Americans love the do-it-yourself ethic; that plucky self-reliance is an essential element of the national character. But there are many subjects and skills it's hard to teach yourself all on your own. Learning to knit from those over-and-under diagrams (where is that arrow going, anyway?) - forget about it. Or learning a language without hearing someone speak it - c'est difficile (say diff-ih-SEAL).
Remember that toy ukulele you had when you were a kid? The ukulele is a real instrument, not just a toy with plastic strings. It's less earnest than the guitar and easier to transport than a tuba. Sims Delaney-Potthoff of Madison's Harmonious Wail will be teaching Beginning and Continuing Ukulele this spring through UW-Madison Continuing Studies, starting March 7 (eight sessions, $115). See their website or call 608-262-2451 to register.
If you're looking to expand your general craftiness, consider Embroidery on Gourds. That's right, gourds. You'll make an embroidered gourd bowl, utilizing a tapestry needle and an awl. Bonnie Cox of the Illinois Gourd Society leads the workshop. She'll bring the gourds and other materials; you bring a scissors. You can do that much, after all. April 9, 9-11:15 a.m. at Olbrich Gardens; one session, $56/$45 member. See their website or call 608-246-4550 to register.
Do you need a new job?
Of course you do! The Union Mini-Course Exploring a Career as a Virtual Assistant with Jessica Maes will introduce you to what sounds like a sweet career being an administrative assistant...while working from your home! No office doughnuts, but then no office wing nuts, either. April 14, 7-9 p.m., at the UW Memorial Union; one session, $29.50.
Maybe your talents thrive in a more active, even dangerous environment. Murder, Mayhem and How to Be a Private Eye is an introduction to P.I. work by Kay Price, who's been a detective for 23 years. April 26, 7-9 p.m., at the UW Memorial Union; $24.50.
Another new one from Union Mini-Courses is Birding by Ear, which will teach participants what that whoot-whoot-whootoo sound in the woods is, or at the very least, what it isn't. May 7, 8:30-11:30 a.m., at the UW Memorial Union; $24.50.
You must be a Union Member to take a Union mini-course, but anyone can get an intro membership for $30. See their website or call 608-262-5771 to register.
New this spring from Madison School & Community Recreation is a class in Orienteering, which teaches map and compass navigation, useful skills in a world that has become perhaps too dependent on sometimes faulty Internet mapping programs. There are two three-class courses, one starting March 23, the other April 27, at Hoyt and Garner Parks; $36. See their website or call 608-204-3025 to register.
Practical classes are all well and good, but learning for the love of learning is one of the tenets of a liberal education. The enrichment class Survey of Polish Theater at MATC-downtown campus follows Polish theater from the 16th century to the contemporary avant-garde. Own up - you can't name one Polish play, can you? You need this class. It meets Wednesdays for six weeks, starting March 30, 6-8 p.m.; $43.29. See their website or call 608-258-2301 to register.