Monday, October 4, 2010

Saxon Math Shortcuts

Because a couple of you asked me to share how we do Saxon Math....

We chose Saxon math because it was recommended to us by a homeschool family we really like and respect.  Both parents hold biology degrees (and possibly others) and said that Saxon isn't a frilly math program but it teaches math well.  They didn't gloss over the fact that it includes lots of drills.  Boy, does it ever.

Jamey majored in biology.  I did not.  The highest level of math I completed was College Math (it was required at the liberal arts school I attended) and there I stopped.  That worked out just fine for me.  I became a social worker and then a stay at home mom (which I remain) and I've needed nothing more than College Math.  We don't know what our kids will aspire to, so...we decided to drill the bejeebies out of them.

If you completed everything the Saxon folks tell you to complete each day, I believe Math would take well over an hour.  And that's if you have a math-loving, super-cooperative, never-complaining student.  I just couldn't handle the thought, so I've pared it down a bit.  I continue with this method because it's working for us.  Sam is at grade level and usually only gets a problem or two wrong on his assessments.  This may not work for everyone.

I'll begin with the behemoth that is the teacher's manual.  For third grade home education, the book is 843 pages.  I told you it was behemoth.  There is no way I was going to lug this big book out onto the table every day, so the first year we used Saxon, two years ago (we're starting our 3rd year), I began writing cliff notes for myself.  I would sit down with the huge teacher's book and make my own notes to work from (maybe 4 weeks at a time).  I don't include all the things they include for each day (time, temperature, counting coins, etc.).  Instead, one day I include time, the next day temperature, the next day counting coins, etc.  One a day, instead of 47.  Okay, there really aren't 47, but it feels that way.

Our math binder.

I also include in my cliff notes the bare minimum instruction I will need to teach him the skill for that day.  I can fit several pages of their instructions onto less than ten lines of notebook paper.  This is much more manageable.

 It only matters that I understand this chicken scratch and odd abbreviations, so I'm not very careful about my note taking.

I do always include the pattern and the word problems- those I write out on a wipe board each day (actually the day before while Sam is doing his worksheets and I'm sitting hawk-eyed to make sure he stays on task).  I do this instead of using their suggested "Meeting Strips".

The fact sheets are great ways of practicing math problems.  If I've just introduced a new skill, I ask Sam to complete the whole sheet.  Once he's mastered it or if it's a fact sheet full of review problems, I mark just the top two or three lines for him to complete.  If he has trouble with that, I add another line or two until I'm sure he gets it.

Fact sheets on the left, practice sheets on the right.

When it comes to the additional practice sheets (the lovely two-sided worksheets), we only ever look at/do the first side and I circle only 3-5 of the problems for him to complete on the page.  I circle the items I know he needs more practice on or if it's an item he hasn't looked at/worked on in awhile.

So, that's how we do Saxon math.  It makes it more manageable for Sam and for me.  I'm not sure I'm sold on Saxon forever, but for now, I feel really good about the foundation it's laying.
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  1. i love saxon. i have only used it in a regular school classroom.

    one of the best things i learned from another teacher was to take my ginormous spirally bound manuals for each subject to kinkos and have them cut off the spiral and three hole punch them. then each week i would just pull that week's lessons and put then in my weekly binder for teaching. it was a lot less to lug around.

  2. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions! These suggestions back up some of the things I had been wondering about and some suggestions that another friend who uses saxon had also recommended. I especially like the ideas about the wipe off board instead of the meeting strips and spreading out the "meeting" instructions over the week. Thanks again!

  3. We use Singapore Math and have for five years now. I've kept it up with three of my four kids so far. They don't have as many drills as Saxon but I found that it is mainly in Level one that my kids need more drills. The assignments in the older levels are detailed enough to keep them plenty busy! It certainly helps to stick with the same curriculum for each child - although I know some feel a certain curriculum that works for one child doesn't work for another.

    Anyway, it looks like Saxon is working for you! Great idea about the note taking. I am still working on my preparation skills! :) Often I just am learning the lesson right along with them!

  4. I used Saxon during my elementary years in a public school! I really enjoyed them, and I can see how they would be great for homeschooled students!! As I am hoping to homeschool my own students some day, I am very thankful you chose to post on this topic! Thanks so much!

  5. Hi - A friend of mine who has met you before recommended your blog a while back. I finally signed up and am really enjoying it! Anyway, this was comforting to read. We did Saxon K last year and the jump to Saxon 1 has been like going from P.E. class into the Olympics (well, sort of). I'm glad to see someone else who has taken a few reasonable shortcuts, and you've given me a couple new ideas. Thanks!
    -Greenacresmama @

  6. We use Singapore. I have heard so many differing opinions on Math, it is a tough subject to feel confidant about. You seem to have your system down, and IMO that is half the battle! (The other half, of coarse, lies in the student, lol.)

  7. My oldest daughter started homeschooling with Saxon math. At the time, she had some serious attention issues and we found that we would end our lessons in tears. By the time we got to the end of our 'review' activities, I had lost her. The next year we moved to Horizon math, which still provides a firm foundation, but is less repetetive. My second daughter whizzed through the Horizon curriculum 'for fun' in just over three months and enjoyed Saxon as well.

    Now both of them are on our 'unschooling' program of worksheets, games, life application, and drills due to their different personalities and giftedness.

    It is crazy how different kids learn using different methods and at different speeds. Kinda makes teaching them all a challenge, don't you think? My greatest challenge is to get them passionate about learning, and realizing what a joy it is to learn new skills and not a chore. I've seen too many kids that think learning is like a job that you clock in when you enter school and clock out when you walk out the door, shutting off learning until the next morning. They miss out on so many blessed opportunities to learn new things that God places before us daily.

  8. I love Saxon. My son attends a Christian school where the kids go to school a few days a week and are then homeschooled the other days. The school supplies all the lesson plans for the homeschooling so that they correspond with the lessons at school. Although my son is is 1st grade, he also had Saxon in kindergarten and it has been working out very well for him. I, also, like how in the beginning it reviews some of the things from the year before.

  9. For those who find the Meeting Strip preparation time consuming, I have already prepared meeting strip replacement worksheets, for 2nd and 3rd grade on my website. I made them for my kids a few years ago, and they were a great time saver for me, and lots of other moms who have used them since. You can see samples here:


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