by Cindy Wiggers
Trail Guide to U.S. Geography is a family-friendly, multi-level geography curriculum guide for students in grades 3 through 12. With its trail markers (animal track icons) guiding your student along three different learning paths, this book can be used for more than one academic school year and works well if you have a number of students of varying abilities learning together.
There is not one exact way to use this unique course. It was designed with flexibility in mind to better meet various objectives when teaching geography. Trail Guide to U.S. Geography provides activities and assignments for a 36-week school year on U.S. Geography.
Spend 5-10 minutes a day with the atlas drills to develop and maintain map reading skills. Some folks use the book strictly for the Geography Trails section alone and say it’s worth every penny at that!
Add an outline map with a list of places to label and students have a smooth beginning to creating a great U.S. Geography Notebook. Additional assignment choices lead students deeper to learn about key places throughout the United States. You set your pace and objectives. Spend as much time as your schedule allows. You can always use the book again another year, with all new atlas drills questions.
There are three sections of assignments for each week. You can use all three sections or any combination.
 Geography Trails Weekly: Days 1-4
In the weekly Geography Trails section you will find daily short atlas drills at three different levels. Students follow their assigned trail and, using the required atlas, answer two questions a day. They gain practical experience with map reading and atlas usage in a light-hearted and natural way. Many especially enjoy the challenge of finding the answers in this 5-10 minute activity.
 Mapping Weekly
Weekly mapping lists provide opportunities for students to label an outline map for inclusion in their personal U.S. Geography Notebook. Most students will complete the mapping assignment in one sitting. (Outline maps are not included.)
 Trail Blazing — Personal Research and Discovery
The Trail Blazing section fleshes out the remainder of the school week. Here you will find a number of various type of assignments to choose from. So, in addition to the five- minute atlas drills and the mapping activity students (or teachers) select two to four of these Trail Blazing assignments each week to complete. Assignments span all learning styles and cover many topics of interest.
Students will use outside resources, such as library or Internet for most of the Trail Blazing assignments. Some example of the kinds of assignments include: creating a chart or graph, research and study, art or craft, meal planning and preparation, designing a travel brochure, making flash cards or a crossword puzzle to aid in memorization, creating an illustrated geography dictionary, and so much more.
Literature Unit Component
The final weeks of the school year we change it up with a Literature Review Unit. Using family read-aloud time and The Captain’s Dog by Roland Smith, student will map the trail of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, learn about Native Americans, plants and animals that were discovered at that time and more. Some families do this six-week unit during the summer months as an introduction to the upcoming U.S. geography studies.
The three trails represent three levels of difficulty.
Elementary, 3rd-4th grades
Middle School, 5th-8th grades
High School, 9th-12th
When determining the level for your student you should rely more on the student's ability to read and use an atlas than on a specific grade.
Using Trail Guide to U.S. Geography as your core, students will:
- Gain experience with map reading using an atlas;
- Create their own personal geography notebook, or portfolio;
- Develop critical thinking skills;
- Learn countries and capitals;
- Much more!
Resources used with Trail Guide to U.S. Geography
With the following required and optional resources, Trail Guide to U.S. Geography makes for an interesting year of geography studies and most can be used again when students have moved up a level:
- Desk Atlas of the United States — atlas used for daily questions and weekly mapping assignments
- 3-Level Trail Guide to U.S. Geography Notebook printable pdf files (or a good set of outline maps) form the core of the geography notebook. Of course, we recommend the Uncle Josh’s Maps book or collection on CD-ROM if you don’t choose to use the Student Notebook files.
- State Notebook includes stickers of state bird, flower and tree
- The Captain’s Dog — read-aloud novel for 6-week literature review unit
Optional Complimentary Resources
These optional resources meet more specific needs and aid in making this an even more interesting subject to study:
- Eat Your Way Through the USA — This cookbook is referenced in Trail Blazing assignments, and features complete meals for each of our fifty states. It is interesting how differently we eat across the country. Includes ingredients grown in the state, recipes the state is known for or, recipes submitted by families in that state. Food facts for each state add interest and provide opportunities for discussion while preparing the dish. Everyone loves to eat so cooking is an easy connection to any geography study.
- Geography Through Art — Introduces world and U.S. cultures in a medium children enjoy and relate to ... Art! They learn what children in countries around the world do for art and create their own from the instructions provided. Many projects come with fascinating information of historical significance. Step-by-step illustrating examples help students draw a number of different animals and more, and all projects include great simple-to-follow instructions. Nineteen art projects from the United States aid this study; there are 100 additional projects from around the world.
- Cantering the Country — Literature-based geography unit study curriculum which compliments the family geography study. For those who also have younger students, or who love finding real books from which to teach. Using this book in tandem with Trail Guide to U.S. Geography helps family members with different learning styles and of varying ages learn together by allowing each child to do activities and assignments selected just for them.
- Trail Guide to U.S. Geography Lapbook — For younger students or hands-on learning types, this lapbook adds depth to creating a fascinating geography notebook.
- USA PlaceMap — Great visual aid in a compact size. Includes handy state facts students can use when creating data charts.
Save money with GeoPacks — specially assembled bundles to include everything you need to embark upon an exciting adventure in geography.
"Adding this resource to our study of the U.S., we have realized that there is so much more to know about the geography of our great country than just states and capitals! Thankfully, author Cindy Wiggers has made it easy to incorporate the often overlooked, but important subject of geography into our already packed homeschool routine. The Trail Guide to U.S. Geography provides lots of guidance while allowing for (and encouraging) flexibility and this is just the balance most homeschool moms need! The manual is easy to navigate and I am very impressed with how thoroughly material is covered. This resource is destined to be a favorite with homeschool families for years to come!"
—Cindy Prechtel, Editor Homeschooling From the Heart
Trail Guide to U.S. Geography may be used in an individual homeschool, but it is well-suited to use in a group or co-op, with the added benefit of students tackling different activities and sharing the fruits of their studies with each other through presentations and discussion.
—Jean Hall, Eclectic Homeschool Online
"This is an EXCELLENT resource for U.S. Geography. Your child will be very familiar with the United States and each state independently when they are through with this course!"
—Holly Cameron at The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
"Systematically moving through the US, there's something here for everyone, whether you're looking for a few warm up drills or a thorough, in-depth geography course."
"We have been using the Trail Guide to U.S. Geography by Cindy Wiggers for our geography studies for over a year now. This resource is wonderful! I have decided to do a series of posts in which I show how we use this resource to study the geography of our country. For years I had felt guilty because we really weren't studying geography in a systematic manner. For me, the Trail Guide to U.S. Geography is the perfect geography curriculum. Our geography studies are completed together which works really well for my children (7th, 5th, and 3rd grades)."
—To Be Busy At Home Blog
"While the curriculum can be completed in a year, I decided to take a slower pace and complete our study of United States geography over a two year period. The Trail Guide to U.S. Geography is such a rich resource of ideas, even with two years in which to work through the text, I had to pick and choose which activities we would complete for our homeschool. There are just so many ideas in the text and geography is just one part of our school day. We usually spend about 20 minutes on geography studies each day, although some projects take a bit."
—Samantha at the Curriculum Choice
"If your homeschooled child loves maps, state trivia and geography, or it's important to you that your kids learn all 50 states, their capitals and basic history, The Trail Guide to US Geography from GeoMatters is designed just for your home school. The curriculum provides everything necessary for a thorough overview of each of the fifty states in an engaging, multi-level, multidisciplinary method."
—Andrea Rose at Associated Content
|Paperback or electronic
|8.5" x 11"