I have been homeschooling for 23 years. With four sons, I could see myself homeschooling until I was gray, leading field trips to the local fire station with the aid of my walker. The poetry lines of Robert Browning who penned, "Grow old with me... the best is yet to be," have always struck a hopeful chord in me. Since I have the "growing old" part down, I was interested in "the best is yet to be" part. That is when I purposed to design and lead KONOS History of the World tours to Europe as well as the US eastern seaboard for high schoolers that were working their way through or had completed any of the KONOS History of the World Series. What could be better than studying medieval times and then touring a medieval castle in England?
A Different Kind of Tour
Though organizing European tours had long been a desire of mine, I had too many pie plates spinning in the air to launch another project. Then one night while speaking to a local support group, I began sharing my idea with long time friend and passionate KONOS user, Lori Newmann. Lori had just returned from a tour of England that she had been invited to help fill up at the last minute. Even though she had enjoyed the tour, she lamented over what could have and should have been done differently. I knew Lori and I were on the same page when she complained about enjoying the quaint English town of Bath with its cobblestone and Roman ruins and then loading onto the tour bus to move down the highway to lunch at McDonald's, of all places!! The spell had been broken. "Why not crowd into the tiny but famous Sally Lunn Bakery in Bath and lunch with the local folk?" she asked. Imagine, someone else who even cared about what and where we ate! I knew Lori was a true kindred spirit. Like me, she wanted more than a tour. She wanted to immerse herself and her students in a culture and a country. A true KONOS mom, she wanted to experience everything!
The 5 E's of KONOS Travel
From that night Lori and I joined efforts to implement a unique type of tour that blended what I call the 5 E's of KONOS Travel... education, experience, entertainment, enjoyment, and evangelizing. We had difficulty finding tour companies to work within our expectations. First, most tour companies' waste precious time. We had high-energy students, and we intended to crowd as much into each day as was possible. Companies continued to tell us what we wanted was impossible, while we continued to tell them that it was not. Second, we were relentless in our blend of the 5 E's of KONOS Travel. As far as education went, I insisted on viewing 75 paintings that the students had learned about in London's National Gallery. It would be an intense, unforgettable three to four hours, but afterwards we would shift to enjoyment and experience mode having a spot of tea and scones, browsing Charing Cross Road for books (straight out of the film 84 Charing Cross Road), and purchasing Turkish delights a la The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and other goodies from world-famous department store Fortnum & Mason. After dinner at Sherlock Holmes Pub and a peek at Holmes' upper room, we would move to an evening of Shakespeare for entertainment. Every day was a shift from one of the 5 E's to another, giving balance and relief to the intensity of our trip.
Experiences Go Past Mere Viewing
Taking a gondola ride in Venice was so much more memorable than merely watching others ride in a gondola. Attending Easter mass in Venice's St. Mark's Cathedral and participating in the entire service gave Protestant students a first-hand view of the Catholic religion and ritual. A tour through the leather factory ended with a student style show. Walking through the Great Colosseum on a tour was not near as memorable as touring plus jousting with gladiators in full Roman regalia in the shadows of the Colosseum. The Roman Forum provided the perfect backdrop for Mark Antony, played by Rhett Hulcy, to shout to all passersby, "Friend, Romans, countrymen lend me you ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him," over the prostrate body of Julius Caesar played by fellow student Jim Caldwell. So much more can be captured and stored in those impressionable memory banks by interacting with a site rather than merely walking through it.
But not all sites require or invite physical interaction. Just standing before Michelangelo's David or the Sistine Chapel or Ghiberti's incredible Gates of Paradise in Florence was a moving, breathtaking experience in itself demanding interaction only with the eyes in your head and the emotions in your heart. Nevertheless, after viewing Ghiberti's golden Baptistery doors, students each gilded their own wooden angel at a local craftsmen shop. Their appreciation for the art of painting and sculpting tripled as they struggled to simply place gold foil on a small, pre-carved, wooden angel.
Study and Preparation Nets Appreciation
Appreciation is also birthed when students know the history behind what they will see. I remember the first time I saw Big Ben. I was 16 years old and a foreign exchange student to Northern Ireland. I was coming up the stairs from riding the tube, and there it was... Big Ben. I was awe stuck. I could not believe I was there in England standing under Big Ben. My awe was fired by all I had read and studied about English history, Parliament, and this symbol of London. All my reading had piqued my anticipation and desire to visit and absorb all of the British Isles I could in my stay.
But not all students start out with deep appreciation. In 2000, I was teaching my KONOS History of the World III: Renaissance and Reformation (yet to be published) for the fourth time. For sure my artist son, Rhett, was enthralled with all the art and music history, but one of my other students, Derek, the computer guru, constantly questioned how and why art or music would ever be of value to him. One could safely say that Derek had zero appreciation for art and music. I finally told him that I did not know of any young lady whose heart could be won by reading her a computer manual, and that if he ever planned to get married, he had better broaden his interests! Derek buckled down and passed all the tests, but I still did not see true passion or appreciation for art, until the day we walked into the National Gallery in London. Derek grabbed my arm and said, "Oh my, a Gainsborough! Mr. And Mrs. Andrews. I cannot believe it!" I smiled. Appreciation born out of study.
Evangelism as We Walk
Scripture tells us we are to always be ready to give an account of the hope that is within us. This is true no matter where we are. On our Italy trip, I gave all my students tracts written in Italian that allowed them to share the gospel even with a language barrier.
When students see adults modeling evangelism, they become bolder evangelist. At our first dinner in England, I asked our tour guide what his religion was. Everyone at our table about dropped their forks. He told me he really did not have a religion as such. He simply believed in what he could see, hear, and touch. "Oh, I see. You are just a materialist," I said as I passed the rolls to him. Nothing more was said, but the seed had been planted. At breakfast, Jo made it a point to sit by me and qualify his beliefs. "About last night... I believe in some intangible things as well," he began, "such as beauty. I love beautiful art and music. I guess it speaks to my soul." I nodded and agreed it had the same effect on me, but waited for the right opportunity to add anything more. It came after we had attended Evensong in Westminster Abbey. Sitting in the abbey where kings had been crowned for a 1,000 years and having the Scriptures along with the boys' choir music roll over us was like a piece of heaven. As we walked out, I put my arm in Jo's arm. He smiled and said, "Lovely, wasn't it?" "Yes," I agreed, "but fleeting." Jo and I have continued our dialogue through several European tours, and I know this man is wrestling with the Holy Spirit. My part is to be ready to give a testimony of the hope that is in me.
Yes indeed, our tours of Europe and the US eastern seaboard are slightly different from the average tourist trip, and I am oh, so glad they are.
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