The Second Half: School daze: Center for Learning in Retirement’s fall lineup

By Kathleen D. Tresemer


The crisp air is filled with the scent of apples and burning leaves—this is the beginning of my favorite time of year. Autumn!

To ground myself and get organized for the new season, I rearranged my closet, pulled out the winter blankets, and paged through the fall Rock Valley College Center for Learning in Retirement (CLR) catalog to pick out my classes for this session. The CLR just sent me their new catalog of offerings, with more than 150 classes, some of them absolutely free. CLR has only one restriction—classes are for students age 50 and older. No kids allowed!

I like that. Nothing worse than sitting behind some kid whose cell phone keeps beeping, “Oh, it’s a text from my boyfriend!” then clickety, clickety, click as she texts back… meanwhile I just missed the intro to the film we are watching next.

So, to stimulate my brain and keep my neurons firing, I open the catalog to the selections. There are 10 categories:

Arts & Crafts—I could get my creative juices flowing…there is a good selection, from Basic Watercolors to Wood Turning or Carving. No grades, just FUN!

Community Awareness & Service—All free courses, covering the Senior Citizen’s Police Academy, local tutoring programs, and a review of many of the services available in our own community. If you want to give something back but don’t know what or how, this section is for you.

Computers—An Intro course for the uninitiated, as well as training in some programs like Excel and WordPad. There is no excuse for avoiding it, you old dogs out there might want to learn a new trick—computers are here to stay.

Health & Exercise—A dozen offerings in this category, most of them require getting off your butt. Don’t forget the Golden Eagles Fitness Program, which meets three times a week at the RVC-PE Center. At only $90 for the whole session, that’s less than any gym membership around, and you get the added benefit of their senior-oriented instructors.

History—From Pompeii and Famous Greeks, to the Civil War and World War II, classes like: “Dateline: Bethlehem—Year Zero” and “Was Pious XII Hitler’s Pope?” Not your high school history classes, folks, these topics really explore the way history changed the world with a unique and in-depth approach.

Humanities —Opera, television, books, movies, and art appreciation, including a couple of classes that tour the Rockford Art Museum focusing on specific exhibits. I might try the class about the book, Hot, Flat, & Crowded by author Tom Friedman: a discussion about the world, how we got this way, and what we can do about it.

Science & Nature—One of my favorite categories, classes in “Understanding the Brain,” “Wild Flowers,” “Astronomy,” “Home Landscaping” and “Archaeology,” to name a few. I’m considering “Well, I’ll Be a Monkey’s Uncle,” a class discussing Charles Darwin’s journey on the HMS Beagle and his breakthrough insights on evolutionary theory. So COOL!

Social Sciences—For the thinkers in the crowd, classes about various cultures, the law, and exploring religious and social belief systems. One I am definitely taking: “If You Knew You Couldn’t Fail!” taught by professional life coach Lou Cator Henry.

Special Interests—The biggest category by far, about 45 classes. This is my downfall, this section, because there are so many choices, and I have so little time! About 15 of the classes excite me here, but at least I will check out “Stay Young to 100” for obvious reasons, and “Peanuts & Peanut Brittle”—learning to make this treat in the microwave has piqued my interest.

Travel—This is your final category, filled with visions of faraway places and even a class called “Hooked on Travel: Short & Inexpensive Trips”—the only kind for me in this year of economic stress.

So, I called my 70-something friend, Pat and asked, “What did you sign up for?”

“Well, of course, the trip to Taliesin,” she answered. Yes, they also have trips—usually day trips, but sometimes longer, like the trip to Springfield Sept. 16-18.

Since I love Frank Lloyd Wright, the trip to Taliesin (his private estate in Spring Green, Wis.) is a must. It also includes a tour of the First Unitarian Society Meeting House, another Wright masterpiece. These trips always include transportation, free time to walk around, and lunch in the area. I love lunch.

OK, so now the problem is: how do I fit all of the classes into my crazy schedule? Unlike many of my friends, I have three “regular” jobs, along with any free-lance work I do and the books I’m writing.

I ask Hubby, “How do I fit this all in?”

“In pencil,” he replies, logically, “then if something overlaps, you just…” He mimes erasing something out of an imaginary book.

He’s right, naturally—as long as I give them 24 hours, I can withdraw or change my CLR enrollment to another class.

“But do I really have time for all of this?” I wondered, feeling a bit guilty. “After all, most of this stuff is strictly for my personal edification. I probably won’t ever use any of it!”

“Isn’t that the point?” he asks. “I thought this was for your brain, keeping it sharp and all.”

On my drive over to CLR, you may have heard me singing along to Grace Slick:

“Remember what the dormouse said: Feed your Head! Feed your Head!”

For a CLR catalog or questions, contact the CLR at (815) 921-3931.

Kathleen D. Tresemer can be contacted by e-mail at

From the September 9-15, 2009 issue

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