Just the Nine of Us

Just the Nine of Us

Monday, January 11, 2010

Critical Thinking Skills

Allie and I started second semester of third grade last week. This semester in Social Studies we're studying the period of American history between 1800-1850, when Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisianna Territory and sent Lewis and Clark to explore it, and the settlers started moving west. I can't wait to delve into it and learn more myself. I'm hoping we'll get some character lessons in it too, about things like perseverance in the midst of difficulty. I admire those courageous settlers who left their homes and set out into unchartered territory to start new lives. Anyway, today we started a two-week-long study of the Lewis and Clark expedition, reading a letter that Lewis wrote to Clark inviting him to journey with him. He said in his letter that the three aims of the expedition were to meet and make friendly with the Indians, to discover what plants and animals were there, and to make new maps. Allie and I read together and discussed what lay ahead for the two men, and then I asked her to do some critical thinking and writing about why Lewis and Clark would want to accomplish those three tasks. I really thought it was an easy writing assignment for her, but after just a few minutes she came to me and claimed she had no idea why they would want to do either of those things. I felt my patience draining and my blood pressure rising as I tried to explain that you have to THINK. But I took my time to talk her through it, not spoon-feed her but try to facilitate her critical thinking as best I could. By the end of the discussion I was so drained and thought, why was that so hard? Can she not think past black and white facts into why people do things? I made a mental note to find ways to work on critical thinking skills with her this semester. One of my biggest goals is to teach my children to think things through and question why.

One of the reasons I want them to learn to do this, is because even as an adult, I often don't think things through. My personality lends itself to just wake up each morning and take the day as it comes, just reacting to whatever happens, usually taking the path of least resistance. I realize this more and more the longer I'm married to Brian. At first I wasn't sure how to take him. I would be be-bopping along doing something random, and he would say, "why did you do that?" or "why do you do that that way?" I was annoyed and defensive at first, wondering why he had to question everything. But the thing that bothered me most was that I usually didn't have an answer for him. Why do I use that detergent? I don't know. . . . my hand picked it up and put it in the cart at the grocery store?? Why do I shop at Target and not Wal-mart? I don't know. . . it's closer to the house?? Why was Allie at Weatherly Elementary? I don't know. . . because it was the school we were zoned for and everyone goes to public school?? I began to look at the choices I was making and realized that many of them were without any real thought or purpose. Some seemed to have little consequence, like the type of detergent I used. Some had bigger consequences. But the truth became clear: I just did things without thinking, almost as if in a trance. No real principle or reason behind my choices. Often my "reasons" were because they were convenient or easy, or everyone else did them that way.

I really want to be a woman of clear purpose and principle, who does things for reasons. Not so I can answer to everyone else, but so I can know in my heart that "I do this because God said in His Word that I should", or "I don't do this because it's harmful to the environment", etc. I want to spend my days doing things that have reasons. "Today I spent the day doing _________ because it's important to ____________." I think it's honoring to God, and I think it's helpful for a person to have a clear sense of purpose and direction. Plus it helps me as a stay-at-home mom to not just say "Today I washed dishes and wiped dirty bottoms", but "Today I served my family because they are my God-assigned mission." Doesn't that sound better? :) Seriously, I think it will also show our children to do the same with their lives.

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