For those who know me, they know I take knowledge very seriously. It truly is power. I am obsessed with history, I devour news and I try to educate myself on almost every topic I can find. But I was not always this way. My high school was in a lower-income area, I did not finish college the first time around and I spent many years feeling as if everyone around me was far ahead in book smarts. I was street-smart, but while friends would speak of authors they loved and in-depth scientific theories, I felt much of my own experience was spent simply surviving and classical education was almost a luxury I did not enjoy.
However, it was not until I went to the Transgender Day of Remembrance that I realized this is a common thread in our queer community. A transgender woman spoke about getting kicked out of her house at a young age and how she wishes she could finish school. This is the case for many LGBTQ people. How are we expected to get an education when we are sleeping on the streets? How are we expected to pay attention in class when our sexuality causes us to be bullied by our peers? How are we expected to reach our potential when so much of our mental capacity is spent in survival mode? Some can overcome those obstacles but for some, we have been set back.
Over the years, I have found many resources and tools that have helped me. I am a firm believer that anyone has the power to take their personal knowledge into their own hands but the hardest part is knowing where to look and how to start. So, if self-education is something you are interested in and are ready to do, I have compiled a list of (free) resources for you here:
1. Homeschooling online
There are a ton of homeschooling resources online for free. These are basic education sources that do not require an outside teacher, just a student being able to access the websites. Instead of finding the best homeschooling site, here is a how-to website to get you started. http://howtohomeschoolforfree.com/full-online-homeschool-curriculum/
2. The Khan Academy
The Khan Academy is probably one of the best known on this list. The Khan Academy is very math and science-focused but has other subjects as well. It is known for its easy-to-follow videos and it breaks down topics from pre-3rd grade math to astrophysics. https://www.khanacademy.org
3. The Heritage Podcast
One of my favorites. This is a podcast that aims to “give the listener an entire liberal arts college education for free”. It is broken down chronologically as an entire history of the world. The first few episodes give a basis for learning and then around episode 5 or 6, the host starts with Paleolithic Era and human evolution and then explains how the entire world evolved from there. http://heritagepodcast.com/category/episodes
K12 offers courses for a kindergarten through senior year education. Since many people in our community had to leave school before high school graduation, this can be a great way to either brush up, learn, or possibly prep for a GED. http://www.k12.com/
5. MIT Open Courseware
MIT was one of the first universities to put its courses online for free but many have since followed suit. These websites offer entire courses from lectures, quizzes and exams. You can google “open courseware” and find non-credit courses for Harvard, Tufts, Yale, Berkeley, UC San Diego, Johns Hopkins and more. If you want to find all the college open courseware in one place, check out Coursera. http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/ and www.coursera.org
This site offers information on gemstones, minerals, and all things geology. www.geology.com
7. The Stuff You Missed in History Class Podcast
This podcast has been a go-to of mine for a long time. The hosts run down hundreds of people and events you may not have heard of in traditional history courses. Find out why theaters have exit signs (warning: the answer is tragic), how the inventor of sea monkeys was part of the Klu Klux Klan, and how there used to be a mental disorder where people thought they were made of glass and would shatter if touched. www.missedinhistory.com
8. Sheppard Software (Geography)
I have found the best way to learn geography is with visual quizzes and this site has a ton of them. You can learn country locations, capitals and even see their landscapes. Sheppard also offers courses in an abundance of other subjects but it is my geography go to. Also check out the CIA Factbook for more in-depth country information. http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/Geography.htm and https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/
This website is exactly what it says, science tutorials for all levels. www.learningscience.org
10. Have Fun with History
This website offers a collection of videos on U.S. history. Pick an event, person, or even a particular era on the timeline, sit back, and enjoy a history lesson. www.havefunwithhistory.com
11. The Free Library
Lastly, for all your literature needs, you can visit The Free Library. It is one of the largest online libraries in the world and offers you a wealth of literature to read right on your screen. Helpful tip: make sure to click “literature” in the search box, as it will automatically be set to “periodicals”. www.thefreelibrary.com
These are just some ways to get started. Feel free to add your favorite websites in the comment section below. Let’s empower all of our voices. Happy learning!