Friday, July 10, 2009

Saxon Math

I have loved Time 4 Learning as a homeschool curriculum, but just in the last week I started really paying attention to what the upper school is offering. Caleb (grade 4 now) was frustrated and confused in the math, which wasn't engaging anymore, despite still being animated. The science and social studies were very fun for him--but were just "read the book, answer the questions." The art lessons are great but twice too long and lacking somewhat in visual examples and activities. The music lesson was, inexplicably, mostly text instead of mostly music.

I realized that for $20 a month, I can do better than that. Heck, I can do better than that for FREE.

Thus Learning Lynx was born. I posted the link early this morning. If someone wants to draw a cute cartoon Lynx for me as a mascot, that would be awesome. The goal: write an engaging, resource-heavy multimedia curriculum for K-8 science and social studies drawing on all the great free resources online. And share it with everyone--free, of course, since homeschool families have one wage-earner and make huge sacrifices, and since I'm drawing on mostly resources that are out there. Oh, and make it match state standards (while most homeschool families don't really care about this, the districts they have to register with do). It might take a while. I'm still trying to get my resources gathered and analyzed--not lesson resources, but what the state standards are and what other full curricula cover so I get the right topics in there.

And we bought our second Saxon Math Book. We found all of Math 54--test booklet, answer booklet, and text--for $20 on Craigslist and went to pick it up yesterday.

And Caleb and I were ecstatic. Well, as much as two language people can be about math. It is so much easier, even in covering the same subjects. At the end of the lesson, Caleb understood everything he was supposed to do and did it. We both discovered quickly that he just can't look at the book and do the sums. He just can't. But if I READ the problems to him, he can answer them in seconds. He actually gets it. He just finds it "sooooooo boooorrrriiing!" to stare at the page and try to do math all by himself. The lessons, to Caleb's great delight, don't skip things and don't stack things. (We gave up on Odyssey Math when they were trying to do missing digits, three-digit subtraction, and complex borrowing all at once--and the lessons had never ever taught how to handle missing digits, even to explain what that little x or ? were doing in the middle of the math problem. You were just supposed to guess or intuit what was going on--while juggling complex borrowing and three-digit subtraction. Oh, and in the midst of that, I realized that Caleb didn't have his math facts down pat--he's still figuring with his fingers--and I knew Saxon would take care of that in a second. And I realized we were just about to start multiplication, and if he didn't have addition and subtraction down, how could I trust them to give me multiplication and have him actually LEARN it?).

One of my basic learning philosophies (as a teacher and curriculum designer) is that each lesson (regardless of the subject) should teach ONE concept and review previous ideas--so that you're building on previous learning. Further, each test question should only test one concept. So, for example, if you want kids to place cities correctly on the map, don't also test their ability to spell the names of the cities correctly. Do that in a separate question. It's better to have more lessons, and more test questions, than to "stack" or "skip".

Anyway, hooray for Saxon Math 54! Saxon had the right idea when it comes to math. What I can't figure out is why everyone isn't copying him?

1 comment:

Misty Lynne said...

Horizon's Math is similar to Saxon with the spiral learning and stuff. It's not scripted though (which I prefer), and the pages are very colorful instead of black, white and one other color.

We're planning to switch to Saxon after 6th grade (when Horizons ends).