10 Ways to Be a Lifelong Learner – No School Required

posted by Andrea | 02/22/2018
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learn anywhere

I LOVED school — every day, everything about it, all the extra curricular activities, the classes, my teachers, (most of) my classmates, everything!

If I remember correctly, I only missed 2 days of school (ever) for being sick and I don’t think my parents ever had to force or bribe or motivate me to get out the door to school each day. In fact, due to my over-planned personality, I had all my bags and lunch ready to go the night before and was always ready well before I had to leave each morning. 🙂

I participated in as many extra curricular activities and events I could during my school year (it was a full schedule but I’m glad I did it then) and I really thrived in a structured school environment.

Looking back, I can confidently say I attended superb schools with fantastic teachers and administrators. I took it all for granted when I was in school but now that I see how much work it is for Dave to be a really good teacher, I appreciate what I had even more.

I went to college because I was positive I wanted to be a teacher (boy, was I wrong!) Instead, I got a business degree that has served me well these past (almost) 12 years — not to mention I had a fabulous college experience, learned a lot about life, met some amazing friends, and… got engaged to Dave! 🙂

However, the day I graduated from college, I KNEW I would never go back to school again (at least I really, really hoped I wouldn’t).

Many people I knew (including Dave) were continuing on for their Master’s Degrees, and several of our friends and relatives have their Doctorate Degrees… but that was not for me.

I no longer have any interest in traditional forms of schooling for myself.

That said, I LOVE learning and would most definitely consider myself a “lifelong learner” in so many ways. 

Since graduating from college, I’ve learned SO much about:

  • home maintenance
  • cooking
  • gardening (veggies, fruits, and plants)
  • laundry
  • grocery shopping, meal planning, freezer cooking, etc.
  • vehicle maintenance and repair
  • lawn mower, snowblower, and yard tool maintenance
  • starting and growing a business
  • setting up a website and blog
  • computers and electronics in general
  • social media
  • having babies and growing a family
  • motherhood and parenting
  • taxes, investing, and other financial matters
  • insurance and other legal matters
  • Christianity and faith
  • painting
  • electrical
  • online buying and selling (a.k.a. Craigslist!!)
  • knitting and sewing
  • canning, freezing, drying, and preserving food
  • cake decorating
  • volleyball officiating (I actually did have to go to some classes for this)
  • photography (taking pictures, editing them, formatting them, and putting them into digital books)

I could go on and on and on, but I think you get the idea! 

Some of these skills and hobbies were learned out of necessity, but most of them were learned because I simply had a desire to learn and develop a new skill. And seriously, in today’s “information age” I have never had a problem finding free (or very frugal) information to adequately learn how to do anything at a basic level.

If you’re interested in lifelong learning but aren’t really into traditional school, here are some of my favorite resources and tools that I’ve utilized over the years.

lifelong learner

photo source

1. Watch YouTube Videos

YouTube has helped both Dave and I learn many new skills — how to “cast on” for knitting, how to install our first carseat, how to change a headlight in a car, how to install underground sprinkling, and how to make a Barbie cake to name a few!

I’ve looked up various cooking techniques I wasn’t familiar with, Dave watched several videos on how to build a fence, and in general, almost anytime we don’t know how to do something, we search for a YouTube video.

As I mentioned a couple years ago, YouTube has not only helped us gain many new skills, it has also saved us a BUNCH of money by not needing to call a professional!

2. Search Google

This one is a close tie for “first place” on my list because, hello… it’s Google!

We literally use the term “Google it” as a verb around our house because it’s one of the first things we do if we have a quick question about anything.

How many Tablespoons in a cup? How many liters in a gallon? What if my light fixture has 2 white wires instead of a white and a black wire? How do I cure horrible diaper rash? What are fun craft ideas for toddlers? What on earth is fondant frosting and how do I make it? Who can we contact to get rid of our bee problem?

Anything and everything about anything and everything you could want to or need to know… Google has it!

3. Read Niche Blogs

If you have a specific hobby (or even a desire to learn something more general) I can almost guarantee there are a handful of blogs that specialize in exactly what you want to learn about.

Nearly every female-dominated hobby, activity, and interest is covered somewhere in the blogosphere… and these days, there are also many male-oriented blogs geared towards kite flying, fishing, golfing, and model cars.

So, in case you missed my last hint about Google, head to your computer, open up Google and type “Blogs about ________” inserting your specific hobby or interest or desired skill into the blank.

4. Take a Community Ed Class

I don’t take these classes anymore — but during the first few years of our marriage, I was a Community Ed junkie. I took all sorts of classes — cake decorating, canning, freezing, vegetable gardening, landscaping, flower arranging, sign language and even investing (this is actually how we found our Edward Jones guy).

After a couple years, I realized I had a lot to offer to my Community Ed program so I actually started teaching a bunch of different classes on organization, clutter control, time management, simplifying, meal planning, etc.

This eventually morphed into a nice side business for me as I started teaching classes several nights a week for various Community Ed programs in our area.

You might be surprised what type of Community Ed classes are offered in your area. They are usually reasonably priced, meet once a week or once a month, and can be extra fun if you go with friends or your spouse!

5. Take an Online Class or eCourse:

NO, I’m not talking about a college-level online class!

There are TONS of eCourses you can register for online for various topics — many of them are offered free or very reasonably priced and provide all the materials up-front so you can work at your own pace.

I have taken (and even helped to lead) many online classes and have never had a bad experience!

6. Visit the Library

While I haven’t always been a big reader, the kids and I utilize our local library for many free resources every single week.

Magazines, books, DVD’s, or even just general information about various topics have all come in handy as I’ve tried to learn about various topics and subjects over the years.

Our library also has lots of fun events for families and kids — so it’s a great way to meet people in our neighborhood, do something fun, get out of the house, and learn something in the process.

Also, if you think your local librarian is just a person sitting behind a desk, you might be surprised to know that librarians are HIGHLY trained and almost always have a masters degree or higher — so please utilize them as a valuable resource if you’re seeking information on a specific topic or trying to learn more about a certain subject matter.

7. Ask a Friend or Other Expert

I know it’s not always fun asking for help — but you’d be surprised how much you can learn just by asking someone who knows more about something than you do!

When we purchased our Apple computers, we signed up for the One-to-One coaching and learned SO much about all the features of our computers, our phones, our iPad, etc. It was most definitely worth the $99 fee for the year.

I’ve also asked retired people for help on various projects or for more information about certain topics, and I can’t even begin to tell you how excited they were to “teach” me their skills.

Several years ago, I sat down with a teacher from Dave’s school who gave me a few mini-tutorials about how to use a DSLR camera. It was pretty overwhelming (and I honestly use my iPhone for every picture I take these days) but I did learn enough to form a basic understanding of aperture, exposure, shutter speed, etc. Plus, it was fun!

8. Attend a Seminar or Watch a Documentary

This doesn’t have to be anything formal or expensive — it could simply be a presentation about CPR at your kid’s school, a local event about community functions at the library, or a Bible study at your church.

I’ve attended many different seminars on various topics (most of which were free or super cheap) and I’ve always walked away knowing more than when I walked in.

If you live in a college town,  I’m positive there are ample opportunities to go to different on-campus events and seminars on various topics. They might even offer community workshops for hands-on experience.

If you prefer the comfort of your own home, I’m positive you can find a wide range of informative documentaries and biographies on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Dave and I will often flip through the documentary section and see what’s new. A few of my favorites are:

  • Inside McDonalds
  • Behind the Scenes of Chipotle
  • The Lincoln Assassination
  • Queen Elizabeth
  • America: The Story of Us
  • Walt Before Micky
  • The Founder (also about McDonalds)
  • Planet Earth (my current favorite)

9. Join a Local Group or Organization

Dave and I are not super involved in many “extra” activities at this point in our lives, but we definitely were more involved before we had kids, and I can’t tell you how much I learned and grew as a person.

Dave was a member of a book club with teachers from school, he was in a men’s Bible Study with guys from church, and he participated in many school activities, groups, and organization.

I was a part of many groups and committees for our church, I was involved in a local business group that met weekly, I was a member of a volleyball officials group, and I even joined a local garden club for a bit!

Dave and I were also in a couple’s Bible study that met monthly and we were involved in a TON of his school’s extra functions, events, etc.

That all sounds like a lot of extra “busyness” to me now, but at the time, we had significantly more free time and we really enjoyed all these experiences. Many of them were fabulous opportunities to learn more about a various topic or subject, but more than that, we learned a lot about ourselves, our marriage, etc.

10. Listen to Audio Books, Podcasts, or TedTalk

I’m a huge advocate for audio books (both for children and adults). I also really enjoy reading random internet articles, short essays, eBooks, etc. if they are on a topic I’m interested in.

There are also thousands of different podcasts available on countless topics, and TED Talks are always a hit for me when I want to learn more about various topics, ideas, concepts, etc.

As you can see, the possibilities for lifelong learning are pretty much endless, and most of them don’t require spending much money, doing much studying, or attending formal classes.

One of my college professors would always say “If you stop learning, you stop living” and I fully agree. Even if you aren’t a “book nerd” there is still so much joy and satisfaction that comes from learning and developing a new skill.

Plus, I know my life is much richer because of it.

How do you practice and/or encourage lifelong learning?

lifelong learning

photo sourcetop photo source

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37 comments

  1. Carrie

    03/17/2018

    Hi Andrea,

    I just wanted to thank you for this post. I ended my career of 13 years to stay home with my daughter 11 years ago. Lately, I have been feeling a bit inadequate and like I’m not learning or doing anything important. Basically feeling like “just a mom and a homemaker”. Don’t get me wrong, I love my decision to stay home, and so does my husband, but I always feel the need to justify to others why I stay home or explain what I do all day.

    Your post just clicked on a lightbulb for me, a very, very, much needed one.

    I am learning everyday. I don’t have to go back to school or work to be useful or smart. Our home wouldn’t run without me.

    Thanks so much for the positive boost!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    You’re welcome Carrie!
    Rest assured, you are going great work and learning so much! However, I will dare to bet ALL moms (especially stay at home moms) feel the way you do at some point. You are not alone!

    [Reply]

  2. Karen Miller

    02/25/2018

    Andrea, Thanks for reminding me about all the things out there that I had forgotten about. I have been so busy raising my two children and had been just involved in all the stuff involving them. Now that I am ready to have an empty nest I needed to be reminded of all the stuff I can do for myself again. I am already involved in my church and have used Google for a lot of questions and stuff but needed to be reminded about a lot of things you talked about. Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, you are allowed to do stuff for yourself again 🙂 Enjoy!!!

    [Reply]

  3. Chris

    02/23/2018

    I’ve also used some of the ways you mentioned. I also love to read personal finance blogs (the early retirement type) and have learned SO much!

    [Reply]

  4. Rhonda

    02/22/2018

    I am a pharmacist by training. When I was done with pharmacy school, I did a pharmacy practice (one year) residency in a hospital and participated in the local pharmacy school “teaching certificate” program. We were responsible for each teaching a component to our peers; my partner and I taught a mini-lesson on “adult learning”. Over the past 14 years since I’ve graduated Pharmacy School, I’ve done many things you mentioned on your list. My father (who actually never went to college, and has been in construction with the same company since he was 18, and foreman with that company for over 20 years) LOVES YouTube. He taught me about using it, particularly to fix things. I used it when I needed to figure out how to change our home’s water well pump filter a few months ago. I also read more books than I used to – using Goodreads.com goals, and now having joined my first book club 5 years ago in order to meet new people in our small town, I read about 15-18 fiction or non-fiction books per year. I have the TedTalk app (there are short, 5-6 minute, or longer ones), as well as Pandora (listen to This American Life) on my phone, and listen when I need to take a short walking break. I also read your blog, and have done so for at least the past 5 years or so. I learn something new every week. Last year I wanted to learn more about HR topics, so I found an online course through a School of Pharmacy and did the subject matter on my own (but my employer has allowances for education, so I got them to pay for it!) Last year I was elected to the Board of Education for my kids’ public school. Today I went to a seminar to learn about HR and Legal issues for school boards. Although it sounds boring enough…I really enjoyed it.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow — you are really involved in a lot! Good for you for stretching your brain muscles 🙂

    [Reply]

    Rhonda Reply:

    As a mom of two, and working only part-time for the past several years, sometimes it feels as though I’m not doing “enough” to challenge my brain. But when I read your post and thought about all of the different ways to learn…it helped me realize that I actually do a fair amount!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    ah… you are always doing enough! Don’t let yourself think otherwise!

    [Reply]

  5. Wendy

    02/22/2018

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. I taught school for 33 years. I got my Bachelor’s from the University of Tennessee (GO VOLS!). Then my friend and I got our Master’s and Educational Specialist degrees from Tennessee Technological University while we were teaching. I love to learn.

    [Reply]

  6. Debbie

    02/22/2018

    Wow! I never thought about all these different ways to be educated. I was like you in that I hardly missed school, especially from middle school through high school. After finishing college I knew I didn’t want to go to school anymore. Yet from reading your list it makes me realize that I’m still being schooled. I have to take continuing ed for my CPA license and that’s something I’ll need to do if I continue working in my field. I guess I’ve been learning so many more things than I realized.

    [Reply]

  7. Christine Kennedy

    02/22/2018

    Despite the fact that I’m almost 70 years old, retired and childless, I love your blog! It’s the first thing I read when I go online. I love seeing the photos of your beautiful, healthy family; enjoy your common sense lifestyle; admire your enthusiasm for organization and rejoice in your faith! Now I find we share a passion for lifelong learning! My goal in life is never to be bored or boring and that means learning or doing something new every day God gives me. Thanks for such a great blog. Blessing to you all. Christine

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow — what a great compliment. Thank you so much Christine!

    [Reply]

  8. LYNN OYAMA

    02/22/2018

    Great post Andrea! Yes, life is about learning something new all the time. Love the list of things you have learned. I have learned so many things since college and I have a lot more to learn!

    Love your blog!

    Lynn

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Lynn!

    [Reply]

  9. JJ

    02/22/2018

    This is GREAT! I agree with you!!! And sometimes you learn the most going through experiences, researching all things about that topic, and applying what is suitable. Then others start to come to you. Or, your blog! My husband is a datahead, and he loves to learn. He and my dad have done house repairs simply by watching Youtube videos. My dad saved over $3,000 watching Youtube videos to learn how to install siding on his garage. It’s never too late to stop learning!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow — that’s amazing! I can’t even begin to calculate how much money we’ve saved thanks to Google and YouTube!

    [Reply]

  10. Lauren S

    02/22/2018

    I’ve heard of a website called Skillshare for online classes. I have not signed up yet but it sounds very interesting. There’s a special for 99 cents for two months, not sure how much it usually costs, if u use the code, skillshare.com/Michael. I’ve heard advertising on the Michael Knowles podcast.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    cool –thanks for sharing Lauren!

    [Reply]

  11. Charlene Uchtman

    02/22/2018

    Is it true that most colleges allow Senior Citizens to
    monitor classes for free?!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I don’t know — but the college I went to offers this. I’m sure you’d just have to call and ask!

    [Reply]

  12. Interest Led Learning: Educational Theories Defined Part 4

    06/01/2015

    […] 10 Ways to Be a Lifelong Learner – No School Required […]

  13. Cara Thompson

    05/18/2015

    Thank you for the encouragement in this post. As a homeschool mom, I’ve found it easy to put my “further education” on hold for the sake of meeting their needs. But when I realized that they are learning as much (if not more) from my example as my instruction – I was freed to be engaged in my self-education.

    Never stop learning! I included a link to this post in my latest blog post on Interest Led Learning. It’s geared towards homeschooled kids, but it applies to everyone regardless of age. So thanks for this resource.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Cara — but I have a feeling you probably learn a lot just by teaching your children every day. You have to prepare lessons each day and I’m sure you learn new things in the process!

    [Reply]

  14. ShellyL

    04/14/2015

    Love this post. I’m reading it a little late. I usually read every day. Just want to say that I often use your blog as a source to learn new information. I used to be an avid reader but these days, I only have time to read for information or read short things like blogs or online articles. I’ve also been watching some documentaries online. It started with searching for information for my classes (I’m a teacher), but I am currently watching a full-length film about Cesar Chavez on my own time. Very interesting stuff. Learning can be found in unexpected places. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Better late than never! cheers to life-long learning 🙂

    [Reply]

  15. Rebecca

    03/22/2015

    What a great list! I love to google things and find help when I can’t figure it out another way. We even fixed our older van once with googling the make and model with the problem. It cost us less than 10 bucks. I haven’t used youtube as much for those things, but I am thinking that it might help me with basic sewing that I would like to learn. I have somehow made it 40+ years without more than a very basic skill set. I do love reading, so do that when I can and try to read a non fiction occasionally. I loved unbroken! Anyway, thanks for this post, I learned something!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — glad to be the source of you “learning something new!”

    [Reply]

  16. Lynda

    03/21/2015

    Love this! As a former teacher and now home with our kids, I did a lot of “on the job” learning early on. I think then as our kids got older I became more confident but also kind of stuck in a rut with what I was doing. I have YOU and your blog to thank for inspiring me to try different things, improve and just get reinspired!!! Thank you! I believe in constantly improving and growing to be a better person, mom, wife and CEO of our household 😉 Love the quote too!!

    [Reply]

  17. Dawn

    03/20/2015

    I am both a book nerd and a learning junkie! 8 of my 10 kids are total book nerds too. HAHA!!

    When I get interested in a topic, I usually check out some children’s books on the topic first, as that gives me a good overview. Then, I can dig in deeper if I want to. Some things I study for just a few weeks, some for months, and some, like homeschooling, I continue to learn about because I continue to do it.

    Some things I would like to learn are how to sew, how to grow and preserve food, and how to publish a book. Unfortunately, we live way out in the country, so no Comm Ed classes here, and with broadband internet I have to be careful of using too much on any one thing, so the library is truly my friend!!

    I plan to NEVER stop learning!!

    [Reply]

  18. Anne

    03/20/2015

    Great post!

    [Reply]

  19. Gabriela

    03/20/2015

    I totally agree. I really like learning, and just like you said, not as in studying for a master or such! I do really like to read so i take advantage of that now that I only have one child (10 months). I need now to take some class or youtube about vegetable garden. It is so sad when I see people that think that they don’t need to learn anything, they are so closed to new information. 🙁
    Thanks for all the ideas!

    [Reply]

  20. Lizanne

    03/20/2015

    Great post! I love learning about new things as well, and wish I could make more time to spend learning more about things that interest me. One thing I enjoy that is free and doesn’t take too much time are the TED talks… I’ve only seen a few, but there are so many, and so many subjects. You can find them on YouTube.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Lizanne, I’ve found that it really doesn’t take much time to “learn” something — you probably do it more often than you think. Often I’ll just google something I’ve had a question about during the day and instantly feel happier because now I know the answer and I’ve learned something new 🙂

    Oh, and yes, I love the TED talks — although they always seem to be so long!

    [Reply]

  21. Barb

    03/20/2015

    Over thirty years ago I took a Community Ed class at our local high school. It was a hands-on, how-to-cut-hair course. After “graduation” my husband and our 3 kids never paid for a haircut again. It was so
    fun and we saved lots of money!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I LOVE community ed classes and am SO glad I took advantage of them before I had kids 🙂

    [Reply]

  22. Beulah

    03/20/2015

    Yes, we learn almost everyday right from our birth. Glad that you have mentioned J.Krishnamoorthy’s quote. Being an Indian I feel happy to see his quote mentioned here 😉

    [Reply]