I have a confession – I have been DYING to try The Critical Thinking Co. and have probably looked at their products on the website and at homeschool conventions for about 4 years and have just never made the jump to purchase the product. (I think I have even had a cart going on their website before.) So, obviously I JUMPED at the chance to review The Basics of Critical Thinking from The Critical Thinking Co.
Who is The Critical Thinking Company
If you have not heard of The Critical Thinking Co. then you really need to check them out. They have been around for quite a while, since 1958 actually (though I’m pretty sure they didn’t have their great website back then LOL). I have visited their booths at homeschool conventions and the website MANY times. They have award winning materials for every age group and great curriculum to supplement what you are studying or to be the core of your home curriculum.
Personally, we think that developing critical thinking is imperative to a successful thinker, a successful student, and a successful person as a whole. Critical thinking is necessary in life and ensuring my students have been taught this fundamental skill is important.
Critical thinking is simply learning to use analysis and in-depth thought to make decisions. What subject would you need to use critical thinking? In what situation would critical thinking skills be helpful? Yes, those were trick questions because they are in every subject and needed in just about every situation. So, critical thinking skills are important.
The Basis of Critical Thinking
We are blessed to be provided with The Basics of Critical Thinking, a full curriculum book for grades 4-9, designed to teach and/or develop critical thinking skills. Through activities, the book teachers the student how to identify evidence and evaluate what they find to make a decision about what is being presented to them.
The book contains activities such as true/false activities, Venn diagramming, reading a scenario and making observations and analysis, and working through evidence in pictures. However, this is not an all-inclusive list. There are many activities throughout the book.
The book is broken down into lessons. Each lessons is approximately 4 pages. The time it takes to complete the lesson is really dependent on the students abilities, critical thinking skills, reading abilities, and understanding of the lessons.
The lessons are not simply activities, there is some explanation at the beginning of the lesson and peppered throughout. There may be an explanation of a term, ie. what is evidence, then what a brief explanation of the term and how it applies to a situation. There is always an example problem, making it easier for the student to be able to work on the lesson independently. There may be a second term or definition in the lessons between exercises. You can work through the lessons at the best pace for your student.
The chapter lessons includes chapter such as:
• What Is Critical Thinking?
• Conclusions and Decisions
• Beliefs and Claims
• Evaluating Evidence
• Inferring and Inferences
• Facts and Opinions
• Facts, Probably True, and Probably False
You can read a list of all chapters on their website. But as you can see, there are some very important lessons covered in The Basics of Critical Thinking.
How We Used It and What We Thought
We used The Basics of Critical Thinking doing a lesson or two each week, depending upon the length of the lesson (and how much my daughter enjoyed it). We used this with my 10 year old, 5th grade daughter, and she liked the lessons very much.
In addition to learning critical thinking skills, I think the exercises helped develop in her the important of thoroughly reading directions. She is one that likes to speed through something and get right to getting it done. She doesn’t like to “take the time” to read the direction because she “knows” what she’s doing. (Right!) So, after having some difficulty with some of the exercise she realized that reading the directions for each exercise was important to understanding what needed to be done. I think this helped her slow down and really read and think through instruction, which is also important to critical thinking.
The exercises were interesting. The pages colorful and engaging. And the scenarios and activities were fun. My daughter liked The Basics of Critical Thinking and did not baulk at having to add this to our day. Sometimes we completed 3 lessons in a week and some times one. It really depended on her and how long the lessons were. We liked this book because it was easy to find a stopping point to pick up on during the next lesson time.
Though the book is a “workbook” per se, it didn’t have so much activity that my daughter disliked it – she’s never been a lover of workbooks. And I think the challenge of working through a scenario was good for her. She REALLY liked the exercise in Finding Evidence. She did not like Venn Diagramming much, but I think it was good for her to work through.
The book has all the solutions in the back. (Though I’m pretty sure she hasn’t figured that out yet.) So that makes it easier for mom to check the answers and talk through the scenario if the student doesn’t quite grasp the concept.
Overall, we really like The Basics of Critical Thinking and will continue using it in our homeschool this year. I am so grateful to have finally been able to check out a product from The Critical Thinking Co. and, I must admit, the product held up to the hype. I am pleased! My daughter is already applying more of the critical thinking skills that she is learning through The Basics of Critical Thinking to her other subjects. This is definitely something that will help her in ALL her schoolwork and in life in general. I think this is an excellent book and something from which every student will benefit.
You can purchase your own copy of The Basics of Critical Thinking from The Critical Thinking Co. on their website for $22.99. It is a complete, one year curriculum in critical thinking, including a pre-test and post-test, which I think will be interesting to compare.