Random musings from a Wife, Mom, Homeschooler, Student, and Friend

We started Volume 2 in Paths of Exploration this week. Here we are at the halfway point in this curriculum. So, how’s it going, you ask?

We still love it!

Our days have a pleasant rhythm to them with this curriculum. While we are doing things in the same general order every day–copywork, read-aloud, etc.–it is far from mundane. The books are wonderful! Initially, I was hesitant to put all three kids (2nd, 4th, and 6th graders) in POE. Beanie and The Boy had already completed the first half of American History through Sonlight’s Core D a few years ago, and both curriculums have books in common. I am so glad we made the decision to put all of them in POE. First of all, this is much more than American history, as the countries that gave rise to these explorers are studied as well. Second, the in-depth study of Christopher Columbus, the Jamestown Settlement, and the Pilgrims allowed us to flesh out these topics in a way I have never given time to before.  For anyone looking at this curriculum and thinking, “We’ve already studied that,” I urge you to pick it up and try it. You will find something new! Third, I have been able to adapt POE and its Middle School Supplement to fit our family, especially in reading.

Here are some ways we have adapted the reading. Each unit has two main reading books–a lighter/easy reader and a more advanced reader. I have my 2nd grader read the easy reader assignments aloud to us all. Then I have my 4th and 6th graders take turns reading the more advanced book aloud.  The assigned reading does not take long, and after we read those, I have my 6th grader take turns with me reading aloud the assigned reader from the Middle School Supplement. We didn’t start out reading the MSS books aloud. I wish we had started this from the beginning because we missed out on reading aloud Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, one of my all-time favorite stories.* Starting with the Pilgrim unit, we began reading these together, and they add another layer of depth and information to our studies. And, they are just great books to share with everyone. Middle schoolers shouldn’t have these all to themselves! 🙂

There is a big difference in the work load from Vol. 1 to Vol. 2. The first volume seems to have a lighter, more gentle pace. The second volume steps things up. I like that! The kids are ready for new challenges, especially at this point in our school year when the winter doldrums are at their worst. (I think we are all praying for summer!) There is a greater emphasis on writing across all subjects. (So, if you are worried about the writing part, and you are still in Volume 1–don’t fear! It is coming! It is effective! Stay the course!) I also love the way reflective writing is incorporated into the geography in this volume.

There are some glitches in this curriculum, such as some of the readings don’t align with assignments at times and one book, Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims, that is assigned in the text is not available from Geography Matters. (GeoMatters replaced it with Squanto’s Journey, and the corrected assignments are available online.) In our case, I just ordered the correct book from Amazon and read both Squanto books to the kids. A win-win! The writers also maintain a yahoo group that supplies many of the corrections and offers suggestions and additional information. This is a relatively new curriculum, and I’m sure these minor issues will be corrected in upcoming printings. In the meantime, I don’t feel they are bothersome enough to stop me from going forward with Trail Guide.

To sum it up–we made the right choice for our family this year. Once we have completed this first unit in Vol. 2, I’ll update again.



*I wasn’t crazy about the book chosen for the Jamestown unit (Pocahontas by Joseph Bruchac). The Boy and I read this independently, and so far that is the only book on the list that I don’t love.


Comments on: "Trail Guide to Learning: The Half-way Point" (9)

  1. […] read-alouds. We are using Trail Guide to Learning, Paths of Exploration which we love. (See this post.) This week, I’ve started a new sequence to keep the doers and the dawdlers on the same page […]

  2. Hi, just wondering how the year finished out with Trail Guide? I am very interested in this curriculum. We have a 3, 5, and 7 year old, and I am wondering how this would play out as the kids get older, ie would they at some point be in two different time periods? I really do not want to be teaching two different histories, but would rather do it as a family and boost it up for the older ones. Any recommendations, like–should I wait until the youngest is in 2nd grade to revisit this curriculum? Thank you!!

    • Hi! I wrote about the end of the year in this post–here’s the link: https://embracinggirlfriday.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/end-of-the-trail/

      To sum it up, we really loved Trail Guide/Paths Of Exploration, and we are going on to Trail Guide/Paths of Settlement this coming year. My son wants to branch out, and I’ve been meaning to post on that–soon hopefully!

      It’s a bit difficult with 3 kids each 2 years apart. I have a 12, 10, and 8 year old. Some years the older two will be together, and some years the middle and the little will be together. It really just depends on needs and wants. This year my son (the oldest) wants to do his own program. I totally agree with you about not wanting to do 2 histories at once, so as much as possible, I’m keeping all of the kids together at least topically. (My son will be doing US Gov’t and Civics this year which ties in nicely with what the girls will study in Trail Guide/POS.) When it is time for my son to do high school level world history, I will have the girls do world history at their level.

      As for waiting until your youngest is in 2nd grade–that’s not a bad idea, especially because Trail Guide also has the Middle School Supplement for older children. My youngest was in 2nd-ish grade this year, and I think she got as much out of POE as her older brother. If you start this year or next with all of your children (with the youngest listening to the stories and working on his/her own level), you will probably need to cycle through American history again before your youngest finishes the elementary school level. Thankfully there are so many good programs out there, so you can use Trail Guide now and something else later. (For example, when we cycle through Am history again with my youngest, we will probably turn to one of the Sonlight Am history cores.) Trail Guide is so good, though, that I would be willing to go through it all again for a younger child. 🙂

      Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions!

    • LOVE POE! On our second year using it although as a supplement and not exclusively. Just purchased Unit 3 Pilgrims download and the readers to go along with the basics. In trying to determine why the pics and titles for Squanto did not match up, I came across your blog and wondered if you might share the name of the Yahoo group. I can not find it listed under POE, Geomatters etc. Thanks very much!

      • Hi Tracy–the yahoo group for Trail Guide is https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/LearningSeries/info. When we got to Squanto, I went to Amazon to pick up the book that was listed in the guide rather than use the replacement. (I get twitchy when things don’t line up exactly. LOL) It was readily available on Amazon, and I also found it at our local library. Have fun with the rest of POE–it was still one of our best years of homeschooling!

  3. Theresa said:

    We are starting our first year of HS’ing this year and frankly I am so overwhelmed with all of the different curriculums to choose from. My 8 year old DD loves, loves, loves reading so its a no brainer that we go with a lit based program. I found Sonlight and decided on Core D. I was all set to place my order and then I came across POE.

    I see through your post that you have experience with both. Can you please tell me the main differences in the two programs. Any insight you can offer would be very much appreciated.

    I’m driving myself crazy, lol. Every time I revisit SL I’m 100% sure that’s what we’ll go with. Inevitably I go back to the Trail Guide website and then I’m 100% sure that’s what we need to go with. Please…help me get off this carousel! 🙂

    • Hi Theresa,

      I completely understand! It can be very overwhelming trying to choose between two (or more!) excellent curricula. In my humble opinion, you are trying to choose from two of the very best. That said, I enjoyed Core D, but I did it when my kids were too young/not ready for it. I also never liked the language arts component. (Sonlight has recently revamped their LA though, and I noticed that they have changed several of the literature selections since we used it.) If I could do it over again, I would have reserved Core D for upper elementary–4th grade and up. Core D and POE technically cover the same eras, but they are so different that you can do both at some point.

      As far as a complete curriculum goes, I think Trail Guide has the whole package. I think you will appreciate the way Trail Guide is laid out and the rhythm to the days. For an 8-year-old and first time homeschooler, I don’t think you can go wrong with POE. If you want to beef-up the literature even more, you can get the POE Middle School Supplement books and read them together. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch is part of that and of Core D, and is one of my favorite books.

      I wish you the best as you decide. Let me know what you decide and how it goes!

  4. Theresa said:

    Thank you so very much for your response. Your advice is actually what I was feeling in my gut so, Yay Me!! Seriously, as much as I thought SL was ‘the one’ I was also thinking it might be overwhelming for us in our first year. Everything I have read about POE has been nothing but good. Truly, no negative reviews!

    My next question (and I feel like a ding bat asking this) but what is a lap book? How is it used? Is this a separate item from their notebook?

    I appreciate your help and hand holding of this newbie, HS’ing mom.

    • YAY you! As you go along, it will get easier to trust your gut. Sonlight is wonderful, but Sonlight can also wait. LOL

      One of the reasons I started blogging about Trail Guide was also because of the lack of negative reviews. I thought it was a bit fishy, so I decided to blog about my own experience. Turns out there is a good reason for the lack of negative reviews–this stuff really is great!

      The lapbooks are just color file folders that are attached to each other to form a scrapbook of sorts. I did get the lapbook set for my youngest, but she lost interest in them after the first unit. If you have a child who is more crafty, loves to make little books, loves cutting and pasting, etc, then the lapbooks are wonderful. Otherwise, the notebooking pages provide plenty of opportunities for drawing, coloring, etc. So, it’s a one-or-the-other situation–lapbook OR notebook.

      I’m happy to answer any questions that I can!

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