Teach your children how to think, not only what to think

The basis of fruitful education is giving a student a love for learning. Helping to engage a child’s heart in knowledge, ideas, history, stories that inspire, thoughts that produce life and vision is the foundation for shaping a child into one who will grow intellectually the rest of his life.

Great books and inspiring stories must comprise the shaping of a great mind.

The American culture has produced a generation of teachers and a philosophy of education that is fill in the blank and multiple choice. Children are shaped by the idea that there is only one answer. Often, even as Christians, children are given moralistic instruction that indoctrinates them, but does not engage their mind in the life of ideas about God or their heart with faith.

Moralistic instruction tends to be rule based and produces pharisees but not disciples.

Rule based education produces children who can memorize and spit back what is expected, but does not necessarily prepare them to think, to develop convictions based on truth or shape their brains with ideas that extend creativity, and scope for life.

Education of children in our homes must not merely give them facts to memorize and things to know, but real education cultivates the mental muscle of teaching children how to think.

Strong thinking skills come from engaging minds in great books, interesting ideas, great minds, good writing. Discussion of ideas and stories gives children practice at learning how to evaluate, and own their own ideas. Writing opinions and evaluations of stories, political views, world shaping ideas develops mental muscles and increases the capacity of the students in strong thinking skills.

For children to stand up against wrong philosophies, they must have grappled with the fallacies and incorrect thinking of the world views that are not consistent with scripture.

That is why books, literature, poetry and history are the basis of teaching children to think. Instead of boring facts to memorize, children learn real ideas in the context of real people and great thinkers and exercise their minds on the best minds that have lived throughout history. Studying God’s word and memorizing scripture, discussing a Biblical world view is the food for great thoughts.

Thinking properly is the basis of worshipping God with our minds. And so, understanding the importance of giving children practice at thinking, articulating their thoughts, interacting with stories and writing opinions is so important to building a soul that comes to truth from exercising their own minds. Children and adults who are encouraged how to think will be able to evaluate truth from fiction, clear thinking from indoctrination and will be able to hold confidently to truth in a world that denies the reality of God.

So, today, ask a question, read a story, give opportunity for your child to think and to engage his personality and soul in the work of real education.


Winner of any book of choice is Brenda Nuland! Brenda is already a great friend and has a beautiful blog at: coffeeteabooksandme.blogspot.com Be sure to check it out. Congratulations, sweet Brenda!

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  1. says

    My son, Matthew was just “filling me in ” on his recent history reads. He basically said, “Men throughout history have always been greedy and power hungry and when given the upper hand, whether religious or not, they become like dictators.” I thought that was so insightful for a kid. Loved this post. I needed the inspiration today!

  2. Sharon says

    This post reminded me of a question my Mom recently asked. After spending time with my toddler who gets excited about the smallest thing, she said, “What makes that go away in us as we get older?” I don’t actually have an answer to that question. The only thing I could come up with that as kids get into school, they are told to do things exactly as the teacher does. A friend was telling me how her teacher didn’t like her particular style of writing in cursive. That is ridiculous to me! None of us writes exactly like anyone else and nobody should be graded poorly for being different from their teacher. I long to instill a love for learning and the ability to think for herself in my daughter. I recently picked up “Educating the WholeHearted Child” and I’m certain you are going to lead me in the right direction, Sally. Thanks in advance!

  3. says

    I couldn’t agree with this concept more. As a homeschooler for many years, I’ve seen too many homeschool parents who dictate every aspect of their children’s lives including what to think and how to think. The children will need to function as stand-alone adults someday and need to learn how to think, reason and make their own decisions including whether or not to embrace the faith their parents embrace.

  4. says

    My little ones are only 3 and 1, but this is one of my biggest goals for them. Thank you for sharing this idea in such a beautiful way! May God help me to shepherd their hearts and minds rather than only to teach them rules of behavior.

  5. says

    What a great reminder Sally. What an encouragement to me today and as I look forward to another day filled with opportunities for great books and great discussions with my children. Thank you for this entry.

  6. Shelly says

    Dear Sally, Thank you so much for stating this in such a beautiful way. Over the years (22 and counting) of our home educating journey I have been asked what my “philosophy of education” is. I always felt kind of dumb when I said that my goal for my children was for them to love to learn and to know how to think. I am now pondering this again as my husband and I continue to seek to make disciples. My daughter said to me yesterday (as I sighed over one more request to interrupt my day) “you know mom, it isn’t really such a big deal if you don’t treat it like one!” Wow! How many times had those words come out of my mouth? My daughter is indeed my disciple, and is becoming just like her teacher!
    I want for my children to see Jesus in me so clearly that they long for Him, that they want to follow hard after Him, and that they know ‘how’ to grapple with evil in the world because they have been so immersed in truth.
    thank you again!

  7. Darla says

    Yes! that is beautifully put! After homeschooling for 22 years that is to me the sum of it all! Today my middle son turns 21 (a junior in college) & my oldest son sent me a text very early this morning that he is home from Iraq :) They are both quite different & certainly not copies of me, but i think they have learned to think for themselves. I wish I had read and followed your Educating Child book more when I was younger… I thank you for your wonderful godly example…. Ladies follow Sally, listen to her, learn from her!! She is speaking wisdom!!

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