Learning junkie

I hated school – I loathed the place. I was the clever skinny child with glasses who was rubbish at sports. I got picked on and I didn’t have many friends. On reflection, I think that I managed to learn in spite of school rather than because of it. That said, I did have four great years at middle school (aged 9 to 11) and I did have a couple of inspirational teachers at high school: Mr Hall, my geography teacher all the way through my five years there; and Miss Bray, my biology teacher for my final two years, the dear lady who persuaded me to apply to go to university, convincing me that it was nothing like school.

And so it is, perhaps, surprising how much I have enjoyed learning during my subsequent adult life. I’m a bit of a collector of qualifications  (a BSC, a PhD and an MEd). I’m a member of two professional bodies – one educational (HEA) and one environmental (CIEEM), both of which required me to produce substantial portfolios to be admitted. But my education does not end in academia, I have a Permaculture Design Certificate and am currently working towards my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design, but I’ve also spent four years recently studying French, I have attended classes on felt making and basketry in the past couple of years, and I have  a crochet course lined up for later on in the summer.

IMGP0774And classes are not the end of it – the internet is great. YouTube has turned out to be an amazing resource, where I have learnt about all sorts of things. The latest video I watched, for example, taught me how to knit a magic loop and I have greatly expanded my range of knitting techniques through watching clips on YouTube. It seems that you can learn how to do almost anything via YouTube – from playing the guitar to building a chicken house!

Trial and error - learning as I go in the garden (with a little help from books)

Trial and error – learning as I go in the garden (with a little help from friends and books)

I’m also willing to give things a go and learn from my mistakes. My garden is a particularly good example of this approach, and it has certainly evolved over time as a result of trial and error. I expect that this will continue to be the case. Because many of the crops I grow are annuals, I can experiment one year and apply the lessons the next… hopefully gaining expertise as I go, but always with the opportunity to make improvements. The garden is also, one place where I apply lots of my book-learning and advice from other gardeners.

So, it has turned out that learning has enhanced my life and continues to do so. And I’m not alone – there is clear evidence that people who continue to participate in learning through their lives are healthier than those who don’t. In his paper Lifelong learning, welfare and mental well-being into older age: trends and policies in Europe, John Field (a well-known expert in lifelong learning) states

Increasingly, though, researchers have started to identify wider social and cultural benefits from participation in learning, and there is also growing evidence of small but important improvements in mental well-being for individuals. This suggests that older adults can experience significant improvements in quality of life as a result of participating in learning

So, I will continue to participate in learning, mainly because I enjoy it, but also in the hope that it will keep me healthy and mentally stimulated… how about you?

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  1. I also HATED school, for much the same reasons as you state!! And I am a learning junkie as well, although don’t have any letters after my name, unless you count my Dip in massage 🙂 but i have continually studied, went on weekend courses, attended intensive training courses, residential courses, used all of the training budget in whichever organisation I have worked in. Sometimes I think it’s insatiable my need to keep learning, life if lived healthily is a ‘learning ground’ and I think the University of Life is an outstanding school. Thanks for this post, enjoyed it very much x


    • Glad you liked the post…it saddens me that so many people had similar experiences at school, but great that we’ve put that behind us!
      I know exactly what you mean about training budgets – the MEd was paid for by my employer at the time and when I was a civil servant for a few years I think I managed to spend about 40% of my time on courses!


  2. My hand is up here for another who hated school.
    With two boys currently going through primary school here in Australia it amazes me how different it is for them, they have so many more opportunities and facilities and the teachers treat them in a completely different way than the teachers we had. I wonder if they will look back at it and say they hated it as well?

    Isn’t the internet a wonderful thing for picking up information or skills? I find it fantastic for just having a look at something and seeing if you would want to pursue it further. It is like the ultimate how-to manual. 😀

    I am enjoying the trial and error of the fruit/vegetable garden at the moment too, I love winter but I just want it to hurry up and get out of the way so I can start planting again!


    • Lovely to hear that your boys are having such a different experience of school… lets hope it’s true for all children.
      I feel very lucky to have access to the internet, as well as some great local learning providers where I can learn with a real person… trouble is, there’s just so much to do that I don’t have the time for it all!


  3. I loved school all the way through including more than ten years of university studies ( no phd – never wanted to stick to any one subject like that). But I never did learn spelling or grammer properly.

    For gardening it was a few books, a course or two and the trial by error method. Right now I’m taking courses in Finnish and the next will be a course in stone sculpting. Never stop learning!


    • Wow, what a combination – Finnish and stone sculpting! Both sound remarkably challenging to me, but hopefully you will get loads out of them…. including (I hope) some beautiful sculptures.



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