Archive for January, 2013

Say YOW! to Slow and Steady Learning in 2013

Friday, January 4th, 2013

The human brain is built for learning, even though learning is often not a cake walk.

Ever since our trip to Iceland in July I’ve been enamored of all things Icelandic, including the language.

Every Icelander we met spoke lilting, perfect English to us, and then chattered to one another in a jaunty Nordic blur punctuated by frequent smiles and exclamations of Yow!

These emphatic Yow!’s felt so delightfully cheerful and positive, and it turns out that “Yow” (properly spelled “Ja”) means Yes.

Our favorite tour guide was a college student in his early 20′s. Chiseled, blond, and surely a direct descendant of Leif Erickson, Tucker turned out instead to be a skateboarder dude from Wisconsin.

Tucker had discovered that the University of Iceland provides free tuition, room, board and health care to any student, regardless of citizenship, just so long as they speak Icelandic; he grabbed a self-study language course and hunkered down to practice every day…and, two years later, here he was! Yow!

My main point is this: Resolve to find something you want to learn or get better at, or help your student select something, and set aside a regular time every day to practice for about 15 or 20 minutes. Stick with it for one month, and then glory in the improvement!

The brain is amazingly “plastic,” and even if it’s not “good at” some subject, if you work at it little by little, consistently, learning will happen!

But what if you, or your student, just haaaaates some subject?…and therefore avoids it like the plague? All the more reason to chip away at it, little by little. Research shows that liking increases with expertise, and with familiarity.

I love Pamela Druckerman’s book, Bringing Up Bebe, which is all about “the wisdom of French parenting.” How, for example, do the French raise their kids to love every kind of food (escargots! leeks! blue cheese!) while American kids refuse to eat anything but pizza?

She describes the little-by-little process the French use to slowly educate their kids’ taste buds and learn to love a wide range of foods:

My American baby books recognize that certain foods are an acquired taste. They say …


 

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