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Teach Yourself Something New – What to Learn & How to Do It

I’m a learner. A figure-it-out-er. Not a school textbook kind of learner (sorry, Math!) but a hands-on, “I want to know how to do that” sort of gal. I believe it’s never too late in life to learn something new. And teaching yourself something new gives you the biggest emotional boost you can imagine!  You didn’t used to be able to do it but you took the time to teach yourself and NOW YOU CAN DO IT! Showing your kids you can teach yourself something is also a wonderful example for your children. Let’s talk about learning new things and how to go about teaching yourself something new.

Parts of this post originally appeared on my blog Painted Butterfly Studio in February 2012. Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Still Learning After All these Years

When I was about 7, the only bike I had access to was my dad’s rusty old bike from when he was a kid. It was a sturdy pink girl’s beach cruiser and Dad had used it to deliver newspapers. As the oldest of 8 kids, I’m sure he didn’t even care that it was pink, he had a bike!

And I didn’t care that it was rusty, had flat tires and weighed about 50 lbs. I had a bike!

I taught myself how to ride it in the backyard. I would lean the bike against the fence, climb up and perhaps get one or two pedals before I’d fall off. The bike was so large that I couldn’t actually sit on the cushion and reach the pedals at the same time. So I had to pedal standing up (I’m sure I had thighs like steel back then!).

I spent a full summer in the backyard, practicing on that old bike with the flat tires on the grass. Occasionally I’d call my mom outside to watch me.

For Christmas that year, I got my first new bike! It was beautiful. I remember that it was blue and had streamers from the handles. And a banana-seat! That morning my Dad was going to put the bikes in the trunk of the car and he said he would teach us how to ride them that afternoon at my aunt’s house.

“Dad, let me try and ride! I just know I can do it.”

He was hesitant. I remember my mom chimed in and said that I’d been practicing on his old bike in the backyard for months.

I swung my leg over the bike and took off pedaling. I remember how fast the bike was and how easy it was to pedal. After months of being on flat tires, this was it…I was riding!!

As I rode back towards my Dad, I remember his smile and how proud he looked. I’d done it. I’d put my mind to it and I’d taught myself, without anyone’s help. And that thought has carried with me my whole life.

What's the one thing you've always wished you could do? Here are practical tips & ideas on how to teach yourself anything!

Riding through the forest in the Czech Republic. Terrifying but glad I was able to do it!

Teaching Myself What I Want to Learn

When I wanted to learn how to knit, I got a pair of needles, some yarn and a book from the library and I taught myself. It was hard, especially because I’m a lefty and the book showed it from the right side. I had to reverse the directions in my head but I know how to knit a scarf!

When I want to try a new recipe, I buy the ingredients and I make it.  I took sewing lessons in high school to learn the basics. When I want to make an outfit, I tweak a little here and there on the pattern and I make it my own.

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As an adult and as a mom, I’m still learning, yes. And I hope that I’ll forever be learning. I know that there are tons of other things that I’d love to know how to do (play piano, bake bread from scratch and plant a garden). And I have many years ahead to learn them. NOTE  When I originally wrote this post in 2012, I’d written that I wanted to learn how to bake bread from scratch. I’m happy to note that I’ve since learned how to do this!

It’s just the start for my kids. I want to foster in them that they can be their own best teacher. That with determination, anything is possible. And I’m hoping that these little moments (like learning how to ride a bike) are the turning points in their life that it was in mine.­­­­­­­­

Teach Yourself Something New – What to Learn & How to Do It

Is there something you always wanted to learn? This is the time! Here are a handful of ideas on things you can learn NOW and tips on how to do it.

  • Playing the piano. If you don’t have a piano at home, start with a keyboard. There are online lessons or DVDs to watch that will teach you. Or if you need one-on-one, find a local piano teacher who can help you start with the basics.
  • As a seamstress, I hear from friends all the time that they wish they could sew. That’s easy – buy a simple sewing machine, some fabric and practice! There are plenty of simple, straight edged patterns you can follow (like pillowcases, tablecloth, elastic waist skirt or a blanket).


  • How to do a cartwheel. Or any gymnastics skill. Sorry to break it to you but as an adult, you’re more prone to injury if you aren’t already in tip-top shape.  I’m a tumbling teacher (I’ve been teaching at a local rec center for 20 years). You don’t want to just throw yourself around the living room or on the grass at the park to learn a tumbling maneuver. Your best bet is a local gymnastics school or YMCA that offers specific classes geared to adults.
  • Want to take beautiful photographs? You don’t even need the fanciest camera, just a few handy tips about lighting can help make a big difference. Find a book (I bought Digital SLR Cameras and Photography For Dummies)
  • Auto mechanic basics can not only save money, they come in handy during an emergency. At the least learning how to change a tire is a great thing!
  • I taught myself how to braid my own hair in high school but had a trickier time when it came to braiding my daughter’s! There are some really cool books and online videos with hair styling ideas.

  • Learning a new language can open up a whole new world! I’ve never been able to grasp languages myself but I had a friend who wanted to learn Italian so she took a class at a local community college.
  • Is there a kitchen skill you’ve always wanted to learn? There are so many fun cooking classes available that will teach basics like efficiently chopping onions! And of course a helpful cook book will help you expand your horizons and help you get creative.
  • Looking for enlightenment? Consider a Bible study at your local church, a small group discussion or find topics online that will help strengthen your spirit.
  • Always wanted to be an artist? If you make art, then you’re an artist! So grab a few supplies and start creating what comes to you. No need to obsess about perfection, just draw, paint or create what makes you happy (and don’t get wrapped up in Pinterest or a so-called “fail”!)


How to Learn

  • Ask around. Chances are you want to learn something and someone you know already knows how to do it. Perhaps you can trade skills?
  • The library is a great resource for books. They also sometimes conduct free classes.
  • Community college. If you can’t take a full course, many schools have weekend “crash” courses for a nominal fee.
  • YouTube and Google. The internet is your teacher. Type it in and you’re sure to find a tutorial or video.

What’s the one thing YOU’VE always wanted to learn? Share with me in the comments!

What's the one thing you've always wished you could do? Here are practical tips & ideas on how to teach yourself anything!