A few months ago, I received a review copy of the book Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School by John Medina. It has been sitting on my coffee table since then, waiting to be read. Waiting, while I rushed around, distracted by the details of life with kids.
I finally sat down last night to read it, and I couldn't put it down. Medina, a molecular biologist and brain researcher, is so excited about the subject (obviously his passion) that the energy of his writing leaps out a grabs hold. He also embodies that rare combination of scientist and storyteller, so he can distill complicated biological and atomic processes into accessible metaphors without insulting his readers' intelligence.
In this book, Medina provides twelve "rules" that explain how and why the brain thrives under certain conditions (most of which are the polar opposites of American school and workaday culture). He shares the evolutionary roots of the brain's functions, and he ends the discussion of each rule with a practical application in modern life. This is no "Mozart effect" mumbo-jumbo; he's not promising "super genius in 12 easy steps." He's simply pointing out the basic changes we can make in our daily lives that will help our brains do what they were designed to do.
You'll come away feeling differently about your own quirks and habits, but you'll also think about your kids' development and educations in a completely new way. Prioritizing exercise over homework, for example, may be the smart choice for strengthening their growing brains. (I'm not suggesting homework be abandoned, but, in terms of learning, exercise has been shown to be so much more important.) You also might come up with new, brain-friendly strategies for teaching your kids tasks they often forget. The book stirs up so many possibilities, it's impossible not to get excited.
Ironically, I came away with a new understanding of why I'm often so distracted (Medina explains that the brain is literally incapable of multitasking). Those of us struggling with "parent brain" (likely the majority of us) would do well to read this book.
Win it! A little bonus for my weekend readers! One randomly-chosen Parenthacker will win a copy of Brain Rules. To enter, leave a comment sharing your tips for clearing the brain fog, or a strategy you use to help your kids learn something new. I'll choose a winner tomorrow (Sunday, 12/7/08) at 5pm. Good luck!