I purchased the Homeschool Kit. This included the softcover student text, the answer key, and a book of worksheets and tests.
Saxon is a no nonsense, spiral approach to math. With each lesson the student is briefly instructed in a new concept and asked to answer several problems to reinforce the new concept. The rest of the lesson is dedicated to the student answering problems pertaining to previous lessons.
The heavy review in this program guarantees that most students will not soon forget the lessons learned.
Perhaps a bit too much review. The author seems to have a fear of words or pictures; anything that could make this program the least bit interesting or child friendly is missing. The amount of problems to be completed is overwhelming for the average student.
Personal opinion on this text:
I chose not to further torture my daughter by insisting she continue on with it. I can say that Saxon took my math loving child and turned her into a math phobic child who was reduced to tears every time I pulled the book out. I'll be honest - I've never met a parent who LOVES this program. I do, however, know a few who tolerate it.
Voyages in English 5 (original print by Lepanto Press)
This is a beautiful, original hardcover text first published in (I believe) the 50's. The first half of the book was dedicated to creative activities (plays, thank you letters, etc); the second half dedicated to grammar. The grammar instruction is thorough and predictable; it builds upon each previous lesson. While thorough, it isn't dry and it isn't overwhelming. My daughter quite enjoyed it. I did purchase the teacher's manual as well, but didn't find it necessary.
This is a decidedly Catholic book. The grammar lessons reinforce that and religious references are in almost every lesson.
Advanced Language Lessons by Susan Wise Bauer
We are only on week 3 of this but are enjoying ourselves very much. The instruction is well written and easy to understand. This program is teacher intensive, so it wouldn't work well for someone wanting a student directed grammar program. I sit across from Autumn with my teacher's book, while she sits with her student pages. The teacher's book directs me on exactly what to say and do. It is completely scripted so there is no need for guess work - a huge advantage to parents like myself who, while well read and educated, have come to forget the basics of language over the years. Autumn does the work without complaint and retains the information well.
This text is not yet available for purchase; I believe that the author's estimated release date is in October of 2011.
I will update as we complete the book.
All American History by Bright Ideas Press
This program was written by a homeschool Mom, published by Bright Ideas Press. There are two volumes in this program; "Exploration to The Jacksonians (1840)" is the first volume, and "The Civil War to the 21st Century" is the second volume. Each volume is hardcover; you can buy separately the teacher's volume (also hardcover) and a softcover activity book.The Books are recommended for grades 5-8; the teacher's manual offering ideas for making the texts suitable for both younger and older children; the activity books for each volume offering activities for explorer reports, cultural research, and hands on activities for the kinesthetic learner.
The author advertises the books as her attempt at making history personal and relevant. She hopes to tell the story in such a way that history comes alive.
Regardless of her attempts, we found the books to be at a higher reading level than most 5th or 6th graders can manage on their own; the books dry, boring, and tedious; the pages were of poor quality.
This book has a protestant bend to it, that becomes obvious as the "story" is told. Not a huge deal and relatively easy to get around if it isn't your preference.
Usborne Encyclopedia of World History (internet linked)
We are using this book as our spine for the Middle Ages, later we will use it as a supplement for The Renaissance.
The books is beautiful; hard cover, great quality, full of bright pictures, and is an easy, entertaining read. The pages are generally two page spreads for a specific time in history. The book covers prehistory to modern times. We are enjoying it very much. It is suitable for all ages.
Art 5 for Young Catholics (2002 by Seton Press)
This is a beautiful introduction to religious art. I will admit that it wasn't what I expected. I was hoping for an introductory art appreciation course (as I believe Seton advertised it as); however, the book only has religious art, and minimal appreciation/history outside of religious symbolism.
We are keeping the book though, as the art is GORGEOUS and the book in general makes a wonderful supplement to our religious instruction.
Usborne The Children's Book of Art
We are using this book for art appreciation and history. Each two page spread introduces and artist and his most famous art; giving the history, style, and artist information for the art.
We are thoroughly enjoying this book.
Word of warning: this book does contain nude art.