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The 10 best back-to-school classes for adults in Chicago

Annalise Mantz
Written by
Annalise Mantz

Like a melting ice cream cone or sand castle on the beach, summer slips away all too quickly. It’s a fact of life that rings especially true for school children dreading the return of algebra, spelling tests and cafeteria lunches.

As an adult, though, there’s something nostalgic about back-to-school season. Remember how exciting it was to walk into school with a new backpack stuffed with No. 2 pencils, pristine notebooks and the coolest Lisa Frank folders? Its enough to put a smile on any adult’s face.

Learning doesn’t have to end just because you're all grown up. Get inspired by the back-to-school spirit and sign up for one of these Chicago classes for adults. Whether you’re curious about digital photography, want to learn horseback riding or need to add some new skills to your resume, we’ve got you covered.

Knife Skills Plus at The Chopping Block Lincoln Square
Any professional chef will tell you that the craft comes down to your knife skills. Without the ability to properly slice, dice, mince and chop, you won’t be able to cook gourmet dishes. This three-hour cooking class will teach you how to successfully clean and cut a wide variety of produce, so you’re ready to make everything from fresh salsa to ratatouille.

Painting and Drawing Intensive at the Art Institute of Chicago
Happiest with a paintbrush or sketchbook in hand? You’ll want to sign up for this weeklong intensive to really hone your craft. The curriculum uses a multidisciplinary approach to bridge the gap between painting and drawing. In addition to plenty of studio time, this course includes opportunities to experiment with nontraditional materials, critiques with your instructor, museum visits and other field trips.

Basic Ballet at Lou Conte Dance Studio
Who says adults can’t wear tutus? Budding ballerinas and ballerinos will want to sign up for the 90-minute beginners’ class at Lou Conte Dance Studio. It covers all the ballet terminology you’ll need to know, from adagio to port de bras, and allows you to practice both at the barre and in center. You can practically hear the crowd shouting “brava, bravissima!”

Fun and Easy Tarot at Discovery Center
This isn’t your grandmother’s deck of cards. Some believe that the Major and Minor Arcana cards in tarot deck can predict the future. Discover the history behind tarot and find out how to divine a reading yourself in this three-hour lesson. Who knows? You might just be surprised by what the cards have to tell you.

Coding 101: HTML and CSS at General Assembly
Want to give your career a boost but don’t have time to go back to school full time? Sign up for one of the short sessions at General Assembly, a school dedicated to education in business, coding and other technical skills. The two-hour introduction to HTML, CSS and Javascript is a good place to start, but more ambitious students might want to look into the daylong bootcamps in User Experience Design and Digital Marketing.

Digital Photography 101 for Beginners at Chicago Photography Academy
Shutter speed, ISO, white balance, depth of field, metering: It sounds like a whole lot of jargon if you’re not already familiar with photography. Learn how to get out of auto mode and start taking more visually interesting photos in this introductory class. Once you learn the terminology and master the basics, you’ll be able to shoot stunning images on any DSLR camera.

Fresh Pasta-Making, Hands-On at La Scuola at Eataly Chicago
As if the filled-to-order cannoli bar and the enormous selection of imported cheese weren’t enough, Eataly also offers cooking classes to make visiting the Italian megamarket that much more fun. This La Scuola dinner class focuses on the art of tender, hand-rolled pasta. After you try your hand at shaping the dough, you’ll feast on a three-course meal paired with complimentary wines.

Fall Garden Care at the Chicago Botanic Garden
Attention plant parents: You don’t have to give up on your botanical babies as soon as cold weather sweeps into town. Join this class taught by the Chicago Botanic Garden’s director of horticulture to find out how you can keep your trees, shrubs and perennials alive through winter. Your garden will thank you.

Beginning Sign Language at Northeastern Illinois University Community and Professional Education
Some estimate that 500,000 people in the U.S. use American Sign Language; others say that number is actually closer to 2 million. Regardless, ASL is one of the most widely used languages in the country. Become proficient in signing through this six-week class at Northeastern Illinois University’s school for community education.

Horseback Riding for Beginners at Discovery Center
Your dreams of riding off into the sunset could be one step closer to reality after taking this beginners’ riding class. Practice basic horsemanship including equipment, tacking, mounting, trotting and halting in an indoor arena. By the end of the class, you will feel comfortable on horseback and have a newfound appreciation for cowboys. Giddy up!

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