Educational Devotionals: Improving My Education One Day at a Time

Ever wonder how the internet actually works or what the Hudson River School is? Are you a little hazy on the theory of relativity?  Do you ever wish you could take a quick refresher course on a subject without the homework and tests? Try educational devotionals.

There are gaping holes in my knowledge about the world and how it works. Science is probably my weakest point. I took biology, chemistry, and physics in high school followed by a couple science-for-non-science-majors classes in college. Once those requirements were satisfied I pretty much quit studying science, something that I often regret.

I could stand to learn a bit more about art and history, too. Thanks to a work-study job in my college’s art history department I know a little bit about painting and sculpture. However, what I know about architecture or music before the twentieth century could fit on a postcard.  My knowledge of the history of any countries other than the United States, the United Kingdom, or France is pretty spotty too. Then there’s… well, you get the idea.

In theory I could check out a few textbooks on these subjects and dig right in. I do work at a university after all. But that doesn’t sound fun and let’s be honest. Given a choice between a textbook, a Louise Penny mystery, the magical realism of Sarah Addison Allen, an erotic romance from Seressia Glass, or anything by Megan Abbott – the textbook is always going to lose. I might buy a textbook in a burst of scholarly eagerness. I might even read a few pages. But if the past is any indication, the textbook will likely live in my unread pile indefinitely. Enter the daily educational devotional.

Modeled after a traditional religious daily devotional, educational devotionals offer brief but specific discussions of a topic. The discussions typically do not exceed one page, making it easy to read in a matter of minutes. Each day’s discussion builds on the prior lesson. By the end of the book and the year I have a pretty good overview of the topic.

the-intellectual-devotionalMy first experience with educational devotionals came in the form of The Intellectual Devotional. Promising to stimulate my mind and help complete my education, the devotional consisted of 365 lessons divided into seven main subjects – one for each day of the week. Every week I got a short lesson in history, literature, visual arts, science, music, philosophy, and religion. The original book spawned a series, with other books dedicated to American history, modern culture, health, and the last dedicated to profiling people who have made a mark, whether good or bad, on the world.

Per the authors, “The Intellectual Devotional is a great way to awaken in the morning or recharge oneself before retiring in the evening.” I chose morning. Nearly every morning for the past seven years before I get in the shower I have read a page from an educational devotional. The combination of bite-sized chunks, daily rotation of subjects, and reading early makes this an easy habit to keep up. The bite-sized chunks make complex subjects easy to digest. The rotation of seven subjects in a week keeps it interesting. And reading early is not only a pleasant way to start the day; it doesn’t take away from my regular reading time. Plus on days when life gets in the way and there is no time to read that mystery or romance, it feels good knowing that at least I read one page that day.

Educational devotionals opened my mind in more ways than one. After finishing The Intellectual Devotional series I searched for similar types of books. My favorite so far is The Bedside Baccalaureate: The Second Semester.  It covers game theory (an unexpectedly intriguing topic), electricity and magnetism (still confused about this one), meteorology and climate (the Weather Channel is way more interesting now), and much more.

It’s been seven years since I found that first educational devotional. During that time I’ve learned a little about a lot of different things. Slowly but surely, the gaps in my education are filling up.

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