The most remarkable thing about the technique of thinking out loud is that every parent can do it every day while going about the business of life with her child(ren). Thinking out loud is yet another interesting, fun non-time-consuming way for children to learn, no complicated educational formula necessary. At the very same time you are reaching outside the box of schooling, you can model an important skill that will help your child throughout life.
HELP YOUR CHILD LEARN TO THINK
Can you help your child learn to think? You bet you can, especially when you model the thinking process. Showing children how to think is much more important than telling them what to think. Thinking out loud is simple and fun exercise for the brain, building the muscle your child needs every day for thinking, reasoning, analyzing, problem solving, and even daydreaming.
Carol Narigon, veteran homeschooling mom from Ohio, found that “walks during which I wondered aloud to myself work most effectively when the kids are within earshot.” It’s simple to get started, says this former Home Education Magazine columnist and editor. “I wonder why this tree needs long thorns on its branches? I wonder what kind of bird is making that sound? Does it have a nest nearby? What Kind of animal left this track?”
After ten years of homeschooling, Carol knows this is a great way to observe and build upon children’s natural curiosity. “If your kids hear you talking to yourself and examining something on the ground or in a tree,” she says, “they’ll come over to see what you’re doing. If you share your sense of wonder with them, they’ll learn how asking questions can lead to interesting knowledge.”
THINKING OUT LOUD IS FUN WITH YOUNGER CHILDREN, TOO
With younger children, mental demonstration can get downright silly, and it may even work best that way. You simply say something so outrageous to the three-to-six-year-old crowd (or thereabouts) that they can’t help but stop to think about why things are the way they are. When the door is open to this kind of talk, you are facilitating ongoing learning in a relaxed and normal way.
My granddaughter, Emily, had twin baby sisters and, along with their mom, all were at my house one day at dinnertime. As always, Emily volunteered to set the table. When she was done, I asked her how many plates she had put out. She walked back to the table to count them. “Three.”
“Three. Who are they for?” I asked.
“You and Mommy and me.”
“Yes, that’s three, but what about the babies? They have to have dinner, too!” Emily stopped dead in her tracks, wearing a puzzled look, obviously thinking about what I said.
“They drink milk,” my granddaughter told me.
“Sure, they can have a glass of milk,” I assured her, “but they have to eat some spaghetti, too!”
She looked to her mom for support. “They can’t have spaghetti – can they?”
“No,” her mom answered. “You’re right. They still just have milk.”
“They can’t have spaghetti,” my granddaughter stated authoritatively.
“Oh!” I exclaimed. “Is that why you only put three plates on the table?”
“Well, that was good thinking,” I told her. “If you had put out two more plates, we would have had too few plates!” And so this created an opportunity to see if she understood what “few” meant. If she didn’t, we had the perfect chance to talk about it while the spaghetti boiled.
It’s not a bad idea to check every once in a while to see if the older children are listening, and you can use silliness on them, too. If “I’m going to put the carrots in the dishwasher” doesn’t make someone at least blink, repeat it, singing, in a Shakespearean voice or, if all else fails, louder, until it does.
When Ann Lahrson Fisher, author of Fundamentals of Homeschooling, explored thinking out loud, she shared the story of the power of her father’s almost silent shoelace-tying demonstration. He tied slowly, waiting for Ann’s small, less coordinated hands to catch up to his. Just a smidgeon of parent patience is helpful and rewarding, as per another example in Ann’s book.
“Do we have enough change in our pockets to buy ice cream? Let’s see. Ice cream costs seventy-five cents. (Yes, folks, inflation is here today!) You have a quarter and a penny. Here is my change. How many more quarters do we need? Here is one, and we still need another. A quarter is worth twenty-five cents. Let’s see if we can make that value with these dimes and pennies.” You let your child know there is no big mystery to the process of counting change and making purchases. Later, when he begins to grasp these ideas, he can take them over for you when you haul out your fistful of change.”
Think out loud, outside the box, about everything. Encourage your child to do the same.
ONE CAUTION ABOUT THINKING OUT LOUD
Engage in this activity at your own risk. Make sure you sharpen your own thinking skills and think ahead before you speak. Many parents, having just been outwitted, out-logicked, and/or out-debated by a twelve-year-old, have been heard to say, “I know I wanted her to be an independent thinker – but so soon?”
Linda Dobson became a homeschooling advocate shortly after her family began their home learning journey in 1985. Today she is publisher of Parent at the Helm online, empowering parents with the news and information they need for informed decisions about their children’s educational and life success. Among her many books are the classics The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child, The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas, and The Art of Education: Reclaiming Your Family, Community and Self.
This post is one in a series about Redefining Education. You can find the others here: