Brave Writer Podcast: Learning How to Learn with Barbara Oakley, PhD

Brave Writer Podcast Barbara Oakley

Do you ever wonder if your kids are retaining anything they learn? Yeah, me too. I wondered about it all the time. Thank goodness you have a resource I didn’t discover until years after I finished homeschooling my kids.

Enter: Barbara Oakley, PhD—the mastermind behind the wildly popular Coursera course “Learning How to Learn.”

Barbara Oakley is a force to be reckoned with. She went from having a math phobia to getting her PhD in Mechanical Engineering (after mastering Russian, by the way). She learned how to learn anything!


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Barbara’s work focuses on the complex relationships between neuroscience and social behavior, and we think that any Brave Writer fan is also going to be a fan of Barbara’s newest book – Learning How to Learn: How to Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying; A Guide for Kids and Teens – which teaches kids and teens simple tricks for learning difficult subjects, even if they don’t feel like they’re “good students.”

Although learning is quite complex and the most important aspects of it can’t be distilled into a simple list of “three things you can do to learn better,” there are a few vitally important ideas that we’d like to highlight:

  1. You want to create neural links that your short-term memory can call to mind instantly.
  2. You need to have both focused and diffused modes, meaning you sometimes need to give your mind a break and let it wander! If you feel are banging your head against an idea, you are probably overusing the focused mode. Doing something else allows the diffused network to work through the idea.
  3. You need to develop effective tools for dealing with procrastination.

There’s a lot more, of course, but this is a great starting point for learning how to learn!

In the book, these principles are then broken down into practices that children and young adults can do to reinforce the concepts.

And especially for young children, the practice is really important – they need the practice to develop these neural structures in the first place! Unfortunately, it’s pretty clear that the U.S. public education system often does not provide enough practice for these neural patterns to develop.


If you want to learn more about Learning How to Learn, you can join us in The Homeschool Alliance later in August for an in-depth discussion on how you can bring this learning experience alive in your families!

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