Paths of Settlement

by Debbie Strayer and Linda Fowler

Welcome to Paths of Settlement. We are glad to have you join our Learning Series family. Likely you landed at this page because you were directed here by the curriculum. Each unit's teacher manual includes basic instructions. This expanded version of the instructions gives you further insight into our philosophy of education and contains more detailed instructions on how to make the best use of the curriculum. Following the instructions you will also find required book and resource lists and supplemental recommended resources.

“Concept Learning is having insight and understanding beyond the facts, seeing relationships among them. Arriving at this level is the 'aha' experience. It is the exhilarating experience of moving from knowledge of certain facts to an understanding of their relationships.”

— Dr. Ruth Beechick, Heart and Mind



“Dr. Beechick’s principles are the basis for this curriculum. During its creation, I had the privilege of consulting with her. Teaching in a natural manner is important to her and we reflected her values by incorporating language skills and history as a unified part of the everyday routines. Thank you, Dr. Beechick.”

— Author, Debbie Strayer



The Trail Guide to Learning series weaves together aspects from Charlotte Mason’s methods of natural education, and incorporates the ideas of Dr. Benjamin Bloom’s research on thinking skills, while fully utilizing the time-tested approach developed by noted author and educator, Dr. Ruth Beechick.

Dr. Beechick’s educational philosophy is that developing thinking skills is paramount, learning different subjects (science, history, geography, etc.) is done best in a unified and focused manner, stories are great teaching tools, and that language skills need to be learned in the context of content, not as isolated subjects.

Why did we write the Trail Guide to Learning series?

  • We wanted to create curriculum that was easy to use, yet able to lead students to develop higher thinking skills.
  • We wanted the things learned to come from real books, discussion, and a variety of activities so that students would enjoy the process.
  • We wanted information from different subject areas taught together in relationship to geography, as it occurs in real life.
  • We wanted students to become better communicators by learning and practicing language skills along with what they were learning, instead of through separate drill and practice. That way their drawing, writing, and speaking would be a natural response to their thinking and learning.
  • We wanted this book to be more than just a teacher’s guide. We wrote it as a source of information for your students and a teacher’s education course for you, giving you bite-sized and timely explanations of what we suggest you do, and why.
  • Lastly, we wanted to provide a way to support your family’s worldview.

It took years of labor and a team of workers, but we are excited to have met these goals in the second of the series, Paths of Settlement.

It is important for you to know who helped produce this level, because that helps explain why it is different from other curricula, and why you can have confidence when using it. The team of people who designed, wrote, read, edited, and supported this effort is impressive. It includes veteran home educators Greg and Debbie Strayer, Coke and Linda Fowler, Josh and Cindy Wiggers, as well as young adults who were home educated, Ashley (Strayer) and Alex Wiggers. Renowned home education author, Dr. Ruth Beechick, was Debbie's mentor and always influenced her thoughts and works through personal input. We also owe a great debt of gratitude to the families who road-tested the first year of the Trail Guide to Learning Series, Settlement, with their children and continue to give us helpful feedback.

Why does all this matter? As we say in our Steps for Thinking, “The key to understanding the actions of others is to understand their thoughts.” If you know what our goals were, you will have a good starting point to use this curriculum to fit your own objectives for your students. When you look at the parts of the book, you will see how easy it is to make your goals a reality.

Why do we start with American history?

Children learn best by starting with the familiar. Since they live in America, they have a natural connection to its founders, struggles, and growth. Studying American history helps lay a firm foundation for citizenship based on their family’s beliefs, and shows what a good leader, government, and citizen look like. It also gives children needed time to build thinking skills. When students are older they are better able to understand the events of world history, and more importantly, the causes and results of those events. With greater maturity in place, students are then ready to compare ancient times and events to our history and lives, learning the powerful lessons that can come from such a study.

What is the Big Picture or structure of the Trail Guide to Learning Series?

This unit study-based curriculum covers American History in three years at the elementary level and then moves on to World History once a foundation of our American heritage has been established. Four years of the curriculum are complete as of this writing as described below. We have plans in place to finish two more years of World History and then continue this series through high school.

Paths of American History—Elementary Grades

PATHS of American History is intended to take three school years to complete. (Although we strongly encourage you to go at the pace that fits your family and school schedule.) These three Paths steps model nation building, helping students understand the significance that freedom and sound leadership played in establishing our country. Once students grasp the priciples of freedom this country was built upon, this foundation forms a frame of reference for them to compare and contrast America with other nations in World History during middle school.

Exploration. The first step in the Paths of American History is Exploration, which shows the role that explorers played in the opening of America. It also models the way thoughts begin. When you begin thinking about something you may only have questions. When the explorers came to our land they had more questions than answers. Then they began exploring and discovered much new information, just as you do when you start to think about a question.

They opened the way for the rest of us to follow by showing us how to ask questions. They observed their surroundings and recorded what they saw, which in turn brought up new questions as well as new understanding. For the explorers, there were always questions to ask and answer, but with skilled observation, recording, and learning, a path was blazed for those who would come next.

Settlement. The second step, Settlement, introduces those who did come next—the builders and settlers. These citizens and leaders came to pursue the dream of freedom and began to build homes, communities, towns, and states that would give that opportunity to all who followed. Men and women devoted their lives to providing the structure of good government, good citizenship, and good examples for others to follow, so that they too could receive the blessings of freedom.

As they designed the rule of law that would govern us and secure the opportunity for freedom, our Founders knew that these laws would be tested with the struggles that all groups of people, both small and large, have to face. This level shows the laws of government and science that provide order to our thinking and the way we live.

Progress. The third step, Progress, tells about those who came along to help solve the many problems and difficulties our people and nation encountered. The focus in this level is on the scientists and inventors who devoted their time, understanding, and hopes to finding answers for those struggles and limitations. The nature of these determined people teaches us much about the thinking process and how to share answers that others can understand. Inventors and scientists work together, building on each other’s work to further the help that they give to others. The various topics studied in this level show the problem-solving process, the resulting improvements, and the way systems—such as those in the human body—work together to create success for the whole.

Journeys through World History—Middle Grades

JOURNEYS through World History is intended to take three school years to complete. Journeys completes the process of preparation for the next step of thinking and learning—a look at ancient and world history. At the middle school level, students are ready in their maturity and thinking ability to look at civilizations of ancient history and compare them to their understanding of what a good citizen, government, and nation look like. Now they have a standard by which to compare other nations, events, and leaders effectively and to see principles in action.

Ancient World. The first step in the Journeys level is Ancient World. Its intention is to enlighten students to the true nature of having a Biblical heritage by comparing and contrasting Hebraic worldview with that of pagan cultures. Its four nine-week units include Hebrew, typing, astronomy and more. Journeys through the Ancient World was first released in printed format in 2017. Efforts are underway to continue developing the remaining levels in the Journeys series.


Settlement is a one-year, multi-level curriculum covering the settlement phase of American history. It is divided into the following six units:

  • Growing Pains
  • Freedom Decided
  • Nation Building
  • House Divided
  • Unity Restored
  • Sea to Shining Sea

Each unit is an independent package, complete with text, instructions, appendix items, and game cards needed for the study.

Units are made up of six lessons, with five parts each—allowing one lesson to fit perfectly into a five-day week. However (and this is very important!), even though one part can take one day, this curriculum was created to be your servant, not your master. This means you always retain the freedom to make its schedule fit the needs of your students and your family.

Flexibility is built in, since every Part 5 (typically Friday) provides time and activities for review of the previous four parts (typically Monday through Thursday). Every Lesson 6 completes the assignments for the unit and provides a time of review and assessment.

In addition, large parts of all the lessons in Unit 6, Sea to Shining Sea, are devoted to review of the other units studied throughout the year.

Grade Levels

This curriculum targets grades 4, 5, and 6 but can be easily adapted for third grade abilities by reducing reading assignments and substituting oral responses for written work. Likewise, seventh graders can be accommodated and challenged through increased reading and writing and through the provided Enrichment Activities.

For your convenience, if you prefer to avoid the time and effort needed to adapt lessons, specific guidance and instruction is being developed in an extension for children in first through third grades (Paths of Settlement Junior). An older extension specifically written for students in grades seven and eight is currently available. Please note that both the younger and older extensions require the use of the main teacher guides and do not work independently.

In most assignments, the recommended activity levels are noted with icons:

 for grade 4

 for grade 5

 for grade 6

If there is no icon (or trail marker) present, the activity is intended for all levels.

Before beginning a lesson, look at the Materials List in Part 1 to be sure you have what you will need to complete the regular activities. In addition, most Part 5s contain extra resources for Enrichment Activities. Enrichment Activities are available for your older students (seventh grade and up) who are completing the curriculum with you, advanced students, or students who want to learn more. Younger students who complete the lessons quickly, or who just enjoy learning on a more in-depth level, can use the Enrichment Activities as well.

Master Projects Material List

Projects are assigned throughout the curriculum that enhance student understanding, increase interest, and improve memory retention. These use additional materials that you may obtain from your local craft or discount store. They are not listed on the Part 1 Materials Lists. Instead, for your convenience a master list of materials needed for projects is included in each unit’s appendix.

Margin Notes

Margin notes appear in the text for several reasons, including to offer encouragement, expand or recall instructions, and explain teaching strategies. Think of them as your teacher guide, and be sure to read them all as they appear. Sometimes the margin note is repeated a second time as a helpful reminder for those who may have missed it the first time.

Answers & Appendices

Answers to most questions asked in the text are indicated with a superscript number and located on the last page of each lesson. Each unit's appendix contains teacher aides that include a Unit Summary, At-A-Glance guides for each lesson, charts and references helpful to the lessons, instructions for various games assigned in the text, and answers for those games.

Reading Assignments

Because various editions of the same book often have different page numbers, the reading assignments in Settlement include the first and last words of each passage. Mark reading assignments ahead of time in pencil so that the flow of your school is not interrupted with finding beginning and ending points.


This curriculum continues to direct students to use research as an important part of gaining information. We believe parents are the best supervisors of their children's use of computers. Since online resources may be the source of information, we expect students to follow their parents' guidelines whenever they conduct research online. While we have attempted to supply correct Internet references on the links pages, information locations can change, so we encourage parents to maintain supervision of all student computer use.  

Game Cards

Some game cards in Units 1 through 5 are used again in Unit 6, so please keep those cards when you are finished playing the game.

Student Notebooks

The Student Notebook is not only a vital part of our philosophy of teaching, but it also provides a portfolio of your students’ work. A portfolio is often the best possible written measure of student achievement. And completion of the Student Notebook creates an excellent, consecutive record of student work in reading, writing, geography, history, science, and art. The Student Notebook gives teacher, student, and evaluator a clear picture of sequential progress in each subject area, samples of student work, and examples of creative projects. It includes dates assignments were completed, assisting with the documentation process. This helps teachers to see time spent on each unit, as well as giving students a sense of accomplishment as they look over the finished product.

You can give your students the pages either for all six weeks when you begin a unit, or weekly lesson by lesson. We suggest that students keep their notebooks in a three-ring binder, which allows them to add or remove pages as needed. For example, if students complete an art project on construction paper it can easily be dated, three-hole punched, and inserted in the notebook at the appropriate place. If they would rather complete their copywork assignment on different paper or remove the pages provided to make writing easier, they can do so. All in all, you and your students have the flexibility to adapt the notebook to your individual needs.

How can you begin to transfer the responsibility for completing assignments from yourself to your students? Daily checklists are included at the bottom of each Copywork/Dictation page in the Student Notebook to ease this process. These short lists include all activities for which there is no notebook page and help guide and direct students’ efforts. Plus, teachers can tell at a glance what still needs to be done. This checklist system encourages students to take responsibility for their daily work and allows them to be easily accountable for assignments.


Lesson Contents

Bear in mind that each unit’s book is both a teacher and student “Trail Guide.” It contains lessons written to your children, yet it always assumes your involvement. Margin notes, as mentioned earlier in these instructions, serve as a teacher guide for you as they provide on-the-spot instructions, encouragement, and understanding of various methods and materials used in this curriculum.

Steps for Thinking

Since a primary focus of the Trail Guide to Learning Series is to develop and sharpen your student’s ability to think, most lessons in Settlement begin with several Steps for Thinking. These are the big ideas demonstrated through the reading, discussion, and other activities of the lesson. Explain each step to your child, and discuss any ideas or questions he or she may have. You will revisit the steps regularly, so don't require your students to understand them thoroughly at the beginning. Instead, look for opportunities to connect examples to the concepts whenever possible. That way, by the end of the lesson they will have more experience with the concepts and be able to discuss them more thoroughly.

A. Copywork, Dictation & Quotation Notebook

Copywork and dictation activities provide a consistent method for students to see, hear, and write language correctly. They are simple, natural first steps in learning language skills. Unless your student has been successful in this type of exercise before, you should plan to begin with copying passages first, regardless of the level at which he or she is working. Start slowly, and don’t rush it! Be aware that meeting your child’s individual need to successfully complete the assignment is more important than hurrying to keep up with a suggested schedule. After copying, your student should match what he has written word for word to the text, and correct anything that is not the same. This activity needs to continue for as long as your student seems sufficiently challenged.

As the child becomes more and more proficient in correctly copying passages, evaluate his progress and decide whether copywork seems too easy for him. If so, try dictating, or speaking, the first few words of a sentence slowly, and ask your student to write down what he hears. If he can write at least a portion of the words correctly, then he is ready for a slow transition to dictation. The ability to hear words and write them on paper is a skill that must learned. It may be difficult at first, so give your student the help he needs. Allow him to first become familiar with the sentence, or sentences, you plan to dictate. You may even want to let him choose a sentence or passage that he has already worked with, to build confidence. Don't worry, this isn't cheating! Your goal is to build the ability to read and write language, and teaching means providing the support needed for success. Assessment should come later.

After he is very successful at writing from dictation using this method, gradually start adding a few more words, then another sentence, and finally the whole assignment. Remember that success is your goal, not quickly moving to more difficult dictation passages. Going through the process too quickly without allowing your student the time to become successful and confident may create resistance towards this type of language learning. Dictation can be overwhelming to people of any age, but achieving success in small increments can inspire your child to continue.

Parts of this section use passages from students’ literature to accomplish learning goals. Other parts, however, are devoted to copying quotes from famous American documents, speeches, songs, and the founders’ personal writings. In these ways, students are exposed to the heart of the times through primary source materials and artistic expression. They also provide excellent opportunities to engage students in meaningful discussion.

A common problem, especially for younger students, is the struggle with handwriting. Before beginning the copywork and dictation process, your student needs to know how to form each letter. If handwriting is particularly frustrating and difficult for a student, try different writing tools and surfaces. If he continues to experience difficulty, it is perfectly acceptable to allow him to type the passages. This is also an acceptable approach for the older student who prefers typing to handwriting. The goal is for your student to see the words, hear the words, and write the words. Know this: it is more important for students to learn the spelling, grammar, and reading skills that result from dictation and copying than it is to write the passage by hand.

B. Reader

The natural method of learning continues in this section with the Reader assignments. These assignments occur in real literature, and there are several reasons why this is important:

  • real literature is more interesting;
  • the language used is more natural; and,
  • a willingness to read is built as your students experience the success of reading a real book.

Each reader in Settlement is coordinated with the unit and provides a ready-made history lesson. The lives of real and made-up people become linked to places and events. In turn, this connection brings character and convictions to light, as well as great adventures and drama. Excellent examples of mechanics and word usage emerge naturally from the readings, and phonics principles, spelling patterns, and vocabulary flow from the wellspring of literature.

Younger students are instructed to read their assignments aloud in order to build reading fluency. Fluency, or the ability to read something effortlessly, is also an important part of comprehension. If a student can read a passage aloud with expression, correct phrasing, and attention to punctuation, it is much more likely that he or she will understand the meaning of the passage. To practice fluency at all levels, focus on passages that your student can read without constant decoding. In other words, start with a few sentences that seem easy for the student to read. Often, you can have him choose the passages for fluency practice, and sometimes you can select them in order to gauge his growth. To do this, find a passage that is a sentence or two longer than the last one he read, or one that contains structures requiring attention to punctuation, such as dialogue. Real books are perfect for this fluency practice. Artificial fluency practice is unnecessary when literature provides such an abundant source of reading materials.

Every student is to read or listen to all literature selections for the unit. Reading or hearing the various perspectives adds richness to the stories and depth to the understanding of the events and circumstances of the times. Critical thinking skills build as the related stories allow students to compare and contrast to find similarities and differences. An artist's illustrations contribute to learning about context clues, and the divisions of chapters and paragraphs help students recognize important main ideas and details that support the bigger ideas. All of these lessons come naturally from real books.

C. Read-Aloud, Discussion, Narration & Reflective Writing

Most parents agree that it is beneficial to read aloud to young children to develop pre-reading skills. But the benefits don’t stop there. Reading aloud to children of all ages is one of the easiest, most enjoyable, and effective ways to share ideas and begin thoughtful conversations. Since students do not have to worry about decoding during read-aloud time, they can focus totally on the meaning of what they are hearing. This allows them the opportunity to think about the ideas and information being presented and to formulate their own thoughts. In other words, it prepares them to respond to what they have heard through discussion, retelling, or reflective writing. And these skills provide a natural way for teachers to see what their students have understood from passages read aloud.

Read-Aloud. As you read aloud, you become a model of fluency, expression, and comprehension for your students. When your voice reflects punctuation, they can see its purpose and the way it makes the passage more understandable. As they listen and sometimes follow along with their eyes, students see the language and hear it read correctly, which provides an excellent example for their own reading. Because of this, Read-Aloud assignments are an important part of each lesson.

Discussion & Narration. Read-Aloud assignments provide the basis for student responses. As they listen, it is natural for them to respond by speaking, which is a good first step toward meaningful discussion. Bear in mind that meaningful discussion in this context is intended to be an exchange of thoughts and ideas, but not an argument or debate. Accurately putting thoughts into words is an important skill and a first step toward expressive writing. In the give-and-take of discussion, you can listen to your students’ understanding of the passage, ask questions, and share your thoughts. All of these combine to expand their thinking on the topic. It also lends itself to the natural memory practice of narration, or retelling. As students become familiar with the process of retelling, their abilities to pick out main ideas, recall details, and sequence events develop. Narration can take many forms, such as predicting outcomes, asking and answering questions, and retelling from the point of view of a particular character.

Reflective Writing. This is the most complex response for students, because it involves having them write their thoughts about something they have heard. But it is also a concrete, natural way to practice thinking about and answering questions in writing. The comments and answers that students give are correct, because they come from their thoughts and understanding of what they have heard.

D. Word Study

The Word Study section exists to equip students with strategies to gain meaning from unfamiliar words and to gently introduce and/or reinforce the basic elements of language mechanics. This information must be connected to other learning in order to remain with children on a long-term basis. As a result, the best time to teach them about phonics, word usage, mechanics, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar is when they read a word or hear it used in a story. Study of a sound or word form is natural and makes sense to students when they see a need to read, understand, and use that word. Word Study activities occur in every lesson, taking advantage of the opportunities presented in the literature to connect meaning and structure for your students.

Vocabulary is a focus of this curriculum as students make and collect cards with words and meanings listed. The purpose of this activity is not memorization or dictionary skills, but understanding. By building an awareness of new or unusual words, you are teaching your students an important strategy for understanding what they have read or heard. New vocabulary words appear in the context of a lesson or story, which helps students recognize the connection between the way a word is used and its meaning. This is an important reading strategy called using context clues. As children complete the vocabulary activities in this curriculum, they see the importance of learning and using new words as they read, write, discuss, and retell.

Spelling is a skill that has several components, such as perceptual ability and memory. Some of us are naturally good at spelling, and some are not. Therefore, the goal of the spelling assignments is help students make connections to meaning, phonics, and word patterns. Memorizing a list is not as valuable to students as increasing their ability to comfortably write words that express their understanding and opinions. The goal, then, is to increase their ability to recognize and spell more words correctly, not just to be able to spell a new word correctly for a week or two and then forget it.

Grammar study in Settlement is approached in very natural and engaging ways—primarily through games and editing activities. As students expand their skill of finding mistakes both in Copywork & Dictation and Word Study sections, or participate in Editor’s Toolkit searches and games, they become familiar with fundamental language mechanics and usage in an unintimidating, enjoyable way. They are given opportunities to search out parts of speech modeled in actual stories or through games, which proves far more effective than pages of artificial activities. In the Editor's Toolkit exercises, rules of mechanics will be listed with an M in front of the number, while rules of usage will be listed with a U in front of the number.

E. Geography, Science & History

Making connections is an important part of this curriculum, and the studies of geography, science, and history are naturally connected. The knowledge of one area contributes to knowledge in the other areas. For example, science in Settlement is a study of the Earth—its weather, cycles, topography, and geological factors—and how those things influenced the settlement of the United States. Likewise, events in history come alive within the context of geography—the places where things happened, the people who lived there, how worldviews impacted events, and how cultures changed. By considering the linkage of subjects in real life, connections readily occur for the students. This helps them add to what they know when they encounter new information. It also helps students remember what they have learned.

Geography is the umbrella under which the other studies connect. It includes the study of places. If you learn about places, you learn about the impact those places have on people. If you learn about people, you learn about cultures and worldviews, and the impact those people have on places. So in the study of geography, you naturally learn about people, places, and all the ways they affect each other. All culture, history and science connect to concepts of geography, so we study science and history in the light of their connection to the people and places encountered by those who built and settled America.

Science is naturally enjoyable to children through studying things, cycles, and processes that occur in nature, and connecting those things to other areas of study. We employ Charlotte Mason's approach to learning as we reinforce Earth Science concepts through observing, recording (by drawing, charting, and describing), modeling, discussing, and evaluating—all within the context of each unit’s theme. Natural occurrences connect to one another to introduce and reinforce the order and interdependency of the earth's systems. This curriculum also uses research and reading as a means of obtaining more information, since reading about topics is often as valuable in learning science as doing activities.

Another important aspect of building a student’s confidence is his realizing that he is capable of using real books, not just pre-digested text. Handbooks are an integral part of this curriculum. National Geographic’s Ultimate Explorer: Rocks & Minerals and Weather of North America are filled with information for thinking, discussion, and activities. While these books are good sources of observations about the makeup of rocks and weather patterns, the authors of this curriculum do not necessarily agree with all conclusions drawn in these guides. We hold a Biblical worldview of the earth's creation that may conflict with certain comments and assumptions. If your students notice these comments, please take advantage of the teachable moments to discuss your views as a family on these issues.

History is a daily part of the curriculum through stories, discussions, and activities. The study of history that focuses on dates and facts alone can be dry and hard to remember. But when historical events are associated through the literature, the geography, and the relevant science concepts, it connects the learning and is much more likely to be retained. Great stories and biographies help students connect to the struggles and triumphs of the times, and provide a basis for discussion and evaluation of the decisions made and the results that occurred. Since some of the events covered in Settlement include the violence of war and episodes of suffering, please preview literature assignments to make sure they are appropriate for all participating students. Books read by students, and read aloud by the teacher, provide the thread that ties the events, struggles, and decisions of the settlers and builders of America together. Learning history could not be more natural.

F. States

Since Settlement focuses on the establishment and growth of the United States, a study of the individual states fits naturally into its format. Lessons in the first five units investigate each of the 50 states, by region, through mapping, State profiles, State Cards, and preparation of recipes from the specific areas. The study culminates with development of a home-state project in Unit 6, along with charting, comparing, and contrasting the various geographical regions of our country.

G. Writing, Art & Doing

Learning new things should inspire a response. Since you are not limited to conventional school-type methods, you can employ an array of effective and enjoyable ways to gain and respond to information.

Writing is an integrated part of this curriculum. It is not a separate subject, but rather a set of skills with which to become familiar. Writing ability improves with practice and time, both of which come in the context of literature, history, science, and geography learning. The best writing occurs when it is a response to content learned, new ideas, or as a result of an activity or experience. Since writing begins with thinking, once your students engage in assigned thinking activities, the way is naturally prepared. As you use this approach, your students will begin to see themselves as writers, which is the first and most important step to becoming one.

Doing an activity is a powerful teacher and motivator, and can often provide the basis for authentic writing activities. Although activities often occur in other places throughout the lessons, this section allows active participation in skills and artistic forms that were useful and enjoyable in colonial America. This focus provides students with unique opportunities to enlarge their understanding of the times.

Making and tasting foods outside a child’s normal experience, but common in other regions of the United States, reinforces the ability to follow directions as it builds confidence. Not only that, it also provides valuable glimpses into the varied preferences of fellow Americans. The included watercolor activities naturally build your children’s power to observe and notice detail, which in turn equips them to communicate what they learn more effectively. Engaging students in painting regional scenes, in a medium that was accessible to colonists, helps to connect the people who settled in a region with its geography.

H. Independent Reading & Review

This is an important part of each student’s daily schedule. It provides regular practice for word study and reading skills, as well as thinking skills. Quiet time to consider ideas and link new information to old is essential in building new understandings. Though you may be tempted to skip this activity to save time, please don’t! Completing the reading log each day also gives your students a sense of accomplishment, as well as some time to work independently.


We couldn’t have such a rich curriculum and educational experience without including a well-thought-out selection of biographies, reference materials and living books. The materials lists below are divided by resources that are required for use, practical resources needed (crayons, highlighers, rulers, etc.), and supportive resources.

Required Resources

All of these materials are assigned by page number in the daily lessons when they are used.

Student Notebooks

Student Notebooks are available in two formats to meet your preference. If you have a reliable printer and lots of ink and paper you may like printing them from a digital download. Digital downloads include all three level of student pages. Purchase them unit by unit or get all 6 units together for a savings.

Preprinted pages are ever so convenient and signficantly reduce planning and preparation time. They are available by grade level. You can purchase them unit by unit, or get one free when you buy all 6 together.

Unit by Unit

The lists below include the required resources used during each 6-week unit.

Unit 1: Growing Pains

  • Abigail Adams
  • Ambush in the Wilderness
  • The Courage of Sarah Noble
  • The Matchlock Gun
  • Weather of North America
  • Discovering America’s Founders Drive Thru History DVD

Unit 2: Freedom Decided

  • The American Revolution (Munford Adventure)
  • Guns for General Washington
  • George Washington
  • The Eve of Revolution
  • Weather of North America
  • Discovering America’s Founders Drive Thru History DVD
  • U.S. PlaceMap
  • Wee Sing CD and Songbook

Unit 3: Nation Building

  • The Cabin Faced West
  • Justin Morgan Had a Horse
  • Francis Scott Key
  • Discovering America’s Founders Drive Thru History DVD
  • U.S. PlaceMap
  • Wee Sing CD and Songbook
  • U.S. Presidents Flash Cards
  • Mark-It Timeline of History

Unit 4: House Divided

  • Robert E. Lee
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Clara Barton
  • Yankee Blue or Rebel Gray?
  • Weather of North America
  • Wee Sing CD and Songbook
  • U.S. Presidents Flash Cards
  • Mark-It Timeline of History

Unit 5: Unity Restored

  • Janie’s Freedom
  • Samuel F. Smith
  • Good Ol’ Cowboy Stories
  • Weather of North America
  • Wee Sing CD and Songbook
  • U.S. Presidents Flash Cards
  • Mark-It Timeline of History

Unit 6: Sea to Shining Sea

  • The Klondike Gold Rush (Munford Adventure)
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Wee Sing CD and Songbook
  • U.S. Presidents Flash Cards
  • Mark-It Timeline of History

You may have noticed that some books are used during more than one unit and many are used throughout the year. For your convenience these core books are listed together below and sold on this website in a discounted package:

  • Weather of North America
  • Explorer's Guide to Rocks and Minerals
  • Wee Sing CD and Songbook
  • U.S. History Atlas
  • Desk Atlas of the United States
  • Eat Your Way Through the USA
  • Profiles from History: Volume 2
  • Watercolor for Young Artists
  • State Notebook with Stickers
  • Discovering America’s Founders Drive Thru History DVD
  • Rock Study Kit
  • U.S. Presidents Flash Cards
  • U.S. PlaceMap
  • Large Outline Map of the U.S.
  • Mark-It Timeline of History
  • USA Activity CD 
Practical Resources

Besides the required books and other key resources, most lessons require some or many of these items—so keep them handy:

  • crayons, markers, or colored pencils
  • highlighters
  • scissors
  • construction paper
  • glue
  • tape
  • ruler
  • timing device
  • dictionary
  • thesaurus
  • index cards
  • three-hole punch
Supportive Resources

These items were designed to be effective companion resources for meeting other objectives and learning styles.


For those who prefer not to use the portfolio method of evaluation or who want to supplement their child’s portfolio, assessments for each level of the first five units are available as .pdf files either on a CD or as a digital download. These, coupled with your daily observations and interactive discussions and games, provide ample material upon which to base an accurate evaluation. There is no assessment for Unit 6, Sea to Shining Sea, since this unit is largely devoted to review of the previous five. The review activities serve as evaluation tools themselves and can be assigned point values if you choose.

Light for the Trail Bible Curriculum

This optional Bible curriculum helps your students make the most important connection of all—the one between their faith and their view of the world around them. This easy-to-use guide, available either on a CD or as a digital download, is Bible-based but in no way precludes a parent’s role in imparting his or her personal faith and worldview to students. Instead, it provides daily activities that facilitate this most important learning experience. Activities include memory verses for the week, discussion topics, writing assignments, and longer-term memory projects. These elements blend with Prayer Times, Worship Times and Blazing the Trail (teacher sharing) to enable students to make real-life connections between the content of the curriculum and the lessons of Scripture.


These resources are available to accompany each level of the Trail Guide to Learning series. The lapbooks were created to build and review the concepts and content taught by the curriculum, with hands-on reinforcement. These graphic organizers can make learning memorable for all ages. If you use the lapbooks for younger students, those activities can replace any corresponding Student Notebook assignments. They may also be beneficial to many older students who prefer a more hands-on approach to learning, or for review. Assignments that have corresponding lapbooking activities are indicated by the lapbook symbol shown on this page. Lapbooks are available in printed, CD-ROM, or digital download formats.

Middle School Extension

The Middle School Extension enables older members of the family to learn together with their siblings, while tying subjects together in a meaningful way. It covers the same content with more challenging assignments. At the time of this printing the supplement is available only in CD-ROM or digital download formats.


We dedicate this book to all those who have bravely chosen to follow the path that the Lord laid before them, in spite of the time, sacrifice and faith it takes to do so. Most especially—to every mom who picks it up and breathes a sigh of relief. May it be a blessing to your family!
—Debbie Strayer & Linda Fowler



To my dear husband Greg, who has always put the Lord’s plan for our family first in his life, and by doing so, liberated all of us to be obedient to the call of God and to be blessed for doing so. Thank you so much for being such an incredible example of devotion to the Lord. You are my sweet.

My amazing children Nate, Ashley, and son-in-law Alex: Each of you has inspired me by your boldness to do what you felt the Lord has given you to do and kept me going so many times during the journey with your love and faithfulness. Each of you has been given so many gifts and talents, and you freely share them with others. No mother is more blessed than I.

My dear co-author Linda: What can I say? You are a gift to me from the Lord. Your wit, intelligence, insight, devotion, and determination have kept me afloat so many times. God has blessed us with an amazing friendship, and for that, I am now and will always be truly grateful.

My publishers and newly added family, Josh and Cindy Wiggers: Some relationships are born out of only common wishes or dreams. Ours was born out of divine direction and came with the blessing of common hearts and common dreams. Thank you for making this dream come true for me, and I look forward to all the future holds for us together.

My dear mentor and friend, Dr. Ruth Beechick: Though I have known you for many years, I always feel as though there is so much yet to learn from you. You have freely given of your heart and knowledge to me, and I am truly grateful. I pray that I may carry on your gift to me in the years to come in a way that will be a blessing to you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to my amazing husband, Coke, for your unfailing support of this great adventure—evidenced daily by your uncanny ability to offer just the right encouragement and, maybe more importantly, to eat take-out with a smile.

Shout-outs also to my unique and quirky kids, both those birthed and those grafted (through marriage)—Caleb, Cathryn, Betsy, Tracy, and Travis—for being so wonderfully individual and creative and for giving me a measure of understanding;

to the Wiggers clan—Cindy, Josh, Alex, and Ashley—for attaching wings to this project and allowing it to fly far beyond our hopes, for hours and hours of oiling the “engine,” and for literally keeping us out of the ditch;

and to my dear friend and cohort, Debbie, one of the most genuine and gifted people I know. Thank you, Deb, for rescuing me from the aimlessness of my empty nest, for having confidence in me, and for being the creative spark-plug that you just naturally are!

May the Lord bless and protect you all as you come and go, may He give you peace and lavish His grace on all your efforts!