The Socratic Method of Learning as an option for your Homeschool


The socratic method


What is the Socratic Method of Learning/Teaching?

Named after the Greek philosopher Socrates, The Socratic method It is meant to engage both teacher and student in an open-ended discussion that evaluates the students core values  based on research and learning – which then leads to more research for further understanding.  In other words, better hypotheses are generated after those that meet contradictions are eliminated.  The teacher asks the students questions – not to lead them to a particular belief or truth – but to invoke and develop critical thinking skills.


Making a Socratic Classroom/Environment Work – responsibilities for the Teacher

  1. Set the conversational guidelines.  If you are at home, obviously everybody knows each others name.  If you are in a classroom or other small group situation, it’s important that everybody knows each others names.  If you have just met, perhaps name tags would be in order.  Also, as part of the guidelines, you must call people by their names.
  2. Keep everyone engaged in the discussion/Making sure the discussion is intellectually responsible.  This doesn’t mean offer one comment and sink into the background.  Everyone must remain engaged and interested.
  3. Keep the conversation focused.
  4. Be okay with silence.  Work through silence as silence can be productive.  Generally people get uncomfortable during silence, and more than likely – someone will speak up.
  5. In traditional Socratic methods, tension must exist – which means asking students questions at random.  Personally, I hated this part of the Socratic method – and don’t employ it.  If something isn’t fun, your students/children will not want to participate.  Putting someone on the offensive or on the spot isn’t supportive.  I support allowing conversation to flow freely.  This is how you will generate the best ideas and discussion.
  6. Ask open-ended thought-provoking questions.  Then, as discussions proceed, we learn more and ask more questions.  Questions can be followed up with additional research – and more questions.
  7. Be open to learning something new.  Often discussion will lead to other things and other questions.  Be open to pursuing new ideas and paths.  With the Socratic method, the lesson plan isn’t necessarily set in stone.
  8. Remember that everybody is on an equal playing field.  The fact that the teacher is older, more experienced, more educated doesn’t come into play.  Everybody’s ideas are equal in a Socratic discussion.
  9. Create a room which facilitates discussion is the best environment.


Subjects which work really well

  1. Science – especially in experimentation.  Helping with critiquing research papers, etc.
  2. Literacy – Discussion of literature.
  3. History – This would be a lot of fun.  Discussing events and their impact in our daily lives or subsequent events.
  4. philosophy
  5. Bible



Some have reported being able to get this method to work for math.  In this particular example, the teacher used the method on a 3rd grade classroom.  Look at the way he did it here.

Maybe someone can hash this out for me?  I don’t understand the flow of thinking here.


Other Socratic Method Resources

Should Educators use the Socratic Method?

Socratic Method Resources

Sample Socratic discussion with a GED student in Mathematics

Further Reading suggestions

Do you think you could employ this method of learning in your homeschool or classroom?  What subject areas do you think it would work best?

About Lisa

Hey! Thank you so much for stopping by. I'm Lisa - a homeschool mom of 3 (2 boys and 1 girl). I care about the strength of the family in America, and often blog about babies/kids, natural parenting, homeschool, and marriage. Before you leave, please sign up for my monthly newsletter (on the top right). If you do, you will be well rewarded with notification of all giveaways and sales - which will not be announced on the blog. Google+ Profile


  1. I know a bit about the Socratic method of questioning as a therapeutic method. The basis is the same. It isn’t very easy and as the math example author stated, it takes so much thinking/preparation (in some ways) as you have to be 1 or 2 steps ahead. In reading through that example, I saw that he wanted to see if the children could figure a way to write all the numbers using only 2. In that way, he was able to get the children themselves to figure out that everything is just a place holder and therefore can be determined any way they want. For instance, our colors are learned but we can rename our colors any way we choose and that becomes the new understanding. It’s similar (to me) as one person looking at the same colored object and seeing it differently (blue v green v blue-green v turquoise v sea, etc.)

    I don’t know if that helped. I just tried to answer.

    As for the point of this post. I love the idea. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do it, but I guess with practice I could probably incorporate it somehow in the early-ish stage of teaching/learning for Baby Boy.
    Life Breath Present recently posted…Momma + Baby, Act I, Scene 2My Profile

  2. Hi Lisa,
    I used the Socratic Method, or what I call, an inquiry- and passion technique of questioning, for 34 years as an inner-city elementary school teacher with extreme positive success. Every point you made, from #1 to #9, I have found to be true, especially when you talk about putting kids on the spot, which I never liked as a student myself, and so would not do it with my kids. Being open-minded, both teacher and students, as well as asking open-ended thought-provoking and engaging questions, are consistent winners in the classroom. Connecting literature/reading with children’s life experiences is also crucial to motivate adolescent readers. And yes, everyone is on an equal playing field, and the result is a cross-fertilization of ideas, which translates into a positive, sensitive, inspiring, and peaceful classroom atmosphere. It works, I know after many years of practicing this technique. I have learned just as much from my students as they have learned from me. You can see an example of my questioning technique in my blog posts/articles on the BAM Street Journal, (The Bam Radio Network, titled, “COMPREHENDING AESOP: Fables that Enable” and “A Penny for Your Thoughts.” I believe that your home-schooling parent-teachers and their children will appreciate these two posts. As a final thought, the one thing I learned from working with children is that they will respond to many questions, as many as you can ask, if they sense the connections to their lives and that they are challenged, pushed, with the teacher’s belief in their abilities to think critically and creatively. And yes, with open-mindedness and open-ended questioning new ideas and new paths come into play, and you’re correct in saying that with the Socratic method, lesson plans are not necessarily set in stone, in fact, they can take many digressions, or side-journeys, into expanded learning and knowledge. With warm regards, Jeffrey Pflaum

  3. What a novel idea for homeschooling! Interestingly enough, this is how we do a lot of learning in our homeschool, and I didn’t even know what it was. 🙂
    Jennifer recently posted…How to Be a Super Organized Homeschooling MomMy Profile

  4. I’m so glad I came across your post. Last night I did a workshop on leadership education and included a section on Socratic dialogue – asking questions to encourage your kids to think. I’ll be sharing this with our group.
    Kerry recently posted…Super Bowl Activities with Math…& Other Homeschool Math IdeasMy Profile

  5. This is very interesting. I do this with my daughter in a lot of ways… I just never knew there was a term/method for it. Thanks for sharing.
    Jennifer recently posted…How To Involve Children In Planning Their CurriculumMy Profile


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