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Weekly Wrap-Up: The One with the Brand-Spanking-New Curriculum

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Happy Friday!! I know I say that a lot, but I am so feeling it this week! The sun is shining, it’s 65 degrees in January, and we have had an awesome school week. I’m looking forward to the weekend, but I don’t feel like I’ve dragged myself to it by my fingernails this week.

Day 3 - P365

Day 3 – P365 (Notice the cross?)

What’s got me so pumped? I’d have to say it’s our new curriculum. Now this is just our first week and I know there’s that honeymoon phase and all, so my real, official, in-depth review won’t happen for a couple of months or so – to really give us time to use it thoroughly – but my first impression is, I’m loving it!

We’re using Trail Guide to Learning (Paths of Settlement) from Geography Matters. I have never, ever, the entire time we’ve homeschooled, ever used a full, pre-packaged curriculum. Trail Guide covers everything except math and every single book it requires is included.

Oh, my word.

Day 4 - P365[3]

P365 – Day 4 (Brianna’s hand at age 4 – the same hand that drew the award-winning Canada goose at age 11.)

There was nothing that we did this week that I didn’t have all the supplies for. There were no books that I forgot to get from the library or that we couldn’t get because they were checked out. And, there was no planning because all the planning is done for me.

Can I just say that, in this season of my life, that is pure bliss? And, so far, the curriculum, which is very unit-study-like (y’all know I like that, right?) is something just like what I would have planned myself, if I had the time…except, you know, a lot more thorough and well-thought-out.

Day 5 - P365[4]

P365 – Day 5 (First long run of 2012.)

The kids’ (Josh and Megan…Brianna is still using Switched-on-Schoolhouse) only complaint so far has been that there’s “a lot more work” than we usually do. They’re right. It is. And, I’m so okay with that.

See, before we finished our first semester, I was very much feeling like we weren’t doing enough. Not the “homeschool mom, self-doubt maybe we’re not doing enough,” but the real “no, really, we’re not doing enough.”

If you’ll recall, I talked a lot in the last few Weekly Wrap-Up posts of 2011 about spending some time over Christmas break tweaking. I knew we needed to beef things up.

Day 6 - P365[3]

P365 – Day 6 (Finally! Book 2! It’s been checked out at the library and sold out at the stores. Brianna bought it, but is letting me read it first. Love that kid!)

When the offer unexpectedly came up just before Christmas to try Trail Guide, I jumped at it.  I got to enjoy my Christmas break instead of spending a lot of time tweaking and planning because everything is planned out for me. (Did I mention that already?)

Want to know something really cool? Remember that we were alternating history and science on M/W and T/Th with Friday as either a light or catch up day? Trail Guide is set up exactly that way!

We stayed caught up most of the week, so today, we just had three things to catch up and the rest was review and games. It was a fun, but not wasted day because the review and games were all productive and designed to cement what the kids have been learning.

There are also enrichment activities on Friday (or whatever your “Day 5” happens to be). These can be done by older students (TG is geared for 4th-6th grades), kids who want to go more in-depth, or as more Friday work if you’ve stayed caught up all week.

Oh, and the kids’ favorite part? Watercolor painting! It was only on the lesson plan for Monday, but we wound up painting on three different days. Even Josh enjoyed it.


So, what did we do this week? We read Abigail Adams, Ambush in the Wilderness, and The Courage of Sarah Nobel. (And, the kids – and I – love that TG’s reading plan is more reasonable than mine tend to be.)

We used an atlas to make state notebooking pages for Massachusetts and Connecticut and state cards for those two states for a game later on.


We observed and recorded the weather. We were supposed to make a rain gauge, but we have a store-bought one, so we skipped that. The kids did a scavenger hunt through their readers to find sentences with the grammar rules they’re learning.

(Just an aside…in that sentence above, as I was proof-reading, I realized that I’d written, “…grammar rules their learning.” Um, glad I caught that. Wouldn’t have been a big vote of confidence for my grammar skills.)

We studied spelling and vocabulary words. We talked about the early settlers. We made cards about the different types of people who came to the New World (explorers, settlers, entrepreneurs, and soldiers) for the review game we played today.

We did interactive journaling (I wrote something for them to read about their birth with a question for them to answer). We did grammar and editing. We did narration, copywork, and critical thinking.

It was a fun week and I felt like the kids learned a lot…and there really wasn’t any complaining other than some general grumbling on the first day (expected) and a little grumbling a couple of afternoons when we weren’t finished as early as they’d like (also not unusual).

I’m looking forward to next week!

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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. A new year and a new curriculum! Woo hoo! gotta like that 🙂 And, I have to agree with the children. I love the watercolor painting!

  2. My daughters and I began Trail Guide to Learning (Paths of Settlement) in the autumn.  I stumbled upon Geography Matters via a friend at the homeschooling convention.  I  headed over to their booth with my daughters, chatted with the creaters of the curriculum, as well as parents who utilize it and thought this sounds too good to be true!  Oh my goodness, do we love this curriclum!!!  We are all giddy with excitement that we will be beginning Unit 3 on Monday.  I feel exactly the same way in regards to the structure.  I LOVE it. My girls absolutely loved Abigail Adams — by far their favorite book so far.  BUT, they are all fantastic.  One or two of the books have started out with a few grumbles, but by week 3 they are hooked and wanting to read more than scheduled.  My oldest is a 7th grader who has a middle school supplement (which provides additonal lesson plans and reading material) that encourages her to drive in deeper.  This is one flexible Trail that keeps you on track.  I LOVE it.  It's a combination of unit study meets Charlotte Mason.  The worksheets are the perfect balance of material and white space. Hope you continue to enjoy it as much as we have.

  3. It's so good to hear from someone who has used it for awhile and is still loving it. I so wish I'd found it sooner. I would have loved to have gone through Path of Exploration with my younger two.

  4. Thank you for posting about Trail Guide to Learning…I just found out about it a while ago and I have been debating about whether or not to invest in it.  Sounds like it is just what we need! 🙂

  5. Sounds like you had a good start to the new year.  The idea of not having to plan a thing, it sounds like perfect bliss, but something tells me that won't happen for me anytime soon :).  Glad you guys have found something that works!

  6. Sounds like a great curriculum.  I need to keep it in mind when my oldest approaches 4th grade level.  I just bought MFW K for the very reason that it was ALL planned out for me. 

  7. Glad your new stuff is working out so well.  Sounds like how I feel about Sonlight.

    Love The Hunger Game series. The first two are the best.

  8. Glad you are loving the new curriculum. Not having to do any planning at all does sound really nice. We are going to be using switched on schoolhouse for my oldest next year.

  9. Hey, Kris!  Our schooling is at such a cross-roads (pun UNintended) right now.  I'm wondering if Trails might solve our problems . Our 11yo DD may be entering private school in the fall so I'm tossed
    about the investment for only one semester, but it really looks like a
    great fit.  How do you plan to use it now that you began in the middle of the year? Do you school year-round? Or will you pick up in the fall?

  10. Yeah, we'll just find a good stopping point before summer break and pick up where we left off in the fall. That's just the way we roll around here. 😉

  11. Congrats on finding something that is working for all–kid and mom!   And your first run of the year looks great!

  12. What a great time to start something new.  It looks fabulous!  I am looking forward to seeing more of what you've done with it!

  13. What a great week! I'm a lover of unit studies also and this sounds like a great curriculum.  Do you all attend a co-op? 

  14. Thanks for the review.  My kids are about 1/2  a year behind (the norm at least), so I usually buy my new stuff in Jan/Feb, and I am due.  We've been using ACE and are going to use Teaching Textbooks for Math.  I think I'm going to try this one for the rest.  How exciting.

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