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We Tried The Great Courses Plus. Here's What Happened

My daughter Celia is an insatiable student, so this past year has been difficult. After her virtual high school graduation last May, she's skipping her freshman year and heading to college when things are safer.

But ironically, she was wasting hundreds and hundreds of hours scrolling on her phone: TikTok, Twitter, Instagram - you name it, she was on it and glued to the screen. I was concerned. She's not a kid anymore - I can't take away her screens. So we chatted about how to take advantage of this gap year and keep expanding her knowledge.

Celia wants to learn casually, with no homework, no tests, no stress. With all the required classes, she never had the luxury of exploring subjects she was simply curious about. So I did a quick search and discovered The Great Courses Plus.

This online learning platform streams over 700 online audio and video courses ranging from baking bread to Photoshop techniques to Scientific America's Mind-blowing Science! Great Courses also partners with National Geographic, Smithsonian, History®, and other exceptional providers of exclusive content.

While I was intrigued by how diverse the courses are, I felt compelled to check the lecturers' credentials. I was truly impressed because The Great Courses Plus instructors are masters of their disciplines and eager to share that knowledge.

Wow. This is screen time I could live with! The Great Courses Plus seemed like a fantastic, ongoing learning experience for Celia and me. If she was into it I'd support it. So, I took advantage of their free trial and was blown away by the breadth and depth of topics covered with access to thousands of hours across a ton of categories!

I clicked on a recent release and was instantly riveted by Unsung Heroes of WWII. Led by renowned historical author Lynne Olson, she shares stories of individuals who changed the course of history - but who history had erased. Professor Olson's so filled with passion for her subject it feels like a fascinating conversation. I had to admit I liked it, a lot.

Because the courses are typically extensive - 18 to 24 hours - I questioned if it could capture and retain my TikTok teen's attention. But Celia found countless shorter courses - some only a few minutes long. And when she sampled a class delivered by celebrated memoirist Joyce Maynard called Writing Your Story, Maynard's brief lectures and writing tips ignited a real writing streak.

The Great Courses Plus is so convenient in that their learning videos can be streamed across a myriad of devices. I use my desktop and Celia will download a program to her phone. Sometimes we use our television when there's a course that we both like. What I really don't miss are those pesky ads disrupting our viewing.

And since there are no time limits or pressure to complete a course, we can watch at our own pace and interest - switching in and out of a series at liberty. Plus, Great Courses constantly adds new titles, so we'll never run out of fresh topics to explore. And once Celia goes to university, I can cancel anytime, but I highly doubt I'll want to.

Free trials are great, but I worried that content this good would be beyond my budget. However, I was pleasantly surprised that membership plans range from $45 to $150 for 3, 6, or 12-month memberships. That works for me! It only made sense to sign-up for The Great Courses' spectacular library.

Lately, I've been taking Professor Dawn Pierce's How To Sing and I've been belting out Broadway tunes and playing the piano again which makes me so happy.

As for Celia, she moved on from writing her own life story to learning the nuts and bolts of English grammar and practical usage with Professor Anne Curzan's English Language Bootcamp. Next up is Language and the Mind, and I might have to join her for that one.

What an exceptional way to unwind after a long day of work. Instead of watching mindless TV, with The Great Courses I'm learning, she's learning, we're having fun learning the subjects that we love!

Check out all of the amazing courses offered on The Great Courses Plus! Follow this link and choose from a 3, 6 or 12-month subscription!

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