I’m heading into my tenth year of homeschooling, and it has gone so fast! Each year since I started writing here, I’ve typed up and posted the curriculum of the highest grade level I teach. This year the highest grade level was eighth grade. By this level, our curriculum has been tailored to the student, flying rapidly when subject matter was learned easily and hunkering down when a quagmire appeared. I am always happy to answer questions about how we do things, why we do things, and what concerns (or satisfactions) I have about how we proceeded. I will start with our math program.
Every year I explain that I personally grew up on Saxon math (starting in sixth grade). Teaching it feels like a favorite pair of old tennis shoes to me. Beloved and comfortable. Forgive my sappiness toward math, but I feel like it was my math teacher and Saxon math which helped me achieve my academic dreams. I don’t have the natural knack for numbers that many of my friends have (I had to turn to them for help with the “hard” problems), but with Saxon’s training method, I learned I, too, like my gifted peers, could achieve in math. In the movie Ratatouille it is said, “Anyone can cook.” Well, in Saxon, “Anyone can do math.” I have tutored many students throughout the years in high school math, and I cringe when I see how math is usually taught without the layering that Saxon math provides. So be forewarned, I come at Saxon math with a huge bias. I can’t tell you about any other math program, but I can tell you all about my love for Saxon. 🙂
Good luck to you in educating your children and bestowing upon them all that you have to give so that they might be happy, content people who can smile freely and give warmly, knowing that in their parents’ home they are safe, loved, nurtured, and protected. Okay. On to math.
Math: Saxon Algebra II, supplemented with a unit study on geometry proofs
A note on time expectations for math work: I think it helps to explain to advanced students that math gets at least 90 minutes a day, Monday through Friday. Boom. That’s the way it is. Budget your day that way. Otherwise, it seems students think they ought to be able to get done in less than an hour, like they used to be able to do when they were doing “easier” math.
Method: Throughout the year, I most often taught the Algebra II lesson set on our wall chalkboard. Then we practiced several problems from the problem set (both new material and any prior material I felt my student was weak on and needed guidance on), and then my student was assigned 13-22 problems to do each day on her own from the problem set. Missed homework problems were corrected daily before beginning the new homework. I worked very hard to keep papers graded on a daily basis so I could be aware of weaknesses in any concepts.
Any lesson with old material that my student had already mastered and I knew she had retention of, we skipped, in favor of learning new material. Within lessons, any problem-type mastered to the point of vomiting, we skipped. (Despite the Saxon book’s warning, we frequently skip problems, although I will assign them periodically to retain mastery. I feel comfortable doing this because it is how my high school math teacher used Saxon.) In Saxon math, problem types go away for about 10-20 lesson sets and then they come back. When they came back, I reassigned the problem type to make sure there was still retention and mastery. My student is monitored closely, and I can see what she does and does not “get.” Mastery and retention were always required of all problem types. As the year progressed, my student needed less and less teaching from me, as she was frequently able to read and apply the information herself.
At the end of the year, I did a unit study on geometry proofs. I used the same concepts Saxon Algebra II was teaching in the lessons on proofs, but I pulled lots of extra material and practice off of the internet from various sources.
This is how I did math this year for this student. I am prepared to make changes each day and each year we work together. I am also prepared to change how I do things for each of my children.
- There is a seamless transition from Algebra I to Algebra II. (We were able to skip lesson sets at the beginning of the Algebra II book with material that my student had already mastered in Algebra I.)
- The Saxon math program from Algebra I through Calculus cannot be beat as far as breaking down concepts into understandable portions, progressing students along in a non-scary fashion, and promoting long-term retention of concepts.
- There is good explanation and practice of geometrical calculations. (I had debated doing a geometry year between Algebra I and II, and I’m very glad I did not.)
- Excellent explanations of new concepts in each lesson, with even some humor here and there.
- Excellent examples worked out and explained for each new lesson. (I tutored this last year in Algebra II, and the book the school offered did not have many examples for students to learn from.)
- Saxon math teaches geometrical calculations well, but I was not fond of its introduction of theorems, postulates, and two-column proofs. (We finished the Algebra II book with enough time to do a unit study on geometry proofs to supplement Saxon’s lessons. I pulled from various resources to put together a unit study.)
- Saxon does not seem to require geometry vocabulary usage and retention. (There is a lot of geometry at the beginning of the next book Saxon book called Advanced Mathematics–equivalent to trigonometry– and I will reinforce the vocabulary of geometry next year and also keep up with proof supplementation. This way, I will feel very confident that we’ve covered what I covered in my high school non-Saxon geometry class.)
- Real life application when it comes to particular topics is lacking. I kind of feel like Saxon math students might become robotic with their math—although any student who masters Saxon math will be easily led to apply the concepts to real life. For example, a Saxon student can tell you the equation of a line (and readily manipulate the equations), but they’d be hard-pressed to tell you a real life situation you could use a linear equation in. After you showed a Saxon student, they’d probably say something like, “Oh, duh. I knew that.” I plan to remedy this with a real-life application unit in our high school years.
- Lots of problems in a problem set.
My eighth grader was able to master Algebra II. I didn’t necessarily plan it that way, it is just how it worked out with the pace of her capabilities. I think this might put us at a disadvantage for taking standardized tests (PSAT, SAT and ACT) since we are covering material earlier. However, I constantly try to remind myself that learning is done best for learning’s sake–not for the test . But I know that I will need to take extra care that she is prepared for her standardized tests so that my decision to proceed at her pace does not hinder any test scores. I also see that if we continue this progression, there will be opportunity in the junior and senior year for something like taking a local college math course or doing something somewhat unique for high school math, like statistics.
As I mentioned, I am happy to answer questions or clarify anything I wrote.