Hard Lessons~

I’m feeling a little proud of my title.  It has several meanings as you’ll see.  Just an aside there… I was just so tickled that it turned out like that so I had to say something.  I know, pathetic.  You can take it I’m sure.

Math.  It conjures up mental images of triumph or despair.  Few people are ambivalent about math.   They remember struggle over percentages, fractions, percentages, long division, percentages, integers, percentages, polygons, percentages… I don’t suppose anyone can guess where I had the most trouble in math?

Like many homeschoolers, I started with Modern Curriculum Press.  I was happy with the program until we hit book D.  Talk about a pathetic waste of intellectual time!  I quickly skipped that book and moved onto Saxon 54.  Ahh… finally, the curriculum I’ve been waiting for!  I confess, the girls had no trouble with the first book.  (Ok, Nolan didn’t either)  The second book was so easy for them that they tested out of it and went to 76.  They plodded through that and moved into 87.  (We chose it over Algebra 1/2 on the advice of a math teacher.)  Then they hit Algebra.  My math whizzes stalled, sputtered, and stopped.  Dive CD’s helped but they didn’t solve the problem.  Suddenly children who had loved math and found it easy struggled.  I considered it par for the algebraic course and just pushed them along.  It was a little disheartening.  I had hoped for them to get through Algebra 2 before graduation… preferrably farther.  They were fighting to understand Algebra 1.  Challice never did understand it and simply moved onto Consumer Math without truly understanding what she’d tried to learn.

One day I stepped out my front door, opened the mailbox, and pulled out a new catalog from Timberdoodle.  I hurried to see if there were new Henty books, checked out the science videos, looked for games, and as I flipped to see what book they were sending out this time, my eyes were arrested by new math books.  I almost turned the page.  I really didn’t want to ‘go there’  Instead, I read the description thoroughly.  In some areas, I completely disagree with the owners of Timberdoodle.  However, as a general rule, I like their ideas and stick to them.  (Pathway readers are definitely a line of demarcation.  Those things are an insult to my children’s brains!)

After reading their lengthy description of the math books, I typed in “Teaching Textbooks” in my nifty little Google toolbar.  I found the website and viewed demonstrations.  To my chagrin, I was impressed.  I didn’t want to be.  I LIKED (and still do!) Saxon.  It is an excellent program that has proven results.  The DIVE cds are excellent tools to make the job of teaching the math easier.

I admit, I was tempted almost immediately.  Part of my girls’ problem with Algebra was mental.  They’d determined that it was impossible to learn.  (And two of them were math whizzes!)  If I bought a new curriculum with lots of CDs then perhaps they could simply be convinced that this curriculum would be explained in such a way as they could understand!  It was easy to sell my oldest student on the idea.

I swallowed my pride, my plan, and the choke in my throat at the price and bought the books.  Excitement reigned the day they arrived.  Everyone wanted to see how they worked.  Immediately my third student asked if I could get the books for her level.  I cringed and said yes.  I bought them the following weekend. 

For several months now my math haters have done two or more lessons a day.  They love math again.  Everyone considers this curriculum to be the ultimate in mathmatical excellence.  I have a confession though…

It still bothered me that I liked the program so much better than Saxon.  Don’t get me wrong, I still think Saxon is a PROVEN and excellent program.  It bothered me that we ‘quit’ something that I highly regard.  It bothered me that I took the ‘easy way out’.  Whatever happened to sticking to something and working through the difficult spots?   Don’t we learn character from that?   Isn’t that a healthy and necessary part of maturing?  I even found myself apologizing to people for abandoning the ‘tried and true’.

You know what?  I’m not going to feel guilty anymore.  People I highly respect who have done an excellent job in educating their children have used other curriculum that I didn’t feel obligated to use.  Some people absolutely love Shurley Grammar.  I never felt the need to use it.  Some people do unit studies.  I’ve never felt guilty for not doing it myself.  I think the reason I was so bothered by this decision was because I don’t have a problem with Saxon.  I find it logical, well laid out, and the ‘lecture part of the book well written.  I would have loved to use Saxon as a student.  There was  just one problem.

My children weren’t doing well with it despite it’s excellent track record.

The guilt remained for several months.  After all, pride gets in the way.  I mean, if I hated the program now I could easily pick apart its faults and not worry about it.  I don’t.   I still like it.  I don’t know why I struggled for so long except to say that it’s hard to admit that something didn’t work for you.  One has to wonder why.  I know why.  I didn’t TEACH the program.  I like a self-taught curriculum.  I’m not a natural born teacher.  I don’t like teaching.  I want the curriculum to do the teaching and I do the clarifying if there are any questions.  I’m good at questions.  I’m not so good at introducing the concepts.

So, what finally encouraged me to give up the guilt?  It’s so simple it’s almost embarrassing.  In any other area of their life or mine, if there was a way to do the job easier, more thoroughly, and with great success, I would have done it.  If we needed a better frying pan to make omelets or a computer program to make lesson plans, or a better sewing machine or serger, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.  If I needed a specific pattern, pair of scissors, or kind of fabric, I’d not think twice about buying it today.  I like for Kevin to have what he needs to do home chores.  If he needs a new saw, a specific drill, or even need to pay someone to do it for him, I’m all for it!

Why wouldn’t I do that for my children?  Why should they be forced to hand dig every shovel full of a swimming pool when they can use a back hoe, dig half of it out, and hand shovel where the back hoe doesn’t do the job?

I learned my lesson.  It was a hard one.  I’m still smarting from the stab to my pride but two things are clear.

1.  I can survive wounds to my pride and

2.  I’ve found a math program that can truly compete with Saxon and, in our opinion, win!

Just don’t tell me there is a better science than Apologia.  I really don’t want to know that.  😉

Someone on Hearth Keepers asked why TT over Saxon.  This was my response

We’ve used both. Both have integrated review. Both have the CD’s. Both have a number to call for help. Both are good programs.

I’ll probably never go back to Saxon because…

1. TT CDs cover EVERY problem, EVERY practice, have a LECTURE on every move in the book and the solutions CD does the same thing. If you get it wrong, it shows you step by step so you can find where you went wrong.

2. TT’s CDs are much better quality. The program was written WITH the CDs rather than them being added later so it flows better.

3. TT’s were written FOR independent study so they have much better and more thorough explanations of what to do, how to do it, and why it works.

4. My kids actually look forward to doing math again. They didn’t hate Saxon, but they did hate MATH.


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