• 5 Tips for Teaching Geography When You Don't Love Geography

    0 comments / Posted by Gina Glenn

    Yes! You can learn to love geography and pass that love onto your children. These 5 tips for teaching geography when you don't love geography can restore geography excitement in your homeschool.

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  • 5 Reasons to Love Trail Guide to Learning

    0 comments / Posted by Gina Glenn

    Looking for a reason to love Trail Guide to Learning Series? Here are 5 of them.

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  • Getting to Know Great Britain {free mini-lesson}

    0 comments / Posted by Alex Wiggers

    A small island nation in the north Atlantic, Great Britain once ruled the largest empire in world history. Made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the official name is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is normally shortened to Great Britain, Britain, United Kingdom, or the UK. The capital city is London.

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  • Getting to Know Geography (and Great Britain) Through Art {free geography lesson}

    0 comments / Posted by Alex Wiggers

    Enjoy a fun mini-lesson in geography involving peanut butter and Stonehenge!

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  • Getting to Know the Netherlands

    0 comments / Posted by Geography Matters

    When it comes to Thanksgiving, most of us don't think of the Netherlands. Let's get to know the Netherlands -- where they are, the character of the people, and the role they played in our American Thanksgiving. 

    Keep your research fun and simple to create a quick study!

    Getting to Know Netherlands 

    Where is it? {and other interesting facts...}

    "A small, low-lying country the size of Maryland, the Netherlands is frequently referred to as “Holland.” 
    (Holland is actually a region in the central-western part of the Netherlands which includes the provinces of North Holland and South Holland). Almost half of the Netherlands lies below sea-level. Low lying areas reclaimed by the sea are called polders. Polders are protected by dikes and are continually being drained by mechanical pumps. The capital city of Amsterdam is built on a polder. The Netherlands along with Belgium and Luxembourg, form the area of Europe known as “The Low Countries.”
    "The flag of the Netherlands is a red, white, and blue horizontal tricolor. Originally the colors were orange, white, and blue to honor William of Orange, the first ruler of the Dutch Republic. During the 16th and 17th centuries the dye that was used for orange eventually turned red, so in the mid-1600s, the orange stripe was officially made a red stripe."
    "The Netherlands is world famous for its tulips, a member of the lily family. The name tulip means “turban” or “Turk’s cap.” The Dutch take horticulture very seriously and a new type of tulip is often the result of decades of experiments. Introduced in the 16th century, tulips became such a craze that outrageous prices were being paid for a single bulb. The market grew so wild in the 17th century—people were going bankrupt from stock speculation—that the government stepped in and regulated the industry."

    Getting to Know Netherlands - Who are they {unique characteristics of the people}

     From I Am Expat

    • Statistically, Dutch are among the tallest people in Europe.
    • Eye contact and criticism are to be expected when chatting with a Dutch.
    • The Netherlands has the highest number of part-time workers in the EU (four out of 10 employees).
    • One out of three Dutch belongs to a sports club.
    • Almost all Dutch people can swim, skate and ride a bike.
    • The Dutch always consult their agenda and do not appreciate "surprise" visits.
    • They are the world's second biggest coffee drinkers.
    • The Dutch are not conversation-starters. However, they will respond immediately and rather eagerly when addressed.
    • Dutch citizens take their own bags to the supermarket to pack their groceries.
    • When you introduce yourself, always state both first and last name and shake hands with everyone in the room.
    • Dutch ladies have to get kissed three times (right-left-right) on the cheek. Expats may get by with shaking hands though.
    • The Dutch enjoy one of the longest average life spans in the world.
    • Congratulating your Dutch friend for his / her birthday is more than expected.


    Freebies {coloring pages and maps}

     Country of Netherlands Coloring Pages


    The Netherland's Impact on America's Founding

    While all of that is interesting and you can learn a lot about the geography of the Netherlands, you might be asking yourself, "What does this have to do with Thanksgiving?"

     "The United Provinces of the Netherlands, the forerunner of nations in religious tolerance, were, from the origin of their confederacy, the natural friends of intellectual freedom. "

    Hall, V. M. (1976). The Christian history of the American Revolution: consider and ponder (p. 278). San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian Education.
    America's Founding and celebration of Thanksgiving began, in a way, long before in the hearts and minds of freedom loving people who would one day come to these shores. The Netherlands was a model of religious tolerance and intellectual freedom- two prerequisites to our Founding. 


    Don't forget to enter the Giveaway!


    a Rafflecopter giveaway


    And take advantage of our sale! {Click image}


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  • What is Geography, Anyway? {National Geography Awareness Week Fun & a Giveaway!}

    5 comments / Posted by Gina Glenn


    It's National Geography Awareness Week, a perfect time to make geography the centerpiece of your homeschool. 

    If this sounds daunting, it may help to visit how you define geography!  

    What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “geography”? 

    Maps? Globes? Carmen SanDiego?

    You’re not alone—those are the three most common responses in our geography seminars!


    What is geography, anyway?

    Maybe this definition from the National Geographic Society will help:

    Geography: "A knowledge of place names, location of cultural and physical features, distribution and patterns of languages, religions, economic activities, population and political systems. Physical regions and physical phenomena, such as tectonic activity, landform, climate, bodies of water, soils and flora and fauna. The changes in places and areas through time, including how people have modified the environment. Cartographers’ tools, such as maps, instruments, graphs and statistics, are also a part of geography."

    Wow! Maybe a better question might be, “What isn’t geography?


    The word “geography” is from the Greek word geographia, meaning “writing about the earth.” The word “earth” used here is all-inclusive regarding people, places, and the relationships between people and the places where they live and interact. So first and foremost, throw out the thought that geography is simply knowing countries and capitals!

    Geography can be broken into two main divisions: geography of the earth (physical geography) and geography of people who live here (human geography).

    • Physical Geography includes everything about the earth itself; its make-up, its position, and its movement in the solar system, the moon, seasons, its heat energy from the sun, the atmosphere, all natural features of the earth, water, rocks (geology), weather patterns, and other natural processes that shape the world. See how this is intertwined with science?

    • Human Geography is all about human lifestyles, beliefs, growth and development, the interactions of people to the earth itself and with other peoples who dwell here. It’s understanding where people live and why they live where they do, how they communicate, what they eat, how they dress, how they use their resources, how communities develop, and how people impact their own environment. It’s all about how these choices are related to the physical geography of the earth.

    Geography is so all encompassing that it’s easy to incorporate within the context of most any other subject matter. Your students will remember geography better when it’s naturally associated with something familiar.

    Now that you've had a glimpse into a definition of geography, onto the fun-- our National Geography Awareness Week Giveaway! 

    Giveaway Fun

    We're partnered with UnitStudies.com (read more about our connection here) to bring you a fun geography giveaway! 

    So, are you asking, "What's in the giveaway?"  Drumroll... here it is! 

    a Rafflecopter giveaway


    Bonus Fun -- National Geography Week Sale

    Save 20% on our favorite Geography Resources! 





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  • Connected Learning

    1 comment / 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.


    Connected Learning | Learning doesn't happen in isolation. Why homeschool that way?

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  • Know Your State

    2 comments / Posted by Cindy Wiggers


    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?

    Even if your school schedule is rolling along, you can always select something that will fit in naturally amidst your daily life. Or better yet, give as filler to students waiting for your attention while you are working with a sibling. This can be a fun way to use their time and certainly more beneficial than screen time on a game or app.

    Two key tools for any homeschool library are outline maps and a good U.S. atlas. Your world atlas will likely have only one map of the United States found in the North America section. A good U.S. Atlas will include a separate more detailed map of each state along with regional and topical maps. Watch that the state map is intact on one page and does not cross the binding as this can be difficult for some students.

    Here is a good way to begin: Give your children an outline map of your state. Have them find the state capital in the atlas and place a star in that location on their outline map. Now they can write the name of the capital next to the star. Label the names of each surrounding state, country or body of water. What other features do you see on the map in the atlas? Mountains? Lakes? Desert area? Rivers? Draw and label them as well.

    Any good U.S. atlas will also have interesting information on each state. You can read this aloud or instruct your student to read it aloud to the family or quietly to himself. Each state is different and fascinating in its own way. Encourage your students to discover something new and write about it or draw a picture of what they’ve learned.

    Here are some simple activities that will serve to connect your students with the geography of your state:

    • Create a travel brochure about the state.
    • Make a crossword puzzle with information about the state.
    • Make a three-dimensional state map with salt dough. (2 parts water, 1 part salt, 1 part water)
    • Create a set of post cards with drawings or pictures of popular places or events
    • Learn about the natural resources found in the state, how they are used, and how they affect the economy.
    • Learn the state bird, flower, tree, and symbols and what they mean.
    • Learn the state motto and date of statehood.
    • Cook a meal with ingredients grown in your state or that is popular in your state.

    Students can share what they have learned with the family over a meal at the kitchen table, during family discussions, through writing a summary, while driving to music lessons, in a poster or other ways. Make it fun and light hearted and it won’t even feel like school.

    Once your students have a grasp of their home state, why not add another? Try learning about where grandma lives, a favorite sports team location, vacation spots, bordering states, or any other connection you can think of.

    I’ve included a couple of printable pages from Trail Guide to U.S. Geography that can be used for a state report or as a foundation for a U.S. geography notebook. Click here to download them.

    However you work geography into your life you will not regret laying a geographic foundation and your students will have life-long benefits from knowing about their country.


    Desk Atlas of the United States

    Desk Atlas of the United States

    Are you in need of a good US Atlas? We are so proud to introduce the Desk Atlas of the United States brought to you by Geography Matters. Filled with lots of fun facts, historical references, and important data, the Desk Atlas will become a valuable reference tool in your home for years to come.


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

    2 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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  • Learning Styles and Choosing Curriculum

    2 comments / Posted by Kris Bales

    By Kay Chance

    Last year my son took biology through a co-op class. For the tests they were required to know at least twenty vocabulary definitions for each unit, so I told him he needed to study the words and then I would quiz him. Unfortunately, when I quizzed him on the definitions he didn’t remember very many. It was as if he hadn’t even seen the words. So we tried something else. This time I said the definition to him and he would repeat it back to me, back and forth, until he had them down. Why couldn’t he just read the definitions over and over instead of saying them over and over to learn them? My friend’s son was in the same class and could take the book, memorize the words quickly, and be ready for the test without saying them aloud. Why the difference?

    Perhaps one of the biggest factors, besides interest in the subject, was a matter of learning styles. There are many excellent books and resources on this topic, and if you look up learning styles on the Internet, you’ll soon find there are multiple labels and theories about them. Learning styles are the ways, techniques, or manners in which we gain knowledge. Webster’s 1828 defines learning as “gaining knowledge by instruction or reading, by study, by experience or observation; acquiring skill by practice.” One of the most common ways to categorize learning styles is visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners; and those categories can be clearly seen in Webster’s definition:

    Gaining knowledge by instruction (auditory) or reading (visual), by study, by experience (kinesthetic) or observation (visual); acquiring skill by practice (kinesthetic.)

    The following is a chart to help simplify the concept (especially for you visual learners) that includes a definition of each kind of learner, their characteristics, and a few learning strategies for each type:

    Visual Auditory Kinesthetic
    Definition Learns best by seeing Learns best by hearing Learns best by moving or doing
    Characteristics of Students Enjoys drawing, likes colorful illustrations, charts, graphs, and maps; remembers things that are read Likes to listen to stories and music, enjoys discussions, remembers things that are said Enjoys playing sports or dancing, can’t sit still for long, remembers things that they do
    Learning Strategies Watch demonstrations; use charts & graphs; have them memorize with flash cards; write down instructions; provide time to read each day; have them draw pictures; make notebook pages Incorporate time for discussions; listen to audio CDs & lectures; have them memorize with/by music; Read instructions out-loud or have them read instructions out loud to themselves; repeat vocabulary/math facts back & forth to each other to memorize; have them narrate Do experiments; have them make up hand motions, build models, take things apart & put them back together, work jigsaw puzzles; play games to memorize math facts; play with clay; make lap books and notebook pages; review material with games


    The most important thing to remember, though, isn’t a list of labels. Instead, keep in mind that each of your students is a unique individual. Because of this, they will have different interests, different ways in which they learn best, and specific preferences for how they learn—and one way isn’t any better than another. Does that sound overwhelming when you think about your family? Do you think, “How in the world can I teach all these unique individuals without running myself ragged? How can I teach more than one child without buying a separate curriculum for each?” Don’t worry! It can be done.

    For one thing, if a person prefers to learn by listening, that doesn’t mean he won’t learn anything by reading. If she loves hands-on activities, it doesn’t mean she can’t get anything out of an educational video. People usually have more than one learning style, especially during different stages of life. For example, all young children can benefit from using concrete objects to learn math. Most have a mixture of styles, though usually you’ll notice a dominant one. My son, who learns better with auditory methods, is also a very good reader. Just think of identifying a student’s dominant learning style as another tool in your educational tool box. You can use all the tools in the box, but sometimes you need that special tool to help fix a specific problem—like when your student has to memorize a lot of biology words! Sometimes you can use a different tool for a job (yes, I have hammered a nail with the end of a screwdriver), but another tool might be more effective.

    So how does identifying your children’s learning style help you to choose a curriculum? For one, if you have a student who is predominately a kinesthetic learner, you probably need to stay away from curriculums that do not include any activities. If you have an auditory learner, a workbook-based curriculum might not be the best. If you have a visual learner, perhaps learning a foreign language from a CD isn’t the best.

    I believe the most effective curriculums use a variety of materials and methods and are adaptable to multiple students.

    Consider the following:

    • When a family reads aloud and discusses what they are reading they are reaching the student who is an auditory learner.
    • When a family does a science experiment they are reaching the kinesthetic learner.
    • When a family watches an educational DVD, they are reaching the visual learner.
    • When a family takes a nature walk they reach all three: the visual learner observes, the auditory learner hears the sounds of nature, the kinesthetic learner gets to move.
    • When families create notebook pages, they reach all three provided they let the auditory learner tell someone about it (narration)!

    I hope you will consider the Trail Guide to Learning Series as you search for the curriculum that fits your family’s needs the best. In it you will find a variety of methods and activities based on multiple learning styles. These are just a few examples:

    For the Visual Learner: Reading (including visually appealing books like The Story of the Orchestra, Good Ol’ Cowboy Stories; and a variety of atlases); Making charts and graphs, DVD (in POS); Vocabulary cards; Copywork

    For the Auditory Learner: Read-alouds; Narration; Discussion; Speeches; Music CDs; Dictation

    For the Kinesthetic Learner: Drawing, water color painting, sculpting with clay; Games for review; Notebooking; Optional lap-books; Experiments; Activity books including Going West and Lewis and Clark Hands On.

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