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Blaze New Trails – Community and Nature-Based Adventures for Every Family Review by Tim Tinkel and Jennifer King

Blaze New Trails – Student Companion
Holly M. Giles
The Giles Frontier

Homeschooling children on the autism spectrum can be difficult. Traditional ways of learning often don't work. They often don't want to sit inside and do the usual worksheets and book learning but would rather be outside experiencing the world hands on. That is why Blaze New Trails – Community and Nature-Based Adventures for Every Family and the accompanying book Blaze New Trails – Student Companion have been a hit with my children.

Blaze New Trails – Community and Nature-Based Adventures for Every Family has eight adventure packed chapters that use the outdoor world to learn plus four additional chapters that include recipes, encouragement, additional resources and a special section for Florida residents. The first eight chapters include State & Local Parks and Beaches; Nature Study; Backyard Butterflies; Birds, Birds, Birds; U-Pick Farms; Farmers Market Challenge; The County Fair; and Raising Chickens.

Each of the first eight chapters contain many activity suggestions, fascinating stories, and ways to include Poetry, Math, Art, Writing, Literature, Observation, Science and more in your study. For example, the Backyard Butterflies chapter suggested ways to create a butterfly garden, a study of caterpillars, a study of a Chrysalis, and growing milkweed. Each study included instructions, recommended questions to be asked, observation charts to be filled out, pictures to be drawn, science and nature journaling for older students and other activities. A list of resources is also provided.

Chapter Nine – Recipes, is a bit different as it contains recipes that you can make with your children. In this section your children will learn Conversions, Measurements, Volume, Chemistry and Following Directions.

I found that we could use the ideas in each chapter on their own in our homeschool, but for those who may need more of a schedule, there is a very handy Weekly and Daily Guide that can be used for making lesson plans.

I really appreciated Chapter Ten – Encouragement and Chapter Eleven – Resources. The Encouragement chapter is exactly as its name suggests and gives encouragement to the homeschooling parent on days where homeschooling and life can be stressful. As well as giving many more resources as well as those listed in each individual chapter, the Resource section gave an excellent idea on how each chapter can be used for children to earn a “Junior Trail Blazer” badge and included colored templates for each badge.

The final chapter is geared toward Central Florida residents and gives excellent ideas for field trips and outdoor activities if you live in the middle part of the Sunshine State.

The accompanying Blaze New Trails – Student Companion is a student book that can be used with the first eight chapters of the original Blaze New Trails book. Each chapter contains a Reading and Activities log, copywork pages, journaling and notebooking pages, lapbook cutouts, and more. I found it an excellent tool to be used alongside the original book.

-Product review by Tim Tinkel, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February, 2018

Blaze New Trails - Community and Nature-Based Adventures for Every Family


Blaze New Trails Student Companion

Holly M Giles

The Giles Frontier

Not too long ago we decided to box up all of our curriculums and put them aside for a time. I really felt that we needed to get back to the basics; we really needed to reignite that curiosity and enthusiasm for learning in our children. But then once we put it all away we were left with a lot of empty space to fill. Or maybe we were not meant to fill it at all. In fact, once I received and opened up the Blaze New Trails book and the Student Companion book I was certain that we didn’t have to worry about filling those empty spaces for a while.

I have never been any good at nature study; I love nature. I am always in awe at all that surrounds us. Certainly, it is a testimony of a great and loving God. But how to share that with my children in a way that is exciting and new? It is overwhelming and too often I admit, it just isn’t as full of wonder and joy as I hope for it to be. I am simply at a loss as to where to begin and how to enjoy the community and nature about us together.

I am so very thankful for these books because they lay it all out for me. Each chapter contains lessons on art, history, science, creative writing, field study and so much more!  Beginning with exploring in our own backyard, our local and state parks and beaches, and moving on to butterflies and birds, farmers markets and some delicious recipes this is not just full of fun but also full of those things we all need to learn. It’s life schooling.

My younger son is so excited to explore the section on beaches because he loves to comb the beaches when the weather is nice to see what he can find. Last year he even had the chance to learn how to kayak and, in the process, spy out some turtles and birds.  We actually have a small bucket in our garage that is full of rocks, shells and other unique items he has found at the various beaches we visit.

For my oldest son who has a great love for baking, the section full of recipes was where he chose to stay for a time. A great way for him to practice those math skills unbeknownst to him.  He had some amazing loaves of bread, some cowboy cookies, and pancakes! Who doesn’t love pancakes? So easy to whip up too.

My two younger ones just enjoyed tagging along as we went out exploring; looking to see the birds and the butterflies planning out our own butterfly garden (and a vegetable garden too) and enjoying some fresh berries (we will pick them this summer!).

The Student Companion book is a wonderful resource as well - mostly for my oldest son. This was a great resource for encouraging discussion as we talked about the Appalachian trail and Mount Rushmore. We learned together how trees store food and make food. Since not long ago we raised tadpoles, my boys loved exploring the section on life in the pond and reminiscing about their froggie friends who are now in a local pond swimming free.

There are pages for sketching a beach or painting a nature scene; copying a poem or making a cast of wildlife prints that you find outdoors. How fun is that! Phases of the moon; animal classification, etc. There are so many great things that make this book our very own nature journal. I love it!  

So many wonderful ideas and adventures to help our whole family explore the great world we live in and learn more about this amazing world that God created for us to enjoy. There is even a section at the end for us; with lessons in pray and patience and reminders to see the opportunities before us and persevere it encourages us to press on.

-Product review by Jennifer King, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March, 2018