Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Review of Saxon Math

I made a huge change in our homeschool about a month into our current school year; I completely changed our math curriculum. This is a scary thing to do and I know this because I've done it before.

We have used Math-U-See from the start but we did dapple with a couple of other programs along the way. I think MUS is wonderful and I know it works well for many students. (If I had to do over again I'm sure I would still use it in the early years.)

Tyler is a child who hates math with a passion but he can do the work just fine. I worried it was the program and perhaps a different approach would work for him. I switched him over to Saxon first. 

Tyler disliked watching the DVD lessons in MUS, so Saxon was a hit right off with him. He went a whole month not saying a word about hating math after switching to Saxon. Then one day he remembered he was suppose to hate math and started saying that again, but this time I didn't believe him. He wasn't convincing enough! ; )

Tyler sees math as a challenge and he gladly accepts the challenge and expects to win every time. He usually does! I put him in Saxon 5/4 since the MUS scope and sequence is very different from other programs and I knew he would have some gaps to fill. Saxon 5/4 started off easy for him but we have found gaps and I'm glad we started in this level. 

To determine where he needed to start in the 5/4 level, I had him take the lesson test. One test a day until he ran into problems. I then had him do a couple of lessons that we discovered he needed to do and then he jumped ahead to where he needed to be in the book. I think he started around lesson twenty-something.

Caleb became very interested in Saxon once Tyler started using it. I was extremely worried about Caleb in math and knew he wouldn't be ready for Algebra I by ninth grade even working through the summer. He just couldn't seem to get ahead in MUS. He was struggling with the explanations and not mastering any of the lessons. I was having to reteach the review worksheets each week too. He just kept getting farther behind.

I happened to purchase an old Saxon Pre-Algebra book because I was curious and the price was right. I immediately saw that Caleb could start that book that day and not struggle as much as he had been. We had thought he was "behind" in math for years and it turned out we were just using the wrong approach to math and he was testing poorly in math.

I handed this book to Caleb and asked him to look at it and tell me what he thought. It wasn't very long before I could see him smiling! He knew he could do that book! After a little research online, I ordered him the Saxon 8/7 book. I told him once he finished this book he would be ready for Algebra I. 

Caleb will still be doing math over summer break, but if we had stuck with MUS he would have been doing the Pre-Algebra book instead of Algebra I next fall.

Caleb was much inspired realizing that he wasn't really years behind in math like we thought. He is seeing success at almost every lesson now and this is boosting his confidence in math. He is actively working hard and learning instead of just trying to get the lesson done and thinking he will never understand math.

I avoided Saxon because I was told that is was too spiral, too procedural and not conceptual, and that it has too many practice problems. Honestly, this book teaches the conceptual and Caleb understood it better than MUS. This was the main reason I avoided Saxon! I was rather disappointed in myself afterwards for not taking a better look at the program earlier. I disagree with the program being too spiral or incremental. (You haven't seen incremental until you've looked at Math Mammoth!) Of course, if you have a child who can do one lesson and remember how to do it forever afterwards, then Saxon isn't for that child. There is lots of review in each lesson.

I do agree that there are too many problems! Caleb would need to spend two hours per day on math to complete a lesson. You need to complete a lesson a day to complete a level in a year. We had to make some changes to make Saxon work time wise. In my research, it seemed nine out of ten Saxon users said to do every single problem for the program to work. The company clearly states to do EVERY problem for the program to work. If we did this we would have to take two days to do a lesson which would result in taking two years to do a book. This is unreasonable. I also think it's unreasonable for a child in 1-8 grades to be doing math for an hour or more a day. This is my only complaint for the program!

This is a big complaint too! I've talked to a few other homeschooler about our switch to Saxon and many said they used that program too, but it was taking all day to do math. This is why I wouldn't use this program in the early years (I'm assuming the work load is set up the same as the levels we are currently doing). This is also a complaint for most math programs (except Life of Fred) so my advice is just do the amount of problems per lesson that your child needs.

Caleb spends 45 minutes on Saxon each day and Tyler spends 35 minutes. We have chosen to do half the mixed practice problems for Tyler. Caleb rarely gets half of the problems done. We also does either the Mental Math or the Fact Practice but not both each day.

If I start to see problems (lessons not mastered) we spend two days on a lesson to complete all the problems. There is a test after every 5 lessons and we use these for review to see if we need to spend more time on certain lessons.

I really just wanted to let you know how math was going for us this year. I've been very pleased with Saxon and we are looking forward to using it again next year.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

This Week in Learning {Week 20}

Tyler from last Monday's nature hike. He was impressed with the big rocks he found.

I almost didn't do a post for this week. I sat down Friday evening and was really uninspired to process our week. I wrote a little and then hit delete.

Now that I've sat down and planned out next week, I feel like I can attempt This Week in Learning. It wasn't a bad week. It's just that it is winter and my mind says hibernate and my heart says more warm weather and sun, please. : )

I think that I will change my format a little and avoid a listing of what we did and just concentrate on my thoughts for the week.

Interruptions seems to be the game lately. There is flexibility in homeschooling but as kids get older there is a lot less of it. I feel like we are a little behind where I would like us to be at this point in the year. I know if this is true after the end of term 2, which is in two weeks. I need to remember to say no to some of the interruptions. I also need to get back to errand running on the weekends and evenings. This is really hard to do in the winter when it's dark so early!

Caleb is getting further and further behind in Writing With Skill. We are halfway through week 12 out of a 36 week program!!!! We have completed 20 weeks of our 36 week school year (we also didn't start this program until around week 4). Who writes a 36 week program and expects it to be done in a year anyway? Each week has 4 days of lessons. Some days are quick and others could take an hour easily. I only schedule 30 minutes so we get behind this way. We also keep having interruptions to our day which then only leaves us 3-4 days a week we can work on this program. Caleb enjoys this program, but he would get burned out if we did it 5 days a week. I'm not sure what to do about it. I need to really pour over the lessons and evaluate. What can be skipped? If it can't, then I will have to use something else for Tyler. I hate programs that we become the servant of instead of the master. I don't see us using book 2 next year as planned . . . . and not just because we aren't ever going to finish book 1.

Tyler's handwriting is back to the way it was before vision therapy (really poor). His vision therapy is over. Doctor said said in November to come back in six months . . . . which is too long to wait to see what the problem is. This is my reminder to call the eye doc next week.

Lucy, now 13 weeks. Trying to look innocent!

I think Tyler is ready to attempt written narrations (again). The handwriting thing is really the only thing I have been waiting on. His oral narrations are seeing much improvement lately.

Our local homeschool group had a book sale this past week and I did find some books on my list. This was a happy surprise!

I had Caleb skip reading chapter 6 of The Century For Young People. I picked it up to read (which I haven't done every week!) and it was a little too much (for me at least)!  We read a chapter in another book about WWII instead. It was based on war strategy and not on how everyone was killed. We did discuss how the crimes that were committed were unimaginable and should be left there.

I decided against Tyler reading Augustus Caesar's World after reading it for two weeks. I personally didn't like it. It was well written it's just the subject. Tyler wasn't enjoying it either. Story of the World is a favorite of Tyler's and there really isn't any need for an additional book. Problem solved! Of course, I purchased this book a couple of years ago and have yet to actually use it. Hopefully it will sell.

Our goals for the upcoming week include making sure math lessons get done. I need to go through and count lessons (for both boys) and see how math is looking. Attempting a written narration for Tyler! Make sure I'm getting the oral narrations that the boys are suppose to give. Work on helping them to improve on those. 

Caleb from our nature hike last Monday.

Friday, January 23, 2015

January Nature Study

Sycamore leaf impression on the ice.

Monday was the last warm day of a few days stretch of above average temperatures. Some much loved warm weather in the dead of winter!

We were able to spend Monday afternoon at the family farm, our usual nature study spot.

There isn't much going on in January, or at least visible goings on. We decided to just walk a few trails to see if we could find anything. We didn't find too much but it was still a very enjoyable walk.

We were lucky to have Scott along with us (it was a work holiday) to point out trees and birds and answer our questions (he knows way more about nature than me). 

Lucy made her first trip out to the family farm. She out for fresh air, exercise, nature study, and some puppy training. She was introduced to gun shots, which she didn't mind. She also freely jumped into the lake and wasn't deterred by freezing water temperatures. (Both these things made Scott very happy.)

Anyway, We enjoyed some frozen creeks thanks to some really cold temperatures before those warm ones. The boys enjoyed testing the ice. So did Lucy who broke through a few times in the creeks but didn't seem to mind.

Our first trail.

The first frozen creek was a hit for Lucy!

The boys tried hard to get the ice to crack through, but no such luck. Don't worry, it's not deep.

Lucy is thinking about jumping out on the ice . . . which she did . . . . and surprisingly didn't break through (those spots that don't look frozen or deceiving). . . . and was able to jump back to safety.

"What do you mean I can't play out here?" said Lucy to Scott.

Tyler posing next to some interesting bark, Hackberry.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A January Daybook {2015}

Remember when I said that I needed to do less of these type of post? Well, it's all I got at the moment. I'm trying to keep it to once a month . . . . starting in February!

Outside my window~
It's a nice spring day in the dead of winter! It was yesterday too but the wind for horrible. It should last another day and I'm hoping to do some nature study at our favorite spot tomorrow afternoon.  

I'm hoping to see the arrival of all my boys outside my window very soon. They have been on a scout camping trip all weekend. I'm pretty sure the puppy is going to go nuts as soon as the garage door opens.

I'm thankful for~
a free weekend to work on some projects. A few days of sun. 

I am reading~
Still working through the Your Questions Answered: Narration by Sonya Shafer. I highly recommend this book to every homeschooler. I wish I had this a few years ago.

I finished the second book in the Anne of Green Gables series. I'm not sure when I will get to continue to the next one, but I wish I had read this series as a teen. 

We have been on a Harry Potter kick and I've read the first three books of the series. Caleb just finished the second book on Friday and Tyler is already in the third. We were needing some excitement but not a heavy read and this fits our needs. I do believe I will put off the fourth book a while since it's a rather thick one. We have been watching the movies after reading the books. I actually never liked the movies because I couldn't figure out what was going on. Now I know why! The movies are missing a ton of important details. Since I read the books now the movies are making sense. 

My roll in scouts. We are coming to the end of our Cub Scout career and I'm completely burned out. I know that I will need to take on a leader postion with Boy Scouts I think I will have to say no for a little while. I'm going to need some down time!

Lots of homeschooling things. I'm always pondering those though! They are still at front in my mind on most days.

I'm not a dog person. Never will be! Now I'm living with one. She has been constantly requesting my attention to play with her. I just can't bring myself to do it. I feel bad for her. I talk to her constantly and she isn't one for conversation. (You know the cat loved to be talked to!) There will be a whole week this summer when the two of us will be home alone. Will I be able to properly take care of her and give her the attentions she needs. I'm worried!

Clicking Around~
I've enjoyed some older post from my favorite blogs that have shown up on my Facebook feed lately. Do just one thing from Sweetness & Light and Toward Understanding the Moral Imagination from Amongst Lovely Things have been great refreshers. Lots of things to ponder from those.

The Homeschool Snapshots Podcast over at Ed Snapshots look interesting! I listened to one and it was enjoyable. Looking forward to listening to the rest.

A Peak at my Week~
Just the usual grind for us this week. Looking forward to some nature study though. The local homeschool group is having a book sale this week so that will be fun.

I need to make plans for a 14 year old birthday party. Yikes!

Around the House~
I did purchase new towels and went with a gray color. Not what I truly wanted but they match and aren't falling apart.

I tackled Tyler's closet over the weekend. I feel good about it and cleared out a lot of stuff. I'm not sure how he will feel about it once he gets home.

I did some major books sorting! I filled up a trash bag of twaddly books to donate. I feel bad giving them to someone to read as there is so much out there that is better to read. Yet, my recycling cart is overflowing and pick up isn't for a few days. I need the books gone before I'm discovered! ; )

I'm pretty sure my house will be destroyed and all new furniture will need to be bought after surviving the puppy stage with a lab! Taking donations now! Everything that is on the floor or within reach of her jumping as been set up higher. I have piles of stuff sitting in random places. And I don't have a lot of stuff or clutter in the house. Mostly book baskets, rugs, remotes. Nothing can be left on the floor! This is worse than baby proofingI lost two books this weekend. Still usable but missing a corner on each of them. I don't leave her alone either so she is destroying fast!

Life With Boys~
Scouts! My baby will cross over to Boy Scouts next month. He got to go on his first camp out with them this weekend. I begged him to stay home and he was determined to go!  ; ) The oldest turns 14 later this month and boy does it hurt. I think it hurts every year once they are school aged. Slowing down time would be much appreciated at the moment!

I am Working on~
Morning wake-up time. I'm not a morning person and I really have to push myself to wake when the alarm goes off.

I'm also working on getting a little more exercise into our days. Tough to do with our weather in Missouri (hot summers and cold winters).

A Picture~
This is what happens to a puppy when all her playmates leave her. She was moaning and groaning around the house most of the day. Then she took out her grief on everything in her sight. We are counting the minutes of the return of the boys! She is hiding under the couch in the picture.

Friday, January 16, 2015

This Week in Learning {Week19}

January Prayer Table

We are back at it after a long Christmas break! We were off to a good start on Monday with just a half day of school. Tuesday wasn't too bad and Wednesday the boys did only independent work as I had other obligations that day. Thursday was a disaster! I blame it on the puppy. We were constantly getting her out of trouble as she is getting into everything right now! We got a half day of school done before I was too stressed to continue. 

We decided to fix the problem by getting out the larger crate and putting her in it during school time She had outgrown the smaller one but the next size is gigantic, see below, and we were putting it off as long as possible. Friday went much better as I could easily put her into her kennel (she was too big to try and fit into the other one unless she was willing). She was let out during break times and didn't complain. We still only did a half day of school since the boys had other activities planned for the afternoon.

Yikes! Big dog small house!

I did something I had never done before and that was just start our school day on Friday where we left off on Thursday. All of Thursday was completed and a couple items from Friday were completed. I usually would have just started the day over and then we would have missed afternoon work again. 

Since the boys Mardel planners broke (the ends of the plastic comb binding snapped off making the pages not turn as easily) I needed a new system. I decided to take up Sarah's advice on using sprial notebooks. I really had planned to go back  to a printed sheet but my boys informed me they didn't care for that method. I was able to find 1 subject, plastic front, only $1.30 each notebooks at my local Dollar General. (Side note is that the nearest Target only had 3-5 subject expensive ones or fancy, pretty, expensive ones right now; of course I got myself one of those fancy pretty ones though!) They worked nicely this week! I do write out a week at a time and not daily was Sarah suggested. 

Morning Basket did not happen this week. As I was cleaning house this afternoon I thought long and hard about this (and I mean long because the puppy keeps bring sticks inside the house to chew on and I went over the carpet many times to get it all picked up!). It didn't happen because I didn't want to do it. Why? It's because I wasn't enjoying what we are doing during Morning Basket. The goal for this weekend is to rework our books and make Morning Basket my our favorite part of the day, as it use to be.

I added in a time for free reading for the boys and everyone (including myself) has been reading Harry Potter. Not great literature but it's exciting.  

Tyler started some new books this week. Augustus Caesar's World (for history) and Artistic Pursuits (for art, of course). In science he started a unit on animal classification. We are using Bobbie Kalman books-The Science of Living Things series from our library and I also got some DVDs from the library too. The books aren't the greatest but they are better than a text book or most other books I looked at in the library. This should be review for him but I did noticed he was missing some information in this area so a nice review seemed to be in order. This week he read the mammal book.

I started using Winston Grammar (again-as we did some lessons last year too) with Tyler. We got in one lesson this week (started on lesson 4 to review-I think we got to lesson 12 last year though). My plan is to do two lessons a week and I think we will have it completed by the end of the year. I like this program because it is easy and effective (assuming you actually do it!). I put aside the IEW Fix It! program just because . . . . I was having to refer to the teacher's manual more than I should have to for the level of grammar I want my boys to learn at their age. ; )

Otherwise Tyler continued with his normal studies in math, keyboarding, history, spelling, literature, and religion.  

Tyler didn't do too well on another Saxon "test" (I don't believe in grading children but use the test to see that the material has been mastered)and I do plan to slow him down. This just means completing a lesson 100% (the mixed practice, review problems usually don't get completed because it would be silly to spend an hour plus on a math lesson at his age!) about once a week compared to every 2-3 weeks that we are currently doing. I think he just needs a little more review. Half of his mistakes are careless and I'm still figuring out how to address that. I think there is a long thread on the 4Real forums about that.

Lucy insist on laying in the sun. I've had to move the chair out of her way so that she could find some sun! She was trying hard to get Caleb to move but since we don't allow her on the furniture (trying to keep allergies ay bay) she was stuck with Caleb holding her. She wasn't happy about having to share!

Caleb had a really normal and boring week.  ; )

We did add in The Shadow of His Wings which he is enjoying. Caleb also started a new science book, Science 7 from Seton. So far so good on the science pick. It's a textbook but it's not bad as far as textbooks go.

This week we had a few half days but I think it was a good way to ease back into a school routine. Four weeks off is long enough to get use to another schedule The week wasn't perfect but it went smoothly considering. I will need to remind myself next year that three weeks is enough for Christmas break!

How did your school week go?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Christmas Daybook

Outside my window-
COLD! with some flurries. I'm seriously regretting not getting some new windows and doors that were suppose to be put in this fall. Walking by them and feeling a cold breeze was a horrible reminder of how priorities out mixed up this fall in what needed to be done around the house.

I'm thankful for-
a wonderful Christmas and time to relax and pondering.

Christmas Prayer Table with Jesse Tree with 12 Days of Christmas Ornaments that I got for Christmas.

From the kitchen-
. . . . . I've been pretty lazy in that department. I even sent Scott to the grocery store with no list and said to just get some stuff. We received a bread machine for Christmas. So maybe I will buy some ingredients and make some bread.

I am reading-
Finishing up the second book in the Anne of Green Gables series. I can't wait to read the next one. I finished Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition which is one of the best books I've read while trying to educate myself on education. 

I've started Your Questions Answered: Narration from Simply Charlotte Mason, and I'm glad I bought it. There was a series of emails/blog post on this and I got lost in the length of it all. The book is perfect though. Short chapter for quick readings between other things. I'm getting a lot out of it!

I'm hoping to pick up some of the boys school books to read this week. I also made a list for library books but I can't remember what I'm getting to read. ; )

Our Nativity with the new Three Wise Men that my parents gave me for Christmas. We received this set as a wedding gift from my aunts and I don't know why I never got the Wise Men. But, now we have them!

I've been all about homeschool high school the last couple of weeks! My goal was to get a possible 4-year plan on paper and possible course ideas. I've made a little bit of progress.

I got really depressed as I was reading so much about "playing the game". Everything I was reading was all about the goal of getting into a good university with lots of scholarships. Now this is something you want to happen but that it not the goal of high school. I hate that utilitarian view of education! Our goal in high school (in short) is to develop the person. I finally pulled out my Navigating the High School Years DVD from Simply Charlotte Mason and it was just a relief to finally here something inspiring that matched our goals for high school! I am so thankful for my friend, Lynne, who reminded me that we needed to watch it.

While sick (really just fighting a cold that my body said take a hike but the cold just kept trying to invade aka I'm exhausted but not too many cold symptoms) I started planning out books for the next school year (yes! 2015-2016!!). Even though it's too early it was good use of my time because I really had no brain power but I wanted to get something done. I made a good list for Tyler's sixth grade year. Now to just let that sit until late spring.  : )

Clicking around-
In my high school research I relied heavily on the following resources for some encouragement and ideas.
Meredith's Homeschool Highschool (and I'm excited her ebook will be out later this month!)
Jen's Homeschool High School Post (awesome encourgement here!)
Homeschool High School Carnival (all kinds of different ideas here!) 
I know there were more but that is all I can recall at the moment.

The Three Wise Men and their camel take a trip around on our house until the Epiphany. Looks like they made a rest stop. I guess the camel got thirsty.

A few plans-
This is our last week of Christmas break. I'm hoping to work on getting us back on a school schedule by the end of the week. This will make our first week back much easier.

I still have a few projects that I want to complete. We were a little sick last week and didn't get as much done. The woodwork in the kitchen could use a good scrubbing and I have an impossible closet that is giving me a headache.

I have a plan to hit JCP for new towels. Almost all of the towels in our house need replacing so I'm planning on using some Christmas cash for that. The original towels still usable after 15+ years were all from JCP so that is why I decided to shop there. I love Target but their towels just don't last! (Of course I probably bought the cheapest they had.)

Boys playing the Wii on New Year's Eve and one tired puppy. And a look at my leaning Christmas tree. As I say every year, maybe next year we will get a new one next year!

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