Notgrass America the Beautiful Review

Teaching history has always been a conundrum for me.  I struggled because I didn’t have a solid foundation in history nor did I know where my ancestors fit in the history of America.  Outside of learning about some components of slavery and a few well-known Black Americans, my knowledge was really limited.  I also struggled with choosing a curriculum for history because some of the history curricula I encountered had a view against non-Whites that I did not like and had no desire to teach my daughters. 

I received this America the Beautiful at no cost in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions and thoughts are my own.
America
After six years of home schooling, we are for the first time using a prepackaged history curriculum. This year we have been reviewing and using America the Beautiful by the Notgrass Company. America the Beautiful is recommended for students in grades fifth through eighth. The package includes America the Beautiful Parts 1 and 2, We the People, Maps of America the Beautiful, Timeline of America the Beautiful, Student Workbook, and Lesson Review. I purchased an additional copy of the Maps of America the Beautiful and the Student Workbook since both of my daughters are using the program.

America the Beautiful is set up to be used five days a week.  We did not use it in this manner, and thankfully Charlene Notgrass writes a lovely letter to the parents in Book 1 to tell us that curriculum is a resource and should not dictate your home school.  I really appreciated that because we had not used such a curriculum before and committing to complete 150 lessons in one year would have been overwhelming for me.  Instead of completing the program in one year, we are using Book 1 during the 2015-16 school year and Book 2 during the upcoming school year. 

Each five day schedule in America the Beautiful follows the same pattern. Day one focuses Our American Story which teaches about major events during the specific time period; day two focuses on God’s Wonders which shares about the beautiful creations God has placed in the United States; day three focuses on An American Landmark which highlights an important site in American history; day four shares An American Biography about an individual who lived during the specific time period; day five highlights the Daily Life of the people who lived during the time period. Each unit also includes a family activity which allowed us to apply what we learned to our lives.

Since my daughters had not used textbooks before we work through history together.  My youngest daughter, 8, worked alongside my oldest daughter, 11.  The girls begin each lesson by completing the map work for the day.  Every day doesn’t have a map assignment, but they like the days when they do work in their map book. After completing their maps, we read the day’s lesson aloud using the “Round Robin” method.  Since we opted to use the Student Workbook versus the Lesson Review, I ask the questions from the Lesson Review aloud and the girls answer orally.  This has worked well for us.  It keeps them engaged and focused on the reading even when it’s not their turn because they know I will ask about what has been read. We have discussions about what we have read and compare it to other information we may have learned along the way or from other resources.  Upon completing the daily reading, we generally do the vocabulary and workbook activity.  Each lesson in America the Beautiful has five or so activities which can be completed.  We do not do them all.  We primarily do the map, vocabulary, literature, and workbook activity.

One thing that I really like about America the Beautiful is the literature which is coupled with the history.  Each book we have read thus far has really deepened our understanding of history.  My favorite has been Amos Fortune: Free Man.  I had not heard of Amos Fortune before beginning this program.  I also like the fact that so far none of the information presented has been biased.  The author does not insert opinion.  I am grateful for this since this was the main reason I have steered clear of history curriculum.

America the Beautiful has been a good fit for our learning environment. It has opened us to new information and has calmed my history anxiety.