Why Don’t Students Like School?

Someday I’m going to compile my list of must-read books for homeschoolers. Here’s another one that’s going to be on it: Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel T. Willingham.

Willingham is a cognitive scientist, but also a highly readable writer (a rare combination indeed). He looked through the actual research on what scientists have learned about the brain, then considered which insights would be the most helpful in the classroom. Then he explains them, and has fun doing so. And then he has an outstanding bibliography in the back of each chapter if you want to know more.

Some of the insights may seem obvious, but require more attention than first appears. (For instance: you remember what you think about. Duh. But how many enrichment activities, attention grabbers, and other education devices actually distract from whatever it is the teacher wants the students to remember?) Others may seem quite surprising. (For instance, learning styles really don’t make any difference; but variety does, and so does paying attention to the method most suited to the content.)

The book as a whole is highly readable and practical. Charlotte Mason homeschoolers will cheer to notice many of their long-held principles validated by modern science: story is the best vehicle for learning; short, repeated practice is the most effective; telling back is a terrific way to learn. But it’s highly practical for any teacher in any setting.

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