In the switch to 4th Edition, Saxon's Algebra 1 has departed dramatically from John Saxon's pedagogy. Most likely meant to work with current educational standards, and certainly meant to be easier for creating student transcripts, Algebra 1 covers all the topics in a first-year algebra course and builds the algebraic foundation essential for all students to solve increasingly complex problems. Students employ higher-order thinking skills, real-world applications, reasoning, and justification to make connections to math strands. Unlike the 3rd edition, this book focuses primarily on algebraic thinking and multiple representations—verbal, numeric, symbolic, and graphical. Graphing calculator labs model mathematical situations. It does NOT include Geometry, except for in an appendix.
This text is definitely the result of a panel of authors, rather than one. We've heard complaints about inconsistent writing quality and spotty review of concepts. Some have mentioned the number of concepts being introduced as overwhelming, and there are difficulties with errors in the solutions manual (or solutions that use methods not taught in the book).
Dr. Schormann, creator of the DIVE Saxon tutorial software, has weighed in with his dislike of the Algebra 1 4th edition here. He does not plan to create a tutorial for this and so far, Saxon has not created one either. In short, while we believe this could be used well by a good math teacher, we would discourage its use by most home school families.
The Home School Package includes a (still hardcover) Student Textbook, Homeschool Testing Book, and Solutions Manual.