“Are you feeling empowered, homeschool mom?”
In my recent interview with Trail Guide mom Tiffany Ingram, she shares how using Trail Guide to Learning as a new homeschool mom with young children empowered her to teach them and gave her the confidence she needed to homeschool.
According to Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, the definition of the word “empower” means to “give official power or legal authority to.”
Many who choose to homeschool do not necessarily have a degree or special training in education. Thankfully, in our country a degree is not a requirement. This freedom enables parents with a variety of backgrounds to make the decision to homeschool.
Some parents know before their children are born that they desire to homeschool, while others are doing it more out of necessity due to special learning challenges in their children or a particular season of life. Some choose an approach that uses a set curriculum, some do not, and there are certainly families who fall somewhere in between.
Whatever the reason a parent has chosen the homeschool path and whatever their approach, assuming responsibility for their child’s education can feel intimidating, even daunting. After all, there is much to be considered when it comes to educational requirements, as well as the needs, personalities, and even interests of each child.
Regardless of vision, approach, or special circumstances surrounding the decision to homeschool, I believe feeling empowered to teach is a critical element to the success of home education. When it comes to empowerment, the curriculum can be KEY!
The Trail Guide to Learning series was intentionally designed to be a curriculum that would empower its teacher. Not only was it written by highly-qualified educators with many years of research, but also with thorough, well-organized lesson plans, side notes, and all the extras to make teaching a breeze.
Empowered by Qualified Authors
The primary author of Trail Guide, Debbie Strayer, never touted her advanced degree or extensive experience as an educator. She never needed to, in my opinion. Her passion and zeal said it all!
The beginning of her journey did begin with both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. Over the years she gained extensive experience with many different ages and specialties in the educational system, including administration. She was a curriculum writer, homeschool evaluator, and speaker for many years. She was mentored by homeschool pioneer and educator, Dr. Ruth Beechick. Debbie’s qualifications are impressive.
However, it’s not just her experience and knowledge that qualify her to create curriculum that empowers others. Debbie is most known for using her knowledge and experience to encourage, uplift, and empower homeschool moms to do what they were called to do.
Whether evaluating a homeschool student or speaking personally with a mom in the booth at a convention, Debbie was driven by a deep desire to see others strengthened. It is out of this deep desire that she wrote the Trail Guide curriculum.
Since I traveled with her in her later years, I would often hear her speak. There are two things I remember her consistently sharing.
First, she shared that moms (most often she was speaking to moms) are the most qualified teachers of their children. She explained that she believed a parent’s unique love for and relationship with their child would make them the best one for the job—not a degree or letters behind their name. Simply…God’s design of their family.
Second, for anyone doubting the truth of this statement, she would follow up with her own life’s verse: 1 Thess. 5:24, “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”
Those words seemed to resonate deeply in the hearts of its hearers. Even the most discouraged mom found great strength to continue on the journey. It really was as if God used her especially in the lives of the disempowered and downtrodden to infuse hope for the seemingly impossible task.
If only she could be physically present to impart this kind of empowering each day! Oh, but wait—she created a curriculum to do just that!
Empowered by Easy-to-Use Lessons
Since my children knew Debbie personally as their yearly evaluator and my close friend as I was using Trail Guide with them, I used to refer to the curriculum as if it were Debbie herself.
I would say, “What did Ms. Debbie say?” “How many pages did Ms. Debbie ask you to read?” (It helped to give credibility to the amount or type of work they were being asked to do!)
While she knew that she could not be physically present in the homeschooling day, she wrote a curriculum that would feel very much like she was right there next to you cheering you on.
I think the authors did a remarkable job organizing and explaining how to use a multi-level, multi-subject curriculum. It was written with simple language, and addresses the student so that directions were easy to follow.
They coordinated the lessons and student notebook pages with animal paw prints for ease with students at different levels who use Trail Guide. They provided charts and check-off lists. They provided summaries at the beginning of every lesson to help the lesson make sense and tie together key concepts so that the teacher did not have to do that themselves. They even provided a section with ideas for how to expand the lesson material for older students and children with interests beyond the lessons provided.
They truly though of everything. That’s empowering!
Empowered by Margin Notes
As I used it, one of my favorite aspects about Trail Guide were the notes in the side margins. Some notes are practical and meant to guide parents through the curriculum. Others are intentionally written to empower even the most timid, inexperienced homeschool parents.
While there is an in-depth description in the introduction section of each Teacher’s Guide, there are also notes in the margins throughout the curriculum that explain why these sections as well as how to use them with your children. These were invaluable to me in the early stages of homeschooling.
For example, in the “Copywork/Dictation” section they explained that copywork and dictation passages were incremental and encouraged the teacher to progress as the child is successful. Further, they explained the difference between copywork and dictation. They then explained the unique skills built in dictation and how to use the method most successfully. This was so helpful for me!
In one of the side notes there is an explanation of how discussion in the “Read-Aloud and Discussion” sections are important in the child’s ability to begin developing their thoughts around a subject rather than simply answer questions.
I may be a bit biased but I’m honestly not sure I could identify what more the authors could have done to create and design such a curriculum that would empower any parent to teach their children so successfully.
If you’ve never used Trail Guide, what are you waiting for?