Written for Amish children in Amish schools, Pathway's reading program is a traditional approach to teaching phonics that uses workbooks and readers. Content is God-honoring and wholesome, and it also reflects the agrarian environment in which many Amish live. The stories, while not filled with excitement and adventure, are true to life and engaging. Most stories take place in rural/farm settings, although some take place in other countries.
First grade program: Phonics instruction is presented by the teacher with reinforcement provided by workbook activities. Instruction begins with three workbooks and a preprimer. The method is similar to others that teach blending with an initial consonant followed by a vowel, later adding an ending consonant.
The three workbooks for first grade are Before We Read, Learning through Sounds Book 1, and Learning through Sounds Book 2. The preprimer, titled First Steps, has a companion workbook. A single teacher's manual covers First Steps and Before We Read, while one teacher's edition covers the two Learning through Sounds workbooks. A set of flashcards is used along with these books. An optional seatwork book, Helping Yourself, is also available.
In addition to the aforementioned books, the first grade level lists two more readers, Days Go By and More Days Go By, with a companion workbook for each plus a single teacher's edition that covers both workbooks.
Working up through the preprimer would be equivalent to many other kindergarten programs, although Pathway lists these books as part of their first grade program. Following the preprimer, students move on to other hardbound readers and workbooks that continue up through the eighth grade level. Answer keys are in the teacher edition of the workbook. The Pathway readers might also be used after phonics instruction has been presented using any other program. Reading workbooks reinforce phonics knowledge and help children develop reading comprehension and thinking skills.
Books are printed in black-and-white with simple illustrations, yet there is quite a bit of variety in types of exercises within the workbooks. Print is appropriately large to prevent unnecessary eyestrain. One additional factor, but one that carries a lot of weight with many families, is that books are very inexpensively priced.
Books for upper levels move beyond phonics to develop comprehensive reading skills.
For each level there are one or more readers, each with a companion workbook. Teacher's editions cover each workbook; there are no separate teacher's editions for readers. Titles for each grade level are as follows:
Grade Two: Busy Times, More Busy Times, and Climbing Higher [a single teacher's edition covers the first two workbooks, with a separate one for Climbing Higher] - $26.55 Note that the workbooks for this level are more challenging than some others at this grade level, working on things such as diacritical markings and rules for suffixes in more depth than usual for second grade.
- Grade Three: New Friends and More New Friends
- Grade Four: Building Our Lives
- Grade Five: Living Together
- Grade Six: Step by Step
- Grade Seven: Seeking True Values
- Grade Eight: Our Heritage
Pathway also publishes Vocabulary workbooks for grades five through eight that can be used alongside the readers or independent of them.
Here are a few further review notes on the seventh and eighth grade books.
At this level, the Pathway anthologies clearly want to influence the character and beliefs of students. Coming from a Mennonite publisher, they teach Mennonite doctrine ("Sola Scriptura," Anabaptist, pacifist) and reflect an agrarian lifestyle. The philosophy and theology in these books comes across strongly in stories about or touching upon conscientious objectors, persecution of Anabaptists, criticism of Catholics and other Protestants, and other topics. A few Bible-based stories are scattered through the collection.
Stories in the seventh grade reader, Seeking True Values, stress godly character through stories and poems from many unknown and little-known authors as well as a few recognizable names such as Longfellow and Bunyan.
The eighth grade reader, Our Heritage, honors the heritage and culture of the Mennonites as you can easily tell from the unit titles: Our Heritage, True Values, People Who Served, Thinking of Others, Nature's Wonders, In Olden Days, The Way of Love, and Home on the Farm. A few selections are from recognized authors such as Longfellow, Kipling, and Tennyson, but most are from lesser known or unknown authors.
Stories and poems in both books are followed by "Thinking It Over" questions and, usually, a few vocabulary words. Questions require both recall and deeper thinking/analysis. The reading workbooks feature additional questions regarding each story and poem, intermixed with occasional research, writing, and vocabulary activities. At least some of the questions should be used for discussion, not just answered in the workbook. The workbooks might be considered optional since the readers contains sufficient questions and vocabulary work by themselves.
The Working with Words vocabulary workbooks for seventh and eighth grades introduce words that will be used in each of the stories and poems in advance of their appearance in the readers. Exercises in vocabulary workbooks work on roots, derivatives, suffixes, prefixes, spelling rules, and grammar in addition to vocabulary. Between the reading workbooks and vocabulary workbooks, the vocabulary workbooks seem the most useful at these levels.