There are at least 100 things I love about homeschooling, not the least of which is the freedom to choose my own curriculum. In most public and private schools, parents have little to no say what curriculum their children use.
For one thing, Saxon uses the spiral method, which I do believe has been helpful to my daughter in many ways. What’s the spiral method? Well rather than dump a new concept in a student’s lap and drill it hard and heavy before moving on, the spiral method slowly and carefully swirls in little pinches of new material, all the while continuing to review the old, and easily building upon what’s already been learned. It’s actually a more easy-going style for math and the gentler approach has been very beneficial for my daughter. Not once this year have we had one of those “math meltdowns” that results from coming face-to-face with a math concept you just barely understand, (or don’t understand at all,) and three pages worth of practice problems that are magically supposed to make it all clear! Instead she’s learning new material all the time and it happens so slowly and seemlessly, she hardly even notices!
And I think it’s important to bring cost into the equation. In this area, Saxon was a big plus. With a little patience and careful scouring of eBay and Amazon, I found all the books I needed used, (including the Student Text, Solutions Manual, and Tests and Worksheets book,) and spent around $40 for all three. Not bad considering that new, they’ll run you $140+.
Of course, as much as I’ve liked Saxon, I have adored the math curriculum I’m using with my younger two, which uses a very different approach! So I’m in a quandary for next year, believe me!
Maybe I love this curriculum so much myself because, personally, throughout my school years I think I despised math in large part because I could never visualize it. Interestingly enough, while I struggled horribly through algebra, I breezed through trigonometry, a more advanced math, with no trouble. Why? Because I could visualize trig! It had a purpose I could see in my mind’s eye. Math-U-See, I think, is helping my children visualize math problems in order to solve them easier. If that visual foundation can help them grasp more advanced math on down the road, then I’m sold on it!
But on to science…
Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day
I have to admit that doing science with all my children at the same time has been more difficult to put into practice than I anticipated. Apologia’s Notebooking Journals are designed to make it easier. They offer two journals; one for older children and one for younger. The work varies between the two to be more age-appropriate, but they correspond perfectly with one another and with the textbook. It makes teaching the same lesson on two different levels doable, but not entirely easy. I find myself loving the journals and at the same time finding them a little tedious. The material in the journal is perfect for my oldest child, almost right for #2, but quite a bit too advanced for my youngest. If I continue with Apologia next year, (and I plan to as of now,) I’ll have to decide whether to continue using their Notebooking Journals or perhaps create notebooks of my own.
I will say the textbook is written more suitably for my oldest child, who is a middle-schooler, and it is cram-packed with information–enough to overwhelm my younger children at times, especially Little Man. I take great care not to read straight from the book any more than is absolutely necessary, but I paraphrase and lecture it out on my own in order to appeal to my younger children a little more. Next year I may need to allow Polly Wolly to do a separate science book, just to ensure she isn’t being held back any by her younger siblings who need to take the material at a slower pace.
I have to say, though, the information is incredible. I love the way the material is written and how God and the Bible and the wonder of creation is very gently woven into the text. Mention of God is neither forced nor inserted awkwardly like I’ve seen in other science curricula from Christian sources. It seems to flow very easily and the correlation between the creature and the Creator is revealed very naturally. In every sense, the information points to God as the designer of it all. I love that about it!
One of the only real complaints I’ve heard about Apologia is its very focused nature with books that concentrate on a single subject, (in the case of Zoology 1, birds and flying insects,) for an entire year, but I like the way it offers an in-depth study of a more narrow subject, rather than barely skimming the surface of 100 subjects! I don’t at all see where weak coverage of a multitude of topics is better than thorough coverage of a single one! But that’s just me…
We bought our Apologia books new at a homeschool convention and got free shipping. (Keep in mind you can sometimes get really good deals from curriculum companies at these conventions. There were a few purchases I hesitated to make and I ended up paying more for what I needed later!) We paid around $80 for one textbook and three separate Notebooking Journals. I thought that was pretty reasonable considering it would work for three children, but the books can sometimes be found used and the Notebooking Journals aren’t an absolute necessity if you can put together a notebook for written work and projects on your own.
So there you have it–our math and science for this year! One thing I’ve learned, as much as I worry and fret over these curriculum decisions, often my intuition is right on the money! But even if I make an awful choice, even if I blow it, it’s not the end of the world and I haven’t permanently ruined my children or displayed myself a miserable failure as their teacher! There’s no reason to be upset! I can always adjust and try again.
That’s one of the blessed things about homeschooling!