I’ve been discussing curriculum over the past few weeks, and the conversation has mostly been about Saxon Math. What I like, and don’t like has stirred some feedback, which I might add has been awesome! What I want to share with you today has more to do with using Saxon Math in a way that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Well, strategies that have helped us, at least. 🙂
My Personal Thoughts About Math In General
Well, to be honest, even though we love Saxon Math it’s not the end all be all for learning math in the early years. Quite frankly, there have been so many people who I’ve spoken with who didn’t use a math curriculum in the elementary years. And you know what? Their children excelled beautifully when it came to upper level math.
After speaking with these wild, and crazy homeschoolers, I’ve come to the conclusion that as long as you’re consistently working with your child’s math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), whatever curriculum you use, or don’t use, will be sufficient for the early years. Lots of people drill math facts, and then just have fun with math in the kitchen, in the garden, or outside with sidewalk chalk. However, if you don’t feel comfortable with approaching math without a curriculum, and you’re looking for something that uses the Classical Model, Saxon Math is your pick.
My Personal Recommendations
1) Starting early. Saxon K is so simple, and easy that a lot of people feel their four-year old can handle it just fine. And really many four-year olds can handle it fine, which is what we did for our oldest. This wasn’t a problem, but we did discover a problem over the years, as each year came to a close, my son had increasingly more difficulty completing the work. The problem wasn’t his comprehension, the problem was working the math. Simply stated, it was too much for his young body. Quite frankly, I came to the conclusion, he just wasn’t ready to move on.
My recommendation is to either wait until your child is actually Kindergarten age, or take a break if things get tough. This is what we had to do with my oldest last Fall. He started Saxon 5/4 (at age 8), and even though he understood the lessons, the work was just too much for him. He simply wasn’t ready. What did we do? I still wanted him to continue to practice the skill of working math, and to practice his facts. So he worked drill sheets, flash cards, and math worksheets. In January he started with Saxon 5/4, and we’ve seen a huge leap of maturity in him. He’s now capable of doing the work; big difference from last Fall. Parents, be watchful as the children grow when you start them early–it’s not a big deal to stop the work for a season!
2) Do the meetings! I know, last week I shared with you how tiresome the meetings are, but as a commenter pointed out they’re really important. I can see that now, after using Saxon Math for five full years. Do the meetings as much as you can, and if it’s still driving you nutty about half way through the year, simply do the meetings some of the week. I’ll also share that I had a friend who skipped the meetings all together, and she so very much regrets doing so. After a few years, she sees the need for those meetings. They’re there for a reason, so be consistent in completing them!
3) Bridging the gap. Last week I shared the difficulty we had moving from Saxon 3 to Saxon 5/4. Well, much of the problem was what I stated earlier, that he wasn’t ready for it. However, even for the child who is ready, the change in layout is a bit of a challenge (well, for us anyway). How I resolve this problem: as soon as my children are able to read, and write on their own I teach them how to do a portion of the meeting on their own. The calendar, and the meeting strip both give the child the opportunity to read the instructions, and then answer the problems. We then meet together to review their work in the meeting, and to complete the rest of it. In Saxon 3, I also teach my children how to time themselves with their fact sheets.
4) Teaching multiple children at different age levels. This hasn’t been a problem this year, but it was a problem last year. A commenter pointed this out, and I’m so glad she did, because it simply slipped my mind! None of my children are on the same level of mathematics, so most of their math lessons are completed separately. However, last year, with one child in Saxon 3, and the other in Saxon 1, I combined their math when I could. Usually that involved the meeting, and once my children learned to work the meeting on their own, that cut back on some of the time I had to spend with them individually. Honestly, Saxon Math can take some time if there are several children on different levels. My oldest is now working Saxon 5/4, so I meet with him twice a week to review his work (typically about thirty minutes). Math for my second child typically takes about 45 minutes to an hour, and my third takes about 20 minutes (he’s using Saxon K).
The best way I found to teach three different levels of Saxon efficiently was to have my older children work independently. My oldest (age 9) does the most independent work, while my second child (age 7) does partial independent work, and my third child (age 5) does no independent work.
What to keep in mind with elementary math.
- Good math skills can be taught without a curriculum, so if at the end of the day all we’ve completed are flash cards, and drilling some facts, it’s still a step in the right direction.
- If math lessons are taking longer than an hour to complete (not because of baby, and toddler needs), consider your child needs to slow it down a bit. Better to solidify your child’s foundational math skills now, than to have a frustrated child in advanced math later.
- What are we trying to accomplish in our math lessons? Are we trying to move along through a book, or are we trying to solidify foundational math skills? Let the book serve you, not the other way around.
This is our basic approach to Saxon Math, and it’s worked well for our family. Next week I’ll talk about reading: what we use, how we use it, and what happens when my child just isn’t getting it?
Do you use a math curriculum? How do you accomplish mathematics efficiently?
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