The Makeshift Degree: Adlibing an Education without Going to School

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Okay, so obviously the most ideal way to get an education in most fields is to go to college, and for many jobs out, it is required.  But let’s face it, there are so many fields out there.  If you’re like me, you have so many interests that it is impossible for you to get a college education in all of your interests.
Also, many people are not in a position to go to college at the moment.
Here are a few ideas for getting an education outside of the school system:

Internet Sources:

The Internet has an endless supply of phenomenal information in thousands of fields.  You’ve just got to know where to look for it.  Here are a few sites I like – (maybe not Ph.D material, but interesting stuff nonetheless):

  1. http://google.com – good ol’ Google search.  You can learn just about anything with that… *
  2. http://www.youtube.com/edu – you know about Youtube.  Well, this is a branch of Youtube that specializes in good educational material.  Not just anyone can get stuff on here, so it’s a big step up from regular Youtube, and it’s a fun source of learning in all kinds of fields.
  3. http://www.ted.com/ – again, not a place to earn a degree, but if you want to get excited about learning, this is a fun place to go.  TED is a collection of fascinating lectures (yes, lectures CAN be fascinating!) that give an interesting perspective on various fields.
  4. http://www.openculture.com/2007/07/freeonlinecourses.html – if you prefer getting your information from reputable colleges, here’s a directory of podcasts that are done by colleges such as Stanford, Harvard, Yale, etc.  Just putter around the site to find the subject you’re looking for.

Books

  1. Check the Thrift Stores: As soon as a book becomes obsolete (by college standards that can mean the book has been published for a year and a half and now the photos in the book need to be reorganized), the thrift stores such as D.I. fill up with college textbooks.  After I paid nearly $100 for an astronomy book in college, I found a stack of twenty of them at D.I. the next semester for two bucks a piece.  Ugh… but that’s good for people who are wanting an education outside of school.
  2. Libraries:  They’re still around, believe it or not.  In this “Google any question” era that we live in, this is easy to forget.  Pick a topic, go to the library, and read all you can on the subject.
  3. School libraries: Most school libraries are open to the public.  You may not be able to check things out without a student card, but you can read what you want while you’re there, and if you take your digital camera, you can get instant copies of pages you want to read more about.

This is NOT a comprehensive list.  Fill us in!  What ways have you found for educating yourself on different topics?

* Clearly there is a lot of junk out there, and one of the great purposes of education is to train you to recognize credibility and bias.  You need to learn to check the sources on information.  Just because it sounds legit, or the information is worded in an educated manner doesn’t mean the content is of any real value.  The best lies are coated in great disguises.  So check your sources!

Read more entries with tips and ideas!

Musical Memories: My Grandpa

talltabI don’t know if playing music by ear is a gift that can be inherited, but if it is, I can’t take full credit for what I have learned.  I have a long ancestral line of musicians, including trumpeters, harmonica players, singers, band leaders, songwriters, whistlers, and of course, piano players.
talltabMy Grandpa Hathaway played the piano by ear.  I never asked him what kind of technique he used to learn what he played, but I have vivid memories of watching his fingers dance across the keys as the sounds of Beautiful Dreamer and Memories filled my grandparents’ living room.  Their house always had a classic, well-cared for style, with curio-cabinets and intricate mementos of their lives and era.  The piano was situated in the tightest corner of their beautiful living room, with only enough room for the piano and a player, but the music carried throughout the whole house.
talltabNot only did Grandpa teach himself to play that piano, he essentially put the thing together himself – at least after taking it completely apart.  When he and Grandma bought it, they wanted to put it in the downstairs living room, but their stairway was too narrow for a full-size piano.  So Grandpa disassembled the whole thing – with every key removed, and took it down into the living room in pieces.
talltabGrandma hassled him that he would never be able to get the thing back together, but he did, and it is still there today.  I suppose that piano will stay with the house forever.
talltabWe had a piano in our living room, too, though we didn’t have to take it apart to get it there.  I was fourteen when I decided I was going to really learn to play the piano, and that year Grandma and Grandpa Hathaway came for Thanksgiving Dinner.
talltabDuring those contented hours between the feast and the serving of pie, I found myself Continue reading Musical Memories: My Grandpa