Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Notgrass American History {Review}



A few years ago a friend of mine mentioned the Notgrass Company's History Curriculum, America the Beautiful and how her kids really loved it.  After hearing her rave review, I knew that once my kids were old enough I wanted to check it out.

The America the Beautiful History Curriculum from the Notgrass Company was given to us to review for the TOS Crew.  Let me tell you what we were given to review and what we thought of them.  


America the Beautiful Parts 1 & 2
These two hardcover textbooks are the meat and potatoes of the curriculum.  They are beautifully bound hardcover books with pictures on most every page, some black & white and some color.

Part 1 takes you from 1000 to 1877, and Part 2 continues from the Late 1800's the Present.  Together they tell American history from a Biblical Worldview.  

I have to say, I am not usually a fan of textbooks, but these are pretty impressive.  

The books are set in chronological order and consist of 15 units each, making a total of 30 units.  There are several different types of lessons in the America the Beautiful books:
  • Our American Story - These lessons are about the major events in the time period the unit is based on.
  • God's Wonders - These lessons teach students about God's creation, like the Chesapeake Bay, Yellowstone and the great Mississippi River.  
  • American Landmark - Here you learn about important sites in American history, like Plymouth, the Erie Canal and the Alamo.
  • American Biography - This focuses on a particular person that lived during the time period being studied.  In these lessons you get to learn more about people like John Jay, President of the American Bible Society, George Washington and Robert E. Lee.
  • Daily Life - These lessons give a glimpse into the day to day lives of the people of the time period.  In the unit on the Civil War, the daily Life lesson is called Two First Ladies.  Here we learn about Mary Todd Lincoln and Varina Howell Davis.
I liked the layout of the books.  I found them to be very informative and enjoyable.  I do however wish they were a little more on the conversational style that we are used to.  

If you have read some of my other reviews, you probably know that I love to learn from living books.  I think using only a textbook can quench a child's love for learningIn saying that, I do feel that there is a time and a place for a textbook.  Currently, the kids and I are starting to read about the American Revolution.  We are learning a ton from biographies, chapter and picture books, but there were several things in the America the Beautiful that did not read about in our other books. 
After reading each lesson, there is a list of several activities, usually about 4-6, that include writing, vocabulary, timeline, map, and workbook assignments.  There are also Thinking Biblically assignments that have the students looking up scriputre to answer questions.  There are literature assignments from We the People and recommended living books, like Amos Fortune, Across Five Aprils and Little Town on the Prairie.  You or the student can pick one or several of the assignments to be completed for the day. 

They encourage family discussions about the days lesson.  The book also has family activities, like making an Iroquoian Longhouse, have a peaceful Boston Tea Party, and make a Liberty Bell Mosaic.  

The way that we have been using this, is that my 8th grader has been reading the lessons independently and doing some of the actitivies on her own.  

I have also found myself picking it up and reading it for fun.  Yes really, for fun.  I have also used it to better educate myself on the topics we are studying, so that I can casually pass the information along to my younger kids. 

We the People
This hardcover black & white book is a wonderful collection of writings from America's history, that include historical documents, poems, letters, songs, newspaper clippings and songs. 

One of the assignment suggestions is to read selections from the book that relate to the lessons topic. We like this book and find it to be a wonderful addition to the curriculum.

Maps of America the Beautiful
This workbook has maps that correlate with the lessons.  Students are given assignments to color and label the various maps. 

Timeline of America the Beautiful
Also in workbook form, this black & white timeline allows students to color and label the timeline as they work through history.  


America the Beautiful Student Workbook
This workbook includes fun word searches, matching, multiple choice questions and drawing assignment.  Probably best suited for children in 4th-6th grade.  


America the Beautiful Lesson Review 
Full of daily lesson and literature review questions to help parents measure children's comprehension of the material being studied.

My 8th grader and I have done several of these together orally.  

America the Beautiful Answer Key
You guessed it, this is where all the answers are {smile}.  This includes answers to the timeline, vocabulary, Student Workbook and Lesson Review questions.  

Over all, I really love this curriculum.  I know it will remain on my shelf for the duration of our homeschooling years.  It is excellent as a source of reference for American history. It also makes a well rounded American History curriculum for 5th-8th graders, that could be used independently for older students.  I also believe this would work wonderfully for multilevel teaching.

America the Beautiful is designed to be completed in one school year, working on it 5 days per week.  It would, however, be very simple to adjust the schedule to complete it in two years.  

I appreciate the flexibility America the Beautiful offers with the variety of student assignments,  and literature suggestions. They offer all the bells and whistles of a traditional textbook, but also have a unit study type feel to them.  This my friends is a keeper! 

The Student Workbook and Lesson Review can be purchased separately.


Bethany Poore - Notgrass Company said...

Thank you, Brandi, for reviewing America the Beautiful!

Brandi said...

Thank you, it was a blessing to review for you.


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