Now, hear me out. I know that home schooling, and home schooling curriculum can illicit some pretty strong reactions in people. If you hate Saxon math then please feel free to disregard this post. I, in no way, desire to convert the world to Saxon curriculum. I plan on discussing all my curriculum choices over the last nine years and just decided to start with math because it is the only subject where I have used the same curriculum throughout.
While I, obviously, prefer Saxon math, I do not think it is perfect, nor do I think it is the best choice for everyone. I’m simply going to share with you why I use it, because it has helped me in the past when others have shared with me their reviews for curriculum. So, here we go.
First, it is important that you know that my mother is a math teacher. She has taught almost every grade, but has spent the majority of her time as a high school math teacher. Also, math is one of my stronger subjects, so not only do I usually easily understand it, but I have great back up when I don’t. ex: “Call Tamtam. She’ll help you.”
All four of my children have grown up on Saxon math. They are all very different, but have equally benefited from from this curriculum. Here’s what I like about it:
- Every lesson combines problems from previous lessons. This means that my children aren’t just doing problems that practice the concept learned that day, but are also doing problems from previous concepts. Each lesson has anywhere from 25-30 Lesson Problems in it. Joshua, who is doing Algebra 2, does all the problems because he needs the practice. Isaac (Saxon 76) and Micaiah (Saxon 54) only do half of the problems. If it is an odd lesson they do the odd problems, if it is an even lesson they do the even problems. They don’t need the practice of all 30 problems, and tend to focus better because the work feels lighter.
2. Each lesson introduces 1-3 new concepts and then has up to 20 (though usually less than 10) practice problems that deal specifically with the new concepts before the Lesson Problems begin. Joshua and Isaac read the lesson themselves and then do the practice problems. I grade the practice problems before they are allowed to go on to the Lesson Problems so I can make sure they are understanding the concepts. This is one way we practice independent learning. Micaiah reads the lesson out loud to me and we then do the practice problems together before she completes the Lesson Problems on her own.
3. Saxon has a workbook that is filled with timed tests and special worksheets for some of the lessons. The timed tests are for math facts practice and I believe they have contributed to my children’s ability to memorize basic math facts. There is a timed test to go with each lesson until they begin Algebra. They practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, reducing fractions, and turning improper fractions to mixed numbers.
4. If you don’t have a math teaching grandmother for your children, Saxon does offer DVDs where the concepts are taught. Simply google Saxon Math DVDs and you’ll find lots of options. I have never used these, though, so I can’t vouch for them.
5. I have used Saxon math through Geometry. (Caleb is doing Trig online this year) and while I like the upper level maths, I really like the elementary Saxon Math. We purchased the Saxon Math Manipulatives Kit and it really helped my children grasp the concepts when they were younger. The manipulatives kit is meant for use from kindergarten to 3rd grade, and it helps to make many of the abstract concepts tangible for kids. The teacher’s guide literally gives you a script for the lessons, which I rarely used, but some might find helpful.
Now for the things I don’t particularly love:
- Saxon teaches some concepts in a way that I believe is harder than necessary. I simply show my children another way to solve the problem and then they determine which is easiest for them to understand.
2. When learning multiplication facts, Saxon groups the facts differently than I prefer. I think we have plenty of brain space to simply memorize the facts, and so I prefer simply learning the facts in number families. EX: learning all the multiples of 1, then 2, then 3 and so on. Saxon teaches some facts grouped as “doubles” ex: all the squares (1×1, 2×2, 3×3), then teaches the group “doubles plus one” ex: a number times the number directly after it. (1×2, 2×3, 3×4) You are supposed to double the smaller number and then add 1 to it. I think most of the others are grouped in number families. This really us just another example of #1 above.
3. Saxon is still very plain looking. Everything is in black and white and the only pictures are functional. ex: shapes and money. This isn’t a huge deal for me at all, and will never keep me from using the curriculum, but I know that my kids would enjoy it more if it was more appealing to look at.
Well, there you have it. I think Saxon math is very reasonably priced for how comprehensive it is, and I really do think that practicing a range of concepts each lesson is valuable, as well as being strong in basic math facts. Saxon math really has done most of the work for me, and has been adaptable to my four children’s differing learning styles.
Have you eve tried Saxon math? Do you use something different?