3 Ways to Develop Critical Thinking Skills

In a chapter titled “Thinking Skills” in her book A Biblical Home Education, Ruth Beechick explains that we don’t need a “thinking” class. Instead we want our children to apply critical thinking skills to every subject. Here are 3 ways to develop critical thinking skills the natural way.

Dr. Beechick relates an anecdote involving four children, five and under, whose mother has helped them think about the fact that what happens on a television show isn’t really real:

Those children never studied a course on observing the data, making a hypothesis, and drawing conclusions. They already have thinking minds. God made them that way. And as this mother operates, they will continue to use their thinking minds in everyday life. Later on, school subjects become a part of everyday life and children should think in those too. Math thinking in math, science thinking in science, people thinking in history and literature, and so on. This system works better than learning to think in a separate thinking class and then expecting to transfer the skills to other classes. Transfer is limited.

Ruth Beechick, A Biblical Home Education

She is addressing the fact that critical thinking classes and worksheets are not going to address the heart of developing a mind that thinks critically — across the board. Despite the “critical thinking” buzzword so often bandied about in education, what we really need to do is to train our children to think critically throughout all of their activities and interests. After all, training the mind to think wisely is the point of education.

Even without that guidance, child thinking continues all the time, while climbing rocks, wading in water, handling objects, playing independently in the yard…. All young children naturally learn from concrete experiences. We just need to let it happen.

Ruth Beechick, A Biblical Home Education

That said, there are simple things we can do to focus attention on thinking skills:

1. Apply Critical Thinking Skills to Everyday Living

  • Bring our children along with us as we go through our day, explaining what we are doing and why.
  • Discuss the news.
  • Analyze political cartoons.
  • Examine graphs and other data.
  • Play thinking games.
  • Find fallacies.

2. Apply Critical Thinking Skills to Studies

There are also ways to focus attention on thinking by developing these various skills naturally, no matter what our children are learning.

We used Bloom’s Taxonomy to provide examples of how this can work in a home tutoring environment. We want our children to be able to use more than the lower cognitive skills such as recall.

By being aware of the need to stretch our child’s thinking skills, we can encourage him in natural activities that cross subject boundaries and that will expand his ability to understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create in subjects across the board.

3. Using Critical Thinking Books

Back to those “thinking skills” books and courses. We used a series of critical thinking books, and skills were developed. But those types of skills, as needed as they may be, really stand in isolation.

Students who work a practice book before a test do in fact score better on the test. They play that game to score as well as they can. But does it make them better thinkers in life? Not really. In one customer testimonial a parent wrote that her child scored well after using the curriculum. Then the following year his test score fell, so the third year she wanted him to use a thinking book again. This illustrates how poorly the skills transfer, as well as the artificial nature of this kind of testing. If the student had transferred the skills into life and into school subjects, he would indeed have been a better thinker a year later at test time. This indicates that thinking does not work well as a separate subject. Students should practice thinking in every subject and in family life, too. We are preparing children for life, not for tests.

Ruth Beechick, A Biblical Home Education

Additional Resources
Bloom's & Critical Thinking

Bloom’s & Critical Thinking
Complete series that gives examples of how to apply these skills naturally across the curriculum.

Building Thinking Skills
For those interested, this is the series of thinking skill books we used: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 Figural, and Level 3 Verbal.

3 Ways to Develop Critical Thinking Skills

Critical Conditioning by Karen Stout
Another option we used with success, particularly when it comes to literature-based studies. Read our entire review and more about how we used the book.

Thinking Skills
Other practical everyday thinking ideas.

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