I love this new article in The National Review, “The Last Radicals”, especially the part where Bob Wiesner reminds everyone that the first “home schoolers” were hippies.

I also appreciate how he points out that home schooled children tend to be free thinkers. He points out that free thinking is not always appreciated by public school teachers. I feel special in that I definitely enjoy the free thinkers in my classroom.

I remember when my son was a toddler and my husband and I were relating a story about his free thinking tendencies. A close friend who happened to be (and still happens to be) an elementary school principal looked concerned.

“Those aren’t qualities that will be appreciated at school,” he said gently.

I was glad my son would not be an easy student. Of course this did not always work in my favor as he grew older and questioned me.

But then, we reap what we sow and I am happy to report that my grown son is such a free thinker that he rarely agrees with me.

The steps any parent or teacher can take to create “free thinkers” include:

1. Always play the devil’s advocate. Make children explain their reasoning and challenge them with counter arguments. Nothing engages a child’s reasoning skills than having to explain their opinions and ideas.

2. Ask lots of questions rather than providing answers. “What made you think that?” “How would that work?” “Why?” The last question is the most fun because it feels a bit like payback from when the child asked the exact same question… 🙂

3. Teach children to accept ambiguities. When I was a kid, my mom had me create Pro/Con lists when I needed to make a big decision. These lists taught me that there was no right answer, only better answers based on my perspective. It helped me to be open-minded and to take responsibility for my decision.

Living with a free thinker is not always easy. There were definitely times when I had to resist the strong urge to answer “Because I said so.” But, in the long run, I know my child is better prepared to face the changing world as an adult.