Part 1 of “Our Third Grade Curriculum”: Saxon Math

I think it’s fun to see what other kids are learning, public schooled, private schooled, or homeschooled!  So I thought I’d post our third grade curriculum and then use subsequent posts to comment on each component of our curriculum.  Plus, I remember when I first started homeschooling how helpful it was when I read blogs (that was before I knew what a blog was…I don’t know what I thought I was reading…a web page?…du-uh!) about people’s curriculums.  When I started homeschooling in South Carolina, submission of your curriculum was required and using other homeschoolers’ suggestions was beyond helpful!

Our current curriculum includes the following:

  • Math
  • Grammar
  • Spelling/Phonics
  • Poetry
  • Reading
  • Music
  • Spanish
  • Handwriting
  • History
  • Art
  • Physical Education
  • Religion

Mathematics:  Saxon Math is my choice.  It is cut and dry.  Doesn’t make too much effort to pretend to be fluffy.   I was a Saxon-trained math student starting in sixth grade until I finished high school calculus.  Not naturally math-brained, as a student, I found Saxon Math to be divine.  It provided good explanations, and then proceeded in a cumulative fashion so that I was never allowed to forget what I had learned six weeks ago.  Because I would have.

Saxon isn’t colorful.  It isn’t cute.  It isn’t creative. M1 (my daughter) does one worksheet daily as I sit across from her at our school table.  The worksheets are actually two-sided:  one to “do at school” and one to do at “home” with a parent.  I have never found that she needs to do both sides of the worksheet, as they are near-perfect images of each other.  In fact, even on the worksheet she does daily, we will skip problems that she could do backwards and blindfolded.  I remember my teacher skipping problems she knew we had mastered–so I know it’s okay to skip!  (Which you inherently know anyway, but it’s good to have a model you trust!).

M1 is a third grader, and in another month, we will finish Saxon Math 3 (it is November).  We will proceed to Saxon Math 54.  I have homeschooling friends whose children are also in third grade and started Saxon Math 54 at the beginning of the third grade.  They skipped Saxon Math Kindergarten when they began homeschooling and just started in Saxon Math 1 in kindergarten.  I chose to not skip the books, but to rather accelerate through the books according to skill level, which means we may end and start a book anytime in the school year.  We usually finish a book, and then skip about 1/4 to 3/8 of the book that follows for the next grade level (because they repeat so much).

I have found in math, if M1 doesn’t understand a concept, it really doesn’t do any good to pound it in or drill it in.  It is developmental.  If I wait a month, she’ll have the concept down in a heartbeat with no contribution from me.  It just came.  The necessary neurons just finally developed and connected.  So rather than torture her or me trying to push her through an advanced book, I chose to take it at her level.  Where we are at in Saxon Math 3 feels good for her and me.  It is right at her edge of understanding.  If it’s too easy, we’ll do several worksheets in a day–but only 2-3 problems on the sheet that she may need further work on.  When we are “right at her edge”, we do a worksheet daily–most all of it.  When I’m seeing a lack of understanding of concepts, I’ll slow math down to 2-3 lessons a week until the remote starts clicking again, taking time to brush up on math facts or do hands-on fun math activities.   I do not do all the lesson material listed in the teacher’s manual.  I peruse it periodically, take notes on anything I am missing by just doing the worksheets, and then ask her those things throughout the week to assess understanding.

We supplement Saxon with some good old-fashioned flash cards.  M1 knows her facts, but she has to think about them, and, unfortunately for her, I see the place for plain-old rote memorization in math.  Not just “thinking about it.”   Remember, I was NOT a natural math-student.  My teachers complained to my mom when I was in 5th grade that I needed to stop counting on my fingers.  So my terrific mom drilled me over and over until I was blue in the face while she watched “Quincy” and “General Hospital” on TV.  Am I dating myself?  Anyway, in order for me to progress with more complex math concepts, I had to KNOW that 8 +7 was 15.  Or else, I got so hung up on what 8 plus 7 was that I would not even get to the next level where 0.8 + 0.7 is 1.5!  In homeschooling we have a little more time to spend, but I don’t plan to get up into algebra II and realize the kid still has to think about 8 + 7 or 8X7.  And it is our goal is to progress through calculus in our homeschool curriculum before I send her off for secondary education.  Whether she becomes a medical doctor, engineer, or communications major.

By the way, M1 has difficulty focusing.  She knows it.  I know it.  Saxon Math knows it.  Whether it’s Saxon Math or M1, I don’t know. But for us, this is NOT a curriculum to be done solo.  I can’t just hand her the worksheet and say “do it” (like I do my first grader).  There are days I sit by her moving my finger to the next problem as she finishes the last problem.  Even with the math fact pages.  My first grader doesn’t have this focus issue, so I’m thinking it’s an M1 problem.  I just resign myself to the fact that math won’t get done until I am there with her.  My husband says he had this attention and focus problem in elementary school as well; he remembers outgrowing it at about 4th grade.  So I’m just hanging in there.  Dreaming about the days when I can fold laundry while the kids do their math worksheets.  I do not do much on the computer with math.  I’m pretty old-fashoined.  But the other day, I saw something I may check out from Saxon Math.  It’s called D.I.V.E.  I read about it on another blog:

So, I’m pleased with our Saxon Math Curriculum for our math curriculum.  I plan to use Saxon Math through Calculus, and I sure do look forward to more advanced math!  I so look forward to high school homeschooling.  My patience for elementary school education strains my every being!  There’s nothing like a good challenge!

Update:  About a month ago we moved on to Saxon 5/4.  We skipped about the last 15 lessons or so in the book 3.  No good reason, other than I knew from past experience that the subsequent book would review for about 1/3 of the year!!  And it does.  Usually I skip ahead until the problems are not so much review for them.  M1 doesn’t want to skip lessons in the Saxon 5/4, but it is too easy.  It basically drops back to addition and subtraction!!  So I skip lessons when I can sneak it by her.  However, the simplicity seems to really be building her confidence, which is great, especially because I wasn’t even aware of a lack of confidence on her part in math.

Any questions you have about Saxon Math?  ASK AWAY!

Addendum:  It is now April, and we have transitioned to the Saxon 5/4 book, at about Lesson 45 or so.  My daughter REALLY  was doing horrible on her timed tests.  She always has.  It was torture for her and I.  What we decided to try was a 20 problem timed test with 1 minute time limit.  She seemed to know the facts very well, but she didn’t have the needed focus and concentration for the 5 minute test.  She nailed the 20 problem timed test and asked to do it again immediately upon finishing because she thought it was so much fun.  So we’ll keep doing abbreviated timed tests for as long as we need to to build her confidence and focus.  Then maybe we’ll try a longer test again.

4 thoughts on “Part 1 of “Our Third Grade Curriculum”: Saxon Math

  1. Trina

    Let me make sure I’m understanding what you’re saying here. I’m currently in Saxon Math 3 and I need to accelerate because my boy is beyond ready for acceleration. Are you saying that when you sat down for a math lesson with Saxon Math 3, that you would just hand her the two sided practice worksheet that came at the end of the lesson? No meeting? No lesson? No timed facts test? Just the worksheet? Also, are you saying that if she didn’t understand something, you didn’t stop and teach it? You kept going because you knew it would come up again any way and she would be ready for it then? And this worked? If so, I am all over that tomorrow! Please clarify. Thanks!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Trina: Yes, mostly.
      1) I don’t even remember what “the meeting” is. It’s a Saxon word vaguely in my brain.
      2) No, I didn’t teach the lesson up-front. She just got the worksheet and started. I did sit with her at the table while she did her worksheet so I could kind of observe and see if she started spinning her wheels, and I’d help her as she went along as needed–and also keep her on task. She was distractible at this age. I checked her math immediately after she finished so I could give her prompt feedback and not allow her to “sit on” not understanding. We usually only did one side of the worksheet EXCEPT for two situations: a) We’d do any of the problems on the second page that she missed from the first side. b) If things were getting hard and we needed to slow our course. (Not too often.)
      3) I did timed math facts here and there. We’d hit them hard for maybe two weeks, and then she’d either get better or get very mad. So I backed off. If, later, I thought that she was too slow with her math work because she was not mentally computing math facts fast enough, I’d get back on the timed tests again. We’d do flashcards and I’d drill her till she got mad at me. Then, I’d back off again. But, I did not do math facts as Saxon recommends. But, we did them hard for a bit, and then backed off. And continued to do this periodically. She’s now in Math 7/6 with no issues at all, and I’m pleased.
      4) Near the end of the books, Saxon always starts picking up speed, piling on things that they’ll for sure get the next book. If she didn’t understand these things here, I did not get super concerned. If she didn’t understand something mid-book, and I couldn’t help her to “get it,”–NO, I did not stop. AS LONG AS she was getting most everything else. If the child is getting just about everything else, then Saxon is great in its cumulative effect, because the child WILL see it again in a month or two or sooner or later. And something developmentally may have clicked.

      If my child was struggling with the actual work of the worksheets I wouldn’t have done it this way. If my child had been a nice, easy, sit-still child, I probably wouldn’t have ended up doing it this way. But, luckily, she did understand the work usually but she just didn’t like the tedium. Now that she’s in Math 7/6, I really have no tears from her over math. She just goes and does her lesson, although I sometimes subtract some for her or have her do evens/odds or do the first half/second half. Although I drilled her in math facts, getting 75-80%100 math facts done in five minutes didn’t happen as I wanted. She’d get about 75-80%, which I guess is good enough to go on through public school. Now, she’ll do the timed math facts with her younger sister just for fun, and she gets all 100 of them finished well before five minutes! LOL!

      Does this clarify what I/she did? If a child is ready for acceleration, I accelerate them. I just keep skipping forward until they’re at their “edge” and then I’ll settle in right there and move along, knowing because I skipped lessons that there’ll be more to explain as they work along. So I am always there watching and checking and ready to teach. As long as they are getting it after I show them how, I feel comfortable. I don’t think there has ever been a time when my children didn’t understand more than two concepts on the lesson AFTER explaining. If so, then I’d slow down.

      I liked Saxon math, and I want to use it throughout high school. So these are the compromises I had to make to make this system work for us. If you have any more questions, please ask away! Sorry for the “book.” And Happy Independence Day! Blessings on you and your son!


  2. Leah

    I thought you unschooled? Is having your child do a worksheet every day unschooling? I’m curious about unschool and am asking because I am interested how real mothers implement it…

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi! No, we don’t unschool overall. My family does unschool in particular areas, like science. I guess anyone who doesn’t send their kid to “school” in a sense is “unschooling”–ha–right?! But I do not consider much of my curriculum unschooling. My homeschooling style is eclectic. I have definite goals for my kids’ academic schedules. Although I am flexible in how we accomplish those and the schedule we follow to do that.

      Like homeschooling, unschooling, I think, will look different in every family!

      Warmest wishes!


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