Before we get into the nitty-gritty of planning your own curriculum and teaching yourself new subjects, it’s important to figure out your motivations and make a handy list of things you’d like to learn about. Figuring out these things early on will help prevent frustration, burnout, and aimless wandering.
Why do you want to learn? Keep close the reasons that apply to you; they’ll keep you strong when you feel frustrated. And if you’re having trouble putting your motivation into words, I’ve outlined a few major ones.
Glance at any university’s course catalog and you might feel overwhelmed with the number of things you can learn. Before you start scooping up armfuls of textbooks and online courses, you need to list subjects that are important to you, keeping in mind the motivation(s) you figured out above.
These are subjects taught in K-12 schools in the USA, helpful for adults who want to make sure they have reached a sufficient ‘high school graduate’ education level. For an example, look at Arkansas’ K-12 framework.
It’s up to you to decide how proficient you want to be in any given subject, and math is a great example. While most people need only basic arithmetic and accounting skills to get through daily life, others are either fascinated by advanced math or need it for their work. Either way, you should start with whatever you’re not familiar with, whether arithmetic or trigonometry, and attempt to master it before moving on to more complicated subjects.
In a high school sense, English is about studying works that have come before, and how to understand them in and out of context. Half its use is conversational; if you’re at a party and a group is talking about Albert Camus, not having read The Stranger can be alienating. The other half is helpful as an exercise in understanding what you read; you’re supposedly better able to piece together a news story if you’ve practiced on novels.
Where English is about understanding what you read, writing is about communicating what you think and feel. There are many fronts from which to approach it; vocabulary and grammar are a good basic starting point, while tropes and characterization can come later.
There are several ways to approach this. Most states have laid out a sequence in which high school students learn science (e.g. anatomy, biology, chemistry, and physics), so you might start at the beginning with that, or you can pick an area of science that especially interests you (e.g. evolutionary biology), or you can find/build a curriculum that delves into many areas regularly.
While of little practical use, basic knowledge of world history and geography, and more detailed knowledge of local civics, history, and geography, can be helpful in understanding news, culture, and societal problems and solutions.
Whether you’re interested in staying healthy, understanding your body, becoming strong and fit, or looking better, you can find plenty of learning material.
Depending on your desired career, there are probably skills you need to master, like computer knowledge, typing, foreign languages, and industry-specific skills and jargon.
Whether in preparation for the future zombie apocalypse or walking alone in the city at night, you can learn handy survival skills like foraging, navigation, first aid, and auto repair.
If you’re a fan of self-help books, this is where you would pile them up and get ready to read through them while taking notes. You might also want to read about spirituality and religion and strength of character.
Finally, there are plenty of things to learn that have no practical use but are fun and impressive, like drawing, 3D animation, singing/playing an instrument, and how to properly argue on the internet.