

My youngest (13 year old) son is reading Christian Beliefs, Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne A. Grudem.  He is reading it one small chunk at a time, several days a week. For example, chapter 2 is titled What Is God Like? Within that chapter are several “chunks” such as “God Exists”, “God is Knowable”, “God is Independent”, “God is Unchangeable”and so one. We discuss the daily topic read, then I choose one sentence from the small amount of text we read and a scripture for him to copy into his ongoing notebook. It is quite do-able.

That’s all.

Happy homeschooling to you!



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  1. How often did your group meet, and for how long?

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