September is the time we often consider learning a new skill. It’s probably deeply ingrained within us, from years of schooling where September is traditionally the time for a new start, a new term and new knowledge. But as an adult, it’s not always easy to know how to choose a new evening class, or start learning a new hobby. So to help you choose your adult learning course, we thought we’d put together some general top tips for choosing a gardening or garden design course in the Autumn (in fact you could apply these to any horticultural classes).
Check Out The Teacher! The most important thing to understand when choosing a gardening course is a little bit about the teacher. Remember back to your days at school? You had the most fun, and probably did best at, subjects that were taught by teachers who had excellent credentials, AND you liked them. A good teacher or school, will also be happy to answer questions before you start the course.
Ask Other Students. As with taking other courses, alumni students will tell you truth about their learning experiences. And horticultural courses are no exception. A really good test of whether a course is going to give you what you want is to ask someone who’s already done it.
Don’t be restricted by Geography or Transport. Our natural instinct when looking for a gardening course is probably to look in our local small ads, or local paper for evening classes, as this is traditionally how adult education has been advertised. This however limits you to the teaching talents of people within a 20 mile radius of your home probably. Whereas in fact, gardening experts and horticulturalists, by their very nature, are often located rurally or travel a lot to far corners of the world.
Don’t be confused by the term ‘distance learning’. Perhaps if you’re a little more adventurous you might do a search on google for distance learning gardening courses. Traditionally distance learning you think of as kind of dry and isolating, with lots of stuff to learn that you get sent through the post. (MyGardenSchool is only classified as distance learning in its broadest term. In that distance is no object. But you get all the benefits of a local adult education course – because you meet the students, and interact with your tutor in the ‘virtual classroom’.) So be open to distance learning gardening courses – but make sure you check they’re not just postal correspondence courses which are usually pretty hard going. (in fact statistically most people don't ever complete their distance learning courses).
Know Your Own Objectives Do you know what you want to achieve before you sign up to your course? This is helpful to your teacher, whether you’re doing a beginners grow your own course, or a professional garden design course, or learning a new skill like beekeeping or henkeeping. It also helps if they know if you have any previous knowledge of the course you're studying (at MyGardenSchool we encourage people to share this in the ‘virtual classroom’ right at the beginning of each course.)
Understand how much of your time it will take Remember you’re doing this because it’s fun, enriching, a learning experience and sometimes life-changing. The last thing you want to do is join a course that becomes a burden, because you don’t have the time to do what’s required. In fact, virtual learning is very flexible, as it’s geared up to suit you any time zone. But it’s a good idea to be clear about what commitment’s needed before you start.
Enjoy it! And ask the teacher as many questions as you like. At MyGardenSchool we are lucky enough to have attracted the best gardening teachers in the world. So don’t be shy – just make the most of the four weeks you spend with them! And wherever you choose to study – it’s a good idea to ask as much as you can. And interact with the class. The more you interact the more you learn!