Dr. Watson is astonished that anyone would know this and asks if someone has told Holmes this information. Sherlock Holmes then explains his deductive reasoning, to the delight of Dr. Watson: 

I knew you came from Afghanistan. From long habit the train of thoughts ran so swiftly through my mind that I arrived at the conclusion without being conscious of intermediate steps. There were such steps, however. The train of reasoning ran, "Here is a gentleman of a medical type, but with the air of a military man. Clearly an army doctor, then. He has just come from the tropics, for his face is dark, and that is not the natural tint of his skin, for his wrists are fair. He has undergone hardship and sickness, as his haggard face says clearly. His left arm has been injured. He holds it in a stiff and unnatural manner. Where in the tropics could an English doctor have seen much hardship and got his arm wounded? Clearly in Afghanistan." The whole train of thought did not occupy a second. I then remarked that you came from Afghanistan, and you were astonished. (Study in Scarlet, 1887)

Were you able to pick out the steps Sherlock Holmes's mind went through to reach that logical conclusion? The next time you begin to ponder a new concept or thought, pay attention to what your brain is doing. You might be able to pick out the different steps you are going through while processing and evaluating the information. Some steps do closely resemble others, and some can even be worked through simultaneously. The first step (concept) and the final step (conclusion) are always the same, however, and come first and last, respectively. 

An Insight 

Don't confuse critical thinking with learning, intelligence, or education. Learning and education are two different things held together by the same thread: learning means you are given information and can remember it; education means you can use that information and apply it to the world around you. Education, not learning, produces intelligence. Critical thinkers are not born; they are formed through the educational process. They are nurtured and trained until critical thinking becomes an unconscious habit that influences all aspects of their lives. 

A Challenge 

Children are naturally curious about the world around them and what the parent teaches and exposes them to. As homeschoolers, we have the perfect forum to instill the critical thinking process in our children from a very young age. Many homeschooling parents do this unconsciously and with a little effort can greatly improve a child's critical thinking skills. Homeschooled children, for the most part, are individual and independent thinkers who often question the "why's" of something rather than accept the standard answer. In a world filled with bleating sheep that are easily led and manipulated, the child who thinks critically will stand out and make wise choices. 

*This article published on February 3, 2010.


Rebekah Wilson is a happy wife and mother of eight homeschooled children. Rebekah is the author of The Hope Chest: A Legacy of Love and the Grandmother's Hope Chest series. Currently she is earning her B.S. (in elementary and special education) online, taking 17-22 units per semester and maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Rebekah, as the mother of three autistic boys and children with multiple learning disabilities, hopes to use her degree to bless homeschoolers who face similar circumstances. You can visit her at CAhomeschoolISP.com 

Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Fall 2009. Used with permission. Visit them at www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com. For all your homeschool curriculum needs visit the Schoolhouse Store.