Tag Archives: learning

Learning for Free

notebooksI love to learn. As a kid, I remember how hard it was to sleep the day before a new school year because I was too excited. I anticipated starting school as much (or more) than my birthday or Christmas.

In college, I loved the first day of class when you would receive the syllabus. It was so much fun to read over what we would be studying and reading!

When I worked at Walmart, I loved ringing up school supplies. Almost as fun as buying them myself, though I was making money instead of spending it. Plus, my items rung per hour would go really high during August with all those small items.

Given how excited I’ve always been about school, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to find out I have a history degree as well as a graduate degree from a seminary. When I finished formal education almost 8 years ago, I wasn’t sure what I would do. Would life without studying turn out to be dull?

Turns out, it hasn’t been. While I’m no longer reading for credit, I read just as much now as I ever did as a student. (Bonus: I get to pick out the subjects I’m studying!)

Despite my own education background, I now value the education that can be found outside the classroom more than what I got in class. There are plenty of valid reasons to get a formal education, but I don’t think it’s the only way to learn.

Here are a few ways to learn for free:

1. MOOC it up. MOOC = Massive Open Online Courses. There are many places where you can take free online courses. Some formal institutions are offering them these days, or you can go through a site like Coursera, like I have done. All the benefits of an online class you’re paying for, without the cost.

2. Hit up the library. Think of a subject you’re interested in learning more about and find a book on the subject. Search for a good one online or take advantage of your local library’s research librarian. Even if your local library doesn’t have it, they can request if for you through inter-library loan.

The only problem is that you’re bound to think of related topic you want to explore more thoroughly so be prepared to have to repeat the process.

3. Apprentice yourself to someone doing what you want to do. If you have a skill you want to learn, ask to learn from someone who already has it. Cooking, gardening, carpentry, sewing…so many possibilities.

4. Listen while you work. Find a podcast or audiobook on a subject that interests you and listen to it while you do another task. I listen to hours of content a day this way. Even if you can’t listen at your job, you probably can listen in the car, while doing dishes or while mindlessly surfing the Internet. (And no need to pay for audiobooks: your local library probably has many available, on CD or in electronic format).

5. Make friends with someone whose first language is one you want to learn better. Practice your conversational language skills with them while getting to know them.

So even if you aren’t going back to school formally this fall, take some time during this season to renew your desire to learn!

Photo by Kitty Ireland

Passing it On

Vinca on balcony
My first gardening foray in 2009 was to plant two window boxes of vinca on our very shady patio.

It’s no secret that I love gardening. Obviously, you don’t garden on a balcony if you don’t truly love it.

I think I would have gotten into gardening at some point as I became more interested in environmental issues, but my interest in gardening predates that.

Some of my earliest memories from childhood are gardening at our rental house. I remember piling potatoes and onions in the outdoor closet for winter, planting bright-colored corn seeds and not wanting to touch cucumbers for their prickles. When we moved into the first house my parents owned, we enjoyed garden strawberries (or at least the ones the birds didn’t eat) while picking and weeding the garden became a part of my regular chores.

Of course I wanted a garden of my own the first chance I got, not waiting for a yard (though I still dream of one).

So if I got my love of gardening from my dad, where did he get it? From his dad, of course. My grandfather still gets great joy out of his flowers and vegetables and loves to show them off.

I’m thankful that my family didn’t forget the art of gardening when them moved off farms and into town. Most people aren’t that fortunate.

So how do we pass on green habits?

We invite others alongside us when we practice them. This goes double for our kids. I was recently visiting a friend who gardens here in Colorado. While we chatted in her garden, her kids were showing off their favorite plants by name. Obviously, they had spent a lot of time out in the garden.

I’m convinced that one of the best things we can do to spread green living is to live out our example in the open and discuss our motivations freely as opportunity presents itself.