Teaching Yourself

God gave us our minds and made them capable of learning even without a teacher. Learning on your own is called being a self-directed learner. Your school doesn’t have a class on time travel? No problem. You can teach yourself. You are fascinated by the Middle Ages, but you’re stuck in American History this year? Plan your own class and teach yourself. Self-directed learners can learn anything they want their entire lives, because they’ve learned how to get information.

mormon instituteLet’s say you just read a novel that takes place in a castle in the Middle Ages. You think the time period sounds fascinating, but you had world history last year, and won’t be able to take it again until college. You also didn’t learn all that much about the Middle Ages in that class.

The first step is to figure out what kinds of resources you have that can help you. The public library is always a good place to start because they have books on almost everything and they’re free. They might also have movies and other types of materials on the subject.

Don’t ignore the children’s room at the library. A children’s book is one of the best ways to get a basic introduction to a subject and to learn the most interesting parts. Children won’t read about the boring parts of history, so the authors of their books look for the parts that are the most fun.

Make sure to include some fiction in your reading. Enjoying novels that are related to your subject is an easy way to learn a little more and makes a more complete study.

Search the Internet for materials. Anyone can put material on the Internet, so often what you find there isn’t accurate. Check to see if the people who run the page have any credentials. If they don’t, check what they teach against information you learn from people who have degrees in the subject. If they seem to be accurate, continue to use them.

Do you know anyone who is an expert in the subject? The world history teacher you had last year is a good source. She is likely to be thrilled to find you’ve become interested, especially if she thinks she might have influenced you in some way. Ask her to recommend some resources. If you know someone in your church or neighborhood who loves the subject, talk to them. Most people love to talk about their hobbies.

What is in your town? Do you have a history museum? Is there a Renaissance Fair going on nearby? You don’t need a big yellow bus to take a field trip. Get some friends to go with you or invite your parents to join you if you want company. Be sure to visit the gift shop to find more books to study.

Once you’ve outlined your sources, start reading, watching, and visiting. The great thing about self-directed learning is there aren’t any tests or grades. You only need to memorize the parts you want to memorize, and you only have to study the parts of the subject you’re interested in. If you like castles, spend extra time on them. Hate war? Skip the battles. Love dragons? It’s not school, so you can study the dragons if you want to.

You can create an organized plan for your studies, or you can just dig in to whatever you find in any order you like. Learn as much as you want to learn and then move on to the next exciting subject.

It can make your study more interesting if you plan some type of project related to your “class.” You might want to build a castle, or write a children’s book about dragons, or design princess dresses. Make a website to share what you’ve learned with others. Offer to talk to a grade school class. Put together a list of great resources and offer it to the library to hand out. Volunteer to help at the museum you visited.

It’s your class and you get to make all the rules. The important thing is that it should be fun or practical for you.

Mormon Quote About Education:

If formal education is not available, do not allow that to prevent you from acquiring all the knowledge you can. Under such circumstances, the best books, in a sense, can become your “university”—a classroom that is always open and admits all who apply. Strive to increase your knowledge of all that is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.” Seek knowledge “by study and also by faith.” Seek with a humble spirit and contrite heart. As you apply the spiritual dimension of faith to your study—even of temporal things—you can amplify your intellectual capacity, for “if your eye be single to [God’s] glory, your whole [body] shall be filled with light, …and [comprehend] all things.”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Two Principles for Any Economy,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 55–58

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