Maple Alps


Fun and Creative Ways to Learn New Things (Without Going Back to School!)

LifestyleAmanda Walter | Maple Alps3 Comments

My mom is the best (hey mom!). She texted me the other day and asked if I liked my Audible subscription. Of course, I LOVE my audible subscription and asked her why she was even asking. She told me that she decided that she needed to learn more and that audiobooks was the way she was going to be starting.

Her initiative got me thinking: what are some ways to learn without going back to school? I’ve spent my whole life in school, and now that I’m a teacher, I’m still really there! As a teacher though, I believe in lifelong learning and inspiring others to do the same. So, with that in mind, I decided to come up with a list of creative ways to learn without going back to school. The world is full of things to learn and all sorts of opportunities! Take them!

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Fun and Creative Ways to Learn New Things (Without Going Back to School!) |

Listen to a podcast - there are so many podcasts out there on all different things! Explore to find one you love!


Take an online course or certificate - There are tons of courses and certificates you can take online. You could go the informal route and pick a creative online course from a place like Skill Share (try it for two months free using this link!), or even get your first aid/CPR training from Red Cross.


Sign up for a webinar - There are so many webinars on so many different topics! I’ve taken webinars on a wide variety of subjects. It’s fun to sit in front of the computer with a notebook to take notes on the new things you’re learning!


Embrace Audible - I love audible. It’s helped me “read” more since I have a long daily commute. If you're not sure about it, you can try it for 30 days free! (Use this link to try Audible for free and get TWO free audiobooks!


Learn a new language - Must I say any more? There are tons of free podcasts and apps (like duolingo) to brush up on or learn a new language. If you want to pull out the big bucks, I hear Rosetta Stone is pretty amazing!


Volunteer - find a new place to volunteer and learn new skills while at it! Think soup kitchens or animal shelters, or anywhere, really!


Take a class - many local spots offer classes for the community. Check the community college for a list! Try out your community centres and churches for classes as well - sometimes they will offer them for free!


Read the news - make an effort to read the news! A great resource I use is theSkimm - it’s a short daily email (it comes every morning) that gives you the days headlines in an easy-to-understand way! It has seriously helped me keep up with what is going on and people are impressed when you are informed ;-)


Travel the World - and don’t just stick to tourist areas. Do your research about the customs and language and history of the places you are going to! Connect with locals, try their food, and learn some phrases! You will love it.


Watch documentaries - skip the mind-numbing entertainment and watch a documentary. I like to watch a wide variety of topics. A few of my favourites are: Tapped, Minimalism, What the Health, Planet Earth, and Blackfish. 


Follow NASA on Instagram - Seriously, go do it. You’ll learn something new when you scroll through your feed! While you're at it, follow me too ;-)


Watch National Geographic on Snapchat - I’ll be the first to admit that I am horrible at Snapchat. I’m too old for it I think. But if you are on there, National Geographic has an awesome snap story each day! You can learn about unique animals and such!


Talk to People You Meet - I meet fun people all of the time! And listening to their stories teaches me a lot! I usually have the best conversations in coffee shops and hear the best life stories.


Join Facebook Groups - there are a ton of Facebook groups out there that act as a fun forum. Pick a topic you are interested in learning more about and learn from a ton of people!


Watch a Ted Talk - Skip Netflix. Watch a Ted Talk instead. Be inspired to do something new and learn something new as well.


Read Something You Wouldn’t Naturally go to - I’ve branched out and read books on all different topics in the last few years. From the keto diet to theology books, I’ve been consuming books on topics I wouldn’t naturally choose to read. And I’ve been loving it. It expands your brain and opens the world to you! Here's a list of my favourites!


Take up a new hobby - We started painting recently. Nothing fancy, since we aren’t artists, but watching tutorials and learning new techniques has been really fun. I’d love to try pottery next!


Listen to NPR - Switch on NPR in the car from time to time and learn some new facts!


Start a new exercise program - shake up your exercise program by trying something new! Add a spin class to your weight training, or amp up your strength training by adding a pilates class! Meet new people and learn new ways of moving!


Subscribe to an Educational Magazine - National Geographic or Time are good ones to start with. I subscribe to The Magnolia Journal and learn something new and inspiring every quarter.


Look Up the Back Stories to Songs - Look up some background info on certain songs or songwriters and blow your friends minds with the trivia. Fun fact: on some Spotify songs, you automatically see the lyrics and back stories!


Spend time with someone who knows something you don’t - Take a friend out and over lunch, listen all about their expertise. Or, just talk to a random person and listen to their stories. You’d be amazed at what you learn!


Try a new recipe - or two or three. Buy some exotic ingredients and experience your world widen through your tastebuds!



What are some ways and resources you use to keep learning?


Intentionality Spotlight: Blog Love: Crystal Whitlow

Intentionality SpotlightAmanda Walter | Maple Alps6 Comments

Today for Intentionality Spotlight, we talk to Crystal Whitlow about starting a business, resources she uses, and how she stays motivated and preserves balance in her life!

Intentionality Spotlight: Blog Love: Crystal Whitlow |

First some easy stuff: Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your work, passions and interests?

Thank you so much for featuring me on your blog! I’m so happy to be here and talk about my life as a graphic designer and creative entrepreneur.

I currently call Kansas City my home and have grown fond of the Midwest culture.

During the day I work for Champion, the collegiate clothing company, and at night I spend my hours building up my creative profile through my online blog CW Design, Etsy shop, and Spoonflower store. I’m excited to turn my side hustle into a full-time adventure in the next few weeks.

I love being a graphic designer. I think of it as my super power! I see how good design as the power to motivate people to buy goods and build organizations. I enjoy studying marketing and how I can help grow my own business and help other businesses with my knowledge.

Outside of business ventures, I love paper crafting. I have a Silhouette Cameo machine that I absolutely love. A Silhouette Cameo is a machine that can read illustration files and cut them out of paper. It saves a bunch of time so that I can make many fun crafts for parties, Sabbath School, holidays and home decor.

Until now I have only made cut files for myself. Starting in June 2018, my mom and I will be opening an Etsy shop together to sell craft files.  It is our goal to inspire other people to flex their creative muscles to make their own projects. 

Intentionality Spotlight: Blog Love: Crystal Whitlow |

You are a talented graphic designer and crafter. Were these always interests of yours and did you always want to go the entrepreneur route? How did you decide to start CW Design?

I definitely feel that I was born to be a creative entrepreneur. I have always enjoyed my art classes more than any other subject, and it’s a skill set that I have always felt more confident in.

I was the type of kid who would sell my holiday candy to my classmates in elementary school... until my dad found out and told me to stop. So, I have always been entrepreneurial minded. I love the thought of having control over my work schedule and finding my own opportunities to grow in my career.  I believe that I will feel more satisfaction through running my own business than working for someone else.

Intentionality Spotlight: Blog Love: Crystal Whitlow |

As an entrepreneur, I imagine you have to be quite disciplined in certain areas. How do you stay organized and motivated? What are some resources that have helped you with this?

Having discipline is easier some weeks than others. I often struggle with feeling burnt out, and that I’m not achieving enough. What helps me the most is to take my goals and break them down into smaller goals, so I  feel like I am moving in the right direction.

For example, when I start freelancing, I will obviously need clients. So, I take the goal of finding clients who would benefit from hiring a graphic designer on a monthly retainer and try to find networking opportunities in my area. I can search on, Chamber of Commerce events, and co-working/office rental buildings. By physically showing up and making connections will lead to this goal. I can use Facebook Groups for Entrepreneurs and for online referrals.

I think giving myself permission, not to overwork is healthy too. It’s easy to get so wrapped into working on tasks and projects that it takes discipline to walk away from it too. I think it’s safe to say that overworking will lead to burn out too.

Most of all I focus on my main goal - Successfully running my own design studio and designing a lifestyle that financially provides for my family and creates new opportunities.  Naturally, I’m pretty driven toward making this goal happen.

Tools I use that make my life easier are:

I have a pretty cheap budget, so I keep things pretty simple. I would like to invest in Skillshare to learn new skills and other training workshops for small businesses. However, I feel that there is enough free information already available to learn new skills without having to pay for them. I really enjoy spending time in libraries vs paying for an online course.

Intentionality Spotlight: Blog Love: Crystal Whitlow |


What is one other specific area in your life you find that intentionality is absolutely critical? How do you exercise mindfulness in it?

Balance. There is a time to work, time to rest, and time to reflect. I think having another hobby that isn’t design related is healthy for my mind. I love fitness, so I enjoy starting off my day with weight training and running in the evening. (On an ideal day.) I recently just signed up for my first half marathon, so that helps me to get moving from my stationary career.

After my morning workout, I love to take a few minutes to write in my prayer journal. Writing my prayers helps me organize all my wandering thoughts, and gives me peace in how I feel and what is going on in my life.

Mindfulness to me is being aware of how I feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s impossible to be mindful when running around trying to accomplish the next goal. Within all the noise in my head reminding me of the tasks I need to do and new ideas I should try, I remember that God said in Psalms 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” Therefore, I don’t think that the term “mindfulness” only applied to yogis and Eastern Religions. I believe that God calls everyone to be still. Whether that be in meditation, prayer/ prayer journaling, stretching or nature walks etc., God knows that we need a balance of work and rest for a healthy life.

It’s not always easy, but with God’s grace, I can try my best for Him.


Intentionality Spotlight: Blog Love: Crystal Whitlow |


If you could give one piece of advice about [this area of intentionality] to someone who struggles with it, what would you tell them?

My advice for someone who is struggling with intentionality is to find a way they enjoy helping others. When someone understands how they can help someone it gives them a sense of purpose and passion. Everyone has their own skill set that can be used to bless others and be beneficial. If someone doesn’t know what their skill set is, I suggest trying new classes, figure out what you enjoy doing for fun, and think how you can take the joy to help someone else.

For example, I really enjoy hand lettering, but more so, I enjoyed encouraging other people to be creative too. So, I began teaching hand lettering workshops with the focus that, honestly, anyone can hand letter, even if you have bad handwriting!


You can find Crystal at her blog, CW Design, and on Instagram!