As a family we love to read, both individually and together at bedtime, and we have enough books between us to open a small bookshop. So when we were approached to review Big Ideas For Curious Minds: An Introduction To Philosophy from The School of Life, I was intrigued. The book is described as: Accessible philosophy for children; a collection of important concepts from 25 famous thinkers, contextualised in relatable everyday scenarios with illustrations and exercises.
“Philosophy is quite an unpopular subject that most people don’t know anything about. The average school doesn’t teach it, the average adult doesn’t understand it, and the whole subject can seem scary, strange and kind of unnecessary. That’s a real pity, because in fact, philosophy has a lot to teach everyone, whatever their age.”
When the book arrived and I had a quick glance through it, my immediate reaction was that it was far too old for my children. And yet when I took the time to start reading, and to admire the beautiful illustrations, I found myself still sat there, an hour later, realising that this was exactly the kind of book I want each of my children to read as they grow.
The idea of teaching our children about philosophy is often not something we would even consider, assuming that it was an adult concept, and far too complicated for little ones to understand. In reality, children are born philosophers asking, without prompting, some of the largest questions: about time, mortality, happiness and the meaning of it all.
The book itself is genius with an introduction to leading figures of philosophy from around the world from all eras. Along side that there are chapters teaching our children crucial lessons about life, about love, and about loss. Topics such as ‘Why you feel lonely’, ‘Politeness matters’, ‘People are unhappy not mean’, and ‘The mind-body problem’ offer invaluable insights into philosophy in a way that our children can really get on board with.
I love that the book also functions as a way to open up conversations between adults and children, and that was certainly the case for us. Last week Eva and I took some time to read the book together, discussing leading figures such as Ralph Waldo Emerson (my all time favourite philosopher!), Buddha, and Albert Camus, and speaking about topics such as politeness, loneliness, and the meaning of life. It actually blew my mind that, at just six years old, Eva is so switched on, so eager to learn, and so open to embracing philosophy in her life.
And as parents, who only want the best for their children, I think that philosophy is an amazing way to prepare our children for what lies ahead, even at a very young age when they are still blissfully unaware that life will have many twists and turns as they grow.
My favourite chapter in the book reads as follows:
“Philosophy is about how we face the normal difficulties of adult life. It’s not frightened about how tricky life can be – it’s got loads of experience, and has done it all before. In this way, philosophy is a kind of “life-friend”. It is not a person – it’s a whole group of people and their ideas. They’ve faced a lot of troubles and tried to learn how to deal with them. This book tried to give you some ideas about how you can understand life and how to make it a bit easier than it sometimes turns out to be. That’s what philosophy tries to do, too.”
I think if ever there was a way to explain philosophy to our children, that right there is a perfect start.
Big Ideas For Curious Minds: An Introduction To Philosophy, is available from all good book shops and on-line stores with a RRP of £18. Buy your copy here.