Written by contributor Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.
I‘m really excited about the 2012-2013 school year! That’s because we’ll be continuing with curriculum that we found this year – curriculum that we love! Trail Guide to Learning. My older daughter will be continuing with Switched on Schoolhouse, which works well for her in this season of her educational life.
We began using Trail Guide to Learning (Paths of Settlement) in January of this year and have thoroughly enjoyed it! Trail Guide, published by the folks at Geography Matters, is an all-inclusive curriculum that covers everything except math.
I never thought I was an all-inclusive curriculum kind of gal, so I was a little skeptical about trying it. However, we were really floundering for a history curriculum that my kids would enjoy and Trail Guide sounded like what I had in mind – heavy on biographies and historical fiction, with lots of hands-on learning.
I was in seventh heaven when the UPS showed up with “the big box.”
Photo by Kris Bales
There were so many books! Biographies, historical fiction, atlases! Because I chose the complete package, all the books I needed for the upcoming year were included.
Each level of Trail Guide to Learning – there are currently three with plans to add a new level each year through high school - covers a range of three grade levels and can be adapted for slightly younger or older students, which works great for us since my younger two kids are only two years apart and I’ve always schooled them together.
If your interest is peaked about Trail Guide, I would encourage you to read my complete review. I’ll warn you, though: it may be the world’s longest review. Get a cup of coffee or a glass of sweet tea before clicking over. For now, I’ll give you my favorite highlights:
- The planning is done for me. I click a button to print out all of the sheets for the kids’ binders each week and a button to print out my checklist. That’s it. My planning is done other than making sure I have all the supplies needed for the hands-on projects.
- My weekly checklist. It shows, at-a-glance, every assignment for the week with a handy little box for checking off each item as it’s completed.
- The built-in catch-up day. The Trail Guide schedule is built on a four-day week, with the fifth day left free for catching up missed assignments and wrapping up loose ends. Each Day 5 includes a great list of enrichment activities so that, if you do stay caught up (and don’t have doctor’s appointments, dance class, art, class, book club…), that last day isn’t wasted, but is, instead, filled with great supplemental learning.
- The daily rhythm. Each day is broken down into a consistent, predictable rhythm. This works so well for my teaching style. The kids and I know what we’re doing and when, which has made it really easy to fall into a workable routine with Trail Guide.
- The six week cycle. Each unit is six weeks long, which we’ve found to be a wonderful way of keeping learning fresh. Although we may be continuing the same general topic, each new unit feels like a fresh start. We start a new biography and new historical fiction books and we avoid that “in a rut” feeling. I’m liking the six week cycle so much that I’m revisiting the idea of year ’round schooling.
- The unit study feel. I’ve always enjoyed unit studies, so much so that I wrote my own and we used them exclusively our first several years of homeschooling. Trail Guide is the type of curriculum that I would have written myself if I’d had the knowledge and the organization. It teaches history through literature, includes great hands-on activities, and covers science in a way that relates to the period in history being studied.
We’ve enjoyed Paths of Settlement, the second volume in the Trail Guide series, so much that I’m already planning to use the third volume, Paths of Progress, when we finish the current volume in December. I can totally see us using Trail Guide all the way through high school.
Have you ever found a curriculum resource that you felt was a near-perfect fit for your family? If so, what was it?