An Education at the Museum

I have read stories about teenagers who’ve dropped out of school and into the world, in order to obtain a real education. They spent their days, not at home behind a desk, but out and about, visiting places of interest such as museums and galleries… seeing the world.  And I’ve always thought, “What a wonderful way to get an education!”

But we don’t have any museums and art galleries close to where we live. An education at the museum isn’t an option for us. Or so I thought.

Then last Saturday I made a sudden decision: we were going to Canberra for three days. We were going to sample the galleries and museums of the city. The girls got very excited. They couldn’t wait. I couldn’t wait either. On Tuesday morning we were all up early and before 7.30 am we were sailing along the freeway towards our nation’s capital city.

For three days we walked up and down and around buildings stuffed with interesting information. We had a day at Questacon, a hands-on science centre. We touched and pulled and banged and looked and read and thought and listened and absorbed and discussed and walked some more… until we were thoroughly exhausted. The girls even dropped down a 6m slide to experience
zero gravity.

After picking herself up from the floor, Gemma-Rose said (in a very loud voice), “It’s a good thing you didn’t try that, Mum. It was very scary. You wouldn’t have liked it.” She was probably right.

On our second day in Canberra, we headed to the National Museum of Australia. This time we read and looked and discussed, and tried not to set off the alarms. We kept forgetting we shouldn’t get too close to the exhibits. 

The girls found plenty to tell me about:

“Did you see Jeannie Gunn’s journal, Mum? And her writing desk? That’s where she wrote We of the Never-Never.”

“Did you see St Mary McKillop’s rosary beads and crucifix? It looks like a lot of people have taken bits of her handkerchief as relics.”

“I saw the typewriter Elyne Mitchell used when she wrote the Brumby books.”

“Can you imagine wearing those convict sandals? Do you want to try on this ball and chain?”

“Can you imagine what it would feel like to have your children taken away and never see them again?”

Yes, we left the museum with lots to think about, and it was fascinating seeing actual objects we’d previously only ever read about.

On our final day in Canberra, we visited the National Gallery of Art. By this time our feet were dragging a little as we plodded along yet more corridors. However, everyone was still very excited when we located one of Monet’s water lily paintings as well as one showing his haystacks. We saw a couple of Picassos but we weren’t impressed. (Perhaps we just don’t appreciate good art.)

Then we spotted some giant abstract paintings and Gemma-Rose declared (very loudly) that she could paint some equally as good. (We definitely don’t understand some forms of art. Maybe we should do some reading!)

But we all loved the Australian landscapes painted by such people as McCubbins, Roberts, Streeton and Conder. We definitely want to add images of these artists’ paintings to our jigsaw puzzle maker.

Andy and I watched as the girls absorbed everything on display in the museums.

“Wouldn’t it be lovely to live near all these museums and galleries?”

“The girls would get such a wonderful education if we lived in the city.”

“Do you think we ought to move to Canberra?”

In three days we travelled the world of science and history and geography and art. We covered so much of the N.S.W school curriculum in such a short time. If I was worried about satisfying the homeschooling requirement, I might find this fact very interesting!

We drove home yesterday afternoon. As we left the freeway and headed up through the cutting towards our village, we began to feel
excited. It was lovely to go away but it was even nicer to come home. We pulled up on the driveway of our house, nestled close to the bush, and we realised we don’t really want to move to the city. This is the place we are meant to be.

We are home. We had a wonderful three days away. Our feet are still a bit sore but our heads are now bursting with knowledge. And we want to know even more. We are going to be doing a lot of further research over the next few weeks.

Even though we’ve changed our minds about moving to the city, we’d still like to experience another education at the museum. We want to visit the War Memorial and the Portrait Gallery and Parliament House, and even return to those places we visited only a few days ago. So we are planning another 3 day mini-holiday to the city, whenever we can afford it.

In the meantime, I am exploring the museum and gallery websites which are packed with information about their exhibitions currently on display.

And I am wondering about other museum and gallery websites. Could we visit the Louvre online? Maybe the British Museum?

The British Museum? This reminds me of a book Charlotte is reading: The History of the World in 100 Objects

A 100 part series by Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, exploring world history from two million years ago to the present.

There is a book, podcasts, a website… (I can’t guarantee all podcasts and objects are suitable for children, or in line with a Catholic way of thinking. You may like to preview them before offering them to your children. Or learn alongside them!)

A fascinating education at the British Museum…any museum. When was the last time you visited a museum, online or in real life?

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  1. Reply

    Sue, We did exactly what you suggested in your post. We visited the Lourve online, The musee d' oray and another art gallery in USA. I love the virual tours and it was great fun..
    We aren't great Picasso fand either. Degas – 250+ ballet paintings and Monet are definitely our favourite, but Cassett and Sisley are lovely as well. These were our favourites at the art galleries we visited.

  2. Reply


    Did you get to the Louvre while you were overseas? I've looked at online art galleries before and always enjoyed looking at the paintings. Maybe one day we'll get a chance to see some of our favourites in real life. I must explore the sites you mentioned.

    We also love Degas' ballet paintings, and Mary Cassett. We were looking at Georgia O'Keefe's paintings not too long ago. They are not among our favourites but we found them very interesting. How about Bruegel and Turner and Vermeer and Fra Angelico…? So many wonderful artists.

    Years ago, I remember watching an online virtual tour of the Tower of London which was very interesting. I haven't been able to find the site again. There must be so many gallery and museum type websites that we could explore.

    Thank you for your comment!

    1. Reply

      Sue we did get to the Lourve while we were in Paris. Its enormous, so we didn't actually enjoy it very much. I am writing our trip on my blog atm.
      I love virtual tours and google mapstaking you along streets. It certainly helps orientate you as you navigate foreign lands. Leanne

    2. Reply


      That's the problem with museums and galleries: They are so big. There is too much to see and absorb on one visit. I guess you wanted to cover as much as possible because you were only in Paris a short time. I shall look forward to reading more of your travel posts!

    • Vicky
    • September 29, 2012

    It sounds like you had a great time! We like to go to a museum in Sydney, a few times a year. It's tiring but everyone really enjoys it. They also like the train journey and seeing the harbour, but, like you, we are always happy to get back home where it's familiar, too.

    God bless, Sue:-)

    1. Reply


      Sometimes I think children enjoy the train trip more than the museum! Actually, Sophie and Gemma-Rose have never been on a train, so that really would be a highlight of travelling up to Sydney on a museum outing. But I think of that long journey…I don't cope well with long tiring days. Canberra in some ways was easier!

      God bless!

  3. Reply

    Hi Sue,
    the Paris muesums are actually REALLY boring!!! Although, Monet's waterlily rooms wer AWESOME and I probally was really upset and dissapointed when there was only 2 of the ballet paintings were showing and the painter (I forget his name!) had painted around 250-340 ballerians!!!!!!!
    Some of the places in Paris were so cool!!! Like some bridges are COVERED in (lucky) padlocks.
    Lots of love, Sararose xox

    1. Reply


      The problem with museums is they are so big and you need to hurry around them to see everything. I'd love to have a museum near us. We could then pop in and see a little at a time.

      I can just imagine how beautiful Money's water lilies are. Perhaps you are thinking of Degas' ballerinas. I love them too!

      Thank you for your comment!

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