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Reflecting On Critical Thinking Skills with BJU Press Curriculum
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Each year, I am always looking for what my children are learning beyond specific content. I am constantly assessing growth in their values, faith journey, and life skills. I know that I am teaching them specific subjects, but firmly believe I am teaching them to become lifelong learners who are able to ask questions and seek answers. This week, I’ve been reflecting on their growth related to critical thinking skills.

When we first began homeschooling after taking our oldest out of public school in 4th grade, it became even more clear that he had not been challenged academically in the way needed. He has been blessed with a strong academic ability but had gotten quite lazy because he hadn’t been learning at a level right for him. While his teachers were wonderful, they couldn’t solely focus on meeting his needs.

Critical Thinking Skills Across Subjects

I remember my oldest son’s freshman year when we had switched to using ALL BJU Press materials for him. Specifically, I realized how he needed to be retrained to think and analyze when we did Cultural Geography. I appreciate how in each section of the chapter there are review questions. Some of the review questions are factual and you can look back and find the answers, but it is the questions that are not in black and white in the book, the ones that require thinking and analysis, that pushed my son towards critical thinking. When he began answering these questions, he struggled. He wanted an easy answer, versus being pushed to draw his own parallels and figure out implications of what he had read. Admittedly, his first attempts at these questions were not always correct or only partly on the right path. It was through this that he learned to not just read for facts, but to discern what he was reading. And, for me, I loved how so often these types of questions pointed back to God’s design for us, back to a biblical worldview. Further, it was exciting to see him beginning to more solidly form his own thoughts and opinions on subjects versus assuming his parents’ ideas. Developmentally that is an important step for adolescents to move through.

Critical thinking skills development is a natural fit for any of the BJU Press Reading or Literature courses. With our daughter, 5th grade, we have seen her learn to read for more than just content. I love it when she points out that something is foreshadowing or is the conflict in the story. While she enjoys the stories, I love that I can see her wheels turning. In the elementary years, I believe it is the workbooks that really help guide students through a critical thinking process related to the reading. As you move into the upper elementary grades, the questions are more open-ended and much more is expected in terms of assessing and analyzing what happened in the story. One of my favorite things that has occurred through the 5th grade reading this year is that my daughter has strengthened her own writing. She has read great literature that pushes and challenges her to think. And her writing is starting to go to a deeper level with more complicated plots and storytelling.

As children move into the middle and high school literature courses, they are pushed even further into critical thinking. As they read different literature (poems, stories, plays, fables, essays, etc.). the questions that they assess move from literal to interpretive to critical to appreciative. The interpretive and critical portion is important in their intellectual development. The appreciative questions really allow them to tie it to their own views and give it personal meaning. BJU Press’ approach of reading excerpts and different genres is wonderful for children that are developing their critical thinking skills. There is, no doubt, a place for reading full classics, but BJU Press’ approach allows for that development of critical thinking skills to be formed across varied content.

Our middle child is a factual thinker. He is very orderly in his thought process. He soaks in all the practical and factual information from a textbook or video lesson. He can regurgitate facts back to me without hesitation. He has been stretched trying to think why it matters to him--how does this knowledge impact his life, his view of the world. This year in Earth Science my son has noted how the essays on the test have pushed his thinking process further. These essay questions are not simply a list of items or a list of steps. He has had to understand the chapter content and demonstrate his ability to evaluate information and then detail its implications.

As far as math, I always think, “Of course there are critical thinking skills involved, it’s math!” Specifically, I appreciate the story problems that begin in elementary and continue throughout high school. I had a friend once tell me that these were too difficult for her son and he didn’t like them. I shared that I appreciated them, even if they were challenging because it really was forcing my children to decipher what they were answering, what information they had and what steps they needed to take to solve the problem. It wasn’t just quick regurgitation of facts…it allowed them to tap into their own knowledge and understanding of the material they had been studying.

Age And Stage Appropriate

I also appreciate that BJU Press understands the importance of the critical thinking skills being age and stage appropriate. The questions asked of a 10-year-old match up to his/her abilities at that stage. The same is true of junior high and high school critical thinking skills. The questions, problems, and analyses don’t push them beyond their stage of critical thinking. And I love that with my younger two children I am seeing their confidence build within critical thinking skills because they have used BJU Press earlier on than their older brother.

Beyond K-12

If you are wondering how these critical thinking skills translate to life outside of high school, I see it with my senior who is taking a speech class at the local community college. For his upcoming persuasive speech, he has chosen to assess how the messages of the movie, The Breakfast Club, transcends time and is just as relevant today as it was in the 1980’s. He is working on identifying these messages and forming his own opinions on why they still matter today. He will be adding factual data to support his points. First off, this is one of those moments where mom wishes she could tag along with him to class to watch his speech, but I won’t. LOL! Secondly, I know that his development of critical thinking skills through the BJU Press curriculum has given him more confidence in his abilities. His speech will not only be persuasive; it will have been formed from the perspective of thinking critically.

Regardless of which BJU Press book we pull off our shelves, I have confidence in knowing my children are learning more than just content. They are continually refocused back to God and His design for our world and for us. Further, they are developing critical thinking skills that will be useful now and throughout their lives. All of that brings me great joy!

Meet the Author

Debra Schroeder - HomeWorks by Precept Consultant


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