• Connected Learning

    0 comments / Posted by Geography Matters

    by Debbie Strayer

    As a young education student in college, I learned how to create unit studies. I took a topic, say ice cream, and connected literature, math concepts, science, and activities. It was exciting to my students and interesting to me. It brought a freshness to the way I approached teaching because I was fitting the skills inside a framework that included activities and real books, rather than just reading a textbook. But this was only the beginning of my adventures with connected learning.

    As time went on, and I became a homeschooler, I started reading Ruth Beechick’s writings. She encourages integrating subjects together with a focus on meaning and ideas, not stopping with just learning facts about a topic. Skill learning, such as spelling, reading, and writing, is taught within the context of literature, history, and science, not as separate subjects. My understanding of teaching in a connected way made a great leap forward.

    When you teach your child focusing on ideas, not just topics, critical thinking skills are built. While studying the Civil War, look for the people of great character from both sides, not just the names and dates of battles. Talk about why they did what they did and whether or not your child agrees with their actions. By moving beyond rote level learning, you teach your children how to understand and evaluate information. One of the ways to help children take learning from short term memory to long term memory is to connect it with meaning. Biographies are a great way to attach meaning to events you study.

    As a parent of homeschool graduates, I can look back and say that whatever we did that was memorable was tied to this approach. When I would revert to less effective methods, I would get a list checked off, but nothing much in the way of long term learning. Even during our years of homeschooling high school, this method proved most satisfying. My children had learned the difference between genuine learning and learning to pass a test. This understanding is now a part of their thinking as adults.

    When you think about how you teach your children and the time it takes to use this approach, don’t think in terms of what it takes out of your daily schedule now, in time and effort. Think in terms of the view of learning that you are planting in their hearts and the years of fruit it will bear. When true learning has taken place, there really is no going back. Aren’t you glad?

    How is this method used in the Trail Guide to Learning?

    We not only cover each subject, but every subject in the Trail Guide relates. It is a natural way of learning as topics flow from one to the other. Children learn best when subjects overlap and build upon a main concept. 

    For example, in Paths of Exploration, students learn how our country was discovered and explored, from Columbus to the Westward Expansion. While studying the life and explorations of Christopher Columbus, students learn about his travels, read about his life in their literature, map out his treks in their geography, learn how he used the stars for navigation in their science lessons, and tie in activities like making a model ship out of a milk carton. When your child is able to make all these connections, he will have better retention and a deeper understanding of the subject matter. 

    The more sensory involvement you have with one topic, the more likely you are to remember and use that information. As children learn, they will share their experiences through notebooking, presentations and hands-on activities. Art, cooking, music and games combine to give children a taste of the times and a personal connection with the content that is unmatched by reading alone.

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  • Know Your State

    0 comments / Posted by Cindy Wiggers

    Know-Your-State-Feature-Image Geography is a fun subject of study and can be done any school year at any age. You can include it as a separate subject but is more naturally learned in the context of history, science, and even art. Geography can easily meld into your daily routine.

    It is vital to establish a foundation of geography and creating a simple state study is an effective way to generate interest. Have you covered your home state? Do your children know where your state is located within the boundaries of the United States? Do they know basic information about your state geography and history? If not, why not consider some of these ideas and begin to implement them into your school routine?

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  • How Long Does a Trail Guide to Learning Day Take?

    0 comments / Posted by Kris Bales

    Because the Trail Guide to Learning series is an all-inclusive curriculum, covering everything except math, families considering the curriculum often wonder how long they can expect to spend on it each day. The length of time can vary according to your children, but most families can expect to spend 2-3 hours a day when in younger grade levels, and 3-4 hours a day for Older students. During that time, you and your students will be covering:

    • Copywork or dictation
    • Reading - both independent reading and read-aloud assignments
    • Spelling/word study
    • History or science (on alternating days)
    • Geography
    • Writing/grammar
    • Art and/or music
    • Related hands-on activities

    The text is written to the student, but it is intended for regular parent interaction. Typically, my kids and I do the majority of the work together, as a family, which was the vision of the authors - for families to enjoy learning together.

    How are the Trail Guide to Learning lessons scheduled?

    Because each daily lesson is completely laid out for the parent to be able to just pick up and go, many families go through each daily lesson exactly as it is scheduled in the book, while others have found that it works better for their families to rearrange the lesson order. 

    Many families with older children find that it works best to complete lessons in which the whole family participates in the morning hours. This allows older children to do their independent work in the afternoons while the teaching parent focuses on helping younger siblings.

    This always worked well for my family. We would save assignments such as independent reading, art, and music for the end of the day so that each child was able to finish those assignments, and math (which is not included) at his own pace. Other families like to reverse this order, with older children working independently in the morning and the family working together in the afternoon.

    One of the wonderful benefits of Trail Guide is that it was designed with homeschooling families in mind. It was written by homeschooling parents, for homeschooling parents. It offers the ultimate ease-of-use by having all of the lesson planning done for you, but there is plenty of room to rearrange and tweak to suit your family's needs.

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