Math has always been my nemesis. I own too many math curricula out of fear that we don’t have the right one. I have always been adamant that Singapore was my favorite math program. In fact, I wrote an article about it for The Old Schoolhouse magazine. But recently, I had begun to notice that Bear wasn’t flourishing with Singapore and that it was becoming harder to get through math lessons without one of us becoming flustered. The problem stemmed from Singapore’s mastery based lessons. It appears Bear needs the review of a spiral curriculum. I talked to a friend about Saxon since she uses it. Then, Mary at Homegrown Learners blogged about Saxon. And then she blogged about it again. It’s not that I didn’t know about Saxon. It is, after all, what Classical Conversations and Veritas Press recommend. I had looked at it in the past; it just didn’t appeal to me. Too much repetition. I heard that it wasn’t good for advanced students – that the repetition got tedious.
But Mary’s son is bright at math and she loves it for him. And if she hadn’t blogged about it, I never would have decided to just buy it and try it to see if it alleviated our difficulties. It was providence that the day after Mary’s second post about Saxon, I saw a used copy of Saxon 5/4 (the level Bear tested into) for sale at an incredibly reasonable price.
The verdict? So far…good. Exactly as Mary said, the structure, the routine, the competitive edge of attempting to improve your timed score on the math facts daily, all serve to make this the “just right” program for Bear (for now!). I don’t regret our years in Singapore. In fact, I still love it the most of all math programs we have used. I am still starting J-jo off with Singapore. However, for now, Saxon seems to hit the sweet spot, or at least as much of a sweet spot as I can seem to find for this child who excels at math but does not prefer the subject. After all, it isn’t about which math program I think is best, but the math program which gives my child less stress.
We do have to adapt it. The lessons take Bear a very long time. She’s clever at math, but incredibly slow at it. She likely sits there composing stories in her head as she does math and it is probable that loose threads of story cause her to lose focus. (See photo above – what is she thinking about, I wonder? It isn’t her sum.) There is a timed 100 fact test every day. Bear is apt to daydream in the middle of these, or indeed even in between each question, so that something that should easily take 10 minutes since she knows these facts, can end up taking thirty. We do the timed facts tests every other day instead and she does 10 minutes worth. Some days, that means she finishes the sheet and others, she only gets three rows done.
Next, there are warm-up questions. After completing those, Bear then reads the lesson part to herself and asks me if she doesn’t understand something. Meanwhile, I am doing a reading lesson with J-jo. Once she has read the lesson, she does the practice questions alone and I check them before she goes on to Mixed Practice. Some days, I have her leave out questions from the Mixed Practice (Saxon does NOT recommend doing this, but I gauge Bear’s knowledge of the kinds of questions presented and reduce the amount of work she has to do by a couple questions. I especially do this if I know we have somewhere to be in the afternoon and won’t have all day to cope with the daydreaming. Another thing we’ve done is do the Facts test, the warm-up and the practice problems one day, and then do the Mixed Practice the next day. There are lots of problem solving questions in Saxon. I wasn’t expecting that and I am pleased with it and the constant review is impressive.
*I do know the daydreaming happens no matter what math curriculum we use. It isn’t because the math is too difficult, as some might propose. It happened even when I was giving her review from lower grades. The only thing that keeps her properly engaged in math is Life of Fred, which we use as well, but unless I read that aloud, I suspect that she reads only the story line and skips some of the math.*