The first part of this series focused on mental wholeness—how to achieve it and why it matters. That constitutes the M in the MAPS acronym. The next section focuses on the Aacademic and artistic wholeness.

freenoun: not costing any money

Yesterday I introduced the term Zone of Proximal Development—a fancy way of saying that we learn best when we don’t get too comfortable, nor start at the hardest part. In order to keep growing, we need to keep learning. Academic wholeness means that we don’t settle for settling in. Once you identify things you’d enjoy learning, these resources should help you.

Narrow Your Field

Once you identify a few skills or areas or interest, you can do preliminary research for a summary of what learning about that field might entail.

You Tube—When I wanted to understand epigenetics, I started with print articles. When I didn’t understand them fully by reading, I searched on You Tube. A word of caution—you can’t believe everything you find on the Internet. Check to make sure that the video or materials are produced by reputable organization. After watching a few You Tube videos, I felt ready to tackle the print articles again. You Tube provides a great resource for discovering more about a topic or skill before you decide if you’d like to make it a learning project.

TED Talks—Experts in their fields present short talks about education, business, science, tech and creativity. After I understood the basic You Tube videos on epigenetics, I watched a couple of TED talks that expanded my knowledge. Afterwards, I returned to the print articles and understood them better.

Choose Something

freeWith background information, you can choose a course of action. The following resources offer free courses to assist you in your learning.

YouTube EDU offers courses in anything from improving your memory, to French, to what happens when galaxies collide.

EdX has a plethora of free courses offered by an impressive variety of universities: Harvard University, MIT, Caltech, Juilliard, the University of Washington, and Dartmouth, just to name a few. For a small fee, one can obtain a certificate of completion if one wants to prove one has finished a course.

OpenCulture acts as a clearinghouse for free online courses. Many are available on iTunes, as either audio or video files. You can study anything from philosophy, to political science, to creative writing, literature or history. The exhaustive list reads like a college course catalogue.

Coursera also has an impressive catalogue of classes. If you choose to audit classes, you don’t pay anything (and you also don’t receive a certificate, graded assignments, interaction with peers, and full access to the course material. For $49 a month, you can subscribe to Coursera and take as many classes as you desire.

Low Cost Options

You can also find low-cost options at your local community college or school district. I taught adult education classes in Nevada through my local school district in the evenings to bring in a little extra income. The school district offered Spanish classes, creative writing classes, art classes, and math classes. Call your local school district and see if they offer classes in the evenings.

Community colleges often have introductory classes, and tuition won’t break your piggy bank. Some community colleges even offer less expensive courses for adult learners in the evenings. You can learn to quilt, knit, draw, paint, write fiction or non-fiction, do pottery, learn another language, computer programming, website design, and hundreds of other things.

Commit to it!

Whatever you choose to do, commit to it! Write it in your calendar and mark it in your planners. Even if you choose a program of self-study, tell your family that you’re going to class and shut yourself away for the length of time it takes you to engage in learning each day.

I’ve discovered the joy of exercising and learning at the same time. I’ll watch a course or listen to an educational podcast whilst riding an exercise bike or jogging on my treadmill. They say that exercise enhances memory, so I get the best of both worlds.

Whatever you do, carve out time in your busy life to learn new things. Your future depends on it. Gandhi wisely said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

God created us in his image, with the capacity to learn (otherwise, we’d be classified as vegetables). Let me know in the comments section what piques your interest!

Nurture Yourself Takeaway #11—Investigate free and low-cost alternatives for furthering your education and commit to a course of action.