So let’s talk math today…A real juicy homeschool mom topic! Wink.Wink. (Yes—this is who we’ve become—math curriculum is like the minivan of homeschooling). But this post is a confessional of sorts…
First off—let me start by saying that I have used Saxon Math for years…I probably own every level from Kindergarten through Algebra 2. I loved it, love it, never thought I would change and use something different–totally LOYAL (as loyal as someone can be to math curriculum)! It was my constant, no-brainer curriculum decision every year. I have some strong love and loyalty to Saxon–it has taken 3 of my kids through middle school (part of high school for one), and I’ve got my little guy working on Saxon Level 1 in Kindergarten right now…
But, this year I got a wild hair to try Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra with my eighth grader. Over the summer, there was a real debate raging over math curriculum in one of my Facebook groups—some things those moms were saying started resonating with me. Like “My kids don’t cry during math anymore,” and “I have more free time,” and “Now, math is her favorite subject!” What? What is this math you speak of? Answer: Teaching Textbooks!
In disbelief, I went to the Teaching Textbooks’ website, tried a sample lesson and was SOLD. The lesson felt personal, professional, and thorough. The design is done with such excellence—I can’t imagine the time it took to create the lessons and explanations for every single problem!! I figured we had nothing to lose with their money back guarantee and placed my order. It arrived lightning fast—I think maybe the next-day!
Hype or Hallelujah?
So we just finished up our first quarter of the school year, and my daughter (Audrey) is really happy with the switch to Teaching Textbooks. I’m thrilled because she is gaining confidence, working independently, and I’m able to easily monitor her progress and assess her understanding. Those moms on Facebook were definitely onto something—no tears (maybe a little “eye mist”), more free time for me, and math is her
favorite subject (ok—not her least favorite subject)!
Why is it Working for Us?
Audrey has never loved math, and over the years I think the set-up of Saxon overwhelmed her. Saxon presents large concepts in little chunks (which I personally think is genius). Kids learn a skill, practice it, and then do about 30 problems reviewing all the skills and concepts they’ve learned up to that point.
Unlike a traditional text, there are not chapters focused on one large concept—for example, fractions. Many curriculums have an entire unit teaching all about fractions, and then after about 10 lessons, students are assessed over fractions. Saxon is NOT one of those curriculums. Saxon assessments cover every topic that has been presented up to that point. Tests are provided every 5 lessons—which I found incredibly excessive; instead, we would usually test every 10 lessons.
As much as I like Saxon’s philosophy of slowly building upon a skill—Audrey found it jumpy and distracting. Saxon appeals to kids who thrive on learning a small piece of a challenging skill (sometimes referred to as a spiral approach). Students may be working on several different math concepts during any given week. If your child has a meltdown over decimals, no worries! Tomorrow could be a lovely distraction—like triangles! You don’t get stuck in an area of math that totally stresses your child out—Saxon moves around. All positives in my mind.
But for Audrey, who isn’t naturally inclined to math—she needs chapters that focus on one topic. She needs the chance to keep practicing fractions and then take a cumulative assessment over fractions. And that is what Teaching Textbooks delivers. It very thoroughly teaches and engages the student in one major topic per chapter—Audrey finally feels like she is gaining more mastery with this approach.
Other Benefits of Teaching Textbooks
Umm…well for starters, I’m not teaching Pre-Algebra anymore!
Don’t get me wrong—I’m listening very closely to Audrey’s lessons while folding clothes, doing dishes, making lunch, and changing diapers. (Teaching Textbooks has great sound effects, and I know right away if she is getting it or not. I probably run to rescue and “teach,” her again way too quickly!) But honestly, it has been nice removing math from my plate. In the past, I would need to spend about 15 minutes giving myself a refresher, and then spend at least 30 minutes teaching the lesson. That’s 45 minutes back in my day! And we both love that Audrey doesn’t have to wait around for me before getting started on her math lesson (I’ve got 3 little people, so finding an uninterrupted block of time can be challenging)! Not only has she become more confident in her math skills—she has more independence (which all 14 year-olds love) and gets to practice more responsibility!
Don’t Be Afraid to Try Something New
I still love Saxon Math—and definitely plan on using it with my littles (at least in the primary years). But my middle schooler was ready for a change—and now she’s thriving. That’s the beauty of homeschooling—we can make adjustments and meet the needs of our individual children. And we can choose curriculum that fits the needs of our families—we all go through seasons where we need a little more support and less on our plates! I’m thrilled to have found Teaching Textbooks (thanks, Facebook Friends)–I have a new math love!
If you have any questions about Saxon Math or Teaching Textbooks, please feel free to leave me a comment or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org! Where do your Math loyalties lie? 😉
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