Not long after the advent of World War II, C.S. Lewis preached a sermon which later came to be called "Learning in War-Time" (see The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses). In a famous quote from the address, Lewis said, "Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered."
For our purposes we can rephrase the quote as follows: "Good thinking must exist, if for no other reason, because bad thinking needs to be answered." One of the educational goals we have at Sonlight is to help children think critically so that they can intelligently engage a wide variety of ideas. In other words, we want to cultivate good thinking.
How can we accomplish the cultivation of good thinking? We don't do it by indoctrinating children, which actually stifles critical thinking skills. Instead, we often present a variety of different ideas, some of which are even opposed to our Christian approach, and then seek to explore and engage those concepts intelligently. Our Instructor's Guide Notes, for instance, often provide many additional insights, seeking not only to present opposing views fairly, but also exploring responses and related ideas.
As I craft curriculum notes, I'm always asking myself questions such as, "What is the best explanation for this issue? What other viable options exist? What is the strongest point this perspective makes? Does the reasoning behind this viewpoint hold up? If we grant this position, what are the consequences? How might a biblical response to this question look?"
In order to thoughtfully critique ideas, we must first seek to understand them correctly. This involves, for example, patience, the ability to sift through ideas carefully, an understanding of the issues involved, and a good dose of humility.
Personally, I don't want my four children to grow up without the ability to think critically about the ideas they will encounter. I'd rather they become equipped to deal with all kinds of ideas in a way that is thoughtful and winsome. As ambassadors of Christ, they can then confidently seek to understand and evaluate ideas, contributing good thinking and, when necessary, gently respond to bad thinking.
How do you help your children think through ideas?