Life Skills Show Critical Thinking

Do you ever, with your middle through high school students, if they ever actually think things through?   Recently, through laying down landscape cloth, one of many important life skills, I saw critical thinking clearly at work. Through this simple activity I want to show you how life skills teach critical thinking.

I set a goal, the other day as I was doing some other gardening, let’s make it easier for my lad to do one of his summer jobs.  Let’s put landscape cloth under the patio stones to prevent weed growth. I put the idea to my lad and he thought it was a great idea. 

We enlisted additional support in the form of our teenage house guest. J is a young man who is struggling to find his place in life, and I hoped to encourage him by letting him be involved. He has good muscles too, which is most excellent for lifting patio stones.  🙂 

One of my goals for this project was to involve my son as much as possible in the decision-making progress.  I wanted to see how he would fit the different pieces together.

I told him the goal.  To lift up all the patio stones and to place landscape cloth under them. We would remove the weeds as we go. 

When we started, both boys wanted to roll the landscape cloth all the way down to the end. I let them give it a whirl knowing they would soon discover a problem with this approach.  The wind blowing, and the need to level stones proved the folly of spreading out the landscape cloth. It was good to see the two boys communicating with each other over the best way to work ahead and not make the job more difficult.   They learned by rocking the tiles back and forth how to determine where leveling sand was needed. 

The question I knew was coming finally came.  The lad asked, “Mom, why didn’t you do this when you laid the tiles down in the first place?”  Hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?   “But honestly”, I told him, “it was too expensive to buy the landscape cloth when we did it.  I just didn’t want to spend the money on it.”  I continued, “I got this cloth for a really good price, so we get to do it now when we’ve learned the value of it!”.  He shrugged!  We continued on.  

The lads quickly learned the best way to pick up the tiles, figured out the best routine for picking them up and organizing them for later placement.  It was good to see them figuring out the most efficient method. Pull a whole row, remove the weeds, lay down cloth, place one tile and then on to the next. My son was great at reminding me to not try to remove weeds until the tiles were removed.  🙂  Sometimes I wonder about my OWN critical thinking skills!  🙂 

We hit a snag. Our tiles weren’t fitting!!!!

Two disappointed young men sat down to see if they could figure out why this happened. The end result “We should have started at the house and worked our way out!”   Once they figured out the error I sent them on their way.  They were so tired and I knew it was all fixable and this way I could get my OCD fix.  🙂 

The end result, tiles organized by type and style.  Broken tiles fit together to make a whole tile. Not everything was leveled, it’s by far not perfect, but you know what?  It’ll do. I can always level individual tiles later, or let the rain do its work.  

But the lads?   They figured out the most efficient way to do the job, they figured out where we went wrong, and came up with the solution.  Their exhaustion and disappointment had me sending them on their way. Their exaltation at the finished job was wondrous to behold. 

They proved quite capably their critical thinking skills in this tackling of a life skill.  Good stuff all round.

What life skills are your children learning that show their critical thinking skills?


A big thank you to Annette Vellenga from A Net in Time for writing this article.

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