The table mid-morning. Our dining room is north-facing and has only one window. It’s not a bright room, but we’ve filled it with warm colours and meaningful art, not to mention as many books and art supplies as possible.

After breakfast we do copywork together. Tias right now is tracing over a passage I’ve written from “Horses and Ponies”. Sandra is copying from “The Whipping Boy”. I am delighting in writing out the letter Darcy sends Elizabeth. “Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments or renewal of those offers which were last night so disgusting to you.” What a masterful display of writing and a perfect reveal of his character.  Ah, Jane Austen.

Doing copywork myself was supposed to be a stealthy way to make it easier for Tias to handle it. Like so many boys, he’s not fond of work with pencils and pens. It mostly achieves that end, especially since we set a timer and he therefore knows the end is nigh. I’ve also discovered that these morning sessions are a wonderful way for me to add a little self-education into a jam-packed life.

Self-education is a topic on my mind these days. As I don’t like to teach programs and as I like to use life to instruct us, I need to have a brain prepped and primed full of tidbits and theories to drop into conversations on walks or for when the kids have questions. I’ve ordered a series of books I’d love to get to. They’re shiny and new to me this fall, full of tempting pages.  “The ABCs and All their Tricks”…”Eleanor Aquitaine: By the Wrath of God, Queen of England”…”The Way Life Works”…”More Nitty-Gritty Grammar”…”The Writer’s Jungle”…Oh, they’re calling to me. But I am not in a place in life where reading is happening. It’s killing me. I love to read. I love to learn.

I’m trying to do my best, though. I’ve got podcasts like Astronomycast and Quirks and Quarks (see the sidebar for links) that help me build a brainier brain. I listen while I walk the dog twice a day or while I’m cooking. I used the link to from Knitty to score a free audiobook: “The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science“. And it is a funny, instructive guide to science.  Dare I publically admit that it is the third ‘science for laypeople’ book I’ve read in two years?  You’d think I’d be progressing…

A photo taken of a Sarah’s-eyes view of walking the dog before breakfast.

Have any tips for finding ways to educate ourselves despite all the multitasking we’re doing these days? I’d love to read them.


15 thoughts on “Self-Education

  1. MamaB says:

    Oh I am entirely bummed I missed an opportunity like that – I’m currently trying to find free moments to read The Canon!

    I’ve tried to find things that I can use as “kids” education that is also for me. Like Classics for Kids radio show and Science Friday on NPR.

    Time for self (myself) is still fleeting in my home.

  2. Kim says:

    My life looks entirely different than yours; my children are at much different stages of development. So I’m not sure what my tip is worth…
    Nonetheless, here it is. I find a project I can’t do, that is, a project for which I don’t current possess the skills, and then I do it. I have no choice but to learn and read in order to complete it. And because I am driven by the desire to complete, I find the time to learn what I need to.
    At present, I must learn to use double-pointed needles to knit in the round (see what I mean by our lives looking different!) and I must learn php. I have to finish the mancala set I discovered, via an earlier post of yours, in time for Christmas and I have just agreed to partner up in a web-publishing company.

  3. Tinkermama says:

    “Unconditional Parenting” by Alfie Kohn. Mind-blowing, non-linear, hopeful, positive, creative, non-step by step look at parenting children. Parenting as loving children. Fantastic, plus I think I would like Alfie Kohn as a human being if I ever met him!

    “In the Company of Children” by Joanne Hindley looks at the writing process in the early years classroom. I know it’s based in the public school setting, but Joanne Hindley is a masterful, inquiry-based, child-centred teacher that looks at meeting children where they’re at.

    Both books have changed who I am as a teacher/mother.

  4. Lisa says:

    I use my long drive to work to get thru classics I’ve meant to read. I admit I gave back the Hobbit having only gotten to about disc 5, but it’s the farthest I’ve gotten in all my attempts. I’ve requested the Pickwick Papers and only put the Good Earth back to please my daughter and listen to Tale of Desperaux at her suggestion. I put up a blog of self-education (mostly for myself) to track whatever progress I want to report. I also enjoy learning with my daughter in her homeschool science time.

  5. patte says:

    I am an elementary school librarian, so I get to indulge my insatiable quest for any new knowledge Mo-Fr, plus I have my own 8 and 5 year old. I love love love fiction/non-fiction pairings of books. For example this week I got to read aloud Bats on the Beach (good verse) and then introduce the wonderful things about bats (#1 they eat mosquitos). The 2nd graders and I had loved the rhyming, the “moontan” lotion and hibernation with all your friends and family sleeping with you.

    One other thing that helps too is I get hooked on a place on the planet and then I compile a kit (virtual) for it by reading biographies/memoirs of people from that place, movies featuring it, fairy tales, pictorial works. I know that’s probably why I love being a librarian so much, just building the associations among different pieces.

  6. Patricia says:

    I’m with you–my book pile is so high. There are so many things I want to learn, and never enough time.

    The easiest way for me to fit in learning is to do it right alongside my kids. I may not find enough time to read myself, but I always find plenty of time to read to them! I don’t bother learning about a topic on my own ahead of time–we just delve in together. We choose a subject–right now it’s China–and explore it from many angles, just as Patte described above. And I’m just as likely–maybe more likely–to consult with them about something we’ve learned as they are to consult me. They retain information much better than I do!

    Kids’ books can be such a great way to learn about topics–even for adults. They take the most important information about a topic and make it interesting! I’ve learned so much more with my kids than I ever did in school. (At least up until college.)

    I suppose I use any self-education time I find to pursue subjects that I’m passionate about. Writing, knitting, cooking…I admire you for trying to make time to build a brainier brain!

  7. Michelle says:

    Audiobooks, audiobooks, audiobooks!

    In the car, while I’m cooking or doing dishes, while I’m exercising….

    My iPod has seriously upped the amount of learning I can cram into my super busy days.

  8. tbird says:

    LibriVox has lots and lots of free audio books to download, all stuff that is “public domain” which means the Classics, all read by volenteers (you could always offer to read something for them by way of payment if you are good at that sort of thing)

    I’ve now whittled down my “must read” list massively by chilling out in the evening listening to someone doing all the hard work for me whilst I enjoy the stories not to mention that car journies are much more pleasant with a good book to keep you company (I did nearly 18 hours of driving in a long weekend and enjoyed pretty much all of Faust at the same time) Although of course, I’ve now discovered lots more books I just *have* to listen to as well!

    Oh and I’m doing university by distance learning in my “spare time” too. Well, I used to have spare time anyway…

  9. lizziek8 says:

    Contrary to popular belief, not all TV is bad! 🙂 I love to watch the science channels, Discovery, National Geographic while knitting.

    And audio books. Love ’em. My library has tons of books on CD and half a ton of downloadable ones in MP3 format.

  10. JoVE says:

    Listening to In Our Time (BBC Radio 4) over the internet while cooking is not a bad one. It has History, Science, Religion and Philosophy topics and the entire archive (several season’s worth) as available. I’ve learned a lot that way.

  11. Gaynor says:

    I love the booklist – I have some of those, and the others sound good. I am slowly learning to knit, the lady in my local wool shop helps me loads and my 7yo son too. I am just about to sign up for an Open University course on Creative Writing. My husband is so supportive of my desire to “self-educate” and the cost it involves sometimes. As he says, we’d pay a whole load more for private education for the children and what I learn I pass on, and I’m modelling the love of learning!

  12. Christine says:

    I’ve noticed that I have more time for the reading or projects, hobbies, learning that I crave when I make the effort to resist those activites that aren’t really adding much. Masqueraders of leisure, of learning, of connecting zap time. They are hard to pin down in my own life. They morph week to week. Some weeks reading a magazine or reading blogs is not adding much – it’s a habitual even lazy activity AT THAT MOMENT. It’s avoidance of something better for me at that moment: a nap, 15 mins of my Rosetta Stone, a letter to a friend, quiet moments of meditation. Some weeks 30 minutes of reading blogs – yours is my favorite and first stop – helps me sort through some of my feelings and helps me connect to my inner voice. Some days sitting at a table to teach my children reading is attentive work and some days it’s going thru the motions for everyone. I should shake it up and play a little game. So, I guess my two cents is keeping mindful and definitely pulling back or resisting the temptation of what ever it is in your own life that taps your time. And keeping the faith that small bits of study – 15 minutes of Spanish a day or science or Writer’s Jungle – can grow to something huge over time.

    Forgive me, but I’m surprised that you raised the question. It seems something you’re so good at – self-educating. I think it’s why I really enjoy your blog. Your spirit of honesty and reflection are great and always reflect you working toward the things you really care about and value. Maybe I misunderstand your question and you want specific resources (??).

    I think that lovers of learning just get voracious for more, more, more – it’s our nature and we have to get comfortable with a little bit of the restlessness that accompanies it. And when we use time attentively and without too much true waste. And the waste is not something objective. It depends on the person and your goals and where you are in a broader way at the time.

    Ramble, ramble.

    🙂 Christine

  13. jan says:

    I love reading your blog – it’s really inspiring.

    Here’s an idea my dh uses to self-educate. The Teaching Company (TTC) produces university level lectures on a huge variety of topics some of which are free to download and others are available to pay for or by other means.

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