Literature Based Education – Math Part Deux

I thought I would pop in and give you an update on what we are doing for math.  If you remember from last time I told you how we used Math-U-See as our core, heavily supplemented with literature.  I mentioned at the end of my last post that we officially made the switch to Saxon so I thought I would give you a little overview of how we do things, which editions to buy, and when to deviate from the text.

  • Saxon K – Don’t bother.  You will cover everything in Saxon 1.
  • Saxon 1 – Saxon 3 – Expect to cover years 1-3 quickly, especially if you wait until your child is 7 or 8 to begin math formally.  There is a LOT of overlap with these three levels.  There is also a good amount of unnecessary busywork.  I don’t bother with the morning meeting, flash cards, number cards, etc.  My approach is very simple.  I sit down next to my child at the table with the workbook and the teacher’s manual.  I open up the teacher’s manual and give it a quick skim.  I always skip the “morning meeting” and everything else up to the new lesson.  I may or may not follow the script of the lesson, it entirely depends on the level of the child and the concept being taught.  I will usually follow the script with Spencer, not with Emma.  I spend as much time as is needed for them to understand, but if they don’t “get” it in 10 or 15 minutes (depending on their age) we put it away and come back to it another day.  We will go through the practice problems and one of the two worksheets together.  Then I have them do selected portions of the second worksheet on their own.  In Spencer’s case I continue to sit next to him and explain the problems since he’s not independently reading yet.  Emma was able to skip Saxon 3 entirely and transition seamlessly to Saxon 54.You can buy the teacher’s manual new or used from Ebay or the Saxon Homeschool website. You can get the worksheets new from those same places.
  • Saxon 54 – Calculus and Physics- Now is where it gets a little tricky.  At one point before John Saxon died (I don’t know the exact year) Saxon Math switched from Saxon Publishers to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Shortly after this change, they stopped selling the hardcover copies of the books to homeschoolers.  This did two things; first, it allowed for significant changes in the curriculum itself, and two, it increased the financial burden on homeschooling families.  All of a sudden text books that could have been used year after year and for multiple children could only be found in flimsy softcover manuals and consumable workbooks.  The excellent Saxon Math that earned an incredible reputation was gone and homeschoolers were exploited.  Thank you Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  So here are a few tips when purchasing your Saxon Math books.
      • It is VERY important that you buy anything above Saxon 3 USED.  The phrase “they just don’t make them like they used to” REALLY applies to Saxon Math.  For more information on which editions you should be looking for, go here, but in general you are pretty safe with a 2nd edition for everything but calculus (you want 1st).


    • Buy the SET.  When you are shopping look for the Saxon SET.  This will include a text book, a test booklet, and a homeschool/home study booklet.  You want to buy them at the same time because there are slight variations in the printings and you want the answers in the home study booklet to match the questions in the text and test booklet.  This is the best way to ensure that happens.
    • You do NOT need a teacher’s edition.
    • Once you get into algebra and up the set will have FOUR components instead of three.  Just something to keep an eye on.  If you are buying calculus and the Ebay listing only has three things, there is something missing.
  • When I teach Lucy and Emma (who are both using hardcover books) we still keep it very simple.  Just like with the younger grades, I sit next to them at the table, skim the lesson, and teach them the lesson.  I will read it out loud to them and have them work through the practice problems and help them when needed.  Depending on the lesson and how quickly they catch on, I will either assign them selections from the problem set or move on to the next lesson.  Saxon 54 and up does not have workbooks, so my girls will copy the problems and tests into a notebook.  Emma usually gets through one lesson in each sitting (she skipped 3rd grade math so we are taking it slow) while Lucy can get through three or four.  Occasionally we will skip a lesson if I think it’s stupid, but I can honestly say I haven’t found the Saxon to have NEARLY the amount of fuzzy math in it as there was in Math-U-See.
  • Unless your child needs extra help, don’t bother with Saxon 4 or Saxon 87.  They aren’t necessary.

There you have it.  I’ve been really happy with Saxon so far.  I’ve also heard some excellent things about Life of Fred.  I found a few copies of the higher level math at the library and have liked what I have seen (to be fair I’m hardly a good judge of what a good statistics book would be… maybe you can check that out for me, Dad).


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Tara says:

    We, too, use the old Saxon books. I’ve been using them for 12 years now, and I anticipate many more. :)


  2. Heather B says:

    Us too. We bought the whole Saxon series 12 or 13 years ago (starting with Saxon 1 and going through Physics) and we love the hardback versions. We have seven children and they are still going strong, with five of them using the books so far. Great informative post! We’ve found everything you said to be true as well.


  3. Mathematics says:

    It’s really a great and useful piece of info.

    I am glad that you simply shared this useful information with us.
    Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.


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