A parent’s guide to raising well-behaved children in the digital age


Julie Bogart is the founder of Brave Writer, a writing and language arts resource and coaching program for home educators called The Homeschool Alliance. She has five children who were homeschooled and experienced public high school.

Below, Julie shares 5 key ideas for Raising Critical Thinkers: A Parent’s Guide to Growing Wise Children in the Digital Age. Listen to the audio version – read by Julie herself – in the Next Big Idea app.

1. Self-awareness is important.

Most of us wish those people over there (those we disagree with) were better critical thinkers. In fact, as with driving, almost everyone thinks he’s good at it and not everyone is. To be a quality thinker, it is important to take an “academic selfie” – to flip the camera lens and notice what is happening inside us when we are confronted with an idea or interpretation of information. . One may notice a flash of embarrassment or anger. Maybe a knot in our stomachs or a wave of confirmation that feels like triumph. This experience often happens to the children in our care.

We declare the correctness of our ideas without allowing our children to collect their own data, reference their experiences, or identify questions that lead to better solutions. Imagine telling your five-year-old to wash their hands before dinner. If that five-year-old won’t, what will you do? You may say, “You have to, because according to science, there are germs, invisible to you, that will make you sick.” But is it true? Didn’t this five-year-old eat Cheerios on the floor without getting sick?

We can encourage conscious reflection by asking questions rather than declaring answers. Maybe say instead, “Let’s see what you don’t like about washing your hands. Is it the coldness of the water? Let’s use a thermometer to find out what temperature you prefer. Or is it the humidity? Are we going to try a hand sanitizer that dries faster or a hair dryer that uses heat to kill germs? Maybe we can roll the dice for a week and see if you get sick from not washing your hands.

All experiences are an opportunity to cultivate self-aware thinking.

“We declare the correctness of our ideas without allowing our children to collect their own data, refer to their experiences, or identify questions that lead to better solutions.”

2. Make a habit of asking, “Who said?”

Whenever your child reads a book or watches a movie, it’s a great idea to identify who is telling the story. The storyteller shapes the interpretation. When we forget that there might be other storytellers with different perspectives, we sometimes overvalue the default storyteller.

I found out early on that I could read a fairy tale, like The three little pigs, and my kids would just assume that the version I was telling them was the ultimate truth. Then would come another version that told the same story from the wolf’s perspective, and disorientation followed. Suddenly there was another way of thinking about the same information. A practice that became reflexive in my family was to ask during movies, “Whose story isn’t being told?” Can we trust this narrator? What would this story sound like if told by another character? »

All learning passes through the prism of the storyteller – historian, scientist, author, researcher. Critical thinking includes the ability to identify storytellers, as well as those whose stories are untold. Identifying sources and verifying them is the next level of critical thinking, which begins with concern for knowledge.

3. Loyalty to a community has an impact on thought.

Our identities shape the way we think more than we realize. Children, in particular, are likely to adopt the beliefs of the adults who raise or teach them. Paolo Friere, an education reformer, said we do not arrive as empty vessels at the learning experience, but rather with minds filled to the brim with experiences, relationships, personal stories , religious influence and socio-economic circumstances. As we learn, we filter each idea through a series of invisible checkpoints that help us retain our valuable community memberships.

“We do not arrive as empty vessels at the learning experience, but rather with minds filled to the brim with experiences, relationships, personal histories, religious influence and socio-economic circumstances. “

It is useful to identify what is at stake when considering an idea. Will you or your children lose your valuable community membership? Will you violate an unspoken assumption about the ideas you are allowed to have?

Our loyalties are the most important factor in shaping our way of thinking, whether we are loyal to a profession, a radio talk show host, a football team, or our family heritage.

4. Think Good requires depth.

Most of us read for information. Reading is great for detail and consumes a lot of facts, but reading is also incredibly safe and limited. For example, you can read all you ever wanted to read about a violin, but if you’ve never heard one played, all the readings in the world won’t help you learn about the violin. So when we form an opinion, reading is never enough.

We add experiences to the reading and find that we have acquired another level of understanding, which enriches our way of thinking. Listening to a violin in a symphony reveals what reading could never offer. Listening to bluegrass on a violin opens up a whole new world.

The most powerful tool in the critical thinking box is to meet. A meeting destabilizes the power dynamic. Put a violin in the hands of a novice, and that encounter will reveal nuances not available through reading and experience. Encounters with people, in particular, lead to some of our most profound shifts in thinking.

“You can read anything you ever wanted to on a violin, but if you’ve never heard one played, all the reading in the world won’t help you learn about the violin.”

Whenever we study a topic, unless we have added experiences and encounters to what we read, we don’t have enough depth to gain a true critical thinking perspective. Children benefit from this three-pronged approach to learning to think.

5. Interpretations are temporary.

More importantly, everything we know is filtered through our interpretations – facts, data, research, personal experiences or intuitions. Interpretations are the result of considering the creator’s original intent while identifying the performer’s current environment. Taken together, an interpretation was born.

When we choose a point of view based on interpretation, it means that we are using our best available understanding. What makes someone a true critical thinker is the ability to pivot when new information surfaces, to have the courage to change your mind. As an important adult in a child’s life, it’s incredibly valuable to let your children see that you’ve survived the times when you changed your mind, so they know it’s safe too. to change theirs. Interpretations persist until they result in a whole new understanding of the same information. When thinking about critical thinking, it helps to hold all interpretations gently, knowing that they reflect our current context as much as the attempt to meet the original author’s intent.

In my book, I’ve offered a host of activities designed for children ages 5-18 that any adult can use to develop these skills in their children, whether through video games, grammar, poetry or statistics. What’s exciting to see is that adults find these skills and tools equally valuable in their own lives, whether in a social media comment thread or when engaged in a lively conversation with loved one.

To listen to the audio version read by author Julie Bogart, download the Next Big Idea app today:

Hear key information in the next big idea app


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