Most simple pages with blog elements can easily be build with WordPress. WordPress is blog-centric – but it can be used as a simple CMS for the static content pages. Even webshops and the like can be built with WordPress – it’s only your imagination and understanding of the system restricting you.
But if you want to learn stuff the hard way, using WordPress is like jumping the fence at the lowest point.
About the short learning curve on WP – I’d say that only applies to people with intensive PHP knowledge.
If you set out to do everything for yourself from the ground up – which you should if you have the time – you will get to know PHP and get a chance to work with HTML and CSS in a more practical manner than what you do when creating simple templates.
I’m not saying that WP isn’t a great system – but if the point is learning how to cook, you dont go to a restaurant. :-)