Trail Guide to Learning Review

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This Trail Guide to Learning review is probably going to be the most requested review I’ve ever written. Many of you had never heard – or had heard very little – of Trail Guide to Learning before I started gushing talking about it in January (honestly, I hadn’t heard anything about it long before then), so I’ve had a lot of questions.

Trail Guide to Learning Review
I’m looking forward to attempting to answer as many of them as I can, which means this will easily be the longest review I’ve ever written. I hope you’ll bear with me, though, because I think it will be worth it. I’ve tried to break it down in a way that will make it easier for you to skim to find what you’re looking for or come back later to finish reading.

Please keep in mind that everything I’m writing is based on my impressions and observations. I invite you to visit Geography Matters’ website for more detailed information from the publisher.

Overview of Trail Guide to Learning

Trail Guide to Learning is a history-based, all-in-one curriculum that covers everything except math. Each level 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 are only two years apart and I’ve always schooled them together.

Trail Guide to Learning

So far, there are three texts – Paths of Exploration (grades 3-5), Paths of Settlement (grades 4-6) and Paths of Progress (grades 5-7) – and there are plans to continue producing books through the high school level, which makes me do the happy dance.

Trail Guide to Learning is a labor of love born of a desire to create an easy-to-use, literature based, hands-on curriculum. It is based directly on Dr. Ruth Beechick’s philosophy of education, which also meshes nicely with the Charlotte Mason style of education. Some of these principles of education include:

  • Using copywork and dictation to learn writing skills and increase vocabulary
  • Developing thinking skills through observation and narration
  • Allowing the student to make connections naturally, rather than through contrived tasks and activities
  • Developing writing and reading skills across the curriculum, rather than as separate, seemingly unrelated tasked.

Specifically, we are studying from the second installment in the series, Paths of Settlement, which will be the focus of this review.

How Trail Guide to Learning Is Set Up

Each day is broken up into a basic rhythm that flows throughout the week, which y’all know I love. There isn’t a specific schedule, but rather a consistent pattern that flows through each day, week, and unit, which allows both the parent and the kids to have a predictable flow to the school day.

Each unit is six weeks long, with the last week being a built-in review and wrap-up week. The units are just long enough to really delve into a topic, but move on before it becomes tedious.

I really enjoyed the fact that part of the unit wrap-up is a student presentation for the family. This allows the student to process what he’s learned and cement the ideas in his mind by sharing them, in his own words, with his family.

It’s also great practice in oral presentation and organizational skills. I was really impressed with some of the things my kids thought to include in their presentations, as well as the points that meant the most to them and the amount of information that they retained.

In addition to the final week of the unit being a built-in review, day 5 of each weekly lesson is a built-in review/catch-up day, which y’all already know I love. (And, if you don’t already know, I invite you to read the post in which I sing the praises of a built-in catch-up day.)

Copywork and Dictation

Each day starts with copywork and dictation. The parent is encouraged to start her children at the level at which they can achieve success and build from there. For that reason, we’re still doing copywork.

I’ll be honest – my kids really dislike this part. This is the only part of the day where I can count on somebody grumbling. I’m unwilling to give it up, though – and the grumbling seems to be lessening – because I am already sold on its value.

Copywork exposes kids to quality writing that contains correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization, along with writing skills which may be unfamiliar to them. For example, as long as we’ve been homeschooling and as many times as I’ve explained it – because I know I have – my kids finally know exactly what a paragraph is because they have to copy one or two of them several times a week.

They also now know: what it means to indent and when you need to do so, that each time dialogue changes from one person to another you should start a new line of text, and what a semi-colon is and how to use one. All of those concepts have clicked during the last eight weeks or so of doing copywork four days a week. That impresses me. So, complain all you want, kids; we’re doing copywork.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, the copywork (or dictation) is a paragraph or two from one of the student readers. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, it’s something else related to the unit, such as George Washington’s rule for conduct or portions of the Declaration of Independence.

The only thing that I don’t like about the copywork is that on days it’s from one of the readers it’s from that day’s reading. Since we do copywork first, as it’s laid out in the text, we’re always reading ahead in the kids’ books for that day.

I guess, in a way, it’s kind of cool because the kids always recognize “their” paragraph when we get to it, but I am one of those people who will cover the last page in a book with my hand so that my eyes don’t accidently stray over there and read – I am not a fan of reading ahead.


The next activity of the day using Trail Guide, and the only one we consistently do out of order (because it fits our schedule better for the kids to do it later in the afternoon), is reading. I love that Trail Guide uses real books, related to the current unit topic (a unit being a six-week section of the overall topic of study for the year), rather than a random book or a book of short, condensed stories.

To me, this makes the whole act of reading more meaningful because the kids are learning more about the current topic, making more connections, and gaining reading fluency all at the same time. Their reading is more interesting because it’s purposeful, not just for the sake of checking off a box.

There are two readers for each unit and three options for reading. The less fluent readers are to read the easier of the two options aloud and listen to a parent read the second. More fluent readers can read the easier book silently and the more challenging book aloud to a parent. Fluent readers can read both books silently.  I usually have both of my kids read the easier book silently and I read the more challenging one aloud because that’s what works best for us.

To give you an idea of what the readers are like, so far we’ve enjoyed such books as The Courage of Sarah Noble, Ambush in the Wilderness, The Adventures of Munford: The American Revolution, and Guns for General Washington.

I like that the reading assignments are very doable for the kids. They’re not so long as to be overwhelming.

hands-on history

The kids playing quoits.


Next up, we have the daily read-aloud, which, so far, has been a biography about someone related to the topic of study. Both of the biographies we’ve read have been from the Sower Series, so they emphasize how the subject’s Christian faith was a relevant, guiding force in their life. So far, we have enjoyed reading about both Abigail Adams (very interesting!) and George Washington.

After each read-aloud, there is either time for student narration, family discussion, or student-written questions about the reading. It’s time for another honest moment – narration is my least favorite part of the school day.

People have asked me why and I honestly have no idea. I have never liked it. However, just as with copywork, I have seen the benefits (namely, it helps the kids learn to concisely and accurately summarize what they’ve heard – a fantastic skill for learning to write well), so, I’m sorry, Mom, but we will continue doing narrations.

I really like the other two options, though. The discussion questions are a lot of fun because there really is no right or wrong answer. The questions are designed more for getting the kids thinking about and responding to what they’ve read. I can, then, add my own thoughts to help the kids see angles they may not have considered.

The student-written questions are probably my favorite. The kids get to write a few questions from the story that I’m supposed to answer. I’ve been really impressed with some of the questions they’ve come up with. Josh has really shown an impressive thought-process with some of the questions he’s written. I think this is a great way to get the kids thinking about what they’ve read in more of an out-of-the-box kind of way. They like to try to stump me.

Word Study

The Word Study section is basically spelling and vocabulary. Again, because the spelling concepts and vocabulary words come directly from what the kids are reading, these assignments become more meaningful for the kids. It’s really nice when we’re reading to be able to remind them of that week’s spelling lesson when they come across a word with which they may be unfamiliar.

Also, because they’re not just studying random spelling words, the concepts seem to make more sense to them. Some of the concepts they’ve covered so far this year are:

  • The letter combinations that make the different long vowel sounds (a different vowel sound each week)
  • Suffixes and prefixes (such as un-, and –ly)
  • Number and ordinal number words

Vocabulary is the only other area that really makes the kids grumble. They don’t understand why they should have to learn to look words up in the dictionary when they could just google it. {eye rolling} Yes, they actually say that to me. Guess what? I happen to see the value in learning to use a dictionary, so we look up vocabulary words.

The kids look up the week’s vocabulary words, taken from their readers, and write the word and its definition on one side of an index card. On the other side, they draw a picture to help them remember what the words means. Drawing the picture has proven to be a great tool for helping them learn the words because they really have to understand what it means in order to draw a picture to go with it.

Geography, Science, and History

I love that Trail Guide alternates science and history just like I was doing before. We do history on Mondays and Wednesdays and science on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This allows for time to delve into each subject without feeling overwhelmed  or rushed in either.

Trail Guide is a history-based program, so science fits into whatever the kids are learning in history. For example, we learned about weather and rocks in the first unit because weather and the topography of the land were of great importance to the early settlers.
Paths of Progress review

This unit, we’re learning about the water cycle because Munford (The Adventures of Munford) is a water molecule. They’re just simple little connections, but they make sense and help the whole unit to flow cohesively.

History is learned, primarily, through historical fiction and biographies, which y’all know I love. The short, but relevant, lessons in the teaching text help to tie it all together. Geography is woven seamlessly into the study of history and science. From the Paths of Settlement text:

“Geography is the umbrella from which the other studies connect. Geography includes the study of place. If you learn about the places, you learn about the impact those places have on people. If you learn about people, you learn about cultures and worldview, and the impact those people have on places.”


Because Paths of Settlement focuses on the growth of the United States, the geography focus for this part of the series is on the states that make up the U.S. We study two states a week, by region, starting with New England.

Paths of Progress

The kids read about each state in Children’s Illustrated United States Atlas. One day they map that day’s state, including rivers, lakes, state capital, and bordering states. The next day, they make a state page that includes the state’s bird and flower, along with interesting facts about the state.

They also make state cards with serve as a great tool for review and state-related games.

Writing, Doing, and Art

This is probably one of our favorite parts of Trail Guide to Learning. Y’all know I love some hands-on activities. You probably also know that I don’t like frivolous activities that don’t serve a purpose other than being able to say that you did an activity and that few curriculum choices have ever offered me enough hands-on learning.

Trail Guide to Learning Paths of Progress

I have found just the right balance in Trail Guide. The activities are fun, meaningful, and well-balanced. There are usually one or two relevant activities each week. So far they’ve included things like:

  • Watercolor (which my kids love)
  • Games which early American settlers would have enjoyed, such as quoits and hopscotch
  • Candle-dipping (which we skipped due to severe lack of supplies…shhh, don’t tell the kids)
  • Making tools for our weather station (barometer, weather vane, and anemometer)
  • Making bean bags for hopscotch (Another one the kids loved…this one led to more sewing projects, even though we weren’t even supposed to sew the bean bags according to the directions in the text.)

Independent Reading

Finally, the kids are to include silent, independent reading as part of each day. These are to be self-selected books that the kids read for enjoyment. Parents are highly encouraged not to skip this part of the school day in order to save time.

Confession #3: I don’t skip it to save time; I just don’t enforce it. I have one child who reads for pleasure nearly every day anyway, so I don’t have it make it a point to tell her to read. I have another child whose head would probably explode if I made him spend any more time reading other than what he already spends on the reader each day. He’s finally starting to read without complaining, so I’m not going to rock the boat just yet.

Since I only have two children who are using Trail Guide, one of whom is a boy and one of whom is a girl, I’ll leave you to figure out which is which in the scenario above.

Trail Guide to Learning review

The Text/Teacher Guide

I love the text of Trail Guide to Learning. It is written to the student (I suspect that may be for moving kids toward more independent learning as they get older since there are plans to continue the series through high school.). However, it’s filled with margin notes for the teacher.

The margin notes contain things like:

  • A materials list for the upcoming week (makes planning super-easy)
  • Teaching tips
  • Encouragement
  • Historical context notes to make application of concepts easier
  • Icons indicating a corresponding lapbook activity
  • Excerpts from Dr. Ruth Beechick’s writing

In addition to the teaching text, Trail Guide to Learning comes with a CD-Rom containing all the printables used in the text. (Optional student notebook pages can be ordered from Geography Matters to save on printing. These pages come 3-hole punched and ready to insert in a binder.)

If you read my Weekly Wrap-Ups, you probably already know how much I’m loving lesson planning with Trail Guide. Here’s the extent of my planning:

  • Open the student resources file on the CD
  • Find the correct unit and week
  • Click “print week {corresponding week number}” (Alternately, I could click the button to print the entire unit, but my printer might go on strike.)
  • Repeat the step above since this option doesn’t offer the choice to print multiple copies at a time
  • Open the teacher resources file on the CD
  • Print the appropriate week’s checklist
  • Make a list of any materials needed that I don’t have on hand and need to get from the store (i.e. beans for the bean bags or modeling clay for making molecule replicas)
  • Hole punch the student pages and put them in the kid’s notebooks (I suggest no smaller than a 2-inch three-ring binder)

That’s it. The end. My planning is done. Love it!

Frequently Asked Questions about Trail Guide to Learning

I’ve had a lot of questions about Trail Guide to Learning in the last couple of months. I’ll try to answer the ones I’ve heard most frequently. If I don’t get to yours, feel free to leave it in the comments and I’ll try to answer it…someone from Geography Matters might even stop by and help with some answers.

How long does a typical day of Trail Guide to Learning take? We usually spend 3-4 hours a day on Trail Guide stuff. That leaves us with math and Bible study to do on our own.

(Note: Trail Guide does offer a Bible study that goes with each level. We have a copy that we haven’t used yet because we enjoy what we were already doing. However, become more and more curious about it as I’ve continued to use and enjoy Trail Guide, so we’ll probably give it a try soon.)

Can older or younger students use Trail Guide? Yes, each level can be adapted down about one grade level. This can be done by having the parent read the readers aloud to younger children and reducing the writing by allowing the child to answer orally.

There are also optional lapbooking materials that are available for each text. The authors have made it simple to include the lapbooking material by placing a symbol in the margins of the teaching text indicating where there is a corresponding lapbooking project.

For older students, there is an optional middle school supplement that goes with each level of text currently available. There are also additional enrichment activities included in every lesson 5 in the text for older students or those who would like to go more in-depth.

Have you quit using Easy Grammar? How does the grammar in Trail Guide compare? If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that we’re huge Easy Grammar fans. We’ve used it from the time my oldest was in third grade all the way through the high school level books.

My decision to put Easy Grammar aside for a time was one of the hardest decisions with using Trail Guide and the one that was met with the most resistance by the kids. However, I told them that I wanted to use Trail Guide exactly as it’s laid out, at least for a little while.

So far, I’ve really been impressed with the grammar portion of Trail Guide. A lot of it is fairly easy review for my kids because they’ve spent the last three years or so in Easy Grammar, but that’s okay. Review of the basics of grammar is not a bad thing.

My favorite part of Trail Guide’s grammar is that it encourages learning through practical application. For example, one day the kids might do some editing – finding and correcting the mistakes in sentences in their student notebooks (and using actual editing marks/symbols, which will be helpful later on) – another day they might write their own sentences with mistakes, then, rewrite them correctly.

Sometimes they’ll go on a scavenger hunt, looking through their readers for sentences using the grammar rules they’re learning/reviewing. And, of course, I’ve started holding them accountable for applying the rules they’ve learned to their own writing.

Does it feel like you’re doing history all day every day? No, it doesn’t. I even asked the kids this question, to make sure they didn’t feel that way and they don’t. Everything ties together nicely, but there is enough variety that it doesn’t feel like we’re living and breathing history.

Can I do the units individually without doing all of them? No. Because Trail Guide to Learning in an all-inclusive curriculum, it’s not like you’re doing a bunch of individual, unrelated unit studies. Each lesson builds on previously learned concepts.

I thought you didn’t like all-inclusive curriculum – that you were eclectic and liked to piece together your own curriculum. Yeah, me, too. It turns out, though, that I am liking an all-inclusive curriculum. A lot. I think it’s because Trail Guide to Learning is exactly the kind of curriculum that I would have designed myself if I had the time, knowledge, and organizational skills. It is truly the overall best-fitting curriculum our family has found since we began homeschooling.

Is the material consumable? Do you need multiple copies for more than one child? The material isn’t consumable. With the disc, you can print the number of student pages you need for your family for any of the three grade levels covered. The only thing I needed to buy extra for Paths of Settlement was a second watercolor book because the kids paint directly into the book.

If I ever see the atlas that we use for our state study at our local used bookstore, I’ll probably pick it up because it would be very useful for each of the kids to have their own when filling out the state pages, but it’s not necessary to have two copies.

Other than that, the kids take turns with the readers and I read aloud from the biography, so it’s really not necessary to have multiple copies of the core resources.

Can the texts be used out of order? Not really. I was told by the folks at Geography Matters that with the Trail Guide to Learning texts, the grade levels do mean something. So, since we started on Paths of Settlement, we wouldn’t want to backtrack to Paths of Exploration since the concepts would most likely be review for my kids after having done the next level up.

We did miss out on a small section of history when we switched to Trail Guide, so I’m thinking seriously of reading some of the readers and biographies from Paths of Exploration to them over the summer.

Optional Supplements for Trail Guide to Learning

You can purchase the Trail Guide texts by themselves and either purchase or borrow from the library the books needed for the year or you can enjoy the pure heaven of having everything you need except materials for the hands-on projects when you purchase the complete set, which includes all the core materials (readers, biographies, atlases, etc.).

Paths of Progress Supplements
In addition to all the stuff that comes with the Paths of Settlement (or other levels) complete set, there are other optional helps available, such as:

  • The middle school supplement, using for adapting the guides for use by older students
  • Lapbooks – Available in printed or CD version, these can be used to adapt for younger students or as optional activities for the target grade levels.
  • Bible study – The Bible study coincides with the ideas being covered in the unit.
  • Yahoo groups – There are Yahoo support groups for each current level of Trail Guide to Learning for those looking for the support and encouragement of other families using the materials.
  • Assessment CD – For those who have state-required assessments or just like the reassurance of testing to gauge student retention, there is an optional assessment CD. We haven’t used this, but I did look at it. One thing that really impressed me about it was the fact that the majority of the questions weren’t asking the student to regurgitate an answer, but rather sought the student’s response to what he’d learned. There were plenty of “right or wrong” questions, but there were also a lot that asked the student to give his thoughts on what he’d learned, along with supporting reasons for his opinions, which really requires a working knowledge of what’s been learned.
  • Pre-printed student pages and game cards – If you’d rather save your time and printer ink, the student notebook pages, and game cards can be ordered pre-printed and ready for use.

I received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it.  I received no other compensation for this review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my personal, honest opinions.  Your experience may vary. Please read my full disclosure policy for more details.

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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.

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  1. I would love the Paths of Explorations since my son is in second right now.  I would love to start at the beginning and move forward each year.  Thanks for the opportunity.

  2. Great review! This curriculum looks great! I think it would be such a good fit for us. I have one who is a big reader and one who is hands on and this looks like it will work for both. I would love to win Paths to Settlement to use with them next year.

  3. We would like Paths of Exploration because we would start at the beginning.  My youngest is in K and her older brothers enjoy 'teaching' her which is great review for them.

  4. Paths of Exploration Sounds like a good start. I love starting at the beginning. lol My son loves  history.

  5. We currently are not doing any history other than lapbooks because I have not found something I like as well as Trail Guide to Learning, but we currently can't afford it. We are saving up for this and I look forward to being able to use Paths of Exploration with my 3rd grader one day soon! Thanks for this review!

  6. Kris, I have been following your journey with this curriculum. I just told my husband the other day "I want to wait and see what the final results are." Well, WOW! Thank you!!! I am not a 'curriculum' type of homeschool mom but this one does seem a perfect fit for our family. I'd love to win the prize but either way I'm going to order it. 🙂 Paths of Settlement will pick up right where we will be in just a few weeks. I'm excited. Thank you again for spelling everything out for us. Blessings, Donna 

  7. I am using POE with my two children now and we LOVE it!  We loved LLATL before, and I said for several years, if only I could have something just like that for everything!  🙂  I would love to be entered in the drawing for a copy of POS!  Thanks for the great blog!

  8. I am really impressed with your review! I have looked at Trail Guide to Learning in the past but wasn't sure how I would like it since I am very eclectic also.
    This review has me thinking I should look into more.

  9. Thank you for this review! I have been looking around for an all inclusive curriculum and this one looks.exciting! I would live to do Paths of Exploration with my kiddos. I love that everything flows together well and that I don't have to spend extensive time planning! I feel like it would really make history come alive for my kids! Thanks for the opportunity to win and to purchase at a discount!

  10. Paths of Exploration for 2 reasons….1. I would be teaching 3 kids (2 in 3rd and 1 in 5th) which is the age range of this, 2. Wanting to start at the beginning

  11. I am an eclectically-homeschooling mom of three children near Ann Arbor, Michigan. This product looks amazing  for where we are in our studies! We'd love to try the Paths of Exploration (grades 3-5). Blessings! ~Ann

  12. I would love this!! I have second and third grade girls!!  It would be wonderful to follow this together!  Paths of Exploration looks perfect for us!

  13. I would really love to win Paths of Settlement!  It's right where I am in history with my son, and it looks so well planned.  

  14. Hi Kris!  For me too, this is a curriculum I would have never considered because of the all-in-one.  However, your review has made me think twice!  It looks fantastic!  I would probably start with the Paths to Settlement but would also want to begin with a overview of the the people and places that we would miss from not doing Explorations.  Thank you for the review and the chance to win!

  15. I would really like the paths of exploration curriculum set as this fits the ages of my oldest.  This is a really great review, thank you!  We have used sonlight and love it but now I'm considering switching!

  16. I still have no idea what our homeschool year is going to look like next year. Or specifically, who all I'll be teaching, so that makes planning for next year a little difficult. But I've been following your use of this curriculum, and I'm very interested. So by all means, please enter me! I'd want to do the Paths to Progress, as it would come most closely to continuing from the timeframe we're currently studying.

  17. We are planning on using Paths of Settlement this coming year and are super excited about it! It is right up my sons alley!! Of course, winning it would be wonderful:)

  18. I am seriously considering this curriculum for next year for my then-5th grader after reading your review! It seems like exactly what I need. I would love, love, love to win Paths to Settlement.

  19. I love everything that Geography Matters sells! We used Paths of Exploration and loved it! The books are GREAT. We went to a meet and greet with Gail Karwoski (she wrote Surving Jamestown and Seaman) and told her about Trail Guide. She was so excited to hear about the program. It's so easy to use and takes so little time that I worried I was skipping something. Turns out is was just math 😉 

    I highly recommend this program and can't say enough good things about it. My kids enjoyed it, it was less stressful to plan the week, and they created an awesome portfolio of their work to keep. If you can't afford to buy the whole set, just buy used or borrow from the library what you can and order the texts and remaining supplies from Geography Matters. 

  20. I would most like Paths of Settlement.  We just finished doing Explorers this year and I was looking to head into the American Revolution for the coming year, thus Paths of Settlement would be a good fit for us.

  21. I'd love to try Paths of Progress. It looks like it's full of material I haven't yet explored with my kids and the level looks like it'd be a good fit for my kids. Great review. Thank you. Thank you also for this giveaway. 🙂

  22. I'd love to give this a try.  I've always pieced together curricula myself but, man, am I ready for a break.  You make it sound like homeschooling nirvana to me!  LOL

  23. Hi, my name is Natalie and I am entering your giveaway. I homeschool a 6 & 7 year old, together, much in the manner of Charlotte Mason. If I won, I would choose the Paths to Settlement due to their focus on what happened after the explorers first ventured here. We use a good deal of Usborne books so this would compliment the texts we already own nicely.

    Thanks and have a great day!

  24. I would love to win Paths of Settlement since we are almost finished with Paths of Exploration! LOVE this curriculum and wish it would've been around for my older kids!!

  25. I would like to try Paths of Exploration, because it would work for all my children at once which simplifies things greatly.  Plus I LOVE history, and unit studies.  I like that it has everything but math, because other unit studies I have tried are missing other areas like grammar or writing and I find it means we spend a lot of extra time filling in those areas.

  26. This looks really interesting. I have always put together our curriculum because nothing looked like it would cover everything at an appropriate level. This looks like I could really use it. Since DS1 is only 8, I would have to say I'm most interested in Paths of Exploration

  27. If I was to win this I would need the first step Paths of Exploration simply because it would be new to us and our first year using this publisher. Your review was divine!! kevinkaylaarrowood123 at yahoo dot com

  28. Thanks so much for the time you invested into this review! I have been on the fence about Trail Guide to Learning for a while and now.  After following your blog and reading this review, I am certain that Paths of Exploration would be a perfect fit for us.

  29. Shared on Facebook…..tagged you in the comment and linked through Geography Matters wall post about your blog post 🙂 Thanks for such an in depth review…..we may try this for 2013.

  30. I would love to win this and start at the beginning with Paths of Exploration.  We haven't started a history or science curriculum yet because until now I had not found what I was looking for. 

  31. We are using Paths of Exploration this year in our co-op and really enjoy it. I'd love to have Paths of Settlement next year.

  32. QUESTION::: next year I will have k, 2, 4, 6, and 8th.  What, pray tell, would I do if I used said curriculum?  Would I pick the middle and adjust for the littles and bigs or would I maybe buy 2 and teach 1 to the littler set of kids and one to the bigger set?  Also you said that they build off of eachother so if you start in the middle with book 2 you wouldnt want to go to book one afterwards.  So what would you do then if say you started in 3rd grade with the 1st book- by 5th grade you would be out of lessons that theoretically could have brought you up to 7th- am I making any sense?  I originally thought they were making them like many other curriculums where there are like 4 books  on a continum.  so- theres my ???

  33. Paths of Settlement- picked this one because it best picks up about where we are going to leave off for the year- but honestly with the vast grade ranges I have any one would be great =)

  34. That's probably a question that can be better answered by the folks at Geography Matters, since I only know how it was worked with my youngest two who are two years apart. I'd suggest giving customer service a call at (800) 426-4650.

    Another option might be to join one of the Yahoo groups (links are on the Geography Matters website) since I bet there are other families with similar age-range spreads. HTH!

  35. AND signed up for the news letter- can you tell I REALLY WANT TO WIN????  is it wrong to bring in family members as accomplices??? lol.  This curric looks sooo good and although I LOVE what I have been doing, using something collective would really be nice.  Either way I think we are going in this direction but winning would sure make it easier =)  Thanks for the review friend =)

  36. I would like Paths of Exploration so we could start at the beginning.  I love your review!!  Thanks for the down to earth way you explained it all!

  37. We use POE and LOVE it.  I love how well you articulated your thoughts in this review. It's so cool to see how much it is loved!   I would love to get the next set- POS!   Goodness- I am already excited about continuing with this curriculum next year!!! ~AMY   amycthphoto (at) gmail (dot) com

  38. Thanks, Kris, for such a thorough review.  I have been intrigued by this curriculum since you started writing about it.  I would love to start with Paths of Exploration with my son who will be in 5th grade next year.  It looks like great stuff.

  39. We'd love to try the Paths of Settlement. My kids are 6th, 4th and 2nd grades (plus 2 preschoolers!), so I think that would be the best choice for us. (Plus, I've always loved learning about the Revolutionary War!)

  40. I would love to win Paths of Exploration.  I've been in love with the idea of this curriculm since you mentioned in January and I started looking into it.  By the way, yours is BY FAR the best, most thorough review I've seen on this, and I have searched high and low for reviews ! 

  41. I loved the review.  I would love to try Paths of Progress.  My daughter is currently in 4th and we just started homeschooling at the end of January.  We are not happy with some of the curriculum that her private school was using, but we are trying to finish the year with it.  We are especially unhappy with the Social Studies.  I am looking for something more engaging for 5th grade. Her school has covered the topics in Paths of Exploration and Paths of Settlement ad nauseum.  I think she would really like to go on and study other topics.

  42. I commented once already, but I think the internet ate it.  I'd love to win the Paths of Exploration.  I also wanted to let you know that you have the BEST review of this curriculm. 

  43. I would love to start with Paths of Exploration since it's the beginning level and follow each year with the next level.

  44. Being our first year of homeschool we opted for a textbook based
    curriculum and I have been reminded why we decided to homeschool in the
    first place!  We desperately need a new direction and literature based
    curriculum has sparked my interest and excitement to switch. The Paths
    of Settlement would be a perfect place to start for my 12 year old!

    Thank you

  45. Another entry for newsletter……We are very excited at the prospect of a literature based curriculum!!!! Paths of Settlement for us please!

  46. Paths of Exploration- I keep looking at this curriculum every couple months trying to decide if I want to take the plunge. I've about decided to go for it- your review is very helpful!

  47. I would like the Paths of Settlement.  2 reasons….1 is for the age range it covers.  I have a 4, 5 and 7th grader.  Also the time period it covers.

  48. Wow, thanks for such a comprehensive review! I love the sound of this and had not heard of it before. If we wOn we would choose the Paths of Exploration texts. Thank you!

  49. Thanks for asking this question, Myglorylife! You can drop me an email at jamie AT to discuss this further, but this is what I would do (if it were me). I would start with Paths of Exploration and just pick up the Middle School Supplement for that year. This way, you can simply do the lowest level (and perhaps simplify it some) for your second grader. Use the Middle School Supplement to "beef up" the program for your sixth and eigth graders. (Although your sixth grader may just be able to do the actual text at the highest level and be okay.) You would definitely want to teach all of your students the same topics/units at once and that would be how to do it. The next year, you would move everyone up to Paths of Settlement + the Middle School Supplement again. (Once again, just beef it all up and add enrichment for your oldest student.) Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any further questions!

  50. Loved your review.  We are currently using paths of exploration and LOVE it.  Really LOVE it!!!  I would love to have the Paths of Settlement.  This curriculum makes  homeschooling so much easier.  I was so happy when I came across this curriculum.    My son has had trouble in the past retaining what he is supposed to be learning.  Not a problem with this curriculum.  He just took his Christopher Columbus unit test and aced it.  That really built his confidence.  Thanks for your review.  I enjoyed it.  Also a BIG thank you to Geography Matters for puting this curriculum together.  

  51. I signed up for the Newsletter.  I had once followed this company early in my homeschooling days and had forgotten about it.  Glad to add it back to my list.

  52. Makes sense. What are your thoughts though when one set of kids goes through all three units and there's another set behind them? My guess would be that either older kids (say 6th on up would then work together on another unit (one u haven't yet put out) and mama would do the k-5ths. Older group could work independently or as a group? I have 10 kids. 3 are public schooled (not our choice) and the others are homeschooled plus we plan on having more. In a few years time I will have high schoolers and elementary. I wonder if maybe upper grade school or high school supplement packs would eventually be made? I like sticking with one program whenever possible. I'm just wondering how this would look past 7-8 grade :). I know once they get into high school the learning starts to become much more independent. Is ur highs hook studies going to look like that or still be one room school house style?

  53. Oh how I'd love to win any of these!!  I'd pick the the Explorers, because my children would be going into 2 and 4th grades and I try to not always work above the youngers head.   Great review!!!

  54. I really want to incorporate prayer and missionaries into our geography. Do you think it could easily be added in with this curriculum when learning about certain areas? We would start with the first volume. Thank you in advance!

  55. I'm not sure. We haven't used the first volume. I know that the first three volumes deal with American history, so I'm not sure how many other places you'd be looking at other than the U.S. I imagine that there is discussion of England, France, Spain, and Portugal in Volume 1 since it deals with the years of exploration.

  56. This looks like an amazing product.  Would love to try!  I think I'd like Paths of Exploration best since my boys are in 3rd grade.

  57. It sounds great but like you I'm wondering how copywork and narration would be received. We're at just the right age to start though. I love how you can teach multiple ages at the same time.

  58. Great review. I would hope to win the Paths of Settlement text as we are currently using the Exploration curriculum and loving it!

  59. I would love Paths to Exploration. We are in our 1st year of homeschooling and have floundered through this year with a very eclectic unit based study program. Although we have our Math program it is everything else that I am concerned with. I am amazed at the overwhelming amount of time that I spend creating unit studies which are all inclusive. I also love the idea of Paths to Exploration since it includes a bible study program and is for various levels. Our son is about to start third grade and is an accelerated reader so I have trouble finding age appropriate materials which challenge his reading skills. I think this program may just solve that problem. 

  60. I would love to win the Paths of Exploration.  I'm in my first year homeschooling, and we really enjoy unit studies and literature-based studies, but I find it takes a lot of time to plan.  I'd love to try this and it sounds like it would fit our family!

  61. ugh, I am in a rut, this sounds like it might just be the ticket out 🙂 I'll have a fifth grader next year, do you recommend starting with the Paths of Exploration so as to make it easier to continue in the coming years? We had been doing The Story of the World with my oldest, but I got so tired of it myself I just couldn't take another year 🙁
    Just found your blog via another, looking forward to following you 🙂 thank you for the chance to win and the wonderful review!

  62. I would love to receive Paths of Exploration.  My young-ins are the right age for this particular text.  I have a dear friend who uses TGTL, and LOVES IT.  She pulled her son out of school, and this is the only curriculum she has used and is so happy with it.  Between her review and yours, and the fact that my 2 oldest are 16 months apart and school together, I see TGTL in our future!

  63.  I have a dear friend who uses TGTL and LOVES IT!!!  Between your review and hers, and the fact that my kiddos (16 months apart) school together, I see TGTL in our future!  If I win, I would love Paths to Exploration!

  64. Kris, What a wonderfully thorough review! 

    You've got me seriously considering this curriculum for my 10 year old son. I'm really wanting to stick with Five in a Row (for the most part) with my 6 and 8 year olds, and am looking for something that would be conducive to a bit more independent learning on his part. (The math program I use with him is super teacher intensive, and I need more time to work with the girls.) 

    What do you think…could a 10 year old do a good bit of the work in this curriculum independently? 

    Thanks for your help!

  65. I enthusidastically visited the Trails to Learning home page and signed up for the Geo Matters newsletter!  I could not be more excited about this curriculum at this point.  I downloaded the samples, spent 3 hours on the two websites and so far it looks like a winner for my family.  It fits so well with what we've been doing and eliminates the cons we've had and gives us so much more.  Can't wait to see it in person.  I'd love to try the teacher text for Paths to Explorations.  I have a 3rd and 5th grader right now and am bummed I did not find this sooner.  I will purchase the second series for 4th-6th for next year but would love to win the 3rd-5th level to start now through the summer!!   

  66. Thanks, Shannon. I really enjoyed writing this review. We're loving Trail Guide. I guess the answer to your question really depends on the kid. The text is actaully written to the student, but we do most of the work together. I'm not sure if that's the control freak in me or the fact that I'm enjoying this curriculum as much as they are and enjoy leaning alongside the kids. However, there was one day in particular when I had to leave for an afternoon appointment. I left a list of things the kids needed to complete on the dry erase board and they did fine. Actually, they surpised me with how well they did.

    So, all that to say, if you're on hand to supervise a bit and answer questions, he'd probably be able to work fairly indepedently on most of it. Hope that helps!

  67. If you've never done any American history, then, yes, I would recommend starting with Paths of Exploration. If we hadn't already had a couple of rough starts with history, both of which included at least the first half of what POE covered, that's where we'd have started. I'm so sad that we missed some of that second half stuff that I'm seriously considering reading/having the kids read the books that go with the second half of POE this summer. Just keep in mind that POE is intended for grades 3-5, so, depending on your child's age, some aspects of POE may be a little light for him/her, such as grammar and spelling.

  68. My children are  8 (almost), 10,  and 11.  After visiting the site, we would probably go with Paths of Settlement.  It looks like such a neat and fun way of having school!  Some days we are just caught in a rut and this looks nice and organized and full of great activities!   I really enjoyed this review!

  69. I've had my eye on this for awhile. Choosing which one is the hard part! I've been at this homeschooling thing for awhile & have a wide array of ages but I'm thinking Paths of Progress looks good 🙂 Who knows I may end up with all of them!

  70. I would love to try Paths of Explorations with my children next year. I am actually looking for something that would work well with both of my children who will be in 1st and 2nd grade next year.

  71. Hi Kris,

    Wow! Great review! i would LOVE to win the Paths of Settlement. We are studying that time in American History, and my daughters and i cannot get enough of it!
    Thank you,
    Alycia A

  72. I think I would order Paths of Exploration, based on the grades of my kids next year (2, 4, 6). Fabulous review, thank you so much! I hope they are at the homeschool convention I'm going to in May so I can get my hands (and eyes) on it in person! 

  73. want to say thanks for the offer and what a Great review.. 🙂 I think If I want to try Paths of Explorations for a couple of Reason.. but mostly cause my DD is in Second Grade now so it would work for us.. ( i think) 🙂 

  74. thanks for the review and giveaway, i would love to try the  Paths of Exploration. I would br trying it with my 8 and 10 year old boys!

  75. I would love paths of exploration.  I have a 2nd and 5th grader and this sounds like it would really work for us!

  76. Just read your review and this curriculum sounds great.  I'd like to start with the Paths of Progress as my children have already covered most of the history in the first two years of curriculum.

  77. I would like to use the Paths of Settlement because we have spent the past two years studying the topics in the Path of Exploration.

    This looks really nice! 

  78. Myglorylife, somehow my comment got disconnected from your question. (I apparently am not great at this commenting system!) The answer to your question from us is #117. Hope that helps!

  79. Kristin—absolutely! Paths of Exploration takes a cursory look at several countries during the Age of Exploration so missionaries would be a natural supplement, I think. If you have any other questions, feel free to email and we'll be happy to help you!

  80. Shannon—you definitely could work into independent work with your ten year old. But Trail Guide to Learning has a lot of parent/child teacher/student interaction built in. Part of the child's development of thinking and communication skills is interacting with the adults in their lives and learning from them. It really is an important part of the curriculum. But there is definitely plenty of work that can be done independently and the lesson planning is so little that you will probably have extra free time for what interaction is needed. If you have any other questions, feel free to email jamie AT with questions and we will be happy to help.

  81. Hey Aly, we would love to see you at our convention booth and answer any questions. (At many conventions this year, Trail Guide author Debbie Strayer will be joining us as well.) You can view our convention schedule at 

  82. I wanted to thank you again for such a wonderful insightful review.  And I have to say once I've looked over the books it's taking all I can to not start it this year, mid year at that LOL  I'm so excited to begin this fall….thank you again!!!

  83. I am a mother of 5, soon to be 6 children, and will be beginning my fourth year homeschooling next year.  I have 3 children to homeschool: a 1st grader, 4th grader and 6th grader in the next school year. I have taken a traditional approach thus far and mainly stayed with curriculum much like my own public school education. I think I am feeling brave enough to try something fresh and new next year and to break free from the rigidity that I was educated in. My question is, what do I do with my children after I have taught all three years? If I start with Paths of Exploration and adapt it to my 6th grader, and then move through the other 2 sets, there will be a hole of about two to three years to fill with some other curriculum for the younger children. My interest is piqued, but I am wondering what families are planning to do with the other years that will not be covered. Traditional curriculum has answered this question by offering leveled material for each grade. I consider this curriculum a major investment so I want it to be used well. What approach will you take with your younger child so as not to repeat the same curriculum several years in a row?

  84.  Shannon,

    Geography Matters actually has plans to continue this curriculum through high school. After American history, world and ancient history will be covered at the middle school and high school levels.  Right now, my plan is to continue on through high school with Trail Guide if the subsequent levels are as well done as the current ones. They'll be introducing a new level each year until all levels are available.

    1. This is an old thread I realize, but very curious if you have continued through high school and what changes you have made to adjust to high school levels

      1. Kris no longer owns this site, so she probably won’t see your question. She graduated her last homeschooler a year or so ago.

  85. I have no idea if it's possible to get a response to a comment placed on a post made several months ago…but in case it is, I'd love your input! I'm new to homeschooling–will be starting in the fall–and am deciding between a classical approach to education, and the Trail Guide curriculum. I read somewhere on your blog that you consider your philosophy to be classical/Charlotte Mason/eclectic. So my question is…how do you feel Trail Guide stacks up against a classical education?  

  86. We are not strongly CM, so I may not be the best person to answer that, but Trail Guide does rely heavily on narration and learning through natural connections.

  87. Hi Kris, I am in the process of completing Paths of Exploration with my 3rd grade son and overall I liked it but I was actually planning on looking for something else. After reading your review on the 4th grade curriculum I think I'm maybe willing to give it one more year. I just had a few questions about the 4th grade curriculum. There are a couple of things that drove me crazy with the 3rd grade – the vocabulary and the animal I.D. cards. The animal I.D. cards were part of science and they had the kids make up these I.D. cards for each animal they learned about. I feel like it wasn't focused enough and instead of learning about a few animals really well, I feel like my son learned very little about some animals. The vocabulary words were kind of scattered about and the method for learning them changed throughout the year. They were supposed to do cards and we did that the first half of the year but it became to cumbersome. Some of the units they did different things with vocabulary and I guess I'm just a bit more organized and the the vocab seemed also kind of scattered and not focused. Can you just address for me the science and vocab/language arts piece in the 4th grade curriculum? Does it seem like it is similar? Any comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
    [email protected]

  88. The kids do have vocabulary words each week. They're supposed to look them up, write the word and definition on one side of the cards and draw a picture representing the word on the other side. They review them each week.
    The only thing that sounds like the animal cards are the state pages. They learn about 2 states per week. They complete a map of the state one day and a notebooking page the next day. I don't know that my kids have really learned anything in-depth about the states, but they do review the capitals with each unit and they have remembered interesting facts about some of the states. I've been okay with the pacing of it.

    Does that help any?

  89. Yes, that does help. The cards just got overwhelming last year, stacks of notecards, but if I plan ahead I could organize it differently so notecards aren't falling and spilling all over the place. I like the learning about two states a week. Have you tried Tapestry of Grace? That is the other one I'm looking at and I'm trying to decide between the two. Just wondering if you or anyone out there has tried both and could tell me the differences. Thank you for your response!

  90. I have an almost five year old. Do you think that he would be able to read along, enjoy, ect any of this curriculum? I’d really like something we could do as a family and not a ton of everyone doing separate things but with a four year age gap…that can be challenging! Do you find this has a lot of paperwork, ect?

    1. I’m not sure what you mean by “a lot of paperwork.” For you or for the children? The “Set Up” section of the review really describes the daily work of Trail Guide the best I know how. What constitutes “a lot of paperwork” is really going to be a matter of personal opinion, I suppose.

      As I mentioned in the review, the publishers state that the curriculum can be adjusted up or down approximately one grade level. The first level, Paths of Exploration, which we haven’t used, was designed for 3-5 grade, which means a second-grader could still effectively use it. Second grade is still a long way from almost-five.

      Your child may enjoy some of the read-alouds and the hands-on activity, but you know him better than anyone, so that’s really a call you’d have to make. My youngest is 10, so it’s really hard for me to say if a child nearly 6 years younger would enjoy or be able to use the curriculum. Honestly, it’s not designed for a child that young, but younger siblings often learn alongside older ones in homeschooling families.

      I know that’s probably not especially helpful, but this is a judgement call that I’m not comfortable venturing a guess on since I don’t really know your child’s temperament, ability level, or attention span. You might call the folks at Geography Matters. I’m sure they’d be happy to try to answer any questions you may have. They’re wonderful to work with.

      I know how frustrating it can be trying to find a good fit for everyone. My oldest is 4.5 years older than my middle, so we had some tricky years ourselves trying to get everyone involved.

  91. How much time do you spend as a mom teaching this curriculum? Is there a good amount of learning and work that the kids can just do on their own? The reason that I ask is that I work three hours every day (my husband and I manage a mobile home park). I have the blessing of having my kids in my office with me and I try to use this time to get the majority of our homeschooling done. However, since I am working during these hours, I can’t devote the full 3 hours to teaching non-stop. Some days I almost could and other days, it is hard for them to get a question in and we have to deal with it after work. I just don’t want a curriculum that I will have to spend 3-4 hours with every afternoon after work.


    1. How long does a typical day of Trail Guide to Learning take? We usually spend 3-4 hours a day on Trail Guide stuff. That leaves us with math and Bible study to do on our own.

      While there are little snippets of time when I can be doing other things — such as when the kids are doing copywork, writing, filling out the state sheets, or labeling different things — I do spend the majority of that 3-4 hours actively teaching them. Today, for example, I got the dishwasher unloaded while they were working on science and the state pages, but the rest of the time, I was basically working with them.

  92. Hi Kris,

    We are first time homeschooling (boys ages 12 and 13). I am homeschooling them together. I have made it this far with a mixture of curriculums. It was trial and error and where history has been the one area we were not happy with. This might be exactly what I was looking for. I have read your curriculum picks and it I was to order the Trail of Learning what is the neccesity to getting started. We like going to the Library gets us out of the house. So without the whole big package (extra reading books) what do I need and do I need the geography to go along with this? I like teaching geography along with unit studies.

    Thanks for any shared information

    1. The package isn’t really extra reading books. It’s the books on which the curriculum is based. You could, of course, check those out from the library yourself. In that case, you’d need the hard cover teaching texts that contain the assignments, lesson plans, and hands-on activity suggestions.

  93. In regards to trail guide to learning student notebooks…was wondering if you find it best to organize their notebook by day or by subject? I guess a left brained would say there is really only one way to organize the notebook. But me being right brained there seem to be some choices so thanks for indulging my question.

  94. I have read your review of Trail Guide, and I know this is the curriculum I want for the upcoming school year. But on the down side it is expensive at $440. My main question is it truly worth the money? Was there a lot of outside work that had to be done?

    1. First, in the interest of full disclosure, I received the full set for the purpose of reviewing it. That being said, I would totally pay for future sets! I love that I never have to worry about searching the library for a book. I’ve always got exactly what I need. There is almost no prep time. I usually sit down on Sunday evening, pull up the pdf file on the CD that comes with the curriculum and hit print. Bam! I’m done with teacher prep.

      If I’m really on my game, I might look ahead on Friday evening and see if there is anything I need to pick up from the store for a science experiment or hands-on activity. I was so burnt out on school before we got Trail Guide. Now, I feel like my kids are getting a good, solid level of schoolwork everyday and I still get to live life outside of school time without worrying about lesson plans. I love Trail Guide and I totally plan on using it through high school.

      One thing to note is that some levels are less expensive than others. It just depends on the cost of the books that go with the level. And, there is a high demand for resale. I usually have people contacting me asking if I’m ready to sell our current level.

  95. Hi Kris
    Thank you for your review. I am considering using this for my twins that will be in 6th grade.
    I am trying to figure out which to start with, either POS (with supplement) or POE.
    I guess my question is “If I start with POE will my kids miss out on some important history that that would learnin POS?……Do you think POS should be prerequisite of POE? Or do you think POS is for younger students and maybe I need to get over the fact that I should have started this curriculum at the beginning of 5th grade?!!!!!!
    One more question: We attend co-op on Fridays every week and we even have homework from the co-op (specifically IEW, I can’t give up IEW, LOOOOOVE IT). Do you think I can get Trail Guides to Learning done in 4 days without killing ourselves?!!!!!!
    Thank you

    1. POE is the first in the series, so POS is not a prerequisite for POE. Depending on what you’ve already studied in history, you may want to start with POS. That’s what we did.

      The entire series is built on a 4-day school week to allow time for things like outside classes and co-ops.

  96. I’m thinking of this for my 5th grader and my 2nd grader (late birthday – so third grade +level reading) We used a curriculum this year for my soon to be 2nd grader that included the Pilgrim book from POE. Do you think there will be enough fresh history or different presentation to start at POE with both girls? Or should I considier POS? My older daughter also read WAgons West with another curriculum. Just not sure which way to go POE or POS? Thanks for your thoughts. I liked what we used this year – I would just like to put both girls together as I have 5 kiddos I’m teaching.

    1. That’s entirely up to you. If they’ve only read a couple of books, I’d probably do POE. We started with POS because we’d already covered so much of the material in POE, but now that I know how great the program is and how rich the literature, I wish we’d started with POE.

  97. This looks like exactly what I have been searching for. I never thought I would like an all in one curriculum, but this seems to have all that I’m looking for in one nice neat package minus Math. I read somewhere in all the reviews I’ve been reading, that you can download the first six-weeks as a trial. I am excited to get started with this but since money it tight, my hubby won’t allow this sizable of a purchase without first trying it. Do you know where to find the free download, because I can’t seem to find it?

    Thank you!

  98. Looking for your thoughts, please. Next year I will have a 6th grader, 4th grader, and 1st/2nd grader. The latter will be working at a 1st grade reading level but 2nd grade for most else. My question is, in your opinion, would POE be the best fit? By what you have experienced so far with POS, would it be too much of a jump to skip PoE? I will admit I am leaning more toward PoE but just don’t want to leave my older hanging with a lack of knowledge. Thank you for your time.

    1. We didn’t get to use POE. We started with POS because my kids were both older and we had already covered much of what was in POE. That being said, based on the ages of your kids (not my knowledge of POE), I think I would lean toward POE with the middle school supplement for your 6th grader, since the majority of your kids are in the age-range for POE. Hope that helps!

  99. Great review on this curriculum! I have been using Heart of Dakota for 2 years now, and I find myself straying a bit, looking for a history curriculum that would get my kids really interested. I find that I am more fascinated with the older history books, such as A First Book in American History than they are. They seem to dread the history portion, and the science portions are hit and miss with them as well. I have struggled with picking between various online Charlotte Mason curriculums (Simply CM and Ambleside). So after completely overwhelming myself, and trying to piece together all of my favorites I came across this page. I was wondering (being a Charlotte Mason dabbler yourself) if you think if would be overkill to incorporate a bit more of the handicrafts, picture study and music study? Ideally, I like to plan a four day school week, with the fifth day for these extras. Thanks for any suggestions, Natalie

    1. Trail Guide is set up on a four-day week with the fifth being a catch-up/enrichment day. I don’t see why you couldn’t incorporate those elements on the fifth day.

  100. Hello,

    I have been trying to decide on a curriculum for my 7 1/2 year old daughter who will be going into the 2nd grade. I have used a hodge podge of things for Kindergarten and 1st grades. I love everything that I have read about TGTL. The cost is a big factor for us. Do you think it would be possible to use the Library for many of the books? Are there books that you would need to have vs those that you could check out from the Library. We are on a very limited income, and my husband is very concerned about the cost. So… I guess I am asking…”What is absolutely necessary to purchase and where could the Library come in handy?” Thank you so much for your review. It was very thorough.

    Joy Jones

    1. I guess it honestly depends on how well-stocked your library is and what their check-out policy is. You’ll be using the readers for the entire six weeks of each unit. Our library only allows 2-week check-outs, though you can renew up to 3 times. That means we could make the library work for us if someone else didn’t have the book checked out when we needed it or put it on hold while we had it (which would mean that we wouldn’t be able to renew).

      Some of the books, such as the atlases or science books, are used for the entire year and there are some, such as The Handbook of Nature Study, that are used to for two years (POE and POS). The teaching text has a list of which books are core books (used the entire year) and which are needed for each volume. I’m sure that you could use the library for the readers. We just appreciated the convenience of having them all on hand. I do understand limited funds, though. Do you have a used book store or could you search online to get some of the books used?

      1. Thank you for your quick response. I did get on my local library’s web site last night and was unable to find many of them. 🙁 I will continue to try to figure out a way to make this curriculum become a possibility. Thank you.

  101. Kris,
    I hate to bother you, but I need some info and you are the only one I think might be able to help. We started Paths of Settlement this past week. I love the curriculum. I have had to modify since both of my kids are dyslexic, and one is dysgraphic, but I don’t mind modifying. It kind of goes with the territory. The kids are doing great with the books (I read most of it to them, though), but they hate my reading a pile of scientific info to them, then they have to look up more info in a little book with tiny print and then they have to write it all down on a piece of paper. With the other subjects, they go pretty slow and do well. I have my son dictate a lot and work on his handwriting separately. With science they don’t seem engaged in this part of the curriculum much at all. They really don’t like all the worksheets and my having to read so much info to them. Our weather rarely changes during the summer, just hot, hot and more hot, so recording our wx was only fun for a couple of days. No rain so the rain gauge isn’t a big hit, either. Science can be such an interesting subject, but it is NOT something I am comfortable with teaching, so I am having trouble modifying this area. I had thought of getting Switched on Schoolhouse Science since both kids like working on a computer (4th grade and 7th grade). Is it possible to use the curriculum out of order on SOS? I had hoped to pair the lessons with what we are learning in Trail Guides and still do SOME of the Trail Guides worksheets, and activities, just not all. Since you have used both, I wondered if you had an opinion or a suggestion?


    1. I have only used SOS at the 10th grade level and we used it pretty much straight out of the box, so I’m not 100% sure about this answer, but I think it would be very difficult to jump around in SOS. If memory serves me correctly, it’s really not set up that way. If it were me, I think I would just consider building on what you’re already doing by maybe adding weather documentary DVDs from your library or Netflix or related books and activities.

      For example, you could read or watch a video about tornadoes and maybe make a tornado in a bottle or learn more about hurricanes. Extreme weather seems to be fascinating to kids, so that might give you a jumping off point. To me (and this may not be your teaching style, so feel free to ignore me), it would be easier to use what you’re already doing as a base and tweak it to be a better fit than try to make a different curriculum fit what you’re doing with Trail Guide.

      That being said, in the interest of full disclosure, we’re using Apologia General Science this year in place of (not in addition to), the science in POP. The only reason we’re doing that (because the science in POP this semester is the human body, which is very interesting) is because my middle child will be in high school next year and I wanted to see if Apologia would be a good fit for him now so that we can make changes before high school if it’s not.

      Hope that helps!

  102. Thanks so much! I have been supplementing already, but will look at adding additional resources. I hope to pull together a more robust and interesting series of supoort materials for science over the next week or so. Love Trail Guides. Really, really want to stick with this curriculum for next year with Paths of Progress,so I am trying to find as many ways as possible to make this curriculum a success in our household. My daughter, who normally HATES history, actually chose additional reading time in the Middle School supplement reading book instead of reading in a science fiction book she had started. So nice to see how much she is enjoying the reading selections…

    Anyway, thanks for the suggestions and information. And thanks again for all that you do for the rest of the homeschooling community.


    1. It’s exciting when you find something that your kids really enjoy. From my experience, it’s hard to find something that you love, as is, with no tweaks. If you can tweak it to make it a better fit for your family, that’s generally the way to go.

  103. This is my first year homeschooling. I have a 1st grader, a 4th grader and a 6th grader. Ok so here we are close to Christmas and I am seeing that my kids are just not retaining history, they do not enjoy spelling at all, and language isn’t so bad. I am currently using abeka and my kids are just bored with all the information and memorization. Is it a bad idea to put on the brakes and stop with abeka and start Trail Guide To Learning halfway into the year, or would it be best at this point to wait until next year??

    1. We completely switched gears mid-year and it was a good change for us. Now, I enjoy knowing that we’re starting our new curriculum in January each year. It helps alleviate mid-winter boredom.

  104. Thank you so much for your quick response! I have 2 more questions. If I do go ahead with this, which do you recommend for my family? And Since we are half way into the year, what would I do about finishing the curriculum this year? Would I work it until the end of the year and pick up next year or what?? I’m not sure how it works so I didn’t know how we would be set up for next year starting halfway this year?

    1. My kids were about your kids’ ages when we started. We chose to start with POS because we’d already covered many of the topics in POE. We do three units from January to May. Then, we take our summer break and pick up with the last three units in July to November.

  105. We are sold on this amazing curriculum! We see that each “path” lists 3 grades that it would be most appropriate for. I have a question…. it seems that because each path is broken down into 6 units, each path only covers one year of schooling – is this correct or do you go through all of the paths once and then come back through for a second time when they are three years older? Ex. POE 3rd and 6th, POS 4th and 7th, and POP 5th and 8th? I hope I’m asking the question in a way that makes sense….it seems hard to put into words. 🙂 Thank you so much!

    1. Each volume covers one school year. You don’t cycle back through. The publishers are working on new levels all the way through high school, with the first middle school level due out soon.

      1. Thank you for replying so quickly! I am going to be calling them on Monday, but do you have any more information to elaborate on “soon” ? 😉 Our daughter is 12 and we are wondering if getting her POP with the middle school supplement would be best or wait to see what they come out with for actual middle school. It would be amazing if they came out with middle school and high school curriculum in time for her to complete them! 🙂 Thanks again!

        1. It’s my understanding that they are hoping it will be ready by this fall, but there isn’t an estimated date yet. It’s going to cover ancient history. If it were me, I would start with POS or POP with the middle school supplement. I’d lean toward POS, but that’s probably because we enjoyed it so much.

  106. I just found your review. Wondering if you still love the curriculum.
    I am just starting out HS and came across this. I think it may be a great fit for my son (9)
    He LOVES history and this could be a way for him to enjoy learning again (leaving public school for this reason)

    Did you find that this covered most areas (other than math?) I am thinking of adding in:
    Math and Keyboarding as additional curriculum.

    1. Yes, we loved Trail Guide so much that we used it the following year and were so disappointed to finish. It does cover everything except math. If your son loves history, I think you’ll both love Trail Guide. I wish it had been around when we first began homeschooling.

  107. I love the format of this curriculum, and I’m about 90% sold, but there’s still one thing holding me back. We are secular homeschoolers. I don’t have a problem with learning about Christianity in a historical context (and honestly, how in the world could you avoid mentioning it while learning history?). I just don’t want the treatment of Christianity to be at the complete exclusion of other world religions, and I don’t want my curriculum to be preachy. From what I’m reading, it looks like TGTL might still work for us, but I thought I’d get your personal opinion on that, since you’ve seen it up close and personal? And also, thank you so much for your blog! You are my sanity saver. 🙂

    1. Although the authors are Christian, the text itself is neutral because the authors wanted to leave the discussion of faith up to individual families. You aren’t as I recall, going to come across anything overtly Christian in the teaching text. The place you’re going to encounter references to Christianity is primarily in the biographies. The Sower Series biographies, in particular, are written to include the role the subject’s faith played in his or her life and decisions. Of course, as a Christian family, this wasn’t a concern to me, but trying to look at it objectively, I don’t think it would be an issue to you as you mentioned being okay with learning about Christianity in a historical context. To me, it’s not preachy, but a person’s worldview, whether secular or Christian, does impact their decisions and the reasoning behind them. To me, a secular mom reading something like that and using it as a talking point with her kids is not any different than when we come across something in our reading that doesn’t mesh with our beliefs. We discuss it and move on.

      I hope that helps! Thank you so much for reading.

  108. I know this is an old post, but I’m hoping you may still be able to answer a question for me. You mention that you spent 3-5 hours a day using this curriculum, but how much time did you personally spend teaching it every day? Our family travels on the road full time right now and will be moving to Honduras at the end of this year. I’m really liking the idea of this curriculum, but in your opinion, is it too time and labor intensive for a full-time traveling family? (We are missionaries. When we reach Honduras, we will be busy learning the language and working full time in an orphanage. So…we’ll be pretty busy!). My kids are 9, 7, 3 and 2. As much as I love the idea of a complete unit study, I’m wondering if it may be too much for our current family dynamic. Sorry to be so wordy, but do you feel a unit study like TGTL is more time intensive, or less time intensive, than a typical homeschool day where each subject is broken up into grade levels? I’m considering a well-known video homeschool program as well.

    Thanks so much for this review. This has been in my top 3 contenders for school next year, and this answers a lot of questions!

    1. Hi, Aleassa. Once we found our rhythm with the curriculum we probably spent 2-3 hours per day on Trail Guide. The kids do their math on the computer and there were a few other things we threw in there, as well. We did the majority of the Trail Guide work together, as a family. That’s really the way the curriculum is designed. I know some families have allowed their kids to use it more independently, but I think that would have been hard for me, the way it was set up. Based on the way my kids learned when they were your kids ages, I don’t think TGTL is any more time-intensive than anything else because my kids weren’t working independently at those ages anyway. Now that they are in 7th and 9th grades, they are using workbooks (their choice, not mine) and working almost completely independently, so something like Trail Guide would require me to spend more time actually teaching than I’m doing now.

      I hope that helps!

  109. When I was looking for reviews and comments on Trail Guide to Learning, most posts were older so I wanted to add a comment for anyone looking for recent reviews. After my sons and I were feeling burned out from our “same ole” workbooks and textbooks, I decided to switch mid-year to Paths of Exploration (w/2nd and 5th grader) and it was just the shake up we needed. We all like school now. Gasp! We are only in the first unit so I am not able to give a seasoned review, but we really enjoy the way topics are tied together in a way that doesn’t feel like we are doing specific subjects. We aren’t sitting down for grammar or writing or geography, we are just learning and it flows well. Very little prep each week which I love. We have not done enough science for me to comment, but my gut feeling is that we won’t love the science, but that’s okay because we were using a science that I really didn’t want to give up anyways. It is new this year by Dr. Jay Wiles and it is called Science in the Beginning. It’s great and I think it can be easily added to our school day because POE doesn’t take very long. My boys are usually done in about 2. or 2 1/2 hours so adding math and science really isn’t a big deal. I am also going to continue IEW for writing with my 5th grader because he is doing so well with it, but again, it can easily be added and the school day still doesn’t drag on. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about using a Charlotte Mason type approach, but to see the way that my children are enjoying learning, I am sold.

  110. Quick question. I plan on ordering paths to settlement used, but it doesn’t come with the watercolor book or Children’s illustrated atlas. Would you consider these must haves or something not used often? Thanks, I know this review is a couple years old, but it is hard to find many reviews on the curriculum.

    1. The atlas is a must-have. I know it’s gone out-of-print, but it’s been replaced by Geography Matters’ new Desk Atlas of the United States. The watercolor book is more of an elective, but I ordered an extra one from Amazon at the time we used the curriculum since I was using it for two kids. I’m not sure if Amazon still carries it, but you might check there. Hope that helps!

  111. I am curious to know if you are still using the Trail Guides. Also, did you ever switch grammar back to Easy Grammar? I can’t seem to let go of EG or Spelling Power. Son likes those better as well. What are your thoughts about mixing it up? Thanks.

    1. We’re not still using Trail Guide because we completed the series. If the higher level texts were available, we’d still be using them. We are not currently using Easy Grammar, but just last week were talking about switching back to it for one of my kids. You could probably incorporate those with Trail Guide if you enjoy them. You might just need to skip some of the lessons (spelling, for example) in the text. Hope that helps!

  112. I have a 12 year old son going into the 7th grade. I’ll be homeschooling him this year and wondering if Trail Guide would be a good fit? If so, should I start at the beginning with Exploration or choose the 2nd or 3rd?

    1. My kids were in 4th and 6th grade when we started Trail Guide. We started with Paths of Settlement. POE would definitely be too young for an average 7th grader without the Middle School Supplement. It might be enough with the supplement, but since we skipped it, I can’t offer an experienced opinion. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend skipping Paths of Settlement, even if you felt the need to add the Middle School Supplement to it.

  113. Hi there,
    Thank you for your review. It was very helpful. I’m considering using this curriculum for fall 2017. Being conscience of cost do you think that this curriculum(POE, POS, POP) could be cycled through until the child reaches 8th grade? I have 6 children 7 and under. My oldest will be in 3rd. I had in mind to purchase the supplements for the K-1st and middle school (when they reach that point), to keep the material age/grade appropriate through the years. I’d appreciate any thoughts you might have. God Bless.

    1. You can use the curriculum with multiple ages at the same time, but I wouldn’t want to use it with the same child more than once unless maybe that child did the material with the junior level then went back through at, say, the middle school level. All the same materials are used for every level (with the possible exception of the Junior level. I haven’t used it so I’m not sure how it works.), but at different levels of complexity based on the child’s age. So, your child would probably get bored reading the same student readers and studying the same material every year.

      I hope that makes sense and that I’m understanding your question correctly. What I’m saying is your child could do POE in 3rd, POS in 4th, and POP in 5th, but then you probably would want to move to the middle school books rather than having him go back through POE with the middle school supplement in 6th.

    1. The authors are Christian. The read-aloud books are chosen for the strong morals and character traits of their main characters. The teaching text isn’t overtly Christian so that families of all faiths can benefit from the curriculum and there is an optional Bible study component. I think you’d be very happy with the curriculum.

  114. Hi! I see that your review was written in 2012, and it seems that the publishers were planning to add on additional curriculum but still have not done so. Have you heard an update as to when that would happen?

    Also, I am looking for a secular (all-in-one preferably) curriculum. Strong moral values are completely acceptable and so is Christianity as long as it is not trying to be the guiding concept. I read somewhere that this curriculum (at least the Ancient studies package) is geared toward creationism. I would like for the materials to cover evolution. Would there be any issues with that?

    1. I haven’t heard an update on the additional curriculum but I think it is still part of the overall plan. The curriculum is written from a Christian worldview but it isn’t evangelical in nature at all. Some of the biographies are chosen because they show how the person’s Christian faith influenced his/her decisions and life, but I still wouldn’t consider it evangelical. (I haven’t used the Ancients series so I don’t know if that’s different.) The materials don’t cover evolution. I hope that helps.

  115. Hi! I have 3 boys (grades 3, 6, and 8 by September), and I’m trying to figure out if I can teach all three of them in one guide. We tried the free sample (POE) for a short period and really enjoyed it, but I found it really difficult to keep one occupied when he finished his work before the other. Then we had to wait for the other one to finish his work before we could move on to the next section of the guide. Do you have any ideas of how to work that out? Thank you!

    1. There’s probably not much of a way to make sure the work takes all 3 boys the same (or close to the same) amount of time. Maybe you could have some activities for the early finisher(s) to do while you wait on the other(s). It could be something related to the lesson, something just for fun, etc. Or maybe you could do projects and activities that take longer toward the end of the lesson when possible. Brainstorm some ideas, write them down, and look at them again the next day. That’s the best way I’ve found to solve problems like this. You know your children best, so you’ll probably think of things I wouldn’t know to suggest, but hopefully these ideas will help you get started! 🙂

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