Yesterday I cracked open E.D. Hirsch's Dictionary of Cultural Literacy and started looking for entries about things we've covered so far in our explorations. I am loosely following the fantastic Well-Trained Mind and crafting a classical curriculum that suits our own purposes and literary tastes. For instance, if a child is dying to read six dragon novels a week because that's her current obsession, then we ensure there is ample time for her to read her dragon novels and maybe even watch a few dragon documentaries. If another is determined to write her own comic books, we make time for that, too. When little kids are passionate about something that's slightly more educational than boogers (not that their chemistry isn't interesting), it's wrong to prevent them from exploring that topic or activity. Isn't that one of your main reasons to homeschool? Plus you should always - always always - encourage them to use their imagination. Myths, legends, fantasy stories; they should all be part of a young child's upbringing. Sure, at some point they realize unicorns don't really exist. But we can still have fun making unicorn poop, right?
I digress. The point is, I've been following the Well-Trained Mind guide when it comes to the teaching of world history. We are now pretty much done with our first, basic survey of ancient history (from the ice age to the fall of Rome). So I took Hirsch's Dictionary and started looking for entries related to subjects we'd already covered, from the Bible to Ancient Egypt to Greek Mythology. I would say, "What, or who, were the Argonauts?" or "Why did Joseph's brothers hate him?" or "Who did Paris say was the most beautiful?" and lo, they knew the answers! They didn't remember every detail, of course (they are in the early primary grades, after all) but they remembered more than enough. More than me, at any rate. (I'm a terrible ignoramus. I mean, I'm a great ignoramus. I'm really really good at it.)
Anyway, you bet I was pleased. Flushed like a ripe peach I was - assuming peaches flush. Need to check the Dictionary of Mangled Metaphors. But you get the point.
I'm not saying this just to boast. Really, honest, I'm not. Rather, the whole reason for this post is that as I sat there, enjoying the literate fruit of my homeschooling efforts, I was struck by the fact that parents who send their kids to school don't get to see the pride and joy in their children's faces when the kids realize they know why Achilles was killed despite being mostly immortal, why Joseph was sprung from prison by the Pharaoh, what it means to cross the Rubicon, where they found King Tut's tomb, and - better yet - take pleasure in knowing they know the answer.
Homeschooling is a lot of work. Going through that survey of ancient history took us the better part of a year (because math, grammar, social studies, and dinosaurs). But wow, is it ever worth it.