Justin Morgan Had a Horse
Story of the first known American-bred Morgan horse.
When several very talented authors create a curriculum that combines the educational philosophies of Ruth Beechick and Charlotte Mason, you know it is worth examining. Designed to incorporate Dr. Beechick’s educational principles in their entirety, this curriculum attempts to guide students in building their thinking skills through the knowledge they gain, not as a separate process. The Trail Guide to Learning program is a very comprehensive unit study curriculum that incorporates reading, writing, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, science, art and more into a study of history and geography. Math is the only core subject not covered. While each level has a targeted grade level, it is adaptable for families to learn together. Four levels are available: Paths of Exploration (gr. 3-5), Paths of Settlement (gr. 4-6), Paths of Progress (gr. 5-7) and Journeys to the Ancient World (gr. 6-8). Other than grade distinctions, there are a couple other notable differences. First, American history is taught in a 3-year cycle through the Paths of ___ series, while Journeys introduces Ancient History at the middle school level. Additionally, the Paths series is written from a religiously neutral viewpoint, so it is an option for those of you ordering through charter schools. There is, however, a strong emphasis on good character and many units spend some time studying the best qualities of historical figures. An optional Bible supplement, Light for the Trail, is available directly from Geography Matters company. It should be understood, however, that the Bible is essential as both a historical and literary text in Journeys to the Ancient World. Finally, there are no tests. Each unit includes a review before starting the next unit, and parents are encouraged to assess learning through the interactive activities and student notebook. Supplemental assessments are available from the publisher if desired. There are numerous resources required for each program. See individual descriptions for more information.
There are six topical six-week units in the Paths courses, and four topical nine-week units in Journeys– each providing a 36 week or one-year course of study. Formatted similarly, lessons are written for ease of use for both the teacher and the student. Although the directions are written to the student, notes in the margins are intended for the teacher. No answers are given in the lesson content, which makes it easier to share the book. As you might expect from a curriculum co-authored by Debbie Strayer (author of Learning Language Arts Through Literature), the topic of language arts is heavily emphasized in every lesson. Daily lessons begin with copywork and dictation, with assignments given at the three grade levels. Reading follows, with the student reading selected sections or pages aloud to the teacher. Then the teacher reads several pages from a more advanced book used in that lesson and reads the discussion questions, or the student narrates a provided assignment. Word Study, which encompasses vocabulary and spelling is next, and typically is tied into the reading or the copywork. Again, several different grade-level specific assignments are provided. Geography, history, and science are well-integrated into each lesson. History is naturally absorbed from the books the students read (and listen to). A related geography lesson is provided just about every day, which ties in beautifully with the unit topic. Because history and geography often go hand-in-hand, and because the curriculum is published by Geography Matters, I had expected the geography lessons to be top-notch. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the science topics are related to the unit topics. Science can occasionally seem like an afterthought in unit studies, with vague assignments for the student to simply "research a topic." Here the topics are relevant, and the content is good. It is worth noting that science is not covered every day like geography but makes an appearance about 2-3 times per week. In keeping with a true multisensory, unit study approach, hands-on learning through lapbooking, science activities, games and more are integrated. Pages are black and white with the exception of the game/activity pages. This is a well-developed curriculum offering families an enjoyable learning experience. See individual programs for more information on content and required resources. ~Jess/Deanne
Unit Study Curriculums are "complete" curriculums based on the unit study approach that are intended to be used over a longer span of time (typically a year or more). They generally have an organized structure or flow and incorporate as many subject areas as possible. Typically, organizational materials and methods are provided along with some instruction for use. Broken into logical segments or "units" of study, they are intended to comprise the core of your curriculum.
What is a "unit study"? Briefly, it's a thematic or topical approach to teaching as opposed to the traditional by-subject approach. Rather than teach each subject separately, a unit study attempts to integrate many or all subject areas into a unified study - usually centered around a particular subject or event. Obviously History (the study of events) and Science (the study of "things") are well-suited to unit studies, and usually form the "core" around which other subjects are integrated. Subjects like Bible, Geography, Government, English (writing), and Reading/Literature, Music, Home Economics, Life Skills, and Art, are usually easy to integrate around a core topics. Remaining subjects (Math, Phonics, Grammar, Spelling) can be integrated to some extent via related activities. Each, however, has its own "system" (progression of skills, mastery of "rules") which must be followed to some degree. Since one of the additional advantages of a unit study curriculum is the ability to use it with students of varying ages and skill levels, these subjects are generally taught apart from the core curriculum. This may be as simple as assigning pages in a grammar or spelling book, or using a separate "program" for Phonics and Math. Unit studies also tend to be more activity-oriented than the traditional approach, a real boon to kinesthetic learners. Advocates of the unit study approach site studies showing that children learn best when learning is unified rather than fragmented and when learning is more participatory than passive.