Critical Thinking

What is critical thinking, anyhow? I've heard the term for years; but I had never come across a definition that gave me a real grasp on what it is... Until recently, while doing some research for a friend, I found a definition that was much clearer:

Critical thinking is best understood as the ability of a person to take charge of their own thought processes. This requires that they develop sound criteria and standards for analyzing and assessing their thinking and routinely use those criteria and standards to improve its quality.--- Elder, L. and Paul R. "Critical Thinking: why we must transform our teaching." Journal of Developmental Education, Fall 1994

I also came across a short list of attributes the owner of an analytical brain has or must develop - compiled by Ferrett, S. in Peak Performance (1997)

He or she:

  • asks pertinent questions

  • assesses statements and arguments

  • is able to admit a lack of understanding or information
  • has a sense of curiosity

  • is interested in finding new solutions

  • is able to clearly define a set of criteria for analyzing ideas

  • is willing to examine beliefs, assumptions, and opinions and weigh them against facts

  • listens carefully to others and is able to give feedback

  • sees that this is a lifelong process of self-assessment

  • suspends judgment until all facts have been gathered and considered looks for evidence to support assumptions and beliefs

  • is able to adjust opinions when new facts are found

  • looks for proof; examines problems closely; is able to reject information that is incorrect irrelevant

Okay, that gives you a pretty inclusive idea of what it is; but does it answer the question of why you should teach it to your children? Yes, I think it does...

Isn't an important part of what we want our children to learn from us the ability to discern for themselves? that they won't be caught up in every new idea that comes along? that they will know what they think and believe and why? How else will they sort through the endless barrage of information coming at them from all sides? Giving them the tools to seek the truth independently from others (not from God), will be a lifelong blessing.

The really great thing about teaching this subject today is that there are a slew of products out there to easily make it part of your regular school day...even part of your regular curriculum! It doesn't even need to be taught as a separate subject though at the high school level it may be a good idea.

There are workbooks, manipulatives, software, games and puzzles. They are all geared toward teaching critical thinking skills in an entertaining format and some also teach math concepts, grammar rules, science, or history right along with strategy and logic.

The internet has several very good online stores that sell these products, but I have found a home business called Critical Thinking for Life that sells them all in one place! It's easy to browse the categories or use the search engine to find the best critical thinking products on the web. It is owned by a 'retired' homeschool mom who also happens to be a good friend of mine. Here is her web address:

Critical Thinking for Life

Not only does she have everything you need at one convenient location, her shopping cart/checkout system is simple and speedy. You can use Paypal (credit card, debit card, or cash).

She also offers…

  • individual consultations
  • a money saving Refer-a-Friend Program
  • a monthly e-newsletter with new products and sales.

To take advantage of these benefits, just email Roxanne at and mention that Kathy sent you! This is an excellent place to get the tools you need to make critical thinking an important part of your homeschool program.

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