How to drive your own learning and when to ride the “school” bus

…or “When you decide to learn, learn to decide (for yourself)”

(featured image credit: Writer’s Retreat by Jeremy Levine Design/Flickr)

In every issue of Rebelutionary Life Magazine (for iPad), we look at a topic in an unconventional way. In issue 01, we’re exploring the ideas and tools that give people both fear and hope about their education and learning options. We’re calling it “Learn your own damn way” and it features articles from us and other influencers on learning outside the conventional school system.

The Buzz

You’ve probably heard the chatter get louder about people questioning the value of a university / college degree and a controversial movement of fringe teens and adults that are bypassing school* and earning their stripes in the “School of Life”.

*In this article, the term “school” refers to higher education institutions like university / college. We don’t mean primary and secondary school where kids get the essential education of their youth.

A couple years ago, it was low on the radar, but now some countries’ major national media outlets are covering it. It’s an emerging trend that has some in a huff and others excited. So whether it makes your blood boil or intrigues you, the idea is here to stay.

Don’t take a back seat to your learning

Issue 01 of our magazine isn’t a guide with all the answers about higher education. It’s a starting point to trigger your thoughts, help you engage in discussion, and ask challenging questions.

No matter how you choose to live and to learn, the intended result of any educational life experience is always more than a simple piece of paper. The result isn’t even the path, or the destination. It’s you. A better, brighter new you. Someone who has the tools to be engaged in changing the world—the tools for lifelong learning, sharing, and giving.

Every day, you make choices. You choose to go to work, or school, or not. You choose one thing over another. And with each choice, you recommit to the path you’re on. With growing options, you’re continually choosing your own adventure—in life and in education, too. And you’re challenged to make the “right” choices. It’s not easy. But it’s not final, either.

Drive your learning

  1. Look inward:
    Know yourself
  2. Look outward:
    Explore your options
  3. Keep choosing:
    Make intentional choices

You’re already well schooled on the merits of going to school. We’re not trying to discredit school, nor are we trying to put out the fire by discrediting the alternatives. We just want you to ask good questions and consider all the options.

Always ask yourself if you’re still on the right path to learning, for you. Make up your own damn mind! That’s what issue 01 of Rebelutionary Life Magazine is about—when it comes to your learning, be more intentional and consider the unconventional.

More choices than ever

As an adult today, whether young or old, you currently have more options available for learning than ever before in human history. (Pause a moment and chew on that!) That’s both exciting and terrifying!

The fact is, there are more options open than just higher education, but not everyone trusts the idea of learning outside schools. In addition to school, your choices now
include at least the following:

  • Read, travel, or volunteer / work for free
  • Take massive open online courses (MOOCs) or informal online courses (e.g., webinars)
  • Go to conferences, seminars, and workshops
  • Get tutored or mentored
  • Start a business or work for a startup
  • Join special-interest groups (e.g., meetups)
  • Participate in educational or business bootcamps (e.g., hackathons, startup weekend)
  • Join a “hackerspace
  • and the list goes on…

Fearing the unconventional and the unknown

Snubbing school has a lot of people in a huff.

“It’s undermining what generations have put in place!”
“It’ll corrupt the minds and futures of our kids!”
“How will kids get jobs?”
“It’ll become hard to find qualified people!”
“But they’re not weighing the consequences!”
“But I won’t have the option for school later in life if the alternatives fail!”
“What about enrolment levels in schools (and the loss of revenue)?”

Yes, it’s causing quite a stink. But there’s also a powerful message in it—in some areas of learning, there can be more effective, faster, and cheaper ways to learn certain things than learning them in school.

Calling the shots and weighing options

School isn’t always the best choice for everyone—it depends on several factors, including:

What you’re trying to learn:

  • What subject matter or skills?
  • Do you need to layer the learning over multiple years (e.g., medical school)? Or can you learn as you go? (e.g., technology)?

What you want out of it:

  • Are you doing it for professional reasons or personal growth?
  • Is it to impress your colleagues, grow in your current job, get a new job, or start a business?
  • Is it to gain membership somewhere?
  • Is it to make like-minded friends while learning?
  • If you’re being hired, what kind of credentials do they need? Or do they need skills more than credentials?

How you learn best:

  • Do you love school?
  • What are your ideal learning styles? (most effective, efficient)
  • How do you learn best to retain new information vs. testing well?
  • Want to try something new?

Your situation:

  • Where do you live?
  • Do you have a family?
  • What can you afford?
  • How easily can you access the internet?
  • Do you face socio-economic challenges or discrimination?
  • Could you still go to school later if you choose to try other learning paths now? Would you be better off or worse off that way?

Your mentality:

  • Are you driven, hard-working, and patient?
  • Do you take measured risks?
  • Are you swayed by family or peer pressure?
  • Are you afraid of failing inside or outside school?
  • Do you like to be led through learning or are you self-driven?
  • Are you willing to learn new ways or would you rather stick with established techniques?

In no way is this an exhaustive list of considerations. But remember to ask yourself the tough questions and give thoughtful, honest answers that are right for you!

Opening your mind for renewed hope

Don’t think of your education as a ride where you simply jump on the “school” bus because it stops on your street. But that school bus can still be a sweet way to get where you’re going, if it’s right for you.

Whether you’re just starting out or whether you’re a lifelong learner, your education is a map that you draw, where you are in the driver’s seat, and you choose the path at every turn.

So if you open your mind to other options, you may find you can break down some closed doors that have been holding you back!

Issue 01 cover image

Rebelutionary Life Magazine issue 01 cover

(stock photo used on cover: On Air with Sword by egeeksen / iStockphoto)

This guy rocks. He embodies the fierce attitude you need to hack though your preconceived notions of what learning means to you. He’s got fire and we want you to feel it! That’s why we chose him for the cover of issue 01 of our magazine.


Did this article get your shorts in a knot? Better yet, did it light a fire under your butt? And what do you think of his ass-kickin’ dudeness?

Let us know in the comments!

(props to Anne-Sophie Dumetz for her valued contributions to this post!)


Brad Kynoch

Founder & CEO, indie magazine editor, mobile app & website builder, blogger, entrepreneur

3 Responses to How to drive your own learning and when to ride the “school” bus

  • 1 / 9 / 2013

    I totally agree! My husband and I have this conversation often… and I have to say I’ve chosen many times to learn my own way – through doing. 🙂 Thanks for writing a great article about this. Goes to show I’m not the only one wondering if “school” is all it’s cracked up to be, and that learning as you go is an equally valid way of doing it!

    Sylvieie 1 / 9 / 2013
  • 1 / 10 / 2013

    Agreed! Learning my own way is something I’ve always done as a “Jill-of-all-Trades.” It is a lifelong commitment as I continue to reinvent myself. First as a student journalist, then as a desktop publisher, multimedia freelancer, communications specialist and now as a WordPress “ninja”… On it goes… 🙂

    D. Xanklin (@Xanklin73) 1 / 10 / 2013
  • 4 / 14 / 2013

    I love this attitude and the possibilities it opens for me, my children and the planet! Very exciting and inspiring!

    Sarah Rusnak 4 / 14 / 2013
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