With all the flyers proclaiming “it’s back to school,” I recall my own school days with remorse: all that wasted time when I dozed off during history class! I now regret that I don’t know more about the War of 1812, among other things. As I stumble toward my sixth decade, I feal a crash course in some subjects will at least improve my cocktail party chatter, if not my mind.
Winston Churchill was an indifferent student who failed two entrance exams to Royal Military College and later found that literary references in conversation left him at a loss. Churchill began his own course of self-tutoring in pursuit of the liberal education that eluded him at public school. According to Churchill Style, this program of intensive reading began a ravenous and life-long passion for book collecting. A man of many interests, Churchill also took up painting, which proved to be of solace during the dark times of his life.
A recent Vanity Fair article highlighted the work of Jack Vettriano, an ex-coalminer, who taught himself to paint by copying Monet and Caravaggio. His paintings (such as The Singing Butler, shown) now sell for huge sums. You, too, can kick start a latent artistic talent. Grab a sketchbook and head down to the WAG or read Daily Book of Art ; a year’s worth of information of ideas, events and personalities to help you understand the big picture of art.
Aldous Huxley supposedly read Encyclopedia Britannica as a leisure activity. He was known to pontificate on a variety of subjects at dinner parties. One astute guest noticed that all Huxley’s topics began with the same letter. Upon checking in an adjoining library, the guest discovered that Huxley was quoting verbatim from the Encyclopædia Britannica.
Instead of lugging a door-stopper volume or blowing the budget to collect books a la Churchill, the modern autodidact can transform an Ipad into a mobile classroom and access the following tools for free:
Attend university from your home. UC Berkeley offers lectures on everything from Astronomy to US History on YouTube.
Learn languages including Spanish, Dutch or German with Tell Me More, an online database available for Winnipeg Public Library cardholders. Read the latest @thelibrary, join a book club, or attend a workshop or lecture.
Here’s more non-required reading to help jump start your self-education:
Filmology – a movie-a-day guide to a complete education in film.
Smarter by Sunday – 52 weekends of essential knowledge for the curious mind.
Homework for Grown-ups– everything you learned at school and promptly forgot.
Take heart: these resources will help you assist with your child’s homework without humiliation – or at the very least improve your dinner party repartee. No term papers or final examinations are expected.