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Friday, February 22, 2013

Review: Trail Guide to Learning - Paths of Exploration





It's time! Time to share my thoughts on the uses and functions of the Paths of Exploration curriculum, part of the Trail Guide to Learning series.  I shared my excitement with you when receiving the box of curriculum in the mail here and I also shared how I organized our "path" here.

I am going to start with the end... which is to say... I. LOVE. THIS. CURRICULUM!  There. I said it.  I do, I truly love this curriculum.  It fits my son SO perfectly and has resolved so many struggles that he's previously experienced in other curriculums.   "Oh sure!", you might say.  I know what you're thinking... how can ONE curriculum be the answer?  Well, let me tell you how.

First, let me give you a little background, though.  I am using this curriculum for my 10 year old (turns 11 tomorrow) ALL boy, boy.  When I say he's "all boy" what I mean is he is a rough n tumble, can't sit for very long because I need to move, kind of kid.  He is easily distracted and enjoys DOING rather than sitting.  He is not one that is thrilled to sit with a book for hours on end and he will certainly slump into a puddle of human goo at the thought of being handed a dry textbook to read.  I love this boy to death but he is a very different learner from my 13 year old son who is content to be handed a stack of books and a checklist and sit for hours reading to learn.

I'll be honest... I took a chance with Trail Guide to Learning. It was a departure from the style of learning I'd been using before and what I was used to.  It was scary to spend money on a curriculum I wasn't sure would work and I was fearful that if POE DIDN'T work, I'd be left scrambling mid-year to find something else.    But, I'm so glad I did take that chance!

We started school after Labor Day and my son actually ENJOYED the first few weeks of school with POE (Paths of Exploration).  Insert BIG MISTAKE here.  I got panicky and thought maybe we weren't doing enough since he was finishing earlier in the day than we were used to, so... I added more curriculum.  Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.  Within a week, the boy that was beginning to take an interest in learning, now was back to his old ways of dragging his feet at doing anything remotely to do with learning, complaining and miserable.  We both were.  What was I thinking??  So, the beginning of October, I scrapped all "extra" curriculum and have been flying solo with POE ever since!  It's been enjoyable... for both of us now!

So here are my seven reasons that the Trail Guide to Learning series is the answer to our curriculum needs for my second born:

* IT HAS BUILT-IN HANDS- ON ACTIVITIES.   POE provides a perfect balance of hands on activities to keep the "active" part of my son engaged. I was always left scrambling to come up with hands on activities that would fit our lessons before OR they would be dropped by the end of the day because we'd finish too late to start one (often because he would drag and resist moving from subject to subject; he was miserable!) Now, instead of feeling like the hands on activities compete for our time, they are built into our days!  Most importantly, this engages my son's learning style!

* IT'S ORGANIZED WELL.  POE is organized very well.  It takes a great load off of my plate having curriculum so well laid out.  I even did the printing in advance of all the units, organized them into weekly file folders and then moved the daily sheets into daily folders for his each week.  I do some quick skimming of what supplies, if any, I need for that week and that's it!

* THE THEMES FLOW TOGETHER.  I'll be honest, at first this bugged the history major in me.  I like my history chronological.  While POE seems to "jump" around through US History, it is actually connecting themes together.  For Paths of Exploration the theme is, well, exploration.  Yet, so much more is discussed and learned than just exploration.  My son has walked away from the first 3 Units with a solid grasp of Christopher Columbus and his era, Jamestown and their struggles, and the Pilgrims and their struggles to survive and make a new start.

*GEOGRAPHY IS INCORPORATED.  This is a topic we never got around too, so my husband and I are amazed by my son's knowledge of the areas he has studied thus far and his ease with reading a map!  All thanks to POE!

* IT IGNITES INTEREST IN LEARNING.  Yes, this is a big claim but it is true for our household.  While I always admired the Charlotte Mason approach, I never could nail down the timing of moving from subject to subject.  The teacher in me felt that more time meant more learning and no matter how hard I tried, I would slip back into that mentality.  Prior to POE, I was a Charlotte Mason failure.  POE has brought this style of learning into our home successfully and my son has benefited greatly from it.  POE does an excellent job of dividing up the information into short, manageable chunks (something that made me panic in the beginning because it felt too short).  They are just right for my son's style of learning.  However, for me, I was sold once I saw that he was RETAINING the information, shattering the myth that long amounts of time needed to be grasp a concept.  POE provides short bursts of concepts that are reinforced throughout each unit which has led to success for my son!

* IT INCREASES RETENTION.  I can't claim this for every child but for mine, POE has been a lifesaver.  Due to lack of interest and a growing resentment to learning in prior years, my son didn't retain information presented to him. Now, he is blossoming!  He is remembering information which allows him to taste success and confidence in his knowledge base.  He no longer feels like a failure in education.  This, to me, is top on my list of why POE is the perfect curriculum.

* IT BRINGS IMPROVEMENT IN WRITING AND SPELLING.  My son struggled with his handwriting and with spelling.  He still does but we have seen great improvement over the past few months in both areas. I give POE credit for this because of the daily copy work and spelling words he is exposed to.  I will say that we have had my son tested for Dyslexia.  He still shows some evidence of this, even if mild, so we may add a program next year to give him greater support.

I know this review was long but there is so much I could speak on regarding this curriculum.  I can't answer what this curriculum will do to revolutionize the learning in your own children, I can say that it has definitely revolutionized and ignited an interest in learning in a child that was otherwise fed-up with school, at the ripe ol age of 9.   He still has areas of struggle but, through POE, he has been given a taste of success and has improved his confidence, his interest and his desire to learn more!  We can't wait to start Paths of Settlement next year!  Please feel free to leave a comment with questions you may have that I didn't cover here.

** In exchange for an honest review of my independent thoughts, I was given a discount on the Paths of Exploration curriculum.**


16 comments:

  1. Thanks for this wonderful review!! I have been researching POE to use with my sons. I am going to try to make it work for my 6,8 and 11 year old. This is our first year homeschooling and although we love it we have not loved our curriculum. Everyone doing something different has been a challenge. I am looking forward this buying POE and starting it soon:)

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    1. Hi! I know that feeling of having different kids do different things! We have truly enjoyed POE this year and looking forward to starting year two!

      Thanks for your feedback and for stopping by!

      Sheri

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  2. I am very impressed with POE as well. We are on POE Unit 2, Week 2 and school is a pleasure. I have been tempted to add things but have decided to sit back and trust the material until we are finished with all the units. Then I will make that determination. I was very hesitant to spend the money as the text is not resaleable. But it has definitely been worth it. I am even getting a much clearer picture of the different groups who settled America and in what order instead of all the information running together like it has with past material. I also love that you can beef it up easily if you are using it with a more advanced student.

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    1. Hi Hidden Jewel!

      I'm glad to hear you're enjoying it as much as we are! I can totally relate to your hesitation of purchasing as I had that thought as well! I'm also glad to hear I wasn't the only one tempted to add more. You made the right choice in going with your gut and sit back! I learned that the hard way! LOL!
      Thanks for stopping by!
      Sheri

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    2. First, I have to tell you that I love your blog - everything. Secondly, thank you for the information regarding POE which we are using right now. (Just started in January 2014 after having used TruthQuest.) Thirdly, I AM dealing with what you advised not to do. I have to state that this is our first year of homeschooling so...we are using Math Mammoth and Life of Fred, Daily Grams, Fix It Grammar, Phonetic Zoo (5th grader), All About Spelling (3rd grader), handwriting practice (for cursive), as well as IEW. WOW! We are busy and find ourselves rushing and at times--miserable! So, I come to you and the readers of this blog and shout from the highest mountain top...HELP!! I don't know what to give up because I do love the elements of everything we do. Know as of this week, I have pulled my younger son (3rd grade) out of IEW until next year. In lieu of IEW I have him writing in his journal daily using elements expected in IEW paragraphs. As you can imagine, we are not frequently experiencing the "joys" of homeschooling because of my seemingly over ambitious goals. I obviously feel the need to provide my kids the "perfect" education - whatever that is. So I humbly ask for help!

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    3. Just letting MommyPT know what I just figured out - there's a new site so not sure if we'll get replies on this site. New site is: http://meaningfulhomelife.com

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  3. Thanks so much! I've been watching for this review as the choice for use of this curriculum has been lingering at the top of my list the past couple of years. I am going to stop dragging my feet and get going with the POE next:) I'm convinced that less is more each additional year that I homeschool. Also, thanks for posting the organization tidbits for POE; I'm really going to take advantage of this! Thank God for the gifts He gives to people for creating wonderful curriculum like Trail Guide To Learning/Geography Matters!
    Sincerely,
    Melanie

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    1. You're welcome, Melanie! I hope POE works well for you and your family!
      -Sheri

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  4. Have you ever used Sonlight and if so, do you think you could compare your experience between POE and Sonlight? I've considered POE for a couple of years but didn't feel my 2nd child was old enough for it but now my older two are 10 1/2 and 8 and it may be the right time.
    As much as I love Sonlight, I'm not sure my kids like all the reading... Sad but true for this bibliophile mama.
    Do you have to engage in the education process constantly with POE. I sometimes find it difficult to manage my 3 and 4 year old when I have to "do school" with my older two a lot.
    Thank you!
    ~Jaime

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    1. Hi Jaime,
      I have used Sonlight and, as a self-proclaimed bibliophile myself, I loved it as did my Bibliophile eldest son. However, my second son (to which I use POE and soon, POS, with) thought it was pure torture. The thought of reading and reading and reading and even more reading was enough to make him burst into tears. He would much rather DO than READ or sit quietly. I actually use the suggested readers of Sonlight with my homegrown, electic curriculum still with my oldest. It just works for him and I love the depth the books bring to the subjects.

      Now, I don't want you to think that POE doesn't have some sit down and read quiet time either. It definitely does but the fundamental difference between POE and most other curriculum is that it is in smaller doses, which becomes more manageable for kinestic learners like my son. As far as me having to engage in the education process constantly with POE, nope. This past year was not kind to me. I had a series of unfortunate health issues like I'd never had before. Normally, this would throw a wrench in our learning but not with POE. My 10 year old was able to follow the lesson plans himself and I just check his work after or answer any questions he had about the lesson plans. They are VERY easy to follow and creates a much more independent learner!
      I hope that helps you out! Thanks for stopping by!

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    2. I had the same question about Sonlight. Thank you so much for your helpful responses and informative review of POE. Very helpful!

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  5. I'm looking into curriculum options. I haven't read much about Trail Guide to Learning yet. Would you consider it a Christian curriculum? What was meant by one of the comments above about the text being not resaleable? What age is best to start with POE? 2nd grade or wait til 3rd grade? We have an almost 6 year old who just went through a year of ACE (Christian workbooks-based curriculum). She's learned to read with that curriculum. I'm not convinced to keep going with that curriculum (at least not for all subjects) but I like it that it is something she can do pretty independently. She likes doing workbooks but this year she's only doing 4 at a time and next year for their 2nd grade curriculum, it'd be 7 or 8 workbooks daily! I was considering mixing in some Sonlight (which I have access to from my sister) so I found the Q&A about that interesting. I'm not sure Sonlight would be the right fit for us however. POE sounds like a definite possibility. I like the idea that POE is organized in a way that the student could follow the lesson plan to know what to do. Do you know if/when they are putting out the continuing curriculum? Do they have beyond 3 years' worth out yet? Thanks!

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  6. It is a Christian curriculum in the sense that the authors' Christian worldview comes through in the books they choose (especially the read aloud for Columbus. There is an optional Bible portion you can supplement with, but there is no talk of God in the textbook. I found that my two very bright daughters (3rd and 4th grade) could not follow along in the textbook without my help- they need me to read most of it aloud and explain things. I believe the no resale thing pertains to the CD ROM that you print your student notebook from. I purchased the textbooks used and asked the company- they said that was fine as long as I paid for another CD ROM.

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    1. Thanks! I did get response from company too about that and I think the link they sent showed the download access (or CD) is $50 or $60. I'm leaning towards waiting at least another year on this. My daughter is only just turning 6.

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  7. Im so glad to find this!! Im planning to use POE for our first year of homeschool, with my then 6th grade daughter who LOVES to read, and my then 3rd grader who is VERY much like your son. A kinesthetic learner, possibly ADD, possibly dyslexic. He is just now catching up as far as reading goes, and i am wondering if the POE readers would be too much but id like to try. I plan to get the advanced add ons for my daughter. They are using CLE and ACE at their tiny private school now, and my son gets bored and struggles with the workbooks.
    Dumb question..if you have two children do you buy one complete package then an extra set of readers? If that makes sense.
    Also, id like to do a year round, either 4 or 6 weeks on, 1 week off schedule. This would be a good fit i think?
    Thanks!!

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  8. Im so glad to find this!! Im planning to use POE for our first year of homeschool, with my then 6th grade daughter who LOVES to read, and my then 3rd grader who is VERY much like your son. A kinesthetic learner, possibly ADD, possibly dyslexic. He is just now catching up as far as reading goes, and i am wondering if the POE readers would be too much but id like to try. I plan to get the advanced add ons for my daughter. They are using CLE and ACE at their tiny private school now, and my son gets bored and struggles with the workbooks.
    Dumb question..if you have two children do you buy one complete package then an extra set of readers? If that makes sense.
    Also, id like to do a year round, either 4 or 6 weeks on, 1 week off schedule. This would be a good fit i think?
    Thanks!!

    ReplyDelete