Monday, April 30, 2012

Critical Thinking

With the advent of May we are drawing very close to the end of our school year.  This time of year brings on mowing and gardening and camp preparations etc.. , yet it also frees me on rainy days to catch up on my dear friend's blogs and perhaps to blog a bit myself.   I have had so much on my mind, but very little time or energy to share.  I look forward to reconnecting. 

My Dad and I flying kites

A little over a week ago Matt and I went to the Midwest Homeschool Convention.  We always come away from that convention fired up and ready to tackle another year of educating our boy's minds and hearts.  Josiah will be starting 5th grade level work this coming school year and within the classical trivium this is the beginning of the logic stage.  Formal logic is not something I know a lot about.  I don't even really identify myself as a  "logical person", I can follow a rabbit trail with the best of them.  My upbringing certainly pushed me in a direction that tended to force me to think rather critically though.  I had 3 big brothers who had a zero tolerance for any girl's excuse of "monthly" emotions and a complete lack of compassion for a claim of hurt feelings when they were just "telling me like it was."  My Daddy would, and still does, happily take an opposing view on any given topic.  This stretched my young mind to constantly try to evaluate any given argument from both sides of the issue. I knew almost any position I took on a given issue I would more than likely be called to defend. Therefore, I think I may be a decent student of formal logic.  And I can't wait for Christmas to try it out on my Dad. :)

In all seriousness though, I do see the value of critical thinking/logic.  How many relationships have been destroyed by a lack of careful thinking?  How many families have been splintered by people simply following how they feel and ignoring what is real?  How many young people have walked away from God and the church because of the irrational, yet passionate ranting of a college professor?  Because of this, critical thinking should be one of the skills we all pass down to our children.  Learning to think is not just about formal argument or proving how right you are.  Critical thinking forces us to dig beyond what may seem obvious and search for what is real....what is true. 

This year at homeschool convention I learned a few tools for helping my children think critically.  One need not homeschool or even buy a curriculum to teach/learn to think critically.  One workshop I attended taught how to teach literary analysis by reading simple readers like "A Bargain for Francis" or a poem like "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere".  Reading a book and thinking beyond the story and plot itself and thinking about what the conflict of the story is and where the conflict arises(there is always conflict in a story) is a powerful tool to teach critical thinking.  Context is another tool.  Do we think that any story is written to just entertain us or to teach us a new vocabulary?  No, more than likely the author had a message.  Encouraging our children(and ourselves for that matter)to think about what they are reading and what the author's intent was is a huge step in developing a critical thinker. 

So how does this effect their lives really?  What if my child is not really a reader or a "deep thinker"?  While the point may seem trivial.  Really who cares what Longfellow's motive was for writing about Paul Revere?  Think with me for a minute about your very real life.  When reading scripture isn't the context of the words and the intent of the author of great importance?  When we feel a force to have hurt feelings over something our husbands have done or said, isn't it important to think about what he really meant? Don't we want him to do the same for us?  When giving our children instruction, isn't the context and intent of your instruction all important?  "Mom said not to eat the rat poison in the kitchen, but she didn't say anything about drinking the ant poison in the bathroom."  In this situation we must demand the implementation of critical thinking, including the context and intent of our original words. 

I am challenged to think more critically myself.  As with almost every step of this parenting journey, I am learning alongside my boys.  I am challenged to continue to grow and learn, not for the sake of knowledge, but for the sake of my relationships with others and with God.