We started using the Saxon phonics program this year for our first grader. It has been different from what we are used to for first grade (ABEKA). However, there are alot of good things I can say about it.
Pros – First of all it is a VERY comprehensive style of curriculum. The teachers spiral bound edition is about 3 inches thick. LOL! Each day’s work is spelled out for the teacher. It even includes verbal cues (what to say). So, for the beginning homeschooler it would be perfect to get your feet wet. It introduces letters to the first grader gradually. Each day it reviews the letters that were introduced previously and then builds on those concepts. Using the phonetic approach students are introduced to letters and learn to read all at the same time. This is definitely a new approach for me. I am used to introducing all of the alphabet one at a time – building on their sounds – and then building on consonant blends until you have words. My daughter was struggling at first, it seemed a bit too much. However, now she seems to be doing fine. I would suggest purchasing the Teaching Tools to accompany the worktext. There is a ton of great resources in this little box, and it allows us to play games and make the phonics time more interesting. She especially loves to make words out of the little letter cards that are included.
Cons – The curriculum is quite comprehensive as I mentioned before. It takes quite a while each day to cover everything that is included in the teacher’s manual. It takes us about an hour. With that in mind, there are many days that my first grader gets frustrated and tired. I usually try to break up the monotony with a “game” using the letter cards. There are alot of games that are listed in the teacher’s manual which does make it easier. The resources tools have a ton of flashcards, books, and game pieces that have to be separated and put together. This is quite time consuming.
All in all I would have to rate this curriculum very high. Though I think that ABEKA does have the reading process a little more streamlined. This curriculum if followed completely will give your beginning reader a VERY solid foundation in phonics. I believe this curriculum is great and will definitely not be a negative in our learning experience. However, with 5 other children being homeschooled – it isn’t easy to spend an entire hour on one subject. If you have plenty of time and no rush… this curriculum is perfect!