Last year I wrote about we were utilizing Saxon 1 in our kindergarten, so I thought it only made sense to follow up with how we are using Saxon 2 this year in first grade. I really enjoy Saxon, from a teacher’s perspective. I was most concerned about teaching my child math and reading. Saxon makes it very simple with their teacher guides. Everything is laid out very well, and whatever is in bold is what I am supposed to say.
We had to finish Saxon 1 when we started school this year. Last May, we were done in early May. I was coordinating Classical Conversations Practicums, the weather was nice, we’d hit our state-mandated number of days, so we called it quits. So first grade started with finishing around 20 lessons from Saxon 1 before we jumped into Saxon 2.
Math is completed four days a week for us; we don’t do math on our homeschool community day. We also don’t do math if we have a field trip. But if we do math and little else, it counts as a full school day 😉
This year I am not using the “meeting”. Every lesson begins with a repetitive section called “The Meeting.” This would replace a circle or calendar time in a schoolroom setting. It involves things like the day of the week, the date, a weather graph, some different counting exercises, patterns, money counting, and the clock. The Boy has mastered these things, or has a solid grasp of them, so we skip this part of the lesson. I used it faithfully last year, but because of that, I feel he doesn’t need it this year. I will periodically ask him questions from this section, but in general, I find it unnecessary.
Then each lesson is laid out like I said above. Everything I am to say is printed in bold, and pretty much I simply read those sentences to our son. I am amazed when he actually answers like the book predicts, but that is the beauty of Saxon, I suppose. Because we started with Saxon, his brain works according to their method now.
Each lesson covers a new topic OR reviews something we learned five to ten lessons back. The thing I am finding, however, is that 65 lessons into Saxon 2, we still seem to be reviewing things we learned in Saxon 1. A solid foundation in math is incredibly important, so I have stuck with it, but a lot of our lessons have been…easy? quick? not very challenging? I’m not sure what I was expecting, though.
We go over the new material for the day, if necessary. In the table of contents Saxon provides a list of all needed materials for every lesson (if you are one who likes to prepare in advance), and each lesson has a box at the beginning that contains a “lesson preparation” section. This allows the parent to look ahead and be ready for unexpected materials (apples, recipes, cut up construction paper shapes, etc.).
If the material is really something he’s mastered, I may skip the lesson and go straight to the worksheets.
Every day there are two worksheets: a timed drill test and a lesson worksheet. For the first few lessons we did not do times drill tests. We began those midway through our first semester, and he actually loves the challenge. I set the timer on my phone for one minute (and it makes a motorcycle sound when it’s finished) and he tries to answer as many of the 25 questions as he can.
I don’t time the tests when it’s the first day we are working on the facts (doubles, doubles plus ones, minus 8s, etc.). And some days, particularly if we are having an emotional day, I don’t time the tests, OR, I time how long it takes him to complete the 25 questions.
For the worksheets, I frequently cross out things that I know he has mastered. I circle the questions on both sides that I want him to answer and I set him to work on it. I don’t help, unless he is super frustrated, and I honestly don’t check every single question. I figure that is why we have tests.
Saxon evaluates students every five lessons. This seems like a lot, but the “fives” are quick quiz-type worksheets, and then there are lessons with full worksheets. The “tens” lessons are full tests that include both an oral and a written part. Both of these are offered often enough that I have a good idea of what areas need more work and what areas have been mastered.
I purchased my teacher guide from a friend, and then I bought a Saxon 2 workbook set from a vendor at our local homeschool convention (support your local state homeschool convention! Your state homeschool group -if you have one – is out there on the front lines fighting for your rights. Support them instead of the national conventions!).
We use every day the teacher guide, the worksheets, and the flashcards. I also use the oral test recording sheets. I threw away everything else.
I also use a hundred number chart (the math Trivium Table from Classical Conversations), construction paper, white paper and pencils (instead of a chalkboard or whiteboard), geo board & rubber bands, pattern blocks, crayons, pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and plastic learning clocks. Saxon sells a kit that contains the majority of manipulatives, but I have pieced mine together over time, and they work just fine.
I keep all of his math papers. At the end of the first semester (the end of December) I threw away everything except the tests. I also have his tests from last year. I am not sure how long I will keep these, but I imagine I will keep a sampling of all his work for a few years at least.
If I had any “complaints” about Saxon, it would be that it appears to be written for a group setting. There is a whole section about “the classroom birthday chart” and frequently you are supposed to take a poll about your classmates. I realize this isn’t a homeschool curriculum, but I usually don’t realize this is going to be a problem until I get into reading it! Of course, I only have one child I am educating at home. If I had four, or six, or eight… 🙂
There is a Common Core aligned version of Saxon; I am not using it. Both a public school version and a homeschool version is available on their website. Our CC book reps carry the non-Common Core aligned homeschool version, and that was what was available at the vendors at our state convention last spring. If Common Core is a concern for you, either pro- or con-, you should be aware.
Saxon is not for everyone. Some people find it repetitive and boring. I like that it repeats, because I know my son is achieving mastery in his math. If I miss something the first time, I know it will come around again. I also like that it doesn’t take hours a day to do math in first grade! We have much more to do – like play LEGOs and PayDay 🙂