Archive for the ‘Raising Critical Thinkers’ Category

Curiosity without Defensiveness

Brave Writer

How do we hear one another while holding our own ideas with conviction?

Remind ourselves that listening to someone else is in no way threatening to the conclusions we’ve already drawn.

Sometimes we find listening painful. To hear another viewpoint can feel as though we are allowing ourselves to be attacked or invalidated or undermined.

That’s not what’s happening.

Instead, when we give another person the floor to make their case, we are allowing for ideas to surface that need to be heard and accounted for (even in our own thinking). We may not be giving up anything about our position, but we at least can now imagine and understand the way in which our viewpoint is not addressing the core concerns of someone with a different perspective.

To be curious without defensiveness, then, is to allow someone else the space to say what they have to say without rushing in with a “gotcha” comment or the need to immediately retort with all the reasons their logic doesn’t work for us.

To show curiosity also doesn’t mean we can’t also express how we see it. Not only that, the best conversations include viewpoints—beliefs and perspectives that each person holds.

Curiosity without defensiveness starts at home with our little dissidents. Our kids will challenge our good ideas every day. Once in a while, ask them to share more. Discover how they put the pieces together for themselves and think about how we can account for:

  • their needs,
  • their beliefs,
  • their ideas in the solutions we create together.

I write a lot about these ideas with practical activities in my book, Raising Critical Thinkers.

Raising Critical Thinkers

Learning How to Think

Raising Critical Thinkers

Knowing what to think is not the same as knowing how to think.

What parent doesn’t want to give their kids a shortcut to a safe, meaningful, values-driven life?

I do!

The biggest temptation we face is what I call the “Parental Propaganda Program.” We have the belief that we’ve figured out how to live correctly. All we have to do is teach our kids what to think.

We tell them “sleeping eight hours makes you less cranky” and “eating vegetables matters” and “standing for this belief is essential.”

Teaching kids what to think short-circuits their ability to think well for themselves. They learn that someone else has the answers for them and to trust an authority figure more than their own research.

You may feel good about being that source of authority in your child’s life. After all, you’re that figure…for now. What about when they’re teens? Who will they select to tell them the one right path/answer? I’m here to tell you—many of them choose a slightly older teenager!

Learning How to Think

What happens if we put learning “how to think” first? It means taking a child’s dissent (or challenges) seriously. It means setting aside your preconceptions.

“I hate vegetables” becomes an opportunity. You support your child doing their own research, to honor their experiences.

Kids discover that their experiences drive meaningful questions that deserve to be asked (not automatically answered).

The choice to hold back our “better answers” is challenging for us!

And yet, parents often parrot information they’ve learned from an authority without thinking it through themselves.

I might ask myself:

  • Why do I assume vegetables are important?
  • What ways did people get nourished before supermarkets and year-round produce?
  • What else can I learn with my child about this subject?

Learning how to think protects a child from cults, peer pressure, and bullying others.

Raising Critical Thinkers

Question the Experts

Brave Writer

You owe no homeschool expert total allegiance.

In fact, it is your obligation to think critically about any educational philosophy you adopt, consider, explore.

How do you do that? You ask lots of questions. Oodles of them.

Starter questions to pose to any educational philosophy:

  • Who created this philosophy and when? For what audience?
  • What problem is this philosophy trying to solve? Is that problem active in my family?
  • Who has traditionally benefited from this philosophy? Who benefits now?
  • What do the detractors say?
  • How comprehensive is this way of educating?
  • Do some subjects thrive in these conditions? Which ones?
  • Are some subjects overlooked or diminished in this system?
  • Does the philosophy of education imply a worldview that causes harm?
  • Does it imply an association with religious or secular ideas and do either of those matter to me?
  • How critical is the role of the teacher? And am I prepared to participate (or not!) at that level?
  • Which of my children might this suit? Which might it harm or impair?
  • How flexible is it? How flexible am I?
  • Why am I attracted to it?
  • What ideal version of myself does it imply?
  • Who would I be seen as if I don’t live up to its standards?
  • Am I okay with not being good at it, yet doing it anyway?
  • How expensive is it to implement?
  • What accommodations can be made for my special needs children?
  • How much support is there when I have questions?
  • Who are the “experts”? Do I resonate with them?
  • Is there a way to “try” the philosophy before committing?
Raising Critical Thinkers

Brains before Curriculum

Brave Writer

Whether “science” or “knitting,” your children are using their minds to think critically and creatively about any subject they encounter. Parents and teachers, however, have decided which subjects are more deserving of absorbed attention than others. Science, we can all agree, is a subject adults consider essential. Knitting? Less so.

Yet what does it take for a mind to use a microscope? What kind of mental and digital dexterity is needed to knit? What kind of thinking is required to examine angles? What kind of mind is used to crochet or quilt?

When we talk about physics, we forget the physics of our bodies in motion on a playground or the skill to create a perfect tumbling domino chain.

Next time one of your kids assembles a LEGO build from scratch relying on the 2-D instructions to build a 3-D model, say aloud all the ways the brain did that bit of gymnastics to SEE what should be seen and to fit the pieces together in just the right way.

How many times do your kids compare movies and song lyrics to one another? How well do they forecast the next plot in a book series?

Brain stuff worth noting regardless of subject:

  • Reading deeply and closely
  • Following directions
  • Modifying directions to achieve an effect
  • Designing and then implementing that design
  • Assembly
  • Comparing and contrasting
  • Forecasting outcomes
  • Hypothesizing reasons
  • Identifying themes
  • Correlating one experience or practice to another
  • Building a vocabulary in the subject area
  • Noticing experts
  • Practicing the skill for mastery
  • Using a skill in one field to learn another

The dexterity of a child’s brain can be a bigger priority than mastery of dates, processes, and information.

Focus on how your child thinks well about any subject from cooking to skateboarding to algebra to medieval history.

Brains before curriculum.

Brave Learner Home

Theory of Knowledge Webinar: How to Develop Critical Thinkers

Theory of Knowledge

Guess what? Brave Writer is heading into the world of the International Baccalaureate!

I’ve been invited to be on a prestigious panel to discuss the power of critical thinking in education around the world.

YOU are invited to join us! It’s a FREE webinar featuring powerful thinkers. I am honored to participate!

I hope you’ll join us! Read more for details.

  • How to Develop Critical Thinkers: A Special Panel Discussion
  • Wednesday, November 9, 2022
  • 10:00 AM (EST), 3:00 PM (GMT)
  • Register

From the Theory of Knowledge website:

Children are natural-born critical thinkers, with an insatiable curiosity about the world, and a scientist’s desire to explain the way things work.

But many education systems end up suppressing rather than encouraging these instincts, turning sophisticated young critical thinkers into reluctant participants in the classroom. On 9th November, we’ll discuss this problem, and offer strategies to help you channel rather than curtail your children’s in-born abilities as epistemologists.

We’ll consider how we can help children at every stage of development to grow in their ability to explore the world around them, examine how their loyalties and biases affect their beliefs, and generate fresh insight rather than simply recycling what they’ve been taught.

We’ll discuss:

  • What is critical thinking?
  • Why is critical thinking so important?
  • Whose responsibility is it to hone critical thinking – schools, parents, both?
  • How do we measure our success in developing critical thinking?
  • How do educational systems help or hinder critical thinking?
  • Is it ever too early or late to develop critical thinking?
  • How do we avoid making people feel we’re attacking their worldviews when we advocate critical thinking?
  • What can we do to support the development of critical thinking skills?

Register now for the FREE webinar discussing how to channel – not curtail – children’s natural critical acumen about the world.

Sign Up