Trail Guide to Learning

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  • Reviewed on Tuesday, September 1, 2015
  • Grades Used: 3rd and 6th
  • Dates used: 2015
This is our first year homeschooling, but I have been researching curriculum for years online and through conversations with homeschool friends. Trail Guides came with glowing reviews, both by word of mouth and on various blogs. I had high hopes. There are several things that appealed to me initially: the condensed work that wouldn't consume endless hours a day, the full-service format (except for math, of course), the easy layout for teacher and student. The price was also a plus. I liked that one book could work for my bright 3rd and 6th graders. I simply bought the middle school expansion pack and we were good to go. Unfortunately, we think it's pretty boring. Before I get to that, though, I really need to mention the exorbitant cost of printing all of the materials on your own. No one mentioned the sheer volume of paper that would need to be printed if you opt to do it on your own. I did opt to do my own printing and promptly regretted it. For two students, my printing costs alone for the school year will reach $1000. Printing is not cheap! Printing at home is not an option, either, because of the high cost of ink cartridges. There are countless pages in the Paths of Exploration curriculum that need to be printed in order to get the most out of the assignments. Listen when I say just buy the books and be done with it! Going back to the boredom, I'm sure some of this has to do with the fact that my boys are not history buffs. They enjoy math, science, and independent reading. However, I was expecting Trail Guides to pique their interest and present it in a neat way. My 3rd grader could not care less about Christopher Columbus (why this is the first unit in this book, I will never know - it's not a captivating topic), but my 6th grader is enjoying the fiction books that came with the middle school supplement (he moves through them much faster than the curriculum directs). We might need to re-evaluate in the winter semester if I can't sustain their interest in the history/geography portion of our day, however, I've already spent $300 on printing 2-3 units and I hate to waste it. Copywork can be easily accomplished without printing the student notebook pages, but there are additional activities found in the notebook that students would benefit from using.


  • Reviewed on Tuesday, February 17, 2015
  • Grades Used: 2nd and 5th; 3rd and 6th
  • Dates used: 2015-2016
Update April 2016: We started out strong with Paths of Exploration. My boys loved the first 3 units and I was overjoyed that I had finally found something that was working for us (we've been homeschooling for 5 years). However, by the time we got to the 4th unit, we were getting tired of the same ole, same ole. For the 4th unit we actually skipped all of the activities and simply spent 2 weeks reading the chapter books and doing math so we could move on to unit 5. We skipped Unit 6 as it was a review and my boys were getting bored. We are now in our first Unit of Paths of Settlement and I don't think we will continue as an all-inclusive curriculum. We are going to pick out parts of it (reading the chapter books, States work, and some of the other activities) to use as a thorough history program. But we are going to add in our own grammar, writing, and science. We have disliked the Science from Day 1. I don't think the Handbook of Nature Study is written on a level for kids to understand. I have a hard time with it too. I think the spelling is way too easy for a 5th or 6th grader and maybe even 4th grader. In general it just feels too "light" and I am not one of these over-ambitious, I want my child to graduate when they are 15 kind of homeschoolers. The folks at Geo Matters are wonderful and I think they were on the right track with this, but it needs a little more challenge and variety. If my kids were younger (2nd-4th grade) I probably would have stuck with it. As one other reviewer mentioned it costs A LOT to print. It is more cost effective to purchase the printed pages from Geo Matters.

Original Review Feb 2015: When I was looking for reviews and comments on Trail Guide to Learning, most posts were older so I wanted to add a comment for anyone looking for recent reviews. After my sons and I were feeling burned out from our "same ole" workbooks and textbooks, I decided to switch mid-year to Paths of Exploration (w/2nd and 5th grader) and it was just the shake up we needed. We all like school now. Gasp! We are only in the first unit so I am not able to give a seasoned review, but we really enjoy the way topics are tied together in a way that doesn't feel like we are doing specific subjects. We aren't sitting down for grammar or writing or geography, we are just learning and it flows well. Very little prep each week which I love. We have not done enough science for me to comment, but my gut feeling is that we won't love the science, but that's okay because we were using a science that I really didn't want to give up anyways. It is new this year by Dr. Jay Wiles and it is called Science in the Beginning. It's great and I think it can be easily added to our school day because POE doesn't take very long. My boys are usually done in about 2. or 2 1/2 hours so adding math and science really isn't a big deal. I am also going to continue IEW for writing with my 5th grader because he is doing so well with it, but again, it can easily be added and the school day still doesn't drag on. I wasn't sure how I would feel about using a Charlotte Mason type approach, but to see the way that my children are enjoying learning, I am sold.


  • Reviewed on Sunday, February 10, 2013
  • Grades Used: 5th
  • Dates used: 2012/2013
This is my 10th year homeschooling and I've been searching for the right curriculum for my 5th grade daughter. She has pretty much already been through all the things I used with her brother at this age. A curriculum that uses living books and notebooking was a must.

I researched Trail Guide to Learning for quite a while and finally decided that I wanted to give it a try. We began using the 2nd set in the series called Paths of Settlement as it fit in with the period of history we are studying.

We are almost finished with the first unit and I am very impressed! So far we are only adding Math, Bible and handwriting to the program. Every day, my daughter does coywork, history, geography and language arts. We read together from wonderful books each day and science is covered 2 days week. We do art once a week or so.

I'm absolutely thrilled with the history, goegraphy, language arts, art, critical thinking and readers. The science aspect has not been such a great fit for us. My daughter finds the books used for science to be very boring and, to be honest, I think they are pretty boring myself. Admittedly, we haven't found the science subject matter to be very interesting either. Learning about the weather could have been interesting but the books used are more reference-type books in my opinion. They are great for looking up something you want to know, but not for just reading together. We both found ourselves retaining little of the information presented.

The science focus has now moved on to soil types and my daughter is extremely bored. We've decided to use a unit of Considering God's Creation Science for now. I am planning on trying Paths of Settlement's Science portion again in the next unit to see if we like it any better.

Even without utilizing the science portion of the curriculum, I still think that Trail Guide to Learning is well worth the money for everything else it includes and does so well. My daughter's spelling, grammar and writing have alread improved tremendously and though she certainly isn't begging to do schoolwork now, she says she really likes this curriculum. I love having everything planned out for me and having all the wonderful notebooking pages ready to use.

I've always planned my own unit studies and used a lot of library books. I've scoured the web, paid for and printed out tons of notebooking pages and lapbooks. It was a lot of work and took a lot of time.

Now, everything is done for me-the planning is done. The notebooking pages are included. The books are at my fingertips. I love the ease of having everything ready when I need it instead of having to search for it and make multiple trips to the library.

To sum things up, I'm really glad that I chose this curriculum for this school year. I think it's just what my daughter and I need as we begin the transition from elementary to middle school.

Review update 2/17/2014

After using TGTL for a longer period of time, I wanted to come back and update this review for everyone since there's not a lot of information out there concerning it.

When we first started with TGTL, there was an adjustment period because we were so used to doing our own thing. However, now I can honestly say that TGTL has only gotten better with time. I couldn't be happier with this curriculum. My daughter's critical thinking skills, grammar, spelling, handwriting, and study skills have improved dramatically. She is retaining so much of what she learns and we are enjoying the process.

We are even happy with the science portion now that we've had a little time to get used to it. In fact, we've both learned a ton from the science incorporated into POS and are really enjoying the notebooking pages.

I strongly recommend purchasing an audio recording of Debbie Strayer explaining why she wrote this curriculum and how it works. I was able to download mine from It's under Convention 2013 audio recordings for $4.00. Listening to it really helped me to understand how the curriculum works and what it offers my child.

It takes us about 2-3 hours a day to complete the assignments. It took a lot longer in the beginning but now we've settled into a nice routine and our days are much smoother. We add math and Bible and our school day is perfect-not too long and not too short.

My favorite part of TGTL is how it really teaches your child to think critically. This is one of the most important skills our children can have and TGTL does this beautifully. The assignments are designed to make your child really think and dig for the information and their thoughts and beliefs concerning it.

To sum it up-I love TGTL and plan on continuing with it next year. :-)