By Suzan L. Jackson
In this back-to-school season, everyone can get in on the fun and learn something new, even if you can’t leave your bed or couch. Whether you are a young person whose formal education was interrupted or just someone who wants to expand your world and combat boredom, there are lots of great options now for learning from home. You can do everything online from enjoying a one-minute amusing physics lesson to learning a new skill to touring a famous museum. The options are endless. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Take an Online Course
There are many different websites that offer online classes, on every subject you can possibly imagine. Some are free and some require a fee, so read the fine print before you get started. Most of them are classes from top universities around the world and offer certificates for college credit, so you can even work toward a degree, one class-from-bed at a time! Or you can just relax and enjoy learning something fun, like “History of Rock” from the University of Rochester, “Journey of the Universe” from Yale, or “Magic in the Middle Ages” from the University of Barcelona. Here are some sites to choose from – have fun perusing their course catalogs!
- Coursera  – Online courses from 145 universities in 28 different countries on every topic you can think of. A bit confusing, but it seems that you can watch videos, do readings, etc. in courses for free, but you have to pay for a course in order to take quizzes, hand in work, and get a certificate. Financial aid available.
- OnlineCourses.com  – Over 500 free online classes from universities around the world, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Some classes have the option of a certification or college credit.
- edX  – online courses from MIT, Harvard, Berkley, and other top universities, and you can earn a verified certificate. Nominal fee but financial aid is available.
- Open Culture  – Over 1200 free online courses from the world’s top universities, including online degree programs.
- The Great Courses  – Carefully curated, high-quality college courses available entirely on video. They are bit pricier than some options, but an ill friend says they have frequent sales (through Sept. 15, 2016 they have 30 courses each under $50).
- Khan Academy  – Wide range of online lectures related to common school subjects (free). Especially useful for kids and high school or college students who need extra help (my son used it a lot when he was missing most of his in-class time in high school).
- Search for what you want – For specific subjects, find other options by searching. When I searched for “online writing classes,” I found some of the above options but also writingclassesonline.com and writersonlineworkshops.com (run by Writer’s Digest).
There are how-to videos online on subjects you’ve never even dreamed of (the top video on e-How today is “How to Open a Wine Bottle with a Shoe”). Maybe you want to learn a new skill, like knitting or painting, or perhaps you want some new ideas for a hobby, like crafting or jewelry-making. It’s all out there, waiting for you. Most how-to videos are quite brief and perfect for short attention spans. One young woman I know who is homebound has enjoyed learning new hobbies like nail art, knitting, and special effects make-up. You can even learn how to make your own online videos! Here are some places to find how-to videos:
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- YouTube  – The online video pioneer is still one of the best sites to find a wide range of instructional videos. I don’t think I could handle “How to Backflip,” but there are tutorials on every possible subject, including sewing, science, crocheting, make-up, and much more. Once you find someone you like, you can subscribe to them or see if they have a channel.
- e-How  – e-How features both written instructions and videos (this link will take you to the video section) on all kinds of topics, including things you didn’t know you needed! They have lots of craft projects, knitting videos, ways to better use your smartphone, and all kinds of creative “life hacks” for your home.
- MonkeySee  – A site devoted to instructional videos. On the front page, I found “How to Apply Joker Make-up” (useful on Halloween), “How to Improve Handwriting,” and “How to Play Grand Theft Auto” – all things that could be done from bed! Categories range from Beauty & Fashion to Electronics & Gadgets to Hobbies & Crafts and more.
Entertaining & Educational Videos
There is so much creativity online! Many people have sought out unique and entertaining ways to make learning fun. These kinds of entertaining and educational videos are great for all ages but may be especially motivating for sick kids. Here are a few to get you started:
- CrashCourse  – Have a teen who is stuck home sick? This fun, educational video series is hosted by superstar YA author John Green and his brother, covering topics ranging from science to math to history and much more. I wish these had been around when my son was in high school. I had trouble finishing this article once I started watching these!
- Smarter Everyday with Destin Sandlin  – This entertaining channel of videos is hard to describe. Destin has made videos on topics as diverse as nature, slow-motion investigations of science principles, and even interviews with people like President Obama. This is an eclectic education but always entertaining.
- Minute Physics  – Brief, fun lectures on physics illustrated by simple but fascinating sketches that are drawn while you watch. Each segment lasts less than four minutes.
- Doodling in Math Class  – Short, fun explanations of complex mathematical concepts in simple terms, illustrated through notebook doodles.
- TED Talks  – I often watch TED talks on inspirational topics, but they cover all sorts of subjects, from “Female Superheroes” to “Why Global Jihad Is Losing” to “How I Fell in Love with Quasars, Blazars, and our Incredible Universe.” They have lots of talks with gorgeous photography of nature or art, in case you just want to immerse yourself in beauty, or on thought-provoking topics from around the world. Most talks are between five and 25 minutes long, so they are easily digestible, and all of the TED speakers are engaging and inspiring.
I had to give up exploring museums many years ago because I just don’t have the stamina for all of that standing and walking, but now you can visit museums from your own home! Many of the world’s top museums now offer various types of virtual tours for your education and entertainment:
- The Louvre  – Offers 3 different virtual tours so far: Egyptian Antiquities, Medieval Louvre, and Decorative Arts. Click on different spots in the floor plan of each to see a photo and brief description.
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History  – Featuring some really cool virtual tours, with 360-degree views of the exhibits and the ability to move side to side and up and down. Explore dinosaurs, anthropology, nature, biology, and much more.
- Virtual Free Sites  – This website has compiled links to virtual tours of over 300 museums, exhibits, and tours. You’ll find a huge variety, including the Holocaust Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and much more, from around the globe.
The online world offers some amazing possibilities for learning (and entertainment). Whether you want to get your college degree, fill in the blanks on what you missed in school, or just expand your horizons and have some fun, there are options for you on every possible subject. And don’t forget the old-school options of documentaries and books, too. Even if you are housebound, you can still “get out” into the world and broaden your horizons!
Suzan Jackson, a frequent ProHealth contributor, is a freelance writer who has had ME/CFS for 13 years. Both of her sons also got ME/CFS, but one is now fully recovered after 10 years of illness and the other is in college, also dealing with three tick infections. She writes two blogs: Learning to Live with ME/CFS (with an emphasis on LIVE!) at http://livewithcfs.blogspot.com  and Book By Book at http://bookbybook.blogspot.com . You can follow Sue on Twitter at @livewithmecfs.