Lately, my evening reading has been a linguistics textbook.
I’m sure you’ve already figured this out: I’m taking summer classes, getting some extra credits so I can keep up my GPA and maybe graduate early.
Except, I’m not.
Words are fascinating to me: the way they work, how you can string them together to form sentences and create meaning, and especially how they relate to certain branches of philosophy. Over the past semester or so, certain classes piqued my interest in these little everyday wonders we call words.
So, naturally, when I got home from school I found an e-textbook and started reading.
That might be unusual—in fact, it probably is. I’m not saying everybody should read textbooks all summer. For those of us on a conventional semester pattern, summer is supposed to be a season of rest! It’s a break from school, a chance for the brain to revive after months of constant studying.
But that doesn’t mean our summers should be wasted.
In fact, summer is the perfect opportunity to learn something new: a skill, a habit, a subject you can’t get in school. And the beauty of it is—you can learn whatever you want. It doesn’t have to be a school subject. It doesn’t have to look like what anybody else is doing.
Maybe you already have something in mind, or maybe the word “learning” still makes you cringe with flashbacks to finals. Either way, here are a few ideas and ways you can take advantage of summer to learn something new.
Find Something You Want to Learn
Again, maybe you’re doing your best to stay away from anything school-related right now. But this doesn’t need to have anything to do with classes, grades, and tests.
Is your car or lawnmower making strange noises? Learn how to do engine maintenance.
Tune up the guitar that’s been sitting in your closet and start learning chords.
Learn about great literature—by reading C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Shakespeare.
Take up something “crafty”—woodburning, crochet, or hand lettering.
Get back into that story you started writing. Learn about plotting, characterization, sentence structure, and word choice.
Cook dinner, try a new cookie recipe, or learn how to make craft coffee.
Looking to start a business? Get some books or watch YouTube videos on business strategies. Learn the skills you’ll need to make your product.
Get a book on Bible study and learn how to dig deeper into God’s Word.
Download a Bible Memory app and start learning those verses you want to have with you all day.
Again, all of these are suggestions. What have you been wanting to learn to do? What are the resources you have? What needs could you fill for yourself, your family, or your community?
You Already Have What You Need
There are lots of things I don’t like about the internet. It’s distracting, it creates identity issues, it tends to send the brain spinning down a black hole of death in the form of Facebook… etc.
But there’s a reason they call this the Information Age. If you want to learn something… chances are, it’s right at your fingertips. You might not even need to get off your phone.
The library (including your library’s selection of ebooks!), YouTube, and even articles online are great places to start. If your school has a library (either online or brick-and-mortar), that can be even better.
But don’t neglect other avenues, either. Is there someone in your church or neighborhood who can teach you or point you toward other resources? I learned crochet from a friend I visited in another country. When I got started researching linguistics, I emailed one of my professors and bought one of the books he recommended.
You Already Know How to Learn
Starting to learn an entire new skill or subject can be intimidating. You may not know anything about it yet. You have no experience in this field. But you do know how to learn.
Approach your independent study the same way you would approach learning something in school.
Learn the basics first. To research an historical period, begin with an overview or the pertinent chapter of a history textbook. If you’re learning guitar, start with G, D, and A—not barre chords!
Seek out reputable sources. A YouTube video by a certified mechanic is going to be a lot more reliable than a video by someone who’s never fixed a car before. For academic research, learn how to spot a “scholarly source.”
Be consistent. Don’t spend all day working on your new sewing project and then not touch it for two weeks. If possible, work it into your daily routine.
Make a plan. Figure out how to fit it into your schedule (instead of just picking it up in your odd free time, when you feel like it. Set a goal—finish the book by the end of the month, or get so far in your project by the end of the week.
Most likely, you’ve used most of these methods in school. Now is the chance to practice them on your own. Not only will you learn a new skill, you’ll get better at learning.
Learn for God’s Glory
There are so many good reasons to pursue learning this summer. New skills can help you succeed in various areas. Diving into a new subject can expand your mind and hone your critical thinking skills. But none of these are quite enough.
Don’t learn because your newfound skills will make money or advance your career or help you look good in front of your friends. Don’t even learn in order to get good grades next semester.
Learn for the glory of God.
Aim to use your skills for the expansion of His kingdom, whether that be directly, through serving the church and others, or indirectly, by reflecting Him through hard work, excellence in craftsmanship, or creating something beautiful.
Aim to use your knowledge to know Him better. Understand God’s world, in order to praise the Creator. In order to understand the one who made it, just a little more.
The world will give you lots of reasons to learn, to grow, and to improve yourself. But none of those are sufficient foundations. Begin with the goal of glorifying God, and let it guide all your learning.