Even though I am not using what I learned in college in an office setting, I do use my degrees in education nearly everyday. One of the things I do with my children is problem solve out loud.
Essentially, I talk to myself. Out loud. A lot.
However, my college textbooks call it critical thinking and offer many problem-solving models.
1) Identify the problem
2) Define the problem through thinking about it
3) Explore solutions through looking at alternatives, brainstorming
4) Act on the strategies
5) Look back and evaluate the effects
Yesterday at the grocery store, my minivan would not start. I jiggled the steering wheel and pushed my keys in, "My car won't start." I identified the problem out loud.
I jiggled the steering wheel with a little more force and tried turning the keys in both directions, "It just won't start. I have enough gas and the oil has been changed and it just won't let me start." I defined the problem out loud and now had three curious little people giving me their undivided attention. They live for my chaos and problem solving situations. They LOVE it.
Again, I jiggled the steering wheel and turned around to face them, "I could call Daddy at work, but he is far from here and that would waste a lot of time." I started to explore my solutions. "You could buy a new car!!! A hot pink minivan." Exclaimed Lola. "Or. We can call a taxi." The more reasonable Jay chimed in.
"Yes, those are all good solutions but both would involve spending money. I am going to look for a grocery store worker in a uniform and ask him for help." And so, I grabbed all three kiddos and walked back into the grocery store to look for some help.
I acted on one of the solutions. After locating a man in uniform I described our problem. The man walked back with us and with one jiggle of the wheel he had the minivan purring and did not even comment on the state of the van. He was a good man.
"That was good problem solving, Mama." Jay determined when he looked back on our situation.
You might be thinking to yourself, "OHmommy, you are crazy. You seriously do not talk like that." And I tell you, I do. I do. All. The. Time. The word PROBLEM SOLVING is one of the most common used words in our house. I believe that problem solving and critical thinking are important skills to teach even our youngest children.
"What's the problem, Babcia?" Lola asked my mother when they were swimming in the pool over the summer. "I can try and help you solve it." My mother still laughs at the image of tiny Lola swimming over to her in the pool to lend a hand.
One of the problems we had on our vacation in Europe was that our hotel room in Warsaw, Poland was too small for a family of five. We had the same hotel room booked for the first and last night of our vacation. While standing in line to be checked in, on our last night, I turned to the kids and admitted that the room was just too small for us. There was no way we would all sleep soundly in a tiny room again. I even blogged about it from Warsaw with an awake Fifi in my lap at 2am. After defining the problem and discussing solutions it was my turn to act...
"Dzien Dobry (pronounced: 'jean' and 'dough' plus 'bree' like the cheese). Our family is rather large and the rooms upstairs are rather small. Are there any bigger rooms available tonight? We have a 6am flight and would like to rest comfortably tonight." I told Jakub the hotel concierge on duty. Jay and Lola were by my side anxiously awaiting the verdict.
"Yes. Of course." Jakub handed over the keys to the penthouse.
I thanked him, took the keys, knelt down to face my children and whispered, "I solved the problem with my words. We got the biggest room on the highest floor. It is where presidents stay and stars like Hannah Montana too." The kids were jumping, laughing, and clapping their hands.
"Bravo! Bravo." Fifi unaware of what happened chimed in by clapping her hands.
The kids eagerly ran down the hall of the highest hotel floor and raced into our room. The view ...
"We are on top of the world Mama. You can see the whole entire world." Jay peered out of the window in amazement.
"You solved the problem!" Lola squealed with delight. "Yes, yes I did." I admitted while throwing on a plush robe and diving into the delicious down comforter. I was on top of the world.
Not only do I model the important skill of critical thinking by problem solving out loud with my children, I also get to enjoy their comical solutions and responses. Those are the things that put me on top of the world. Besides, I have the rest of my life to use my degrees.