I told myself no more library books until I felt “caught up” on the reading I’ve already got going.

But I just can’t help myself.

Really it’s the Professor’s fault: he had to go into lab for a bit on Saturday and the only way to park free downtown is to check something out from the library and have them stamp your parking ticket.  And somewhere in between, a half dozen books followed me home…

When we arrived and Pookie was down for a nap, I dove right into this one:


I’ve read other accounts of self-educated folks, people who’ve followed their passions rather than just following the crowd.  James Bach’s story is a bit different in that he lived entirely on his own at age 14 (though mom or dad took care of the motel rent and gave him $25/week for groceries).  He dropped out of school, spent all day making computer programs, and eventually started earning money for doing what he loved.

Fast forward and the guy somehow made it to Apple and is now sought after to give lectures and write articles.

I’ll admit, when I read stories like this, I’m both intrigued and put-off: “Yeah, that worked for him, but it won’t work for everybody,” “Well, why can’t it?  Not everybody has tried,” etc.  I also find these stories aren’t written as well as I would like and include cliches and heavy-handed hubris.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable.  It was fun, fast, and humorous.  It even contained some really great self-learning nuggets:


“A buccaneer-scholar is anyone whose love of learning is not muzzled, yoked, or shackled by any institution or authority; whose mind is driven to wander and find its own voice and place in the world” (9).

Mmm…that sounds good.  And that sounds a lot like what I did during college: sure, I studied my course work and got good grades, but my spare moments were spent devouring books on Christian education, homeschooling, and theories of learning–and I found it far more engaging than my regular classes and prescribed syllabi.

“To learn something valuable, you may have to work at it.  It may be hard work.  For me, it has to be fun, too.  Or else forget it.  The secret to my success is this: I found something that was fun for me, I learned all about it, and now I get paid for fun things I do with my mind” (4).

I love his reply to a teacher who said a lecture he gave was “dangerous,” that students might choose a nonconventional path based on his speech:

“So what if they do?…This is America.  They probably won’t starve.  They probably won’t be eaten by wolves.  If they don’t care about education, they may be forced to work at low-skilled jobs they won’t enjoy, such as fast food or house cleaning.  However bad those fates may sound, they are neither fatal nor permanent.  Or perhaps they will accidentally educate themselves by starting a new business, building things, or doing theatre, music, or sports.  Are you worried they’ll turn to crime?  Then show them more options, not fewer.  They will learn and grow from anything that happens, unless they believe there is no hope.  Your job is not to make them huddle quietly in a corral, but to help them get out there and seek their fortunes.  Show them a way!” (6)

Preach on, brother!  Makes me want to become a schoolteacher.

{Well, someday.  I’m going to focus on schoolin’ my own youngin(s) first}

“Knowledge is part of my education only if it changes me” (8).

“If I make a careful plan at the beginning of my journey, and stick to it, I may miss out on a lot of learning.  The beginning is a terrible time to plan.  it’s the moment of greatest ignorance.  In self-directed education, a lot of the value comes from exploiting opportunities that arise well out to sea, once I’ve seen some things and begun the learning process.

“In buccaneer learning, wandering is a necessity, not a luxury.  To wander effectively I need disposable time.  That means time I can afford to waste.  I’ve found that by giving myself permission to pursue things that might not come to anything valuable, more often than not, I eventually discover something really valuable” (41).

And about why he didn’t do homework:

“I was already busy at home.  I read fantasy novels.  I made technical drawings of imaginary spaceships, stargazed, tramped around the forest that surrounded my home.  I collected rocks and tried my hand at bird taming.  I watched a huge amount of television.  But whether my use of time seemed worthy to someone else hardly mattered.  I believed my time belonged to me.  Compulsory homework was theft of my time” (61).

Bach also goes over the methods he uses when educating himself about a new topic, such as “scouting” by skimming through all sorts of resources (books, Google searches, websites, etc.), experimenting with it, even leaving it alone and forgetting he even studied it for a time.

If you have an afternoon and are curious about self-education, this would be a fun read.


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