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. 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!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.