I was asked to write an article pertaining to how I am able to implement critical thinking with a Christian perspective into my homeschool, but before I explain how we do it, I feel I must firstly explain what critical thinking is, and what it is not.
As a Christian home educator, I find myself constantly thinking about what it is I’m teaching my children. I am after all, their biggest influence. Not only am I responsible for teaching them the three R’s and other academics, I am also responsible for modeling good manners, for helping them develop good work ethics, for demonstrating love, acceptance and forgiveness, and for giving them the skills they need to think for themselves. My focus for this article; obviously, is the latter. What is this critical thinking and how are we able, in this process called homeschooling, to find success in the arena of teaching our kids to think for themselves?
Webster defines critical thinking as: the mental process of actively and skilfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion .I am speaking of course, of a higher degree of thinking. I am not speaking of merely forming an opinion, but rather to be able to logically support an argument – based on a solidly formed premise. Sound intimidating? Not really, if you have been taught the basics of critical thinking. And what better a place to start the process of critical thinking than with our own faith? How many of us are able to comfortably support an argument about Intelligent Design? How many of us can skilfully use rhetoric to support a creationist world view? Could you hold your own against an individual who holds an opposing evolutionist world view? How about a university professor? Is this a skill you hope your children will one day posses? Is this a skill you value?
Teaching our children to think is probably one of the most important life skills to obtain, and sadly it is often overlooked. It is also not obtained; however, without a serious degree of effort on our part. If you have been learning along side your children in your own homeschool journey, then you will feel quite comfortable with this process. Unfortunately, you can’t teach this skill by handing your child a workbook – though some mind bender exercises (found in a workbook) can definitely help a young brain to stretch its muscle so to speak.
I have found the most effective way to teach critical thinking is through discussion. You can pick almost any topic: from mathematical word problems, scientific processes, literary analysis, and creative problem solving – to name a few. Lately, I have been focused on a combination of biblical and scientific fact. More specifically, using the bible alongside a wonderful children’s reference book on intelligent design titled It Couldn’t Just Happen. Many lively discussions can be brought forth as a result of exploring this book together with your children. Your objective should be to simply ask open ended questions. Try not to lead your child in their answers – remember your job is to give them the tools they need to start to think for themselves. Think more of gentle guidance, and less of leading the witness. Help turn over the soil in their young minds, pretty soon they’ll be asking you for the shovel.
I have also felt the Lord gently guiding me towards what I have coined God’s own World Wide Web – the www here standing for world history, world religion and world view. They are all so closely interrelated, intertwined, and interwoven. Are you seeing the relationship here? I myself am just starting to get the gist of it, but it starts with a foundation of basic critical thinking skills.
May God bless you richly in your homeschool journey.