I’m working up an e-book project and doing a little publicity for my upcoming book launch, so I’m posting a rerun today.  This month’s theme in Simple Living Media is education and lifelong learning, so I thought this topic was well-fitting.  This post was first written on September 28, 2009.

Sure, most of us want to be intelligent, well-rounded, informed people with an interesting opinion and an ability to conduct an adult conversation.  But sometimes that’s hard when your days mostly involve diaper changes, Goodnight Moon, and Charlie and Lola.

As a student in school, it’s easy to learn new stuff — you’re bombarded with it.  But as you dig into the trenches of parenthood, it’s easy to move into survival mode.  Your brain can turn to mush if you’re not proactive.

Part of our family’s mission statement is that we want to be lifelong learners.  This means that in order to thrive as well-informed people, my husband and I need to seek out quality information in the midst of parenting young ones.

Here are a few ways to pursue lifelong learning.

1.  Read.

Get in the habit of always reading something. There’s no possible way to read everything available, so start your “to be read” list now. 3,000 books are published per day in the United States alone, and you can find a tome about any topic imaginable.

Don’t wait until your kids are older, you get enough sleep, or you have more time — something else will inevitably come up.  Start with a goal of one chapter per day.  Heck, start with five minutes.

Libraries make reading affordable, as do used bookstores.  Audible

‘s huge audiobook selection also makes it easier to “read” books while running errands and working out.

2.  Read quality.

woman reading
Photo from sxc.hu

“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the books you read and the people you meet.”  –Charles Jones

Sure, you could read anything, but why?  With so many options out there, there’s no reason to waste the brain God gave you with twaddle like celebrity magazines, poorly-written romance novels, or cheesy self-help books.

I’m all for light reading during certain seasons, but even then, there are thousands of brilliantly-written fiction books and quality magazines from which to choose.

Pursue your interests, but stretch your brain and try new things. Historical biographies (David McCullough

is a brilliant writer), non-fiction that challenges your thinking, and classic literature are great places to start.

3.  When you do watch TV, watch quality.

I don’t watch much television, mostly because I don’t have time — I’d rather be doing ten other things.  But I do enjoy a good movie or Scrubs

episode, and I could watch Ina Garten cook all day.

Make sure that:

1.  Your TV is off way more than it’s on, and that

2.  When it is on, that you’re watching something interesting.

Don’t waste your brain and your time watching fluff. Pick out a few shows you enjoy — maybe three per week — and only turn on the TV for those.  Then turn it off, and go do something else.

4.  Surround yourself with other learners.

“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the books you read and the people you meet.”  –Charles Jones

The people you befriend makes a huge impact on your attitude and your lifestyle choices. Do your friends encourage you to pursue quality interests?  Are they also interested in the world around them?

Life’s too short to spend time gossiping or discussing the latest episode of Entertainment Tonight.  Find friends that support your desire to fill your mind with healthy brain food, because they want the same thing for themselves, too.

5.  Be around people different than you.

group of friends talking
Photo by Marjon Kruik

It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you surround yourself only with people from the same background, worldview, or life stage.  Leave your comfort zone and make friends with people you least expect. You’ll be surprised at how much you could learn.

Get to know your elderly neighbor.  Be friendly with the person from another country in the airline seat next to you.  If you’re a Christian, do you only have Christian friends?  Be proactive and meet your neighbors, and hear about life from their perspective.  You’ll be challenged.

6.  Keep up with the news.

Don’t bombard yourself with hours of news updates, because you’ll either get overwhelmed or depressed.  But do stay in touch with the real world, even if you never leave the house except to walk to the park.

Put a news feed on your iGoogle page, so that you can easily glance at the top headlines.  Browse your city’s newspaper, either in print or online.  Subscribe to quality blogs.

Make sure and read international news as well.  Give yourself a global perspective, too.

7.  Make a list.

Once you have a few spare minutes, it can be hard to remember those things you want to learn about or try.  The kids are in bed, the kitchen is clean, and — what is it I want to read?  I can’t remember.

As you think of ideas, write them down. Keep an ongoing list of books you want to read, websites you want to explore, or hobbies you want to try.  Then refer to this list often.  Keep it somewhere prominent, like in your home management notebook, on the fridge, or at your desk.

8.  Say “I don’t know” to your kids.

exploring mom child
Photo by Woodley Wonderworks

When your kids ask you something and you truly don’t know the answer, admit it.  And then discover the answer together. Search the internet, head to your library, head to the museum, or call someone on the phone.

You’ll show your kids that you don’t know everything, and that certain things are worth the trouble to learn.  Plus, it’ll be a fun bonding experience to learn something new together.

9.  Just do something.

When it comes down to it, just trying something is a good start.  Refer to your list, and check out one new website daily.  Try an unexpected book from the library, and keep it on your night stand so that it’s visible and easily accessible.

Make a point to try one new thing a day. If you find your answer, or if your interest wanes, move on — no harm done.  But if you dig deeper and find more interesting questions, or if the intimidating book turns out to be a page turner, then you just might be on your way to adding another dimension to your life.

Never stop learning. Set a good example for your kids.  And make the most of your life.

On Friday, I’ll share some specific ideas available this fall (and onward) for stretching your brain and teaching you new things.  Be looking for it!

What are you learning about right now?  What’s something you want to explore?