Summer Learning—Had Me a Blast

Do you remember those first days of summer as a kid, when you no longer had to get up early for school? Remember how excited you were for the possibilities? Remember the freedom of coloring your day however you wanted?

You slept late. Instead of the bacon, eggs, and toast your mom cooked every morning before school, summer meant you got to eat sugary sweet cereal for a late breakfast in front of the TV catching episodes of 10,000 Pyramid, Password, and The Price is Right. You called your friends on the telephone and found out they were doing the same thing. After a few days of this non-routine routine, you found yourself stuck at home, bored from the sameness. You didn’t have a pool or access to one. A few of your friends were away at camp or VBS or their grandparents’ house. You couldn’t go anywhere. You didn’t even have a leash to walk the family dog.

When the noon news came on, you got up to turn off the TV. On your way to the kitchen, you walked by that set of green and white encyclopedias on the shelf you’d passed a million times and out of sheer boredom, picked a random volume. You flipped through the pages and a picture caught your eye. You backed up to the sofa and slid onto the soft cushion. Next thing you know, two hours had passed, and you’d looked through the entire book. Your interest had been piqued. You awakened a hidden urge inside to know more. You wanted to learn something new.

I remember moments like that—making a deal with myself—deciding to read a classic novel or to learn a new craft. Maybe finding another book on the shelf and diving into it. The year I was eleven, I decided to learn about dogs with the help of the D-volume encyclopedia. With notebook paper, colored pencils, and a pen, I read about each category and the breeds that fell within them. I sketched a picture of the dogs and wrote a paragraph about them highlighting something special about each breed. I found my favorites to be sporting and working dogs.

It’s hit again. That summer-time freedom. That wide-open schedule ready for me to color it however I want (within reason, of course). Before I putz away an entire summer, I decided it was time to learn something new. I don’t have that shelf of World Book Encyclopedias, so my favorite place to browse for new topics now is The Great Courses catalogs. A couple issues can always be found on the coffee table. I peruse them carefully, mentally trying on the topics, and add my favorites to my wish list. I’ve completed a few courses already (which I’ll go into at another date), but the one that caught my eye for now is called, “The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins.”

As a freelance copyeditor, I’m often asked about a word or doing a quick check on my computer’s dictionary for accuracy. How fun it will be to delve into these quirky bites of our language to see what interesting tidbits I can savor.

Just like with my childhood dog study, I may doodle and set my creative spirit free once again as I learn—on my own—not because I need class credit, or a grade, or am facing a deadline. I want to learn because I can. I am alive. Any day I learn something is a productive day. I can hardly wait to get started. I hope you fill your days with something new as well. Happy summer.