Explore and Discover: Free Resources for Learning at Home

When I was experiencing a flare-up of chronic health issues a few years ago, I found myself spending a lot of time at home out of necessity. As the days went on, I realized that it was important for my emotional well-being, as well as for my intellectual and spiritual growth, to find positive ways to occupy myself. 

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Learning new things was one of the tools I employed for coping with uncertainty — it allowed me to feel not only grounded, but also mentally engaged. And, the adventure of discovery reminded me that there is always something to feel curious about. If you’re spending more time at home and finding that you have some free time on your hands (or if you’d rather just procrastinate on something else you should be doing — I won’t judge), here are some free resources for learning, discovering, and enjoying. 

Explore the arts

One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon is wandering through art museums. Since jetting around the world to check out as many as possible hasn’t been a reality (a girl can dream!), I enjoy viewing works of art online. You can virtually wander through the halls of The Louvre to view one of the world’s most renowned art collections, or you can check out the awe-inspiring imagery at The Vatican Museum — all from the comfort of your own home. If your taste lends itself to more contemporary art, New York’s Museum of Modern Art has plentiful online resources for both learning and viewing. 

Additionally, if you want to expand your knowledge about art or other topics, check out sites like Coursera which offer free art appreciation and art history classes. If you end up so inspired that you want to try your hand at drawing, you can find free tutorials on YouTube or Drawspace.com

Which of these topics interests you the most?

Travel the world from your couch

When travel isn’t an option, you can explore destinations around the world all from the comfort of your home. Tour Buckingham Palace and pretend you’re attending a posh garden party on the grounds. Or, take a quick 360-degree tour of the streets of Venice, Italy. Google Earth offers tours of National Parks in the United States, so you can enjoy stunning natural wonders like the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park and go on “hikes” all without breaking a sweat. And, if you happen to tire of the sights of Earth, there’s always outer space to explore on NASA’s Image and Video Library

Learn a new skill

If you’re feeling inspired to take up a new hobby, like playing the guitar or writing, there are tutorials and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) you can take. Some are self-paced, whereas others follow a specific timeline with set deadlines. And, if you want to learn how to spruce up your resume for future job searches, there is even a free course to help you do that. In general, free online courses vary in their level of difficulty and time commitment, but all require you to be self-directed.

I enrolled in an investigative journalism course a few months ago because I wanted to explore a new area within my field.

Lighten your mood

When the news of the world weighs upon your shoulders, it is okay to step back and take a break. Puppies and kittens are instant mood boosters. Seeing the innocent, carefree playfulness of animals — like that of my own cat every day — reminds me that it is possible to approach life joyfully when you take pleasure in simple things. If you don’t have pets at home, these cat and dog webcams from animal shelters provide a dose of cuteness. If wild animals are more your thing, this site has a list of webcams from pandas to polar bears to orcas and otters. I find it fascinating to see the diversity of nature.

Get up and move

When getting to a gym isn’t feasible, there are exercise classes accessible online. The YMCA offers on-demand classes from yoga and Tai Chi to weight-lifting. There are options for kids to older adults and everyone in between. YogaWorks offers videos of yoga classes in a variety of styles for different strength and flexibility levels. The Royal Academy of Dance has beginner ballet classes available on YouTube. No matter what you are looking for, there almost certainly is an online exercise class to meet your needs. The key is to include “at home” when searching for classes that are well-suited to home practice. 

And, don’t worry if you don’t have the latest Peloton bike, many online exercise videos don’t require extra equipment or will allow you to improvise using items from your own home — a bottle of water or a can of soup can double as weights. Before I owned a yoga mat, I used a beach towel sprawled out on my floor. Stairs can double as makeshift cardio equipment. I’ve found the key is to look at your surroundings differently and see what you can use to achieve the results you want. 

There is a world of possibilities available at our fingertips through technology. Thanks to the internet, I’ve learned about things– like the aforementioned investigative journalism, which wasn’t something I covered in depth during my time at school. And, I’ve also “toured” Buckingham Palace, a place I haven’t yet visited in real life. Staying curious (and a decent wi-fi connection) helps me to explore easily  — and it makes me continually realize just how much more there is waiting to be discovered.

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