When I first started homeschooling JT, I could check his work without the use of answer keys. I very rarely needed to even use a calculator for the math he was doing. As the boys have moved further along in their studies I started needing occasional help from the answer keys. Most of the time, it was only a matter of convenience. I just didn't feel like doing the math for 30 long division problems.
But now we have a dilemma. Occasionally we are working on something where I don't know the answer AND I don't have an answer key! JT is using an older English textbook for grammar this year. It was published in 1984. I picked it up in the free pile at our public library. Yesterday I asked him to work on an exercise to place quotation marks in sentences correctly. When he was finished, I realized I wasn't 100% sure about the answer for one of the sentences. This was quickly remedied when I read the instruction section of that lesson. However, it opened my eyes to a larger problem. Will I need to buy materials that come with answer keys from now on?
I have enjoyed the freedom of picking up books from various sources; discard piles at the library, yard sales, used book stores. Up until now, I hadn't thought about what would happen when we ran into material that wasn't second nature for me. I always assumed my husband could conquer any math problems we ran into. (He WAS a math major in college for a bit, after all.) But what about the other subjects? Should I have to learn everything my children are learning and master it well enough to be able to find their mistakes?
This brought on a whole new line of thought for me...If I, as an adult, haven't needed to know the things I am expecting them to learn...do they really need these skills? Should I instead be focusing more on things they are passionate about? Obviously, I want them to develop their communication skills. A quick refresher course on grammar rules I haven't thought about in 25 years should be sufficient for those matters. But what about the names of the presidents or the capitals of the states or names of the Canadian provinces? Most of this information can be found quickly on the internet. Is there REALLY a need to memorize such easily accessible facts in our modern world? You could argue that the act of memorization, no matter the content being memorized, is a good exercise in and of itself. But what if I can tie that skill into something they love and might really need someday?
I am reading a book right now called The Element by Ken Robinson, Ph.D. Here is an excerpt from a review, quoted on Amazon, by Publishers Weekly:
Robinson (Out of Our Minds), renowned in the areas of creativity development, innovation and human resources, tackles the challenge of determining and pursuing work that is aligned with individual talents and passions to achieve well-being and success. The element is what he identifies as the point where the activities individuals enjoy and are naturally good at come together.
I am looking at how this challenge applies in homeschooling my boys. I want to find their passion and help them develop it in a way that they will succeed in whatever they are best suited to do. Unless their goal in life is to someday make it big on Jeopardy! I think they can live without knowing loads of trivial facts.
My new question will be have to be, where do the long accepted standards of education fit into the goal of finding The Element for each of my children?