Monday, December 29, 2008

Review: Critical Thinking

I'm not a big workbook person. In fact, when I pass piles of workbooks on vendors' tables at curriculum fairs, I usually feel sorry for the kids who are standing by as their parents pick through the offerings. It's kind of like being forced to plant beets in a garden when you know that you abhor beets, and all those little innocent seeds are just going to grow and mature and end up on your plate and send you into fits that cause your parents to make you leave the table still hungry and .... oh, sorry. That got a little too personal. Let's just say it's a bad feeling, and I empathize.

But, in truth, there are a few worthy workbooks out there. You just have to dig really hard beneath layers of "A One Year Condensed Study of Human History from the Middle Ages to the Present for Tenth Grade Students with Fill-in-the-Blank Questions." But they're there: the gems.

My personal favorites come from the Critical Thinking Company. I've shared before that I've used their Language Arts series selectively with both Jo and Atticus, and have tried their Critical Thinking books on ocassion as well. I find that these workbooks take a creative, entertaining approach to education that entices kids to pick them up. I've used enough of their titles over the years that I was fairly certain they didn't have much that I hadn't seen, but I was shocked when I tooled through their catalog. Frankly, my wish list is pretty long. They have books on every topic imagineable. Applying case law, in a workbook? Who knew?

Critical Thinking books rank among my faves simply for the fact that they engage children not only in learning facts (they do that, too) but in really, truly evaluating all angles of a given situation. Coming from the perspective that it's one thing to know the answer and another all together to know how to get there, I find this among the most valuable skills in all of the great universe we call "education."

Critical Thinking Co. books that focus specifically on thinking skills alone are entertaining, challenging and fun. They're the type of thing that smart folks do for entertainment: mental gymnastics that leave you stretching to scratch the spot on your brain where you know the answer is ... if you could just reach it. Even better, they train kids to like that feeling, and to keep coming back for more.

Logan has found these books completely irresistable. As a matter of fact, he's begging me to buy the Grade Two Book Bundle for his schooling next year. He promises to read the Sonlight books and to listen in on history read-alouds, if I'll just pretty please buy the puzzle school books for him ...

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