As this is the time of year where homeschooling families (potential or continuing) are thinking about and researching curriculum options for next school year, I thought I’d reflect on what I like about what I’ve used this year, starting with Math. I’m a newbie as this is only my first year, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot about what works for us, and what doesn’t.
When I was researching last year, I had read many accounts that Saxon is “dry and boring’. Because of these testimonies, I pretty much dismissed it out of hand from the get-go. I certainly didn’t want to do something boring if I was going to have a go this homeschooling thing and could do anything I wanted.
However, when I started polling my homeschooling Mom friends, it seemed liked each one I asked was doing Saxon. Finally, I talked to one person more in depth and she sold me on it. This is why.
It’s the same format every lesson.
Each lesson starts with practice of basic number facts and mental math. These exercises help to improve speed and accuracy. The lesson continues with an explanation of the concept with some examples. Next, there is a set of practice problems and then the problem set.
The problem set is always 30 questions. It’s a mix of problems from that day’s lesson, as well as from prior lessons, thus building knowledge, incrementally and by review.
I like that it’s predictable. We know what to expect every day. We can have a routine that is simple and that Big D can take the lead on, giving him more independence.
The progression is very logical.
This is one of the things that made me crazy about public school. The order in which they taught math and how much they jumped around just didn’t make sense to me. They didn’t seem to build knowledge, but instead just jumped from one required concept to another.
Saxon’s incremental way of teaching is great at building knowledge. Yes, there is a lot of repetition, but that’s what makes it work. Previous concepts are reviewed in subsequent lessons and if you haven’t mastered something, it will show up in your work.
At one point, at the beginning of the year, we had to stop for about two weeks because Big D felt it was “too hard”. That wasn’t actually the problem. The problem was that he didn’t know his multiplication facts well enough, so he would stumble. We stopped the lessons to focus on learning his basic math facts once again. We used the Facts Practice sheets in the Tests Masters booklet. Once he had mastered those again, he flew through the next concepts with much more confidence.
Repetition and practice are the keys to mastering anything.
There is a test after every 5th lesson.
I love having this easy and concrete way to measure progress. It was also a great way to test knowledge when we started skipping ahead because Big D was getting bored and insisting that he “already knew this”. He simply took the test and if he did well, we didn’t worry about those lessons.
There are bonus problems in the back!
We were over halfway through the textbook before I discovered the bonus problems in the back! Further, at least two of my homeschooling friends (one of which has been using Saxon for YEARS!) had no idea these were back there either. There were so many times that I wished that more practice problems for a lesson had been given and this is what that is! More practice for particular lessons when new concepts are introduced.
How We Do Saxon Math in Our House
- We only did the Facts Practice at the beginning of the year to refresh, but after a while, we dropped it. It became too much for a daily lesson for us. Unless, of course, you have a kid who either needs the practice or simply loves math and working math problems! Or maybe they liked to be timed and see how fast they can solve their facts!
- We do the mental math and lesson practice problems together.
- Big D does the main lesson on his own, but usually only either evens or odds, not all thirty problems.
- Sometimes instead of doing a lesson, he will do 15 or so of the bonus problems in the back for extra practice of a particular concept.
- I check his answers and we go over together the ones that he did incorrectly.
- Big D takes the tests every 5th lesson, both to make sure he’s mastered the concepts and for grading purposes. I don’t really focus on grades, but it’s there if I need it.
Make It Your Own – The Beauty of Homeschooling!
I admit that math is Big D’s most hated subject, so we do it first thing to get it over with. We don’t do all the problems because he grumbles and usually does well enough that I can see he understands the concepts.
I know another family however who complete two lessons a day, all the problems, and as a result is finished with a grade’s worth of math in just over a semester. They’ve moved onto next year’s book already. Her kids love math and this works great for them. This, of course, is the beauty of homeschooling. Find what works best for you!
Saxon is quite popular among homeschoolers, so easy to find second hand. I was able to find the student textbook/answer booklet/tests and worksheets booklet for Math 6/5 (5th grade), all for $30. It was an older version, but just the same I’m sure. I just put it out there on local homeschooling facebook page what I was looking for and found someone who was selling it. You can read reviews on Amazon or on Cathy Duffy’s website where she reviews all sorts of homeschool curriculum.
And while I plan to use Saxon for next year, I’m always open to arguments for something better. I just haven’t heard one yet. Maybe you have a suggestion?