Parent tutoring by Vera Birkenbihl

Eltern Nachhilfe Vera Birkenbihl

I recently read another book by Vera Birkenbihl that I enjoyed a lot. “Eltern Nachhilfe” which is roughly translated into tutoring parents is about the flaws of the school system we all know and how we can support kids in the learning process.

The books doesn’t offer any definitive solutions nor is it a how to guide. But Vera Birkenbihl offers some food for thought on how to improve your children’s learning process by being a role model ourself. Here are the main takeaways from Vera Birkenbihls book Eltern Nachhilfe.

School system flaws and no ownership

Learning anything should be done by exploring a topic, being curious and experimenting. Making mistakes and letting your subconscious work on a topic passively are important elements to successful learning. Vera Birkenbihl calls this method brain friendly learning.

Unfortunately our schools are set up in a way where the goal is to reach the perfect score. Mistakes are punished and marked red and there is no incentive for kids to actually learn the topic. This prevents kids from exploring and experimenting because mistakes are a symbol of failure in that system.

Instead kids are trained to use their short term memory to store mostly useless information that is instantly forgotten after the test.

This process is dull and a waste of time. Even worse, it teaches kids at a young age to learn how to play the school game and reach perfect scores. Exploration and passion are not part of that therefore it is no wonder many kids detest school. Think about your own school time, does it sound familiar?

The coup de grace in this whole mess is that we delegate our children’s education in most cases to the government. We believe they have our kids best interest at heart and we accept that the system is flawed. Therefore it is time to take back ownership and reclaim responsibility for our children’s education.

Flow State

Flow state is the place where we work on something that is challenging and interesting enough that we loose track of time. Flow state is where creativity produces our best work. In that state endorphins (happy hormones) are produced.

Flow State

Computer games are highly addictive because they put the player in flow state. Playing a video game always puts us at the forefront of our ability and we are constantly improving. At the same time it feels satisfying because of the endorphins. Playing video games still has a stigma but is general a good way to spend some of your sparetime.

That being said, playing games also poses two risks. The first one is when you only get fulfilment from playing Videogames but nowhere else. Second, when the games you play are only about killing and mutilation. Killing people in a game on a regular basis might put you in dangerzone.


Neurogenesis is the process by which neurons are produced. When we are active and learning, we build new neuronpaths in our brain. Train your brain constantly because if you don’t and neurogenesis stops all sort of problems arise. It doesn’t matter if you are 5 years or almost 100 old. This is also an antidote against depression so try to support neurogenesis with an active lifestyle.

This is a key component to a happy life and as parents learning for life sets a good example for your offspring. Research shows that in families with a higher education level, children tend to do better in school. Not because these children are smarter but because they tackle obstacles with a more open mind then children from less educated families. The less educated often have to work more and no time to support the children in school.

Language learning

Learning vocabulary for a new language is contra productive in the beginning. Instead you should decode the language. You can do this by translating sentences exactly as they are into your mother tongue. Teachers don’t like this approach but this method shows you a lot about a new language.

You should begin your training as slow as possible. This will support the teamwork between your small and big brain. The small brain is responsible for sequence of movement and the big brain is for storing knowledge.

In Thai Chi the same principle is applied. Slow motion is as successful as a lot of repetitions. Use this to your advantage when learning at home as schools don’t follow this method. Train often in short sequences instead of one long period. Your subconsciousness will keep working after you are done, make use of that. It is a bit like compound interest to use a finance term.

Learning for life

Vera Birkenbihl prompted the brain friendly learning approach that makes topics stick for life. She recommends the following steps to achieve that:

  1. Always write down what you are learning.
  2. Think what you know about the topic before you start reading about it.
  3. Looks words up in a physical dictionary and not the internet.
  4. Read slow and avoid speed reading.
  5. Write down 10 questions about the word or topic that you are learning.
  6. Look for quotations that use the word.
  7. Talk with as many people as possible about the topic.

The process seems time consuming but Vera Birkenbihl keeps highlighting the fact, that you should take it slow. Your learning curve is steep but once you are on your way you will be motivated and more likely to succeed than when you start with a sprint. Also try to avoid passive consumption as much as possible, especially for children (TV) because this will hinder them to think and figure problems out for themselves.

Even thought our school system is not perfect with Vera Birkenbihls findings we can support our children in the learning process. But it all starts with us so it is essential that we are good role models. Learning for life should be our life’s motto and go hand in hand with a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Our children are always imitating us and when we lead by example there is a high chance they adopt that behavior.

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