Monday, August 12, 2013

Review of Notgrass Company's America the Beautiful Curriculum Package

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Over the past six weeks or so, we have fallen in love with Notgrass Company's America the Beautiful Curriculum Package, along with the America the Beautiful Student Workbook and the America the Beautiful Lesson Review. It's no secret that I love American history. History is one of my undergraduate degrees, and my dissertation (for a Political Science Ph.D.) focused on US state legislatures in the first half of the 20th century. However, as I have shared many times, history is hard for me to teach. Why? I want to teach EVERYTHING! I have trouble narrowing it down because it is all so awesome! For the same reason, it is hard for me to pick a curriculum. Each one has something great, but none has everything. Until now.

I have looked at Notgrass Company before, but I had never looked at this curriculum. It is truly awesome. Imagine the joy in my house when all of this arrived in the mail:
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I spent about five minutes looking at this program before getting on the computer and ordering 3 more Timeline books, 3 more Map books, and 2 more Student Workbooks. That is how impressive this curriculum is. I know that I wanted all of my kids to do it, and I wanted all of them to do it from the start. Now our entire package looked like this!
Although this curriculum is for ages 10-14, I have been using it with my 8 year-olds (and, of course, my 10 and 12 year-olds) with no problem at all. It is very comprehensible and engaging. The supporting materials (map, timeline, and workbook) are perfectly fine for 8 year-olds, and my twins would have been devastated not to be included. 

How The Curriculum is Structured

The curriculum consists of several components. The two beautiful hardback textbooks each cover half of American history. The lessons are only a few pages long and contain *tons* of colorful pictures. Each lesson falls into one of these categories:
  • Our American Story
  • God's Wonders
  • An American Landmark
  • An American Biography
  • Daily Life
The textbook also contains family activities (like baking Navajo flatbread). Finally, Notgrass Company has chosen 10 literature selections to accompany the text. The Sign of the Beaver is the first, which makes sense as one is studying Native Americans.

The hardback book "We the People" contains 150 primary source documents that correspond to the textbook lessons. The text tells you when to read a selection from this book.

The map book is amazing. Consisting of 30 maps, students work on the maps all year long. Sometimes, only one thing is added to a map on a particular day. At the end of the year, your students will have an atlas worth keeping. 

The timeline book is interspersed with shrunk down images from Dover coloring books, making the books a great thing for kids to work in when you are reading a chapter aloud. Further, there is a dot at each place on the timeline where an event is to be entered. Even better, the text tells you when an event is to be entered on a the timeline and what is to be entered. I always write this on our whiteboard so my kids can copy it exactly.

How We Used America the Beautiful

American History has been our second subject each day (following Bible Study). My kids absolutely love it. They love the beautiful text. They love the primary source material. They love the map book. They love the Timeline book. They love their workbooks. Did I cover it all?

Therese has decided that it is easier for her to read the material by herself, so she does history at a separate time from us and then completes the activities on her own time (whenever she wants to during her school day). The three youngest and I do American History together. I read the chapter while they color in the Timeline Books (like the map books, those will end up being works of art, too!). Then, I read the primary source selection while they do the relevant map work. Finally, if there is something to be entered in the Timeline Book, enter it. The typical lesson takes us about 40 minutes - the perfect amount of time. 

We are also reading The Sign of the Beaver, the literature selection that goes along with the first part of the text. In order to further mesh our history with our literature, I have incorporated into our curriculum a literature study of The Sign of the Beaver; thus, our history flows seamlessly into our literature. I am loving the synchronicity of our mornings these days!

In Summation

This curriculum is awesome. It is gorgeous. It is comprehensive. It is both easy to teach and easy to understand. In fact, I love this curriculum so much that not only did I buy all of the supplementary materials for the rest of my kids, I also bought Exploring Government, Notgrass Company's High School Government curriculum, for Therese. Prior to now, I just couldn't find a government curriculum I liked (picky Political Science girl here, remember?) She has started it and loves it! I am officially a Notgrass convert. I wholeheartedly encourage you to go to the website and explore all that Notgrass has to offer. These are top-quality products for a very reasonable price. Even Henry couldn't believe the value of these glossy, beautiful textbooks!

Curriculum Package - $99.95
Not in package: 
Crew members reviewed this and some other cool Notgrass Company products, so be sure to click the banner to read more reviews!

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