The Tourist Curriculum

Once Upon A Time...

when The Handwringers had more small- to-medium sized children cuddling us and fewer elderly pets functioning as furry lap anchors, we devised an educational method we called The Tourist Curriculum.

It was built entirely around the idea that a successful day started with leaving the house by mid-afternoon, wended through a café or two and ended in a museum gift shop. Our theory was that meandering was intrinsically good - combining homeschooling’s four S’s: shambling, skimming, shopping and snacking - and any day where you left the house was going to have fewer toxic kitchen events.

Since then our children have grown as tall as our desire to sit is long and we feel duty-bound to inform you that someday, using this curriculum, you will be home alone using a laundry basket filled with long-abandoned stuffed toys as an ottoman, clicking refresh on your email, hoping for hourly contact with your far-flung kidlets. You’ll look down at your feet, because you can only see them at this angle, and there, because you took your tour guide role seriously, will be bears dressed as the Statue of Liberty, an ocean-worth of still-damp SeaWorld dolphins, a miner’s pan with fuzzy gold Velcro-able nuggets and you will cherish every day that you spent acquiring this pile of squishiness with your kids. For a moment, you will be the personification of melancholy. (You should prepare for this now by keeping an eye-dabbing, hand-embroidered handkerchief or roll of toilet paper by the computer.) Then, curious about the number of toys in the room but unable to bend over to count them, you will kick them across the room into a pile and discover that, even at the discounted rate of $5 a toy, you spent enough in gift shops over those childhood years to buy that tiny condominium in the complex where your beloved child now lives, and you will suddenly realize that maybe you and your homeschooling kids should have spent at least a few days at home.

Because here’s the real magic of The Tourist Curriculum: colonial history dioramas, animatronic dinosaurs, earthquake simulators and petting zoos—they all put you and your kids on the egalitarian side of the information. Unlike textbooks, worksheets, essay writing and tests, touring is a non-adversarial, non-hierarchical, everyone-on-the-same-side-of-the-glass experience, and that’s what homeschooling should be mostly about. Sure, you know more about driving, paying taxes, the dangers of electrical outlets and excessive carbohydrate consumption than your kids do, but what you want is for all of you to know the same thrill of learning. You want to be the prime demonstrator of this emotion, without getting all snooty about it.

So anytime you find yourself standing or snuggling next to your kids, every time your heads are at the same level, whenever you are marching in the same direction at roughly the same speed, tell yourself, “Homeschooling, I’m doing it right.

Then, one day, you won’t need to leave a cookie-crumb trail from their house to yours.