Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that combines a fun, real-world curriculum with powerful mentorship from experienced coaches and a supportive peer community
When it comes to problem-solving, creativity and critical thinking go hand in hand.
If we understand creativity as a mindset of “yes and,” we can consider critical thinking as, “yes but” — the ability to step back and take distance from the information presented to us, before interpreting it and drawing conclusions.
The importance of critical thinking can’t be overstated: As kids are bombarded with information from a young age — with new channels, platforms and media springing up regularly — they need to balance an open mind with healthy skepticism.
Yet a critical mindset is not enough.
Imagine you were suddenly dropped into a boardroom where they were presenting data on greenhouse gasses while trying to solve climate change. You couldn’t just use your critical thinking skills to make a decision. You would need to know about the science behind it, as well as the geopolitical dynamics that contribute to the problem.
In other words, you can’t teach critical thinking in a vacuum.
As with creativity, critical thinking requires a wide and deep interdisciplinary knowledge base in the topics that you care about. A child’s critical thinking skills must be honed specifically in areas such as media literacy, data literacy, and textual analysis. Just because you learn critical thinking in English doesn't mean you can apply it in science; while certain features are transferable, a child needs the opportunity to learn the important skills and techniques required by each discipline — and take their theoretical knowledge out for a spin in the real world.
To build higher-order thinking skills, start with whatever topic or activity engrosses your kids.
For many kids, this means screen time.
“Screentime” often evokes fear in parents, but if kids get news from social media, media literacy is one of the most important life skills we can teach them. Sit with them as they read, and ask them open-ended questions about the material they’re consuming. At the same time, talk about what you read — show them the sites and/or the physical material — and let them know why you trust it.
Pick a current event, something that excites them — it could be anything from a new release from their favorite artist to a local happening — and ask them to find multiple articles for a simple compare-and-contrast:
-What images are being used to accompany the story and what feelings do they evoke? -What does the headline announce, how is the lede presented, and what evidence does the author give to support it?
-How are they impacted by a video versus a written story?
-How is the story presented in the context of the publication?
-When a story is being shared by an influencer on a social media platform, how does that presentation impact their interest in — and belief of — a story?
Data literacy is another facet of critical thinking to introduce to your kids. Our middle school learners make predictions based on data — an activity that can lend itself to kids who love sports or are curious about the stock market.
But there are countless ways to design creative problem solving activities for any discipline: As part of the project-based approach at Prisma, we hold collaborative workshops where kids get the opportunity to solve discipline-specific problems: In the “World of Wonder” theme, Prisma learners decide how to power a city using their knowledge about Earth Science; in “Unsolved Mysteries,” they cross reference different sources of evidence to get to the bottom of historical puzzles; in “Build a Business,” they pretend they are on Shark Tank and decide which businesses to invest in.
It’s all about teaching specific problem solving skills across different contexts: with their interests as a guide, introduce them to a range of disciplines.
Remember, it’s not the what it’s the how: as they acquire different literacies, the experiences will build on one another. Start in their comfort zone, introduce critical thinking activities into whatever engrosses your kids, and then edge outwards.
When kids feel empowered to speak up, share — and defend — their opinion, and engage in a back-and-forth with others, you are helping them foster critical thinking skills.
Get your kids involved in their education, give them choice, and plenty of opportunities to practice. This could mean evaluating what book they want to read next or which online math program works best for them. Listen carefully, and ask them to provide justification for their choice. They’ll be less likely to offer empty complaints when they’ll been a part of the process, and more likely to think through productive solutions.
Our Prisma learners know they’ll be asked to give feedback on the curriculum, offer suggestions for future themes, and propose their own clubs. That real-world payoff incentivizes them to give their best: They know they have to engage critically with their education, if they want their opinions to be taken seriously.
One of the enemies of critical thinking is impulsivity: an idea comes into our head and we instantly are sure it’s right.
The antidote is metacognition (thinking about our own thinking): as we teach kids in our Prisma high school Life Skills curriculum, you need to be aware of your own thought processes and your own biases to be able to step back and loosen your grip on that initial reaction. As kids start to become aware of their own cognitive biases, they learn to recognize them in other people as well.
Math is a great area to practice critical thinking activities: Teach multiple strategies to solve the same problem, and then ask them to explain how they got to the right answer and why they chose a certain approach. If you’re homeschooling as part of a cohort, take the opportunity to have all the kids share their unique, to help emphasize the diversity of potential tactics.
Metacognition can be incorporated at every phase of the learning process, from when they sketch out their first theories to when they present their final version. Get your kids used to talking about why they gravitate towards certain approaches and which ones they might want to consider modifying or phasing out, if they're working to improve a skill or technique. This kind of reflection should be a part of any assessment process, as it feeds directly into developing a growth mindset.
Young children learn by watching and imitating. Every interaction with your child is an opportunity to model critical thinking, from the types of questions you ask to your response to the complex problems you face in everyday life.
Walk them through the decision-making process for your household, like how you comparison shop for appliances or choose a birthday party venue. These everyday problems are a great opportunity for you to model metacognition when the stakes are relatively low for them.
Want to learn more about how Prisma can empower your child to thrive?Talk with usTalk with us
How kids can design projects that solve real-world problems
Falling in Love with Science
There are plenty of ways that homeschoolers make friends and engage with their peers, while still reaping the benefits of a homeschool education.
Tools to build self-awareness and resilience
The real world isn’t divided into school subjects. Learn how we design our interdisciplinary curriculum.
Explore the importance of education for children’s overall development and get practical tips for convincing your kids of its importance.
The Superpower that Turns Kids into Lifelong Learners
What would it look like if school prepared us for life?
Why is it that in a world of unprecedented technological advances and time-saving innovations, we seem to be busier than ever before?
Imaginative play isn’t just for preschoolers. Here’s how to spark your child’s imagination.
Engaging kids in the kitchen goes beyond food preparation. Here’s how to incorporate cooking into your weekly lesson plans.
The job landscape is shifting before our eyes. Here’s how to help kids navigate future career choices.
If your child has doubts, here’s how to help them get to a “yes.”
With adolescent mental health in crisis, here’s how to support your high school student’s well-being.
At its core, creativity is the expression of our most essential human qualities: our curiosity, our inventiveness, and our desire to explore the unknown.
The concept of critical thinking can seem vast and abstract. But one of the most meaningful ways you can start to tackle it is by rethinking the role of the teacher.
Imagine your child exploring new countries, meeting people from different cultures, and gaining a deep understanding of the world in a way that simply isn't possible in traditional education.
Unstick your child’s creativity, stretch their thinking, and improve their writing skills with topics that tap into their passions.
I never expected to find a family within my child’s school, but the leadership, teachers, parents and kids have become friends for life
Homeschooling can be overwhelming for parents. Here's how to recognize the signs of burnout & concrete solutions.
What’s behind your child’s complaint — and what to do about it.
If building social skills has been a bumpy road for your kid, here’s how to help them form healthy friendships.
The homeschool day can be quite efficient, compared to a typical public school day. Then, their school work completed, kids have plenty of time for extracurriculars, hobbies, unstructured play and generally... fun.
Possibly. But here’s what to do first.
To instill life-long healthy eating habits, take a hands-on approach
Distance learning doesn’t have to be a drag. Here’s how Prisma creates a community-centered online learning environment.
Distance learning is gaining popularity. Here’s what you need to know about online learning for high school students.
A bridge into high school, middle school is the time to prepare for independent learning. Here’s how to set the stage.
ADHD is only one reason for a short attention span. Find the cause, then try these tips for helping your child focus.
There’s no roadmap to develop a true passion — but here are ways to make the journey more fruitful.
Kristen Shroff is an experienced educational leader who has been with Prisma from the very beginning, first as a Founding Curriculum Designer & then as Head of School. Now, as CEO, she will lead Prisma into its next stage of growth.
Meet Claire Cummings, our Head of Middle School. Claire started out as a beloved Learning Coach in our middle school program before transitioning to the Head of School role in January 2023! She is based in Detroit, Michigan.
From making a meal to balancing a budget, here’s how to help teens learn to thrive in the real world.
In our Meet the Team blog series, you’ll get to read more about the innovative thinkers behind Prisma. Next up is Emily Veno, one of Prisma's Founding Curriculum Designers. After two years focused on building Prisma's middle school curriculum, in her new role as Head of Learning Innovation she works across both the middle & high school programs.
In our Meet the Team blog series, you’ll get to read more about the innovative thinkers behind Prisma. Next up is Leena Williams, the Lead Coach & Curriculum Designer in our new high school program.
Get to the bottom of your child’s apathy and help them find their ‘why.’
At Prisma, we believe the families and learners who like to call themselves Prismarians—are our ‘secret sauce’! Here we highlight one of our favorite stories from the Prisma community
From national parks to beach vacations, design an in-the-field learning experience the whole family will enjoy
Online learning takes many forms. Decide why you want to go remote — and the rest will fall into place.
Here’s how parents of ADHD children can set themselves up for successful learning at home.
Online learning doesn’t have to be distracting. These tips can prime your child to thrive at home.
From early childhood through high school, homeschooling provides the ideal setting to facilitate a gifted child’s learning. Here’s how.
And how can you support them in the classroom?
From fostering a love of learning to developing problem-solving skills, child-initiated learning is a pillar of a successful homeschooling journey. Here’s how to get started.
Focus on number sense and you’ll help your child add math skills to their toolkit.
Combine fun with a pinch of self-discipline, and you’ll be well on your way to a wellness routine your child wants to follow.
Kids need to develop their own world as they mature. But the stereotype of the zip-lipped pre-teen doesn’t have to be your reality.
It’s not easy to juggle full-time work and homeschooling — but it is possible. Here’s what we’ve learned about how to thrive.
Learning languages opens doors, offers connections and inspires new ways of thinking. Here’s some advice about which one(s) to pick.
Read about the hands-on learning opportunities one Prisma high schooler tackled in the Secrets of the Biosphere theme
Creative thinking is the key to problem-solving. Here’s how to foster creativity at home.
Traditional four-year college is only one option. Here’s how to inform your decision.
The Montessori approach focuses on early childhood. Here’s how the popular pedagogical method can lend itself to home-based learning for all ages.
Here’s what parents need to know about the popular social media network.
Here’s what every parent should know about facilitating a routine that works for the whole family.
Hands-on learning benefits all students. Here’s how to incorporate it into your homeschooling.
There’s no evidence to confirm the validity of these popular labels. But here’s how auditory learning strategies can benefit everyone.
Although no studies link these popular labels to academic achievement, here’s how visual learning helps everyone.
Here’s what parents need to know about the free, popular chat app.
Incorporate these reading tips into your routine, and you’ll be on your way to fostering a love of reading in your child.
Ready to Deck the Halls? Here are projects to engage kids of all ages—and tackle your seasonal shopping with DIY keepsakes.
More than just asking questions in the classroom, the Socratic Method helps learners test their own ideas in a real-life context.
Here are some guidelines to help sift through the infinite options.
When students set the conditions of their learning experience, they show more creativity, passion and sticktuitiveness.
With built-in lesson plans, educational tools, and endless problem-solving opportunities, Minecraft: Education Edition can help motivate kids in coding, science, language arts, and more.
Get into the spirit of gratitude with these easy Thanksgiving crafts for kids.
Teach children gratitude and they’ll experience better mental health, well being and social connection.
8 tips to ensure learning disabilities don’t get in the way of building reading skills.
Why does your child dread Mondays? Once you know, take these steps to help them (re)discover their spark.
To stop bullying behavior, educate yourselves and your children.
Bullying is about a power dynamic between peers. To interrupt it, first understand why it happens.
Children’s Mental Health is in Crisis. Here’s How to Help Develop Your Child’s Self-Esteem.
To reach their high potential, twice-exceptional children benefit from a flexible learning environment.
The holiday season is the time to get your hands dirty with these Halloween craft ideas - candy corn optional.
Dyslexic kids often lose their love of learning. Here’s how parents can help them rediscover it.
The challenges of adolescence can be magnified for LGBTQ kids. Here’s how to help them thrive.
From bullying to finding a safe bathroom, LGBTQ students navigate a tough landscape at school.
What we know about the relationship between ‘hard fun’ and learning. (Hint: It’s not about playing games in between worksheets.)
Here’s what we mean by ‘success’ at Prisma - and how we use it to help kids thrive.
What parents need to know about socialization in—and out of—the classroom to help your homeschooler thrive.
Child entrepreneurship is trending. Here are three steps to developing an innovative business that stands out from the crowd.
A hands-on approach to develop real-world skills, resiliency and a love of learning — here’s how we practice it at Prisma.
A Shared Name and Diverse Strengths Led Two Bens to Build an AI Writing Business.
When traditional public school isn’t the best option, consider these alternatives.
Five ways parents can help their kids see themselves as a work in progress.
Gifted kids face unique challenges when it comes to burnout. Here’s how parents can help.
For travel-hungry families dreaming of school vacation, there’s much to celebrate about shifts in the way we live, work and educate our children.
To create a customized education for your child takes more than a checklist. This three-stage framework can help you get started.
If you’re homeschool-curious, here’s what 100 families have to say about the biggest advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling.
With homeschooling, the sky’s the limit – and there’s a lot on your plate. Learn about how to make this growing trend work for your family.
Learning how to use the internet safely, smartly, and creatively is one of the most essential skills for success in our hyper-connected world. Prisma learners just wrapped up their Cyber Citizens learning
A live learning platform purpose-built for kids. It's a new, fun and engaging way for kids to learn and collaborate together virtually.
Technology has completely revolutionized how we shop, communicate, entertain ourselves, and even how we work, but no such revolution has happened in education.
We’ve officially wrapped up our first ever fall session at Prisma and are excited to share our learnings and observations with you.
Starting today, families can apply to join Prisma from anywhere in the USA. Here’s how it will work. You can still apply to any of our five founding cohort hubs (Chicago, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, or Tampa) if you live nearby.
Over the past week, as millions of parents have realized that traditional in-person schooling may not be safe or available come September, a new twist on an old phenomenon has emerged.
We're excited to announce the rollout of Prisma cohorts in 5 US cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Tampa and Salt Lake City.