Saxon K-3 math is a complete math program designed to prepare students for higher levels of the Saxon math programs. Each level costs around $100 and includes a teacher’s manual, two consumable student workbooks, a consumable meeting book, and consumable flash card set. For all levels of the program, a manipulative set is also needed. This kit runs around $80 and is non-consumable. Each level covers a full year’s worth of math, and is taught in a spiral learning pattern.
Each lesson in Saxon is fairly routine and predictable. The lesson starts with a meeting. The meeting consists of counting, patterns, graph work, calendar, clock practice, and coin work. Usually there is one small activity for each of these tasks. All this information gets recorded in the meeting book. After the meeting, it’s time for the new lesson. Usually it’s a hands-on activity that teaches or adds to some math skill. When the lesson is over, it’s time for equations. As the student goes through the levels the problems become more difficult and eventually timed. The goal is to keep beating earlier scores from previous sheets. When the problem sheet is done, the student then works on side A of their worksheet. Side B is done later in the day to refresh the learning for the day.
This is a pretty time-consuming program. With everything factored in, it takes somewhere around an hour each day. Still, I don’t find that to be out of line. As math is one of the most important subjects, it makes sense to give it the time it needs. However, it takes a little planning to keep it from dragging down the day. I have my children complete the meeting book alone in the morning, and side B of the worksheet gets done as ‘homework’ after our day has concluded. (If they do very well on the lesson, we might skip side B altogether).
Though it can be dry at times (pages full of math problems just aren’t thrilling), Saxon does a good job of coming up with fun activities for the new learning. The manipulative are fun to play with, and my son has a blast weighing school supplies on the balance, making patterns with the colorful shape pieces, and making shapes on the geoboards. I keep all the math manipulatives off-limits so they are even more fun to play with during math time. It’s like playtime.
Though I was wary of it, the spiral learning approach that Saxon uses seems to work well for my son. Instead of spending a few weeks working on one concept, concepts revolve in the curriculum, keeping my son on his toes. There is no risk of him mastering a skill in one unit and then forgetting it in the next unit. This can make the curriculum seem a bit unfocused, but it usually brings things together. Often, two seemingly unrelated activities are brought together in future lessons.
If I had to make a few criticisms of Saxon, I would have to mention the odd level division, and repetitive drills. Saxon K seems to be at a pre-K level, Saxon 1 is more suited to kindergarten; the entire program seems to be placed about one grade level above where it should be. Fortunately, there are placement tests available online for free to help confused parents.
With the two-sided worksheets and scores of math facts, Saxon can also be repetitive, sometimes frustratingly so. I do understand the practice does reinforce facts and skills, but sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming. By the third level, a student is sometimes assigned 200 facts a day, on top of the regular worksheet. Skipping is strongly discouraged, but you can risk burn-out and frustration at times.
Even with its short comings, Saxon is a solid program. It has a large section of the homeschool math market, and for good reason. Saxon does what it sets out to do – teach children math, not teach at children. The program worked well for my oldest, and my youngest in doing well so far. We never did try Saxon K though, as we just jumped into Saxon 1 in kindergarten.
Pros: Complete math program, fair price, very available, fun activities, lots of practice time
Cons: Levels are off, takes considerable time daily, can be too repetitive