Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Jumpstart Your Brain Challenge: The Lifelong Learner

The Lifelong Learner


The most brilliant man I ever knew only had an eighth grade education. He was, however, a lifelong learner.


William Woolum was two years old when his mother died giving birth to his baby sister. His father, ill equipped to care for his young son and infant daughter, put them in the care of others. This was at the turn of the century. Last century. Around 1900. He was loved and cared for and was able to complete eighth grade. He later taught his wife to read and write. 


His knowledge and wisdom was revered throughout the community. 


One time, the local college sent graduate students out to the neighboring county schools to offer free classes to the residents. William Woolum had raised his family and was older now, but he signed up for a mathematics course. He loved math. 


The young man teaching the course posed a problem then demonstrated how to arrive at the answer. It was a practical problem using elements of geometry. After the class, Mr. Woolum approached the graduate student and showed him another way to arrive at the answer. 


“And that works every time?” the young instructor asked. 

William and Ophia Woolum

“Every time,” Mr. Woolum answered. 


The young man returned to his professors who put the algorithm to the test. The next week the young man returned to the small schoolhouse where the residents gathered. 


“Mr. Woolum,” he said to his eager student, “I’ve talked with my professors. Your equation, indeed works every time. Quite honestly, sir, I don’t think there is anything I’ll be able to teach you in this course.”

He allowed Mr. Woolum to attend and often met with him afterward to discuss mathematic theory and practice. They became friends.


William Woolum was my grandfather. He was smart and loved learning. His whole life. Moreover, he instilled in my mother and in turn to me, a love of learning. My husband, Tom, who had a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Cincinnati asserted many times over how brilliant my grandfather was. The two loved to challenge each other with “mind games” and mathematical problems.


This is what a healthy brain is all about. It isn’t about education and getting a degree. 


It is about an attitude of continually learning and growing long after your “school” days come to an end.


I offered this series (Jumpstart Your Brain) as a guide. It is a good reminder to me as well. It is a reminder to not become complacent. It is a reminder to pursue a path to broaden my perspective.


I’m living what I teach.


I’m falling in love again with the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I’m engaging again in playing the piano. I have a daily five-minute Spanish lesson I enjoy on my computer via Duolingo. I’ve finished three of Shakespeare’s works…a true challenge to my thinking. I’m dusting off the Zumba DVD’s.


As for fun and games? I do play a few online Sudoku games, but also enjoy spending time with my mother playing a variety of other games involving strategy. (She is an incredible chess player so I haven’t broached that challenge yet. I call it “emotional self-protection.”)


The words I leave with you now? It is never to late to Jumpstart Your Brain. Make the DECISION to be a Life Long Learner. It is up to you.


From my Bio:

Rebecca Waters, EdD, completed her undergraduate work at the University of South Florida and her graduate studies at the University of Cincinnati. She served as both a public school teacher and as a professor of teacher education. Rebecca taught for a year in a private school in Kosovo where she also served as the elementary principal and the school’s liaison to the American Embassy. Rebecca is the author of two novels, Breathing on Her Own and Libby’s Cuppa Joe. All of her books, including three books on writing, are available on Amazon.

Follow me on Twitter: @WatersAuthor or visit my author Facebook Page: Rebecca Waters Author



  1. Your grandfather was an inspiring person. I am 63 years old, and I see lifelong learning as being essential to keep my brain sharp.

    1. I so agree, Susan! Thank you so much for sharing...and keep learning!

  2. Agree 110%! I also have been taking free Spanish classes through our local library and hitting that Duolingo every day. Have been trying to build a daily piano practice, but that is not going very well. Trying to stay precocious in my reading habits as well. Keep up the good work!

  3. Thank you, Lissa! Keep it up! Thank you for dropping in and thank you so much for commenting.


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