I read How We Learn by Benedict Carey (Random House, September 2014) at much the same time as I read Born Reading, so I found the correlation between the two quite interesting. Both books were written for very different and unique reasons and for different audiences. But, since I’m a homeschooling mom, I found that I was an appropriate audience for both!
How We Learn is definitely a more technical book, with plenty of references to studies in learning techniques from the past 50 years and more. Nevertheless, Mr. Carey wrote with a familiar tone sometimes, with examples from his own life. These felt more like digressions to me (I honestly did not want to know about his college drug habit!) but overall, the book had a professional feel due to the research involved.
Concepts Mr. Carey covered include basic concepts on how memories form and how we forget, how we best hold on to things we want to learn, what to do about distractions and other difficulties to learning, and how to best tap in to the subconscious to retain learning. I found the most interesting and useful concepts to me as a homeschooling teacher and parent to young children were those about how getting wrong answers and actually forgetting concepts helps strengthen long-term retention. I am all the more eager to give my children “pre-tests” and provide a spiral method to learning and then eventually revisiting concepts.
I also found that it helped me approach the things my son has forgotten in a different way. When he’s forgotten and relearns it, he is more likely to retain it for longer!
In retrospect, the book has stayed with me. While the technical details have escaped me, the basic concepts of learning and forgetting have intrigued me as a teacher. I think it’s a valuable contribution to for the library of teachers and learners!
Note: I received a digital copy of this book for review consideration.