Sometimes I’m so busy teaching my kids how to tie their shoes and explaining why we can’t drive to Venus that I forget how exciting it is to be a learner. Acquiring a new skill or knowledge about any subject keeps you fresh and makes life more interesting. Research studies have found that the mere act of learning, regardless of the subject, makes you more creative and energetic and enhances your self-esteem. Now, that’s what I call bang for your buck!
Enrolling in a full-blown degree program is fantastic if you’re up for it, but you don’t have to go that far to get something truly meaningful out of the experience. A simple Saturday morning violin lesson will do the trick. Here are a few easy ideas for getting on the learning curve:
- In-store classes. Many retail locations offer free or low-cost workshops and classes in their specialty areas like crafting, home renovation, cooking, and more. A few suggestions: Home Depot (homedepotclinics.com) offers free repair clinics; Michael’s craft store (Michaels.com) runs free cake decorating and other art sessions for adults; and some Whole Foods stores (wholefoods.com) have cooking classes for a fee. Your neighborhood parks, library, and community centers likely provide similar opportunities that change by the season.
- Clubs and groups. If you’re a social butterfly, joining an interest-based organization or club is a fun option. It’s an informal way to study a new subject while making a few pals. Whether you’re into jazz drumming or Japanese, there’s a group out there to match. Visit meetup.com to find gatherings near you. If you’re anxious about being behind the pack skill-wise, you might ask the organizer or another member for some one-on-one mentoring to catch up.
- Continuing education. From psychology to video game design to ancient Egyptian symbolism, your local community college or university offers classes for both degree and non-degree seeking students. Community colleges typically have more reasonable tuition costs than universities, but both offer financial assistance programs. Contact the admissions department.
- Distance learning. An online course may be easier to squeeze into your busy schedule than one you have to commute to. Cozy up to your computer in an old sweatshirt with a cup of coffee and work at your own pace, whether you’re a night owl or an early riser. Bonus: You won’t have to worry about finding (and paying) a babysitter.
- How-to books. Prefer good old paper to a computer screen or a chalkboard? There are thousands of instructional books out there on every topic under the sun, from writing kids’ books to raising farm animals. Look for titles that target your skill level and that offer step-by-step instructions with high-quality illustrations and photos.
- TV, DVDs, websites. You can even be a couch potato and gather up a few nuggets of knowledge. Cooking and DIY home improvement shows are all the rage on cable, and it’s easy to find instructional DVDs on topics like gardening, belly dancing, knitting, and more at your local library or video rental, or for purchase online. The Internet is also a great resource for quick how-to videos on every topic imaginable. Visit wonderhowto.com, expertvillage.com, or 5min.com for segments on food, fashion, pets, and health.