Brain rules, children and life long learning

Thinking more, thinking better

I came across John Medina’s Brain Rules the other day on the radio… his enthusiasm and clarity were quite engaging. I jotted down the title for my next book shopping adventure and filed his name away in my mind under, “Interesting.”

Applied to child development

Separately this week, I learned of the Talaris Institute and their work to “provide research-based products and services that enhance parent effectiveness in the first six years of life.” Putting the latest findings in brain research into the hands of those who can really make a difference with it.

Later, I put the two together and realized that John Medina was the founder of Talaris.  Fun!

Learning to learn better

Of course, this is all interesting to me, with three children, 6 weeks to 6 years old, and a never-ending study habit.

I was happy to notice that the first rule is exercise, because it has some interesting resonance for me:

  • Our children’s school has the children out on a long walk every day of the year, snow or shine and teaches math by movement games, using the children’s entire bodies to soak up the relationships between numbers.
  • Thomas Jefferson, in his letter to Peter Carr, August 19, 1785, suggests that he devote 2 hours daily to walking, as an integral part of his studies.
  • I usually get my best ideas walking in the woods near our house. Luckily, technology makes it easy to capture them, using a digital voice recorder and dictation software means that, now, you can write anywhere and have it end up on-line quickly.

Another interesting rule is #6: Long Term Memory– remember to repeat which, combined with rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses, reminds me of the Method of Loci as described in The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, the story of a Jesuit who traveled to China and taught the technique there.  I don’t imagine that it would matter if the vision was through our physical or mind’s eye.

So, these brain rules are great for giving kids solid foundations and keeping the elderly functioning, but what about those of us in the middle of our lives?

Life long learning

Can we still develop our minds, or did all that stop when we traded our dorm rooms for cubicles?

I stumbled upon the fact that the average college student in this country spends only 3.1 hours per day on “educational activities.” What? Even working full time, I could slip that in between the kid’s and my own bedtimes. You mean I could keep study as much as I did in college my entire working life?

Recently, I read an inspiring book by A. G. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life in which he states that one can do a large amount of deeply intellectual work in just 2 hours per day. If you could be a contributing intellectual in addition to your current work, would you?

So much of how I think today I have learned post college, it saddens me to read that most Americans either don’t reador haven’t practiced enough to read proficiently.

Use it or lose it

What can we do to start using our brains more and more effectively? If we fail to use and develop our own minds, we may just lose the right to do so… as those who do think start doing more and more of our thinking for us. SeeGiambattista Vico’s New Science for a fascinating look at how this might play out in our society, as it did for the Romans.

My new mental jungle gym is the Great Books of the Western World. Amazingly fun. The Syntopicon alone is worth the price of admission. Much more on this later.

That’s all for now.

Feel free to return to the book you were reading before you landed here.