A Lifetime of Learning

I was home-schooled until the 3rd grade.  My mother was the best teacher I ever had.  Teaching came naturally to her, perhaps because her mother was a teacher (my grandmother taught at Litchfield High School in the 1940s and 50s).  My mother taught me to follow my own curiosity and teach myself whatever I wanted to learn.  Even when I attended public school, self-education was highly encouraged in my home.  This experience of self-education was one of the best gifts my parents gave me because it helped me have confidence in my own ability to find answers.

Of course the library was and is the best place to expand our minds.  This is one reason libraries have been known as “the people’s university”.  One section of the library has become a mini-university to me.  In the southeast corner of the newer building Ann Marie has developed quite a collection of the Great Courses audiobooks and DVDs.


What works the best for me is to pick one course, keep it in my car, and listen to it whenever I’m driving.  Even if it’s a short trip up the road I still learn little by little.  These courses are so well done that I have listened to the same one more than once, and even waited and replayed some of them for my husband while he was in the car.

The DVDs work well too because they are broken up into small sections so we watch one class per night, and they are surprisingly entertaining.  Our favorite DVD was Understanding the Universe, with Professor Alexei V. Filippenko. We call him “our friend Alex” because over the length of time that we took his class we grew to love him.  He is a great teacher in that he really helps you to understand what there is to know about the Universe in an entertaining way.  This course is comprised of 96 lectures on 16 disks, from what you can see with the naked eye to what we know about distant galaxies.  It takes quite some time to get through it all, but it is very absorbing.


The Teaching Company has very high standards for the professors that they choose to teach their college-level courses.  The credentials of the professors are absolutely outstanding.  They are award-winning experts in their field of study.  Here is the link to their website, if you would like to find out more information about them:  The Great Courses

I have highlighted below a few that I found particularly interesting, but there are many different subjects to choose from:

Exploring the Roots of Religion:  Professor John R. Hale takes you through 36 lectures, detailing the archaelogical sites from the Neanderthals to the Dead Sea Scrolls.  He takes you to numerous ancient places and paints a picture of what life was like for our ancestors, and shows what we have collectively carried to our present day religions and faiths.

Origins of Life:  Robert M. Hazen, Ph.D. teaches 24 lectures on experiments and theories about where life came from.  He explains his studies of high-pressure organic synthesis as well as fossils and minerals, and ties it all together to create meaningful stories of our evolution.

Philosophy as a Guide to Living: Professor Stephen A. Erickson explains the philosophical thoughts of the past three hundred years, exploring all the questions and the attempts to answer the great question of the meaning of life.  His 24 lectures cover many great thinkers from Kant to Schopenhauer to Nietzsche to Camus.

The History of Ancient Egypt:  Robert Brier, Ph.D. was the first person (in 2000 years) to mummify a human cadaver.  Here he teaches 48 lectures on Egyptology, spanning the 3 kingdoms and 3000 years of Egyptian history.

How to Listen to and Understand Great Music:  Professor Robert Greenberg  teaches 48 lectures on the history and evolution of Western music in the religious and secular world.  He also teaches about composition and appreciation of the beauty of music.

Come browse our mini-university of the Great Courses.  OWL is the place to enjoy a lifetime of learning!

letterJ Jesse Lee Harmon is the bookkeeper at OWL and is currently singing the ABCs

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