My husband Andy loves to learn. He uses his brain all day at work and then comes home and is still hungry to learn more! He’s constantly devouring technical books, exploring new computer languages, and researching things that interest him.

Until I saw how much a part of his life learning is, I thought I loved to learn, too. I was always a good student and enjoyed school, so I assumed it followed that I liked learning. But I’ve come to realize that I loved the trappings of school and learned more for its sake than for the sake of learning itself. I liked learning things so that I would make good grades. But take away that incentive and learning hasn’t been that important to me. I like looking lots of little things up on Wikipedia, IMDB, and the likes, but that’s trivia and not really true learning. Take, for example, my various thwarted attempts at learning Spanish! Without the structure of class, assignments, tests, and grades, I’m not really that motivated to succeed! It’s hard for Andy to understand this, and I have at times felt inferior to him because I can’t just make myself settle in a learn something.

As with being an “S” and therefore struggling to set goals for myself, I don’t want to use this as an out, but I also don’t think I need to beat myself up over it. We’re all different, and we all learn in different ways, so perhaps if I acknowledge my desire for external “gold stars” and find methods to learn that satisfy it, I can overcome my seeming inability to learn as an adult. I think it’s important to keep your mind fresh and not stagnate, so this year I’m going to try and put some weight behind that statement!

Another thing I need to acknowledge about my learning style is that I am not an independent learner. I don’t like studying in a vacuum  I ask a lot of questions, and I like to have someone there for when I get stuck. If I’m left to my own devices to figure something out, I’ll more than likely just quit rather than power through. I know there’s a lot of benefit to struggling through problems, but that’s just the way it is for me. I don’t necessarily like it, but again, I think acknowledging one’s own nature is an important first step to making progress.

The two main things I’m planning to work on learning are computer programming and Spanish. In both cases, I think I can set myself up for more success than I’ve had in the past by acknowledging my learning personality and shortcomings and trying to address those from the start. With learning to program, I thankfully have a great resource right in my own home: my husband! I’m walking the delicate line of trying to do some things on my own in order to absorb them better while at the same time asking enough questions to keep myself from feeling stuck and giving up. I’ve read through a goofy book called Why’s Poignant Guide to Ruby, which helped me by laying the foundation of definitions that I felt I needed, but I then dove in and wrote a simple program with help from Andy. I did most of the thinking, as far as laying out what the program needed to do, but he helped by providing resources and explaining things I didn’t know how to do. My next step is to work through Learn Ruby the Hard Way. Unlike Why’s Guide, this book forces you to work through actual code (rather than just reading it, which often causes my eyes to glaze over), so I think it will be good for me to not be able to cop out by skimming the examples. I’m also planning to dive into a meetup group called Py Ladies, which I mentioned in my last post about coding. Hopefully this will help keep my enthusiasm up, provide me extra incentive to keep learning (outside of coding for coding’s sake and for being able to do it with Andy), and maybe even play into my resolution to work on relationships in 2013!

To learn Spanish, I have honestly wanted to just take a class somewhere. However, that requires time and money, and I am stubborn enough that I really feel I ought to be able to do it on my own! I have such a strong background in French that you think it wouldn’t be so hard. I’ve found a couple of online resources that I’m going to explore. One is a free software available through the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library called Mango Languages. I set up an account for it last year when I said I was going to learn Spanish but then never did anything with it. It seems Rosetta Stone-esque, but I love that it’s available to me for free! I’ve also just set up an account for a website called Memrise. I don’t know exactly how it works, but it definitely gives you incentives, and even has a competitive aspect, which I think will play out well for me. The lessons seem short and accessible, and there are a lot of them available.

I don’t know if I would have the impetus to even try to learn if I weren’t married to someone like Andy. I might be content to just read my fluffy books, watch TV, etc. But then again,  I might not. I think marriage brings out both the best and the worst in us, and hopefully Andy’s commitment to self-improvement and learning will begin to bring out a similar spark in me. It certainly can’t hurt that he will be endlessly supportive of any efforts I make in this area. In the past few months, holiday busy-ness aside, I’ve felt like life has kind of gotten away from me, and I’ve been struggling to even make time to read and update my blog amongst all the household and work tasks that need to be done. It would be easy to just accept that as the status quo and not try to grow or fit anything else in. But Andy has even offered to pitch in with housework if it will help me have more free time for pursuits like this because he is such a strong believer in the importance of learning! His enthusiasm will hopefully be a good inspiration for me as I stretch outside of my comfort zone and try to fall in love with learning.

What’s your learning style? Do you like exploring new things for their own sake?

Laura Lindeman

Laura Lindeman