Over the past few months, I have shared with you many snippets about our homeschool days and about GeoMatters Trail Guide To Learning being the central focus of our learning adventure.. And now, I am going to really wrap up my thoughts about GeoMatters Trail Guide to Learning and how we have implemented it in our home.
We are not a ‘box’ family. Our first year of homeschool, was a ‘box’ year…there’s nothing wrong with a box…but, I felt I had to do everything in the exact way the curriculum directed me to use the curriculum. After the stress we experienced with the box, I worked extremely hard to stay away from them. And then, I met Debbie Strayer face to face at this homeschool conference. I was incredibly blessed by our one-on-one discussion about Homeschooling. After our discussion, I attended one of her classes…and wanted to hide in the back because I thought she had a camera in my home (her insight to the days of a homeschool Mom ARE real…because she’s been there) yet she shared the beauty of Christ and did so with grace and a LOT of humor. That meeting, her class and this opportunity to learn from her how to keep curriculum a servant….healed the wounds of a box…and opened my eyes to Trail Guide to Learning.
Now that you know the story behind this curriculum, how it came to be in our home…I’ll share our thoughts and experiences with it (we are now entering the 4th week of the second unit….so, we have had a full 9 weeks to truly get to know it and….well, here goes……
Trail Guide to Learning is a fully Integrated activity and Living Book Curriculum series that provides you with all of your lesson plans and notebooking pages – for easy implementation. WOW…that is a mouthful! And honestly, when I first looked at one of the volumes (you receive two volumes for your lessons plans with each series)….I will admit, I was a little overwhelmed. HOWEVER, as I sat down and read through each lesson plan, I found that it was truly easy to implement – especially in a home with two VERY busy boys and a very creative daughter.
The Series is broken down into:
- Paths of Exploration
- Paths of Settlement
- Paths of Progress
The Lessons in each volumes of the series include–> Copywork&Dictation, Reader (each child reads aloud to the parent/other children) Read-Aloud, Discussion, Narration & Reflective Writing, Narration , Word Study, Geography, Science and History, States, Writing Doing & Art and Independent Reading.
I am going to break most of this down into subjects …. so, grab your favorite drink, sit back and enjoy as I explain how this curriculum has benefited our family.
You know how important history is to me, true, honest…..History – and right now, American History is at the top of my list. I see a direct correlation of God’s providence upon the founders of our country…those who traveled by boat to find our country from the beginning and those who risked their lives by committing treason to ensure a beautiful Republic, built on the Word of God.
GeoMatters has truly HIT a HOME RUN with me in this area!
GeoMatters hits the History ball out of the ballpark utilizing beautiful living books that help your children travel back in time and enjoy the truth about our American History. The books we have read so far are: Abigail Adams and George Washington. Both identify the beauty that each person possessed, due to their character and principles being founded upon the Bible.
The books are beautifully written and help identify other individuals who were also alive at the same time, how their lives mingled across the earth from Europe to America and truly how God’s hand was at work during this time period of our American History.
History is not learned only through the Living Books, It is integrated throughout the remainder of the lessons – copywork, writing lessons, dictation, etc. I will cover those later.
In addition to the incredible books you read, Debbie includes other information to help draw your children in. She does this in a beautiful way that helps move you along without sitting and reading 10 books at one time. Truly, the information provided in her lesson plan/text is not a ‘text-book’ dry list of facts, but great information that ALSO helps build your child’s vocabulary, as well as historical knowledge!
Science and Nature Studies
GeoMatters and Debbie Strayer have adopted a Charlotte Mason/Nature approach to learning Earth Science in Paths of Settlement. By sitting and reading with your children from several books, as well as going out, observing , drawing and creating charts, as well as other crafts, your children will be instilled with a love for nature – and you’re not having to search all over the place to pull nature into your studies. The lay out, easy implementation and details provided help create a beautiful learning atmosphere for your children in this area of learning.
We have thoroughly enjoyed the activities provided in the lessons. I have been able to pull all of my children into the lessons, including our youngest, who is 6. He has enjoyed all of the hands on activities, learning about the clouds, weather, and many other topics we have covered – his favorite though…was the clouds – watching them change and grow.
My oldest fell in love with the periodic table of elements! We ended up spending an entire afternoon working on various equations – and he even has it posted on his wall in his room (he gets that from his Dad, not me – but I”m happy to see that while I may not enjoy that God’s hand is at work in my son, drawing him into His desires for his life!)
- tracking the weather
- making an anemometer
- making a Barometer
Not only are the activities fun,but I want to share with you something that truly makes my heart soar. When I began reading the materials, I was very impressed and happy with how Debbie Strayer has written the Science/Nature lessons. My children enjoy the short lessons and how they are laid out – easy to understand and FUN to implement.
WE are LOVING learning about the United States this year – not just in history, but also in Geography. In the ‘States” section, we are learning various facts about the United States! Each week, we learn about two states: The Names, Capitals,various topography as well as facts (Many that are new to me)….
The lesson plans are easy, fun and my children no longer wait for me to read them to them. While I have a ‘schedule’, the children are always encouraged to work at their own pace and many days, I will start breakfast or lunch and find that they are racing to find their geography lesson for the day, the books necessary and they’ll come running to me with exciting information they have learned.
They enjoy the notebooking pages that provide great outlines, allowing them to discover rivers, cities, mountains, etc that we are reading about in our history lessons. They also love the way the Geography book lends so well to the time in history we are reading about, including current historical data.
CopyWork and Dictation
Debbie Strayer has included within the lessons, details to help draw your attention in. Through Copywork and Dictation, your children are introduced to Rules (Principles to help guide them through their days) Rules such as:
- Be not quick to believe rumors
- Do not compare people to one another
- Do not find fault with a person who tries his hardest, even if he fails.
One thing we have truly enjoyed about the Trail Guide To Learning is the ‘doing’. All of the hands on activities for all of the subjects have been fun and easy (especially for Mom)
What have we been doing?
CookingEach week, your children learn about two states. One of the great things to ‘do’ when learning about the states is to cook a meal that consists of some of the favorite recipes of the state. We have enjoyed making many of the meals and shared about our experience with the New England Roast and Boston Cream Pie
Activities -Each lesson includes an activity to help draw your children in. It may be something that a character in the book has learned or does (such as Abigail Adams learning to make candles – making games or other fun activities.
ArtI have enjoyed the fact that this curriculum truly is fully integrated, all the way to including hands on art activities. We are learning about water colors this year – through easy to follow and implement art lessons provided in the book. All three of my children have truly enjoyed it!
I love incorporating music in our homeschool. One thing I loved about school was learning songs about The United States. Again – another home run for GeoMatters! They have included the Wee Sing America CD with booklet in the curriculum. The children absolutely LOVE singing all of the songs and quite often, I will hear my oldest walking through the house whistling “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandee”
A Little TV to watch
We do not watch tv very often- no cable or really much to talk about. However, I do love finding good movies, documentaries, etc that help us grow in our home. And, I have to admit, I do enjoy Drive Thru History – and again…. GeoMatters has thought of everything. They have included the Discovering America’s Founders (special edition) in the POS curriculum. Now, here is the only drawback…the kids won’t just watch what is specific to the lesson – they almost always insist on watching more – or watching it on the weekend…..during family movie time. So..insert Mommy grin here….I wink and say “Well, OK…..” and we all sit, watch, learn and laugh a little together.
We just began using this and we are thoroughly enjoying it. The lessons are broken down based on a Character trait that you want to help the children grow. Each lesson has a memory verse, project and enrichment activity. I hope to share more of this wonderful resource with you in the weeks to come. So far, we have thoroughly enjoyed it and love memorizing the Bible verses that help support our History Lessons.
Assessment CD and Game Cards
Pros and Cons
- All – inclusive – the only thing you need to add is math
- Intended for 4-6th grade, but can be utilized for 3rd and middle school
- NOTEBOOKING – GeoMatters has provided Notebooking pages for you to utilize in your home so you don’t have to search or make them. We do not use all of them, but we use most and we absolutely LOVE IT!
- It is fun
- Easy to follow Lesson Plans
- Games to make learning fun
- Great activities
- Christian Based curriculum
- I LOVE IT
If you read my blog, you know that I truly rely on the word of God for all things inspired in this world – that includes nature and it’s creation. I have been discouraged recently when attempting to find some nature studies books that did not include evolution. Please don’t get me wrong…our children need to learn about it, but does it have to be in everything? The books that are utilized for science/nature for POS – they do include evolution. The writers of POS have not hidden this fact…they have made it clear that “While these books are good sources of observations about the elements in rocks and weather patterns, the authors of this curriculum do not necessarily agree with all conclusions drawn in these guides. We hold a worldview of the earth’s creation that sometimes conflicts with comments made in the introductions and assumptions written about time.”
I shared my concerns with GeoMatters and Debbie Strayer was so kind to reply that (and has granted me permission to share this with you) - that information is provided at the end of the review, as it emphasises another resource, as well.
“The resource books you mentioned as being a problem for you were, as we noted, a concern for us as well. You will be pleased to know that Geography Matters is currently working on creating a replacement for the Children’s Illustrated Atlas. It will be a beautiful book that will not present any concerns. My co-author is also working on compiling replacements for the Weather and Rock books, though that may take more time. Also as you noted, it is very difficult to find handbook-type resources for our students to use. We prefer to use resources that allow the students to draw conclusions from description-type information and guidance provided for questions and investigations that relate to the studies.Your input is very valuable to me and I greatly appreciate it. My greatest desire is that parents be able to teach their children in such a way that the children are encouraged and inspired, but all with the guidance of their parents’ faith.” Debbie Strayer
Never read just one review…always read others. Here is one by my friend – Kris at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers – I know you will enjoy it.
You can order the entire Paths of Settlement curriculum HERE for $454
You can break it down in smaller increments here
all in all, I think it is a fabulous investment!
Wrapping it Up
All in all, we are loving GeoMatters Trail Guide To Learning – Paths of Exploration. My children give it two thumbs up (and if you are wondering if we are planning to use it next year – I sure hope so!!!)
And…we leave you with this – learning can be fun…and a little wacky when you use GeoMatters Trail Guide to Learning
Disclosure: We received POS curriculum from GeoMatters in exchange for our honest opinion. My children were absolutely thrilled and our family has been blessed by this opportunity. These opinions are ours – we were not compensated for this review and pray that God will continue to work through our home to bless others with information about products that we really use and do enjoy!