What did you do this weekend?

I explored the museums of Dublin, the towns of Kilkenny and Kildare, I learned to play three chords and a short song on the guitar I bought many years ago, I learned how to breathe more effectively as I sing, and I listened to lectures on “The Theory of Everything” and great works of Russian literature. 

You did what? All in one weekend, and with the pandemic not fully over?

Yes!

How?

I went to my local library. I borrowed DVDs from The Teaching Company, and while I might have been “limited” as an armchair traveler, there’s no doubt that such safe sojourns will surely lead to intrepid adventures when the time is right. Already I’m exploring road maps and tour books for my future road trips, and I’m seriously considering returning to graduate school to study literature. I’m excited about playing a guitar that was collecting dust and I’m singing with more confidence, so much that I think I will volunteer for the next open mic.

The Teaching Company, which produces The Great Courses lecture series, was founded in 1990 by Thomas Rollins, former chief counsel of the United States Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. Rollins’ idea for the company was inspired by his time at Harvard Law School, when he heard a ten-hour videotaped lecture series given by Irving Younger. Rollins valued the convenience of watching lectures in his free time and foresaw the continuing education possibilities that such lectures could bring to people worldwide.

Would you like to return to school, but are worried about the costs? Perhaps you live far away from a university or college, or if you do live near one, the thought of a commute and the hassle of parking discourages you, especially in inclement weather. 

Like many students you are most likely thrilled by exciting lectures given by dynamic professors. You may have read bestselling books by renowned academics, such as physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and are curious about hearing him “live.” Well, you can. Tyson’s lectures for The Great Courses is called “My Favorite Universe.” 

Knowing that within an hour you can walk away having acquired newfound knowledge from a globally renowned expert is indeed a delight. The exams and papers, however, are stressors you can do without. 

Have you been curious about a “difficult” subject, such as quantum physics, Shakespeare’s language, Eastern philosophy, differential equations or “The Theory of Everything”? Perhaps you just want to test the waters, before committing and matriculating to an actual course at college. If, like me, you’re fascinated by mathematics, but memories of less-than-stellar grades in high school may unearth old doubts and insecurities. 

Do you have an old musical instrument laying around? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn how to sing, play the piano or guitar, but cannot find a teacher in your area.

If academic subjects are not your forte, you can learn more practical studies, such as cooking, Tai Chi, oil painting, wine tasting, financial planning, ballroom dancing and gardening. The Teaching Company offers lecture series on all these topics. 

You can continue your education, in the most qualitative, comfortable and affordable way, to suit your schedule and budget. Most of all, you can learn from the comfort of your home. As long as you have a TV and DVD player, the most frugal option is to borrow the media from the public library. If you’re more tech-savvy and have funds to purchase the media for your library you can purchase them to stream or download.

I know, because I’ve been enriching my knowledge for the past five years; moreover, I’ve been able to spend quality time with my 88-year old father, who has been hospitalized with pancreatic creative cancer, and has returned home from the hospital to recuperate mind, body, and spirit through continuing education. A radiochemist for 48 years, my beloved dad has been able to share his enthusiasm for math and chemistry with me, thanks to The Great Courses.

This past week I’ve been “traveling” to Ireland and Northern Ireland, under the guidance of Dr. Mark Conner, the current President of Skidmore College in Saratoga, New York. Dr. Conner received his doctorate from Princeton University and was a distinguished professor of English literature at Washington and Lee University. He has written books on Ralph Ellison and Irish drama and fiction, and was a guest lecturer at the International Yeats Summer School in Sligo, Ireland.

His course, “The Great Tours of Ireland and Northern Ireland,” is one of the newest Great Courses, released in March. Fortunately my local public library orders all new courses of The Teaching Company. If your library does not stock them, talk to a librarian and request the courses, for the benefit of the community.

Leonora Rita V. Obed is a fine artist (oils and watercolors) and freelance writer residing in West Trenton, New Jersey.

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Leonora Rita V. Obed is a fine artist (oils and watercolors) and freelance writer residing in West Trenton, New Jersey.