Learning about Jamestown: Trail Guide to Learning

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When we moved to the mid-west, I told y’all how incredibly excited I was to dig into studying American History with the kids. We’ve been using Trail Guide to Learning from GeoMatters, and today, I wanted to take the time to give you a closer look at how the units work in our home.

Trail Guide to Learning is designed to be a complete program (read our full review here) and you can purchase it as a full year program, or as individual six-week units which you can use as a stand-alone. For this post, I am going to focus on the second unit, Jamestown, which I’ve been enjoying with my three kids who are working at sixth grade, third grade and kindergarten levels (yes, all the kids can use the same program, there are supplements for all the levels).

Learning about Jamestown:

The timing for this unit could not have been better. Our local museum has a new interactive exhibit all about Jamestown, and I told the kids that if we worked diligently, we would be able to go to the opening night party at the museum.

They jumped right in with wonderful attitudes. Over the past few weeks, we’ve learned all about the first settlers in Jamestown, we’ve read wonderful books, and we’ve jumped into mapwork.

In this unit, the best part (outside of the literature based language lessons) was the geography and mapwork sections. We learned about different types of maps, map making and map skills, drawing landmarks and rivers, and all about how the first inhabitants of Jamestown mapped out their new home.

This unit is all about the character, drive, and work needed in order to survive in the New World. Doodle was fascinated with the idea of going somewhere new and finding a way to make it feel like home. After moving so much in recent years, this seemed to resonate with him as a military kid, and he took the ideas and lessons learned to draw maps of our new neighborhood and city as he learned to settle in here.

What I loved about this unit:

Trail Guide for Learning includes a lot of wonderful literature. This is embarrassing to admit, but I don’t always follow a good routine of reading aloud to my kids – I have wonderful intentions, but time gets away from me and I struggle to keep up the routine. In Trail Guide for Learning, the read-alouds are scheduled in, and purposeful assignments and included for all three levels. I took turns reading aloud with Bug to the rest of the kids for this unit, and we all enjoyed slowing down a little bit.

Gentle is the name of the game for this curriculum, which is something I really need in this season of my life. The read-alouds and independent reading lead into our daily language arts lessons. Doodle, my third grader is on the autism spectrum. I choose this curriculum specifically for him because he loves history and loves to read, and I am pleased to say that two units in, it’s still working really well for him. He doesn’t like jumping from subject to subject, and this program transitions gently from reading to writing, to grammar and spelling without ever leaving the literature that we read that day.

Because Trail Guide for Learning is designed to be a complete curriculum, if I can get Doodle to really get into the reading, he’s able to move through the whole day’s work without any abrupt transitions. The school day seems to go much faster for him this way, and it’s much easier for me to teach.

What about our youngest student?

Little Miss is really coming into her own as a student. Just in the last couple months, her reading and math skills are exploding and she’s finally interested in listening to stories.

In this unit, she spent time learning about weather and tracked the temperatures. We are not used to mid-western winters and both thought it was fun that we could have a 30 degree day one day, and a 70 degree day the next day.

She loved having her own little student book to work in. My only complaint about the program is that the teachers manual for Trail Guide for Learning Junior is just too big to be soft cover – I hope Geo Matters breaks it down into six units like they did with the main curriculum. I am considering taking my copy to be taken apart and spiral bound to make it a bit more manageable.

Final Thoughts:

I am still really enjoying this program. I feel the need to repeat again that it is a full program. I had thought I could just use it for history, but it really needs to be approached as a complete curriculum or you will quickly become overwhelmed. Don’t overload yourself, and trust the program!

We’re jumping into the third unit next, and I will come back and give you a closer look into what a week in the life with this program looks like – a day by day example so you can better picture what it would be like in your own home. I am sure you’ll enjoy it as much as we are!

I received this program without cost in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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