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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.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

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!

Why Our Kids Do Housework – Tips for Getting Kids to Pitch In

Confessions of a slob, right here! Growing up I had little responsibility. There were things that were expected of me, of course, like being polite, brushing my teeth and not talking back. But when it came to actual cleaning up, I was a literal mess. My room was a huge disaster! I had a hard time throwing things away. My laundry and trash cans overflowed. My parents did most of the chores around the house and I pitched in very little.

Happy childhood? For sure! But as an adult, I didn’t have the skills in place to keep up with housework. I sort of fell into the same routine with my oldest son. I’d clean up around him while he played. When I remarried (to a neat-nik, no less!), my husband insisted that we teach the kids housework and chores. I will admit that it was really hard for me at first. I am in the camp of “If you want something done right, do it yourself” so it definitely took a lot of work on my part to let the kids do housework. But I promise you it has paid off over the years.

Why Our Kids Do Housework - Tips for Getting Kids to Pitch In

Can Kids Do Housework?

Your kids aren’t going to wake up one day and have the desire to clean house! And they aren’t automatically going to know how to properly do the tasks either. These are life skills that must be taught (and the younger the age of the child, the better to start). If you think they can’t do something, you’re wrong – they just haven’t learned yet!

I can tell either of the older kids to “clean the bathroom” and they know exactly what that entails. They empty trash, put out recycling, clean mirrors, unload and load the dishwasher, sort laundry and vacuum. They can sweep, mop and wash a car. Even my preschooler helps with laundry, like transferring clothes into the washer and then into the dryer, folding cloth napkins or putting things away into drawers. It hasn’t been easy teaching the kids to do housework, but it’s a life skill that I’m passing down. And they do have the ability to do it (the desire, on the other hand, isn’t always there – more on that later!)Why Our Kids Do Housework - Tips for Getting Kids to Pitch In

Find Age-Appropriate Tasks

Every child can learn how to make a bed. But only older children can be trusted to make scrambled eggs for breakfast. Make sure that the chores you assign are appropriate to the age and not too difficult or dangerous. Leave the use of chemicals for cleaning to big kids and make sure they have been taught safe use.

Trying to get the kids to do housework? Here are the tips I use with my four kids.

Our laminated laundry instructions above the washer and dryer.

Make the Task Clear

If I were to tell my kids to clean the bathroom, they would know what to do. This is only because we’ve explained what the task includes. They know that cleaning the bathroom means wiping out the sink & faucet, wiping down the toilet, scrubbing the bowl, replacing the towels and cleaning the mirrors. Make sure kids know each task detail so that when you tell them, “Clean your bedroom” or “Do your laundry” they know exactly what you expect.

Why Our Kids Do Housework - Tips for Getting Kids to Pitch InTeach Awareness

Kids should start to notice their world around them. Point out to them that you want them to pay attention to when household chores need to be done and that they can complete the task unprompted. Rather than waiting for you to tell them to clean the toothpaste off the mirrors or to put their cup into the dishwasher, kids who are paying attention to their surroundings should be able take care of the task without reminder.

Don’t Enable

Okay, so your kid made their bed and it looks like it’s already been rolled around in. Resist the urge to “fix” it. And don’t give up and start doing the chore yourself because your child isn’t doing it “right”. Better that they try than to have you finish their work. That will definitely give them the wrong message. Older kids can take correction more than little ones.


Make Cleaning “Fun”

Yep, just like Mary Poppins said, “The job’s a game”. If you have reluctant housekeepers, like I sometimes too, give them an “Element of fun” in their chores. We toss matched socks into a laundry basket across the room. I always drop wet t-shirts onto my preschooler’s head when he’s pushing clothes into the dryer. Let the kids get involved with meal planning and prep. My parents used to put on a CD of John Philip Sousa marches when they did housework and it kept things peppy. Make it fun and your chores will be less like a…chore.

Trying to get the kids to do housework? Here are the tips I use with my four kids.

Housework is a Regular Thing

Instead of just requesting that kids chip in occasionally, make sure that chores are done on a daily basis. Kids can be expected to keep their rooms tidy, with toys put away and beds made each day. The table can be set at dinner and cleared after eating. Lunches can be packed for the following school day. Find little things that kids can help with each day to make housework a habit. Older kids can understand the concept that things have to be maintained on a daily basis. It’s easier to keep up on housework if you do a little each day rather than let it build up.

Create a Chore Chart (For Little Kids)

Keep the chores simple for little ones and they’ll be more likely to complete the jobs with minimal assistance. A visual chore chart with incentive marks or stickers will help with goals.


Create a Chore List (for Older Kids)

Now that my teens can tackle just about every housekeeping item in the house, my husband and I came up with what we refer to as the “Ultimate house cleaning list”. While my kids have certain things on the list that they do every day (like cleaning the bahtroom sink, making beds and wiping the kitchen counters after dinner) other things are only occasional (like vacuuming out the windowsills, wiping down the ceiling fan blades or scrubbing the bath mat in the shower). Having an ultimate list reminds us of what tasks we need to complete. I laminated the list and keep it in the same place so everyone knows where to find it.

Trying to get the kids to do housework? Here are the tips I use with my four kids.

The laminated “Ultimate house work list”

Recognize and Reward Work That Goes Above & Beyond

We don’t pay our kids for household chores. We believe that we’re teaching our kids lifelong skills and responsibility. However when our kids do something that is out of the ordinary or particularly challenging, we will reward. Sometimes it’s a special treat, a few dollars or dinner out. It’s also important to thank them and let them know you appreciate their efforts.

Why Our Kids Do Housework - Tips for Getting Kids to Pitch In

Dealing with Grumblings in the Ranks

Of course teaching and enforcing housework in our house doesn’t go without some grumblings from within the ranks. We frequently hear, “Why do I have to do this every day?!” Or “I just cleaned this, who got it dirty again!” A little complaining is allowed, after all if it wasn’t a job, it would be called something else.

The whining doesn’t deter from the fact that things still need to get done. I just remind my kids that chores still have to be completed properly, whether you like to do them or not. My goal is to raise kids who know how to do things independently and who can take these valuable skills with them into the world. After all, soon enough they’ll be adults and will need to know how to clean their own homes! I’m certainly not going to be doing it for them.

Trying to get the kids to do housework? Here are the tips I use with my four kids.