We’ve been using the third installment of the Trail Guide to Learning series, Paths of Progress for almost a year now and I’ve been promising y’all a review for awhile. We’re halfway through the fourth of six units and should finish up before Christmas break.
Rather than rehash the layout, which is essentially the same as Paths of Exploration and Paths of Settlement (see my review), the two preceding volumes, I thought I’d give you an overview of what’s covered in this volume, then tell you what this very eclectic homeschooling mom loves about this all-inclusive homeschool curriculum.
Overview of Paths of Progress
Paths of Progress explores the industrial growth of the United States through the eyes of the thinkers and inventors of the time. Students will learn about the lives of men such as:
- Michael Faraday (who actually lived in England)
- Thomas Edison
- George Washington Carver
- The Wright Brothers
- Alan Sheppard
Geography is integrated through history and economics as students learn about the natural resources of the states and the role that technological progress played in the expansion of our country.
Science focuses on inventions and inventors; tools and technology; and human anatomy. Art and music include creating clay sculptures, learning to play the recorder (which we skipped because my kids had four years of recorder music class), and studying the orchestra.
As in previous volumes, spelling, vocabulary, copywork, dictation, and writing are integrated for a natural approach to learning. Students begin to learn Greek and Latin root words to increase vocabulary skills. (We really enjoy playing games with Rummy Roots.)
Hands-down one of my favorite components of the Trail Guide to Learning series is the quality literature. I just don’t think there is any better way to learn history than studying the lives of those who lived in. In addition to the fantastic biographies, there are wonderful historical fiction titles, such as:
We’re even enjoying The Hound of the Baskervilles, part of the optional high school extension. I decided to start reading some of the high school extension books this semester since Josh is an 8th grader. Okay, and because I wanted to read them.
For nearly three weeks Megan has complained that The Hound of the Baskervilles is boring. I know the language is challenging, but I’ve been interpreting, as needed, and pointing out the funny parts. Just yesterday, she complained about the place I chose to stop reading – because she’s finally interested in the book and didn’t want to stop!
What I Love about Paths of Progress
Minimal teacher prep
There was a time when I loved to write my own unit studies and plan my own lessons. The fact is, though, that I’m at the stage in my life where I really appreciate having the lessons planned for me. I’ve said before that Trail Guide to Learning is written the way I would have written it myself. You know, if I knew what I was doing.
The daily lesson plans are written for me, so all I have to do is open the teacher guide and go. And, in Paths of Progress the Lesson-at-a-Glance pages are written to the student. That means that as students progress through the Trail Guide to Learning series, they’re continually being moved to greater independence.
Now, you may have seen me comment that I’m using a different lesson plan sheet. That’s because all three levels of student assignments are on the Lesson-at-a-Glance pages. That’s a bit confusing/overwhelming for my kids, plus I like to put the other things we do on their assignment sheets. There is actually room on the TGLS for adding in extras, but it’s a simple task to transfer the information from the TGLS sheet to my lesson plan sheet.
I used to spend almost an entire Saturday writing lesson plans. These days, it literally takes about 15 minutes, at most. I love that!
Four day school week
Like its predecessors, Paths of Progress is designed on a four day school week, with the fifth day being either a make-up day or an enrichment day. This makes the curriculum perfect for people who are also involved in a co-op – no stressing over getting behind. It also makes it easy to plan field trips, play dates, or extracurricular activities.
Or, you know, to just feel like you’re able to stay caught up without drowning in school work.
Six week units
If you’ve read my blog for any time at all, you probably already know how my family and I have come to love our year round homeschool schedule – six weeks on and one week off. We’ve just started our fourth week of school and I told my oldest yesterday, “Just two more weeks until we get a week off!”
Don’t get me wrong – we really enjoy the school day with Trail Guide to Learning. It’s not like I’m counting days of drudgery until we get a break…but, come on. We all need some downtime and with the busy schedule I’ve had lately, I’m just looking forward to a week to relax and catch up. Then, I’ll be just as excited to jump back into a new unit as I was to take the week off.
We enjoy school!
That’s probably the biggest thing I love about Trail Guide to Learning. Before we discovered this curriculum, we were all tired, burnt out, and just going through the motions. There was no grumbling this year when we resumed school after summer break. It wasn’t even a big production. I guess maybe that’s kind of sad – like there should have been a “first day of school” celebration or something.
Call me weird, but I kind of liked that our first day of school wasn’t a big deal. School is just part of what we do, like fixing dinner or going to church, or hanging out as a family. Trail Guide to Learning has reignited a love of learning while, at the same time, making the school part of our lives much simpler and more enjoyable. That makes every day a celebration of sorts.
If you’re interested in Trail Guide to Learning or any of the other Geography Matters products, don’t miss their August sales specials! They’ll be offering a new special each week, every Thursday in August.
Disclosure: I have a working relationship with Geography Matters, publishers of Trail Guide to Learning. However, I only recommend products that my family has used and enjoyed. The opinions expressed here are my personal, honest opinions. Your experience may vary. Please read my full disclosure policy for more details.
Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.