Are You Going Back To School, Too?

My kids went back to school today. They were so excited about it that they hardly slept last night. They’re excited to see their friends again. They’re excited to get to know their new teachers. They’re excited about pizza day every Thursday in the cafeteria.

They’re also excited about learning. Weird, I know.

In our house, we treat summer vacation like summer vacation. I’m a little old-fashioned, but I don’t think kids have to participate in learnin’ all summer long. They play, they explore, they swim, they jump on the trampoline. They do read a little so their brains don’t completely wither away, but that’s mostly their doing, not mine.

By August, they’re ready to start absorbing knowledge again. Actually, eager might be a better word than ready. Sadly, adults aren’t usually quite so eager to seek out and learn new things. We tend to take our “knowledge vacations” a little (way) too long. Maybe it’s because we see the overwhelming amount of knowledge that could be learned. There are millions of books you could read. There are thousands of classes, workshops, and seminars you could attend. Like I said, overwhelming. Please don’t let that stop you.

Need a little help re-sparking your quest for knowledge this fall? Here are a few pointers to help you light your fire.

1. Pay attention to your curiosity, or aspects of your life that frustrate you, or skills and talents that you admire in others. This is life’s way of letting you know what you’d enjoy – or benefit from – learning more about.

2. Read one book at a time. I hear lots of people say they’re reading several books at once. I rarely hear anyone say they FINISHED reading several books at once. That’s because reading several books at once is a sure-fire way to turn your brain into a “cottage-cheese-like mush,” as Alec Baldwin says in the commercials. I’m no brain-surgeon, but I’m pretty sure cottage-cheese-like mush doesn’t absorb knowledge very well.

Oh, and never force yourself to trudge through a book that you hate (unless you’re being graded on it). Remember, there are millions of books out there. Find ones that engage you, challenge your thinking, and give you enjoyment and satisfaction. Life’s too short to read crappy books written by crappy authors. Reading one like that right now? Dump it. It’s OK. Really.

3. Carve out time to learn. If you know the characters’ names on Mad Men, what’s happening with Jon & Kate & their busload of kids, or who got kicked out of Hell’s Kitchen this week, you’ve got time to pick up a book. If you read 30 minutes a day, you’ll read 10-12 books this year. That’s awesome. You can DVR American Idol, you know.

4. Books are great. I love books. I read a lot of ’em. I also love workshops and seminars, particular ones that are interactive. There’s something incredibly fulfilling about sitting in a “live studio audience,” learning first-hand from an expert. Find one that gets you excited. Don’t judge a class or workshop by the dollar amount. Judge it by the content and the teacher. Some of the best workshops I’ve ever attended have been free. Some of the worst I’ve paid good money for.

It’s a great time of year to think about going back to “school.” It’s a whole lot easier when you figure out how to get excited about it. If you need any more motivation, make every Thursday pizza day. Hey, it works for my kids.


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