Logic and critical thinking are two subjects often left out of
typical homeschool schedules and curriculum books. I've worked
hard to make sure my children get a good dose of both from very
early on in their schooling because they are subjects that encourage
children to become thinkers--to make connections, question propaganda,
and make good decisions. You might be surprised at the number of
wonderful resources available for all ages!
The James Madison Critical Thinking Course is one choice
available for upper middle and high school aged students. In this
huge volume of 534 pages, your older children will do all of the
- are introduced to critical thinking
- make distinctions between fact and opinion
- look closely at ambiguous and vague words
- learn about inductive and deductive arguments
- determine the validity of arguments
- learn about categorical syllogisms
- practice using reasoning in arguments
- investigate informal fallacies
Don't worry if all of the above sounds like a foreign language
to you! The authors walk your children (and you, if you like) through
meanings and examples consistently throughout the book. In fact,
the layout of the lessons is to learn something new, see it used
in examples, and then go right into some practice exercises. Each
lesson is meaty in content but can be completed in less than 15
minutes. (My daughter enjoys the activities so much that we oftentimes
complete more than one lesson!)
Several lessons at a time revolve around one crime-scene scenario.
Using the scenarios, the authors build on various critical-thinking
skills in an attempt to make your children better thinkers. I believe
crime-scene scenarios are used because it tends to be very hard
to determine the truth based on varying evidence and witnesses.
When your child learns to tackle very tough crime cases, he will
easily be able to think critically through almost any situation.
While the idea of determining the truth from crimes might not appeal
to some, I haven't come across anything yet that was overly objectionable.
Besides, high school students will be entering the "real" world
soon and probably need to be aware of some of the unsavory events
this world has to offer.
The authors claim that after working through the entire book,
a student should see a 7-10% improvement on tests such as the James
Madison Test of Critical Thinking or Cornell Critical Thinking
Test. I agree. This curriculum is serious and in-depth. While I'm
sometimes a little confused with a skill or practice activity,
it's probably more my lack of ability than the book's lack of teaching!
Lucky for me, a teacher's guide (sold separately) gives answers
to each and every practice activity.
For both the student manual and teacher's guide, the price is
around $40.00. This is very fair considering how huge the student
manual is. While your child may prefer to work in the manual, you
could easily require answers to be written on another piece of
paper. That way you could use the book for more than one child.
My 9th-grade daughter and I have really enjoyed the course. It's
tough, but with the incremental lessons, we're hanging in there
and learning tons.