At New Park Street Christian School, I often use curriculums developed by individuals out of frustration with what was available in the curriculum world. These curriculums were not developed by committees. Instead, through hard work and sacrifice, the authors were able to provide a product designed to better assist students in the learning of the particular subject.
Saxon math is one of those curriculums developed with much work and devotion.
What makes Saxon so different? There is no one part of the Saxon system that makes it or breaks it. It is the system as a whole that works together to consistently create confident and skilled math students with few exceptions.
The student begins each lesson with mental math, where the student mentally solves 8-10 problems he tells his teachers the answers to. Next, the student reads from the book the new skill to be learned. From this reading, the student will have to explain to the teacher his understanding of the material while referencing the examples. Then once the student shows his teacher understanding, 8-12 practice problems are provided to show if the student has a good understanding of the new skill.
After the practice problems have shown the student has a good understanding of the new skill, there are 30 problems that review the previous skills learned. These 30 problems will include 2-4 problems from the day’s new lesson. For our purposes, if a student missed more than four problems the thirty problems had to be repeated. The tests occur usually every five lessons and cover all earlier learned skills up to the five previous lessons. Our students would have to repeat the previous five lessons if more than four of the twenty test questions were missed.
Way, way back in my twelfth year of teaching in the public schools, I was granted my request of beginning a multi-grade classroom in the large public school district I worked for at the time. This allowed me to teach a multi-grade class of fourth through sixth-grade students with special education students integrated into the class. Wanting to individualize the math program and not being convinced the math program the district was using was the best to individualize with, I found copies of two other math publishers in district storage. I spent the summer picking and choosing the best each book had to offer in teaching the different concepts of math to be taught that year for each grade. Then I created a checklist for the year for students to progress through.
Everything was charted out by concept, page and book. Reviews and tests were added. Each student would bring one of the three math books with their check-sheet that had what the student had to read from the book and prove to me he understood the concept. Then the student would perform practice problems on the new concept. Once it was shown the concept was understood, then problems from another book would be used to review past material learned. If a student did not pass the test over the material taught at 80% or better, then the previous lessons would be completed again.
I worked this way with my students, all 30 of them, for one year. Then towards the end of the year, a colleague heard what I was doing with the different textbooks. He asked if I heard about a math program called Saxon math. He heard it was similar to what I was doing, but with only one textbook.
Later, I left the multi-grade position to begin my own private school. That school was very different; individualized instruction, no lecture, integrated non-labeled special education, multi-grade, with basic Christianity taught. And Saxon Math was used in grades four through twelve. The rest, as they say, is history.
Our small private school of fourth through eighth-grade students would consistently take 12% to 18% of the awards given at the yearly regional math competition representing approximately 30,000 students in the Rocky Mountain region. Our last five years, the high school students earned regional awards for Algebra 1 and usually one other area of math. The school math ACT scores were an average of 26 or more for each of those years.
And no, we did not have attending the best and the brightest dwelling in the Valley of the Sun. We quickly had a wait list of families who had already been through the public and charter schools and felt their kids needed more. Kids who were not successful and who had parents desperate for help.
Though a lot of our success in math goes to the students’ hard work, the teachers’ persistence, the parent’s support, and the individualized daily instruction, Saxon math provided the keystone to our success.
Saxon Math was developed by John Saxon. He has been called the ‘George Patton’ of the math wars. Who knew there were math wars? He rejected the direction modern math was going. With $80,000 raised from savings, a mortgage, and other sources, he developed his first textbook, Algebra 1, in 1981. From there he developed math books from Calculus to fourth grade.
John Saxon developed his unique textbooks because he believed the new math programs of his time would greatly hurt American math education. In his unique books, he believed breaking instruction down into smaller parts would make the math concepts easier to understand.
The four reasons I like Saxon Math are:
1) It provides a great system of review of the previous skills learned. The present systems used in most schools of teach and move on is not nearly as effective.
2) The text is easy enough for most students to read and understand. From the lesson reading, my students have to prove to the teacher their understanding.
3) The mental math aspect supports the student’s basic skills and confidence in performing math.
4) The tests are close enough to each other to provide a good system of accountability for learning.
5) For the past twenty-nine years, Saxon math has been a great support in teaching my students from third through twelfth grades.
There are parts of Saxon I do not use. I have found over time that some sections only slowed down my students' math progress or I could better support my students using a different method. I will address those section exceptions in future blogs.
Saxon Math provides a sound and proven curriculum for the students of New Park Street Christian Academy, used with the individualized instructional methods, gives my students excellent opportunities to succeed in improving their math skills.
New Park Street Christian Academy is now a proud member of ACSI, the Association of Christian Schools International. The official ACSI standard is on our first page.
This is the third school I have enjoyed membership with ACSI. I have had two schools before New Park Street Christian Academy I started and managed with many other great people that God blessed me with. Both schools belonged to the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). It is a great national organization whose mission is to support Christian schools through activities and other ways. ACSI had regional academic competitions we looked forward to participating in.
Here is some information from the ACSI web site about their organization.
At ACSI, we serve almost 3,000 member-schools in the United States, over 20,000 member schools internationally, and help more than 5.5 million students worldwide connect to Christian education. We have offices throughout the United States and the world.
ACSI Membership connects your school with a community of Christian educators, along with tools, services, and professional development opportunities.
ACSI has been a lot of support to my schools in the past. Support that helped those schools exhibit their uniqueness to the Christian community. Nationwide math, spelling and georaphy competitions, legal services, and accreditation were some of the many supports provided to help us serve our community.
But ASCI has always been much more for me than their support for the school. It has always been an important support for me personally. The Rocky Mountain Region is based in Tucson. And it has always had very good leadership, including now, with Jerry Bowen at the helm.
The support of the regional leadership and the opportunity of being able to meet and discuss the managing of a school with other principals of Christian schools in an invalauable encouragement.
ACSI membership also provides some additional credibility for this new school commitment I am beginning.
Accreditation is a wonderful service provided by ACSI. In my past two schools, I used both accreditation from ACSI and the secular North Central or as it is now called, Advanced Ed, to provide appraisal of my schools. Neither group provides a better service than the other that I can see. I used the two services because I thought at the time it would provide more credibility. Looking back, I don't think it made a difference in my two schools credibility to have both services accredited the schools.
Here is what ACSI says about their accreditation.
Accreditation with ACSI engages schools in a vigorous, holistic process of organizational appraisal and improvement that engages every school constituent. Our program is a highly regarded Christian program for member schools. We have partnerships with all of the U.S. regional accreditation agencies and offer joint accreditation with numerous accrediting organizations.
When New Park Street Christian Academy begins to have a few students, we will contact ACSI for permission to begin the process. It is always worthwhile and for me a joy to present what my student's are doing.
While there are many fine Christian school associations to belong to, ACSI has met the needs of my previous schools and I expect they will do that again. I am proud to be a member school.
I have added Home School Support for students in the grades of fourth, fifth, and sixth in the subjects of math and/or writing/grammar to the educational options at New Park Street Christian Academy.
Home School Support is an integral part of New Park Street Christian Academy as it has been in my two previous schools. The idea of supporting home schooling families fits right in with the school's mission of supporting our families through individualizing the expectations and goals for each student. That is what homeschool families do naturally already!
This method of supporting home school families is even more conducive in its support than my previous schools because the home school family's child is at home while being taught by me allowing the family to listen to what is being taught and how. The family is able to listen and maybe use my teaching methods to help clarify the families methods to better teach the rest of the children in their house.
Home School Support at New Park Street Christian Academy gives the home schooled students the opportunity to learn with other students around their age. There is something to be said for the influence of positive peer influence on a student's effort.
My experience has shown me that in a positive and encouraging learning environment like at New Park Street Christian Academy, students eventually become motivated by the successes they make as well as observing the successes of others.
Just like in a home school environment, each and every student at New Park Street Christian Academy has individual goals built on the previous day's successes. My students are all working to meet my expectations as far as the quality of work and accuracy. And for each of those students, my expectations are different for the quality of work and accuracy.
My hope is to have all my students be confident learners. I want them to know they have a strong base of skills to build on each day.
For all of my students, I expect them to work hard while they are with me. They have to be respectful to me and encouraging to the other students.
The instruction is individualized as I have said before. I could have one student as a sixth grade student working on memorizing his addition facts while a fifth student in the same math class is working on concepts from a traditionally seventh grade math book and the rest of the math class is somewhere in between working towards meeting their individual goals.
It is usually motivating for students to know that each day their success in class is dependent on the quality of learning from the day before.
The Home School Support is a part of New Park Street Christian Academy for a selfish reason also. While most of the home school families attending my support programs in my two previous schools happily continued providing the majority of their children's education at home, some decided to enroll their kids into the full time program. A great opportunity for the academy and the home schooled student.
If you have any questions, please call or email.
This blog is going to be so boring if you just want your child to attend New Park Street Christian Academy and have the thought that as long as he/she is learning and the learning method is not dangerous, you don't really care to hear about our methods. But if you want to know how we teach and why I think our methods are so effective, then please read on. You might even find it exciting.
Some form of the Ihms instructional method has been used for over twenty-five years in schools, public and private. The Ihms method continues to be used by many former teachers from my previous schools who continue teaching. Once you have used the Ihms method to teach or you have had the method used to teach you, it can be difficult to return to teaching or learning in a traditional method.
Here are the key components of the method.
- All students are able to learn meaningful skills important for them.
- It is the teacher's lack of skills or knowledge, not the student's, if learning does not occur, as a general rule.
- A good teacher/student/parent instructional relationship supports learning.
- Each student has a unique instructional path to learning new skills.
- A great teacher believes in his/her students.
Here are some general rules of what I believe is harmful in instruction.
- Group instruction in general is ineffective for learning.
- Auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning are ineffective and not supported by independent research.
- Computer learning is as ineffective as group instruction.
The Ihms method begins teaching from where the student is comfortable learning. And this starting point is unique for each student. I know that every student at New Park Street Christian Academy has different educational and life experiences. It would be wrong on my part as the instructor to ignore this fact.
That is why every student attending New Park Street Christian Academy is given a series of placement tests. This information provides me data to begin the students at a place in their studies where they are comfortable.
For example, in a writing assignment, because of each student's different writing skills, one student may begin working on a friendly letter by writing one sentence at a time while another student may be writing his friendly letter a paragraph at a time. Both students are working on the same goal, writing a friendly letter to be sent out. Both students are working towards meeting the goal through different paths.
This is true for the instruction in math, writing, grammar, literature, geography, and keyboarding. Bible is a group activity and science is working in pairs or small groups.
The learning at different paths of instruction for each student is based on the previous days work that usually the student has mastered. The next days instruction and learning goals are based on the student's successes. If the learning was not successful from the previous lesson, I will take the time to help the student understand the goal the goal the next day before moving on.
The instructional time in the classroom is student centered, not teacher centered, at New Park Street Christian Academy. Each assignment is an opportunity for the student to prove to the teacher the concept is understood and/or mastered. The assignments, tests, and teacher questions are designed for the student to prove his skills.
A teacher centered instructional time is where the teacher tries to prove to the student the information to learn. The teacher centered instruction begins where the group left off the day before, whether all or any had a good understanding or even a mastery of the skill in order to progress to the next step.
Assignments for the new students to New Park Street Christian Academy are at times varied. Experienced students at the academy develop over time a consistent work ethic that most new students do not have.
For over twenty-five years, students using the Ihms method of instruction develop a work ethic that brings consistent success in their studies.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.
This school has been over 40 years in the making. That is how long I have been instructing birth through adult, regular education and special education, at a mental institution and homeschools, public and private schools, and as a teacher and an administrator.
Through the lessons learned through my mistakes and successes I have experienced over the forty plus years, I begin New Park Street Christian Academy. The online part of the school is unique, but the rest of the teaching methods and curriculum have been successfully used and will be used successfully again in meeting the school's mission of supporting Christian parents in the training of their children through providing an individualized instruction built on the individual skills of each student.
The instructional method used at New Park Street Christian Academy has been described in many ways, but my favorite is when my methods are compared to a very organized home school. Fifteen students of varying skills and ages all working on material challenging for each individual based on the previous days work, all the time in front a live teacher teaching, correcting and encouraging them as they move through their skills, progressing individually.
Imagine a class of students working at their own skill level. When their assignment is complete, the student presents it to his teacher for immediate correction, reteaching, and/or encouagement, and his next assignment. Students learn to wait for their turn if necessary.
I don't need to label any of the students educationally. Labels do not change my appoach to how I instruct a student or the materials used. What changes my instruction and materials used is the student's skills and confidence. Educational labels are for getting funding or for poorly trained teachers to give excuses for a child's lack of learning.
The school is begun with the humility and hope of knowing its success depends on the mercy of my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.
The oviding an individualized education built on each student's individual skills.
I am Tim Ihms, the founder, head master, instructor, book keeper, and part time custodian at New Park Street Christian Academy. The blogs on this page are written for the parents of New Park Street students and for those who may be interested in sending their child to the school some day.