Back to School for Moms: Ways to Be a Life Long Learner

Back to school is a busy time for kids {and parents!}. It means back to sports, school lunches, homework. The dreaded carpool line. Hopefully, it also means joyful anticipation for the school year ahead. My oldest started kindergarten this year. I felt mixed emotions as I walked him into his first day of class: a bit sad, that five years have flown by so quickly, but also excited for him to learn new things and meet new friends.

I have to admit though, one of the emotions I felt was unexpected: envy.

woman carrying backpackI love learning. It’s one of the reasons I pursued a master’s degree in library science. I wanted to be a school librarian and inspire children to love learning, both in and out of school. My program finished right around the time my son was born, and I decided to put that dream on hold to be with my kids. And I don’t regret it. Being a stay at home mom is truly a joy for me. However, I miss brain tingles. You know what I’m talking about. That feeling of Whoa, I didn’t know that!, when you stumble on some fascinating fact or interesting idea that makes you think.

Recently, it hit me that most of my conversations revolve around kids. I can talk all the day long about sleep schedules, baby led weaning, or the best playgrounds. However, I don’t feel like I can hold an interesting conversation about much else. Sure, I can spout bits of, Oh I heard something like that on this podcast or I think I read that in an article somewhere. But to hold an in depth conversation about news events or challenging books or even just a new hobby? The realization was startling. I felt overwhelmed by insecurity, like I no longer had an identity outside of being a mother. Was I doomed to discuss only diapers and Bluey forever?

{No shade to Bluey. It’s legit my favorite kids’ show. I made my kids wait to watch the 3rd season until I could watch it with them.}

Back to School, but Make it for Mom

I decided that I didn’t need to wait to start learning again. I’m going back to school too…just more DIY than formal degree. The cool thing about creating my own syllabus is that I’m not looking for random classes to fulfill certain degree requirements. I can focus on what I want to learn, for as little or as long as I like. Below, I’ve shared a few things I’m trying out for my first semester!

Read books

Reading is one of my favorite ways to learn. I do read quite a bit, but I don’t always read, shall we say, quality literature. Sometimes my mom brain just needs a break! However, my tired brain hasn’t stopped me from compiling a backlog of interesting books for my TBR pile. I’ve added a few to my syllabus for this semester, and I can’t wait to dig in! One of the books I’m most excited about is Two Old Women, a legend about two women, abandoned to die by their tribe because of their age, who defy their fate to survive in the unforgiving Arctic. If you’re also getting back into reading, don’t forget about your local library. They have semesters worth of books to satisfy your thirst for knowledge, all for free!

Join a Book Club

Reading widely and extensively is a wonderful way to learn, but it is often a solitary activity. Enter book clubs, a way to read new and challenging books and have fascinating discussions about them with people who will challenge my thinking. This semester, I’ve joined a fiction and nonfiction book club. {Ambitious? Probably. But my enthusiasm level is high!} One is a local, in-person group, in which we’ll be reading several works of classical fiction, which I’ve always wanted to read but have never had the motivation to do so. The other is Sharon McMahon’s online book club, in which we’ll read three works of nonfiction. These two groups do cost money, but there are definitely groups for free. Check out your local library or independent bookstore for ideas!

Try a New Hobby

I’ve always been curious about gardening, and it is my goal to one day grow a substantial amount of the produce my family eats. To accomplish that goal, I guess I need to learn to garden! Luckily, YouTube has a plethora of videos about gardening, from how to set up a garden; to how to grow various types of veggies; to troubleshooting various pests. I’ve also checked out several books from the library to inspire my garden plans. I’ve learned so much already, and am excited to start planting for the fall season! If you’re also looking to try a new hobby, I recommend starting with YouTube or the library. You could also look up if any local classes are offered. An added bonus to a class is you’re guaranteed to meet someone with at least one similar interests.

mom and young son plant seeds in planter

More Ways to Be a Life Long Learner

While I’m sticking to the three above for my first semester, I’m excited to explore the ideas below for being a life long learner.

Free Online Classes from Universities

I was pumped to learn I can take free courses from universities like Harvard, Oxford, or the University of Hong Kong. If you’re like me, and you never got the chance to study abroad, you can still at least experience some of the classes available at these locations. Check out groups like edX and Coursera to learn more.

Ted Talks

With over 4,000+ talks on wide variety of subjects, you’re guaranteed to find one that sparks your interest and inspires those brain tingles.

Read the News

I’m embarrassed to admit that I get most of my news from social media. My goal is to transition to primary news sources to learn and understand what’s happening in the world from a variety of perspectives.

Check out the Museums

The Houston Museum District boasts a network of 19 museums dedicated to fostering a love of art, science, history, and culture. Each of the museums offer free days or times, and 11 of the museums are free all the time.

Podcasts

It’s hard for me to listen to podcasts, as I typically have a baby or toddler fussing in my ear. But when I can sneak away for a walk or solo drive, I love listening to podcasts. My favorite subjects are books and reading, Catholicism, news, and the natural world.

Documentaries

Netflix alone has an extensive library of documentaries of all genres. Throw in Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Max, and whatever other streaming services are out there, and you’ve got a lifetime’s worth of new things to learn.

Travel

I put this one on there as motivation for myself as well. I know it’s hard to get out and travel with littles. But whenever I get the chance and we make it happen, we always learn something new. From historic sites to understanding other cultures to just making connections as a family, traveling is a beautiful way to learn the world around us.

I hope these ideas inspire your curiosity. I want my children to be life long learners, and the best way I can foster that love is to pursue new ideas every day. What are your favorite ways to be a life long learner?


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Rebecca S. is a born and raised Houstonian; she grew up in Katy, graduated with a BS in Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of Houston {go Coogs!}, and made a home in West Houston with her native Houstonian husband. She quickly realized that the chaotic lifestyle of the hospitality industry was not for her and soon found her calling in education. She taught while earning her masters in Library Science from the University of North Texas. Currently, she is staying home with her son, Thomas {2016} and daughter Charlie {2020}. In her free time, she loves to read, write, run, and roam the world. While her roots are firmly planted in H-town, she takes every available opportunity to go on an adventure and explore historic cities, hike and run new trails, and, of course, try beers from every country.

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