There are times and seasons for everything, and sometimes it’s not our time to go back to school. This is especially true for mothers of young children. This doesn’t, however, mean we have to turn off our brain until we have the time and money to continue our formal education.
One thing I learned from homeschooling my children was that If you have young children, you can use the principles of homeschooling to educate yourself. Children don’t just learn from workbooks and textbooks. Their best learning comes out of their own passions, and happens in a variety of ways.
While educating my children, I learned the subjects I taught them myself. If they were interested in dinosaurs, we read books on the subject and watched videos. We traveled to museums to look at bones, and had pretend digs in the sandbox. We decorated bedrooms with dinosaur pictures and quizzed each other on their identities. We even pretended to be dinosaurs. In order to answer their questions, I often found myself reading more grown-up material on the subject.
As your children develop passions, learn right alongside them. Learning with your children is fun. You’ll share a common knowledge that can be talked about over dinner or in the car and the time you spend together on activities related to the new hobby will bring you closer together and create memories. While they subjects they’re passionate about may not be what you’d choose, you’ll find it easier to justify the time when it’s for the children.
When you have time to study something on your own, choose a subject you’re passionate about. Whether it’s something practical, like French cooking, or something strictly academic, you’ll be refreshed by your personal learning time and find yourself looking forward to each day. If you go back to school someday, you may find you’re able to test out of some classes because of your personal studies.
Right now, I’m learning Portuguese. There are Brazilians in my congregation who help me out and answer my questions. I started by tracking down free lessons on the Internet and now have an actual college textbook to study. In addition, I’m reading the Book of Mormon in Portuguese. I only have a few minutes each day to put into the project, but little by little, my knowledge is growing. Because languages are very hard for me, I’d be too afraid to take a class, but working at home with the help of friends makes me feel safe about tackling something that has always seemed impossible. I can work at my own pace each day.
To begin your personal university, decide what to study. Choose something you think you’ll stick to and have the resources to learn. Next, find out what help is available. Search for books, websites, field trips, and knowledgeable friends. Make a list to use when you lay out your plan.
Next, decide how you like to learn. I prefer to learn most subjects by reading and writing about them. However, with the Portuguese, I soon learned I needed a formal curriculum, with actual grammar. The trend today is to learn naturally from context, and this is how the courses I tried worked. It didn’t work for me. I tried several courses before choosing a textbook instead. If you find you aren’t learning fast enough, it probably isn’t the subject, but the method you’ve chosen. Experiment until you know how you learn best.
Schedule your study time. If you don’t schedule it, it probably won’t get done. I study for an hour before I go to bed at night and carry flashcards in my purse for those moments when I find myself waiting in the car or a doctor’s office for someone.
Know where to go for help when you are stuck. Today, you can find someone who knows almost anything on the Internet. Your church or clubs may also have resources. When my children were homeschooling, they contacted Ask-a-Scientist websites for their questions that were over my head. Having experts to turn to give you confidence and make the study more fun.
Don’t wait until your children are grown to start learning something new. If you have just fifteen minutes a day, you can start to learn new skills. You can write a novel by writing just one page every single day. You can learn a new subject by reading about it for fifteen minutes a day.
Make a plan and get started!
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.