Thursday, August 24, 2006

Why I don't like Saxon

A commenter from my last post asked why I don't like Saxon so here are my answers. Thanks for asking! This was originally written in response to a question that was asked on a Yahoo Group I am on that asked why Cathy Duffy did not recommend early Saxon.

I can tell you why I think she does not list it and instead lists MathUSee. Math is a language that must be learned in the same way reading is. Saxon does not do this. It is not a mastery program, but is a rote memory, spiral program that does not offer true understanding of the language of math. Saxon was written for public schools that do not slow their teaching for those students who are not getting it. Your children will not learn the “why” of math, and there certainly is a “why” to it. Saxon encourages you to push on when your child does not understand a concept with the assumption that they will “get it” when they see it enough. This is the philosophy behind all Saxon products. This will work ONLY if your child is instinctively very math-oriented in their brain from the get-go. Most of us do not have that luxury. Even if you think your child does think this way, it is my humble opinion that this is no way to teach young concrete-oriented children math. They must see it, feel it, and understand it. The only program I have ever seen that does all these things is MathUSee.


In my opinion, MUS will give you everything that Saxon will not. It is a complete mastery program in that you do not move on until your child(ren) understand it and can then explain it to you when called to do so. It is concrete, explicit, interesting, and understandable to those who really have struggled in this area. As a homeschooling mom for seven years I have seen many math programs (and so, unfortunately, has my eldest) and the only one that ever communicated true understanding of math concepts has been MUS. I will also go so far as to say that the majority of families that I have had contact with that are struggling in elementary math are using Saxon. My oldest was able to go all the way through Saxon 65 without truly understanding anything she did! What kind of teaching is that? Now we are working our way back through some of the concepts that she was “taught” by Saxon via MUS and she is thriving! She finally understands math and it is no longer a struggle. My two younger ones understand all their concepts too--math is no longer a dreaded subject.


So I actually feel that early Saxon can be a big negative and I could not recommend it in good conscience.

Probably more than you really asked for, huh? I do appreciate the question though. Oh, and for those of you wondering, no, I don't work for MUS! :+)






Dana said...

I am sincerly grateful. I have wondered about Cathy Duffy myself. I have used Saxon for 2 years and it isn't sitting well.

I knew you were using MUS but this honest post confirmed my "gut feelings"

Because of my own lack of education on the why's and how's of math, I am feeling inadequate using Saxon. Thank you!

Mamma1420 said...

What do you think about Horizons? We're using it and I like it so far but I have a few reservations about it. My daughter is doing well so I'm leaving it alone until I see further results. BUT! I'm still curious about your thoughts!

: )


UndertheSky said...

Thanks for your comments! I appreciate you both. :+)

Jessica, I used Horizons early on and found it to overwhelm my small person. It does not really teach the "why" behind math either, although I think it is a better program than Saxon. At least Horizons understands the importance of place value. That being said, the fact that it does not teach the real "why" behind math will still, in my opinion, limit a child. I have heard good things about Right Start, but have never seen it up-close so I have no personal opinion. I am still very much recommending MUS because I have seen the results and they are pretty outstanding.



Anonymous said...

I really like Saxon from 54 and up. Until then, though, I use Modern Curriculum Press.

Of course not all things work for all people, just my two cents.

The early Saxon did not appeal to my lazy nature! It looked like I was going to have to sit there and teach forever and I preferred the "I explain it, now you do it" model.

From Saxon 54 and on, I just read the intro aloud and then have them do the lesson. I thought each lesson taught the math behind the exercises well, but then again, I have nothing to compare it to as it's all I've used. I've just been so happy with the math progress around here that I haven't looked for anything else.

Copperswife said...

As always, different programs work well in different families. However, I agree with everything that's been said here about the early Saxon - too burdensome, not enough why for the concepts, etc. I want to put in my two cents worth about the later grade Saxon (54 and up) as well. My older girls STRUGGLED with it. I now know they struggled needlessly. There are many far better math programs out there for the upper grades. That said, I do know families that thrive on their Saxon math. If it ain't broke for your family, don't fix it!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the time you took to answer my question. I didn't expect that. We started with Saxon 54 and it seems to be working well for my son, who does have a mathematical mind by the way. I have heard other good reviews of MUS. I am having a friend who is a "wiz" evaluate my son. It may be that after that we switch programs if she thinks he isn't up to par.

Thanks so much,

Carrie J

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the time you took to answer my question. I didn't expect that. We started with Saxon 54 and it seems to be working well for my son, who does have a mathematical mind by the way. I have heard other good reviews of MUS. I am having a friend who is a "wiz" evaluate my son. It may be that after that we switch programs if she thinks he isn't up to par.

Thanks so much,

Carrie J

GogoMama said...

Following the recommendations of the Bluedorns, we have done very little formal math before 5th or 6th grade. Instead, we've done mental math and used math in practical situations. We've started each of the kids in 6/5 when they're ready for it (10-12, depending upon the child). 3 of the 4 of them have done wonderfully with it! The fourth doesn't like math of any kind, but does okay with it as long as her hand is held :-). We fooled around with a few of the others before settling on Saxon. I love that it builds on the previous lessons and explains so thoroughly.

The great thing about homeschooling is that we can each use what works best for our own children.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts. We used Saxon for a year and didn't like it . . . I thought it was a "fit" issue--we just "fit" better in Singapore.

But it's true that one of the reasons I like Singapore is that he's *thinking* about math, not just learning the formula.



Anonymous said...

Just a note to say that I am HERE, like ALWAYS, reading your BLOG, which I read DAILY, so that you would know that I am HERE reading your BLOG like ALWAYS which I do DAILY so that there would be no confusion. Because I'm here. Reading your blog. Daily. Like Always. And I just wanted you to know that.


~Jo's Boys


hugabunchmom said...

Wow, you make me reconsider Saxon. Since we use the Robinson curriculum I picked up Saxon because it is called for within Robinson. BUT, I will now rethink that decision as my oldest is still struggling through math. She was public schooled through 6th grade with straight As, and yet, once home we found that she didn't actually grasp an awful lot of things. She has been the perfect example of "teaching to the test" without actually learning. We have used A/O, Spectrum, and now this year it is Saxon, we've only been at it for a week, but she is already struggling daily to complete her math work. I suppose I will be browsing the MUS site this evening! Thanks for the tip!!

LisaLW said...

I started dd in Saxon's kindergarten program, and we both enjoyed it. I skipped parts that were repetitious, but overall, we had a great year, and she loved math. First grade was a different story once we started math computation. It took a while for me to figure out what wasn't working for us, but one day it finally clicked. A lesson would present a math concept, example: when you add 2 to an odd number, you get the next odd number. Now, here's a worksheet with 20 problems! I tried using different types of manipulatives, but I ended up with a frustrated and angry little girl who now "hated" math.

We spent the second half of first grade focusing on time and money and set Saxon aside. We're now four weeks into Singapore Math, but we had to start at Level 1 because she never mastered many first grade skills. At least her attitude is better, though.


Tracy said...

This is my first time visiting your blog and it is wonderful...full of good info.

I just had to comment and say that we use Saxon and have been very happy with it. My mind is not at all a "math" mind, and I have sure learned a lot! Now, I have only used level 3 and up, but have the K for my 4 year old (because it looks more like pre-k) and it looks fun, and hands-on. My older two 5th and 7th have done great with it and I think it does a lot of what you said it didn't do (like teach the "why" and not just the "how" to get the answer). Also, I wouldn't have them move on if they weren't getting something...no matter what I was using....isn't that is the beauty of homeschooling?

I will be visiting you again.


Jenn said...

I have been struggling with what Math curriculum to go with this yr. My children were pulled out of school after they completed 3th grade (my son) and 4th grade (my daughter) Last yr was our first yr homeschooling and they both did Saxon 6/5...My son is younger, but he does very well in Math. They both did well with Saxon 6/5 but toward the end of the school year began hating it.

During the summer I've had them on 2 levels lower with Singapore. Yet Math U See kept coming to mind as I was praying about what to do.

Now I feel like they will be behind with Math U See, since they will be beginning at 5th and 6th grade. I'm wondering how far back I will need to go to be sure they have a good foundation in Math.

What do you think?

I'm definitely going to go with Math U See, only not sure what level to begin. I'll have them take the placement tests. =)

I'm afraid they will be way behind with it comes to Math U See.

Moms4Psalms said...


You are so right about all of this. My eldest has gone all the way from Saxon K- Saxon 3 and still wasn't "getting it." We just mid-year switched to Math U See and for the first time math is "clicking" for her.

My sons are naturally math-oriented and were doing fine with Saxon. But with seven children I cannot devote 45 minutes to an hour per day per level of Saxon for multiple children and still teach all other subjects! They, too, have been switched to Math U See and they love it. They call it "the fun math" and all of us look forward to it.

It had gotten to where we were all dreading Saxon each day. No one needs to dread and despise homeschooling! I'm learning it's okay to switch to something that works better for the family. We say life is so much better with Math U See!