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Trail Guide to Learning recently crossed my path and it looks almost too good to be true. Covers everything but math? Teach all my kids together?


Has anyone used this? Can you share your experience?


I am all set to try Beautiful Feet and Brave Writer this coming year with my three school age kids; 12, 10 &7. BF seems great for combining two closer in age kids, but not so great for 3 (soon to be 4) students. TGTL seems like it's already set up to make it easy to combine 3-4 kids (with their middle school extensions). And the grammar seems like it might be similar to brave writer?


The thought of just having individual math and then one big group time for everything else sounds nice. ;)

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Let me preface this by saying that we only used the middle time period (Paths of Settlement) and we never finished it, but not because I didn't love it.  At the time, though, my kids were both struggling to learn to read (diagnosed as dyslexic among other things) and we were still struggling to find our footing as brand new homeschoolers starting late in the game.  If we had been further along in reading remediation and I had been further along in gaining my homeschooling legs I am positive we would have stuck with it.



1.  It covers pretty much every subject except math with the one curriculum but it doesn't work like a "box" curriculum.

2. There are a lot of great hands-on activities, including in art, science, music, etc., but most are not hard to set up and can be modified or removed if needed.

3.  You can use it at the same time with multiple ages/developmental levels (although if you have kids at radically different levels of functionality you are going to need to plan ahead and modify the pacing/choices for each child).  It can be challenging if you have one who zooms through and one who needs significantly more time but there are ways to modify it to work with that scenario.

4.  All the worksheets are clearly labeled by age/ability so printing out sheets appropriate for multiple ages is easy to do. Also, the worksheets are not busy work, IMHO, but are great reinforcement for what is being learned.

5.  It covers a lot of history in a lot more depth than I ever had in school and ties it all in far better than lessons the kids had at school.  I learned so much and so did the kids during the weeks we used it.

6.  The books were mostly interesting to read and the Middle School supplemental readings were ones that both kids enjoyed.  I recommend the Middle School supplements whenever possible (although for a young sensitive child you might need to screen some).

7.  Everything is scripted if you need a lot of guidance, but you can easily adapt and change the curriculum.  You don't need to follow the script.

8.  I priced it all out and actually buying everything through them was cheaper than piece mealing it.  That actually made it super easy to order it, and everything came in one box.  I wasn't shopping all over for various books, components, etc.  I only had to get a few supplies for the science lessons.

9.  There was a nice, predictable flow to our day, but each day was a little different so it didn't get boring.  They provide a great schedule sheet to use so you and the kids know what is expected each day/week, but you can also create your own.

10.  Knowledge is built gently over time, but in much greater depth by the end of it than most brick and mortar curriculums, especially since they tie the various subjects together in a kind of tapestry.  

11. Sometimes the reference books and reading were not as useful for my kids as videos I found on you tube or DVD's we already had, but it was easy to read ahead, find areas where a video or DVD would work better or work well alongside the reading material and add that or insert it during a lesson.

12.  Lessons are structured so that Fridays are review from a bit different perspective and are lighter.  Nice to have that built in lighter review day.  The review is great but isn't essential so you can schedule co-op classes or doctors appointments on Fridays or switch days around and use that review day for other things.  You can still get everything done.  Having built in review really helped solidify concepts for the kids, so I didn't completely ditch the material for review day but it was not as intense.  I could squeeze it into a much shorter time frame.  Still it was nice to know that I could drop that day's work if I needed to.

13.  Each level is sub-sectioned into 6 weeks units, so you can easily schedule breaks every 6 weeks if you plot it out ahead of time.  There was a great sense of closure for the one unit while anticipating what might happen with the next one, knowing they were tied together but that some things were coming to a sort of end.  It kept us excited and anticipating the next thing.  And there was a great flow moving into the next unit, with everything building on previous knowledge.

13.  Paths of Settlement has a wonderful 6 weeks unit at the end of the year that incorporates personal State history into the grand scheme of United States History at the Paths of Settlement level.  You learn about ALL the states in Paths of Settlement but this gives you the opportunity to go into a lot more depth about one particular state.  Just pick the state you want to learn about.  Completely adaptable to your particular needs in this area.  I was excited about that unit and still intend to use it at some point (we never got to it).

14.  For most people the system is really pretty open and go.  Just check ahead for any additional materials needed for science, take a few minutes to print out any work sheets and support material the kids will need, and off you go.  Maybe 30-45 minutes prep on the weekend (sometimes a bit shorter and sometimes a bit longer but that was a good ballpark) and you are good to go for the week.

15.  There is a great support group on Yahoo that is usually very active and has lots of wonderful suggestions.

16.  The people at Trail Guides have been very kind and supportive.  It is a small business and mostly family run, so they are very personable and are there to help (but sadly one of the wonderful creators died of a heart attack and she is sorely missed).

17.  If you have kids that are really paced VERY differently, you can read ahead and modify your lesson so that maybe one is doing something intense with you while someone else is doing one of the more independent activities (get in with the on-line support group and they can walk you through modifying this way).

18.  I found that with some things it worked well for me to assign a specific thing for each child and then they report on their one part to us as a family instead of each of them doing every single project/research item.  They got excited about sharing something only they had researched and the other child was interested in hearing about that other piece of the puzzle then sharing their own part.  I participated, too, sometimes and did my own thing as well.

19.  It helped my kids to see that U.S. History didn't happen in a vacuum.  Various things happening in the U.S. were at least partly a result of things happening in other parts of the world and what was happening here was affecting things in other parts of the world, too.  We are all interconnected.  It was a great lesson to learn.



1.  Our biggest issue was that we would be reading 3-4 books at a time, every day but Friday.  When we started Trail Guides neither child was reading independently enough to read these books on their own, so I had to read everything to them.  It was challenging for me to read passages from 3-4 reading books every M, T, W, Th, plus the other readings required for science/art/etc. as well as our heavy remediation lessons for reading/writing/spelling because of the dyslexia issues as well as a lot of remediation in math.  It also frustrated the kids that I had to keep switching between Trail Guides books instead of reading as far as they wanted (you normally take turns doing read alouds and do some reading silently and all the books are stretched out over weeks so you don't finish any reading quickly).  If your kids don't work well with this format, you may need to modify by reading just one or two books at a time then moving on to the next books or something along those lines.  Not every child does well constantly switching reading sources.  I recommend giving it a good try first, though, because modifying this means modifying other areas, too.

2.  My dear DD hated history at the time and would get frustrated that she was having to do so much history every single day.  She also was frustrated that she had to learn next to her brother who LIVES all things history.  I think it made her feel bad to see him really "get" what was being taught and she just didn't.  But she literally does not have a sense of the passage of time (current or historical) so history is just a bunch of unrelated facts mushed together for her.  While TG helped her to see history as more meaningful, and she enjoyed many aspects of the lessons, I realized that really for DD it might be better to go with something less history oriented.

3.  I found myself modifying a LOT of language arts material so that it wouldn't interfere with the remediation we were doing with Barton Reading and Spelling.  That caused some issues with planning...

4.  I did feel that at times the kids needed more direct instruction in what was happening historically, instead of just gleaning it from the readings....in other words, sometimes I had to step in with more "facts and figures" info, not to memorize for a test or anything but to clarify.  If I had been more comfortable homeschooling I would have been able to incorporate those additional resources on the few occasions where we really needed a more direct explanation.  I just wasn't comfortable enough yet with homeschooling.

5.  There is a lot of writing.  It was too much for my kids but I was able to modify it.  We did some scribing where they dictated and I wrote for them.  Now, they would be able to type.  They were not proficient enough in typing at the time, though.


We finally dropped it, intending the respite to be temporary, but we just never went back to it.  I was too busy trying to get us through reading and math remediation.  I kind of regret the timing.  I wish I had started it the next year, after we had had some significant remediation under our belt.  I really loved the whole thing.  Loved it.  I still have used aspects of it but the kids have moved on to other subjects and don't want to revisit that time period in so much depth now.  They have some fond memories, though.


I do believe you can purchase individual 6 weeks units, maybe as downloads?  You might try it that way, first, just to see if this will be a good fit. 


By the way, we never did Paths of Exploration since both kids had covered that time period in school fairly well, but I hear that there are some awesome lessons in that level.  We started with the second level, Paths of Settlement, but it really wasn't an issue to start in the middle...

Edited by OneStepAtATime
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One step- thank you for your in depth review.


I do worry about this part:



3. You can use it at the same time with multiple ages/developmental levels (although if you have kids at radically different levels of functionality you are going to need to plan ahead and modify the pacing/choices for each child). It can be challenging if you have one who zooms through and one who needs significantly more time but there are ways to modify it to work with that scenario.



If someone finishes real fast and then I lose them while waiting for the others to finish...

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That CAN be an issue but there are supports on line that can help with this.  Once you get used to the way this thing ebbs and flows there are ways to incorporate various things into your day to keep one occupied while the others are finishing.  It takes some flex on your part, though.  


I would not recommend this for a little person, by the way, at least not the full program.  2nd - 3rd grade and above probably is the best age range.  A bright 1st grader could probably get through everything with some modification but they would be at such a different pace than older kids it would probably be challenging keeping up with the day.  Your little one would probably enjoy many aspects but you would have to modify a lot.


Also, the middle school level materials take more time to get through so plan on your older needing more writing time.  Maybe have them finish their writing requirements after everything else is done for the day so the rest can be done together...




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You've given me some good points to think about. The year I'd use this, I would have a 7th grader, a 5th grader, a 2nd grader, and a young kindergartener. Which means is need POE and the middle school extension and the junior version. :O


As I'm looking over the middle school sample, I'm thinking that I would have him do the 5th grade work with us and the extension work afterwards. My 2nd grader should have no trouble doing the 3rd grade work, and I can adjust it a little here and there if needed.


Right now I can't imagine my littlest guy being ready for the K work. He'll really only be in TK. Also, the K work is so different and definitely requires mom that then I wouldn't be available to work with the other kids (listening to reading or doing dictation) ... And that's sort of the point of doing TGTL, for us all to be working together. So I may skip the jr extension for him that year and just read and work with him when the other kids are working on something independent.


Eta: I just realized all three of my old kids would be reading the reader at the same time. I can't see sitting around waiting to take turns. Lol. I guess I would need multiple copies. It looks like there are no activities directly tied to the reader? So it would be easy to substitute a different reader for my oldest?


How easy is it to substitute books in TGTL? The sower biographies seem a little preachy? I already have books on Abigail Adams and Ben Franklin from the AO list, would these be easy to swap in for the sower books?

Edited by vaquitita
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