Sunday, August 11, 2013

Notgrass' American History -TOS Review

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We recently used and reviewed the America the Beautiful Curriculum Package from the Notgrass Company. This is a complete history and literature program and includes the following.
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In addition to the textbook materials, you'll be reading excellent "living books":

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Spears
Amos Fortune: Free Man by Elizabeth Yates
Brady by Jean Fritz
Bound For Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
Blue Willow by Doris Gates
Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
Katy by Mary Evelyn Notgrass
We are history, lit loving fools 'round here. That being said, I don't think I've ever, in 22 years of homeschooling, used a text book for either.  It's not that we don't use TONS of history/ lit resources, we do. It's just that I LOVE original source docs, living books and lots of discussion. I have, however, heard great things about Notgrass History and was curious what it was all about. Plus, I figured a history curriculum that used some of our favorite books (Amos Fortune is one of my  all time favs) it had to be worth taking a look at.

We were not disappointed. There are two textbooks; they are weighty tomes and I'll tell you why. They are CHOCK full of pictures, along with maps and illustrations. Every time we read together, we spent a good amount of time just looking at the pictures. Time well spent? Absolutely! In addition there are side-bars throughout with fun facts to know and tell that include information about the President's, fauna, toys of the decade, etc.These books are visual feasts!

In addition they are sturdy, hardback, full-color volumes, built to last. Each of the two texts includes 15 units: Vol. 1 covers American from 1000-1877, beginning with The American Indians and going to post-war re-constructionism. Vol II covers American from the Late 1800's  to the Present. Each unit consists of 5 Lessons.

Each Lesson is set up in the same way. There is a map reference at the beginning. Then the student text, complete with tons of those lovely visuals I told you about. Each chapter concludes with a scripture reference. And then begins the list of Activities for each lesson which can include:  Thinking Biblically, Map Study, Time-line, Family Activity, Vocabulary, Literature, Creative Writing, Student Workbook or Lesson Review. Don't think for a minute that you'll be bored using this textbook approach to history- it is full up of wild, crazy and very do-able ideas- dancing the Virginia Reel, making an Iroquois longhouse out of gumdrops and toothpicks, cooking projects, making puppet stages, research projects and much  more! And just like the text, the Family Activity Pages have clear instructions and great pictures to help your go at it hit the mark.

I haven't even gotten to one of my favorite aspects of this whole program. It is an additional hardcover text that includes source documents that cover the entirety of the program. "We the People: Words from the Makers of American History." This is 220 pages of source documents; Books and stories, newspaper articles, journals, letters, advertisements, speeches, songs and poems from the people. Love that!
In addition we reviewed the Student Workbook, Lesson Review, Maps and Timeline. Because I used this with both Flower and Cub, I did the review orally, and they took turns (in theory) answering questions. Initially I let them choose the pages in the student workbook they wanted to work on, but Cub felt that it was juvenile. In all fairness, he is a history loving fool (i.e. he didn't really need the re-enforcement at all), and can't stand workbook pages of any kind except science (he's my get 'er done guy). Flower, however, loves workbook type games and puzzles and loved it. The pages are quite varied; fill in the blanks, crosswords, matching, ordering, Morse Code, Word Scrambles and more. Lots of fun for everyone with really nice graphics and clear pages (in other words, they aren't visually crowded pages and the type is clear).

The Map book has text on the left page, map on the right of each 2- page lesson.  Again, excellent, clear graphics. You'll need a set of colored pencils for this, and you'll have a nice Map Book to treasure when you are done.

The Timeline is unique. Each page represents 100 years, in 10 year increments. There is space next to each decade to fill in events. Along with this there are graphics throughout, and some events are already recorded. For example, under 1100: "The Hopi people of the Southwest region to occupy the present-day village of Oriabi"

The Timeline and Map texts are staple bound with a glossy card stock covers. The Student Workbook and Lesson Review are spiral bound with glossy card stock.

So, what you get is a full year of American History, including quality literature, source documents, add-on resources, tons of visuals, activities (your Family Fun nights can easily be planned from the Family Activity ideas!), and FUN. We've done the 4-year history cycle for years, but this year we're breaking out and adding in American History, all because Charlene Notgrass had to put her creativity to good use! While this is a decidedly Christian program, it is not preachy or pedantic. I love how it starts out with the American Indians, and not in any off-handed way. There are tons of pictures, discussion about how the Indians in different regions and climates lived and how they treated each other. Ms. Notgrass does not demonize or romanticize the Indians, or other topics that we've read so far. Nor does she tell the reader what or how to think "correctly" during any of the lessons. I truly appreciate it when the author believes that the reader can form opinions for themselves!

My only criticism of this program is the Creative Writing lessons; which I believe to be too vague for kids in this age range. That's my steeped in a specific writing philosophy opinion, so take it with a grain. Definitely NOT a show-stopper; there is so much in here that you won't even miss any aspects of the program that you decide not to use.

The reading and discussion took us about 45 min to an hour a day. The Timeline and Maps can take from 15 minutes to much longer- Flower likes to  make each page a masterpiece, so she took much longer. The activities can take from 15 minutes to however long you get lost in them.

If you are going to study American History for a full year, make it this study. It is well written, visually beautiful, with tons of fun activities thrown in. Not only is this program perfect to use at home, it would be a blast to do in a co-op or Tutoring Center group.

 Notgrass Company’s America the Beautiful Curriculum Package is priced at: $99.95 and geared for ages 10-14 (grades 5-8).We also used The America the Beautiful Student Workbook is priced at 11.95 and the America the Beautiful Lesson Review which is priced at: $9.95.

Content -excellent
Presentation -excellent
Organization -excellent
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wodaking said...

This is a fantastic review! I couldn't agree more. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed America the Beautiful so much. I'm a history lover, too. Can you tell? Thank you for your thorough and kind review.

Charlene Notgrass said...

I know I'm not alone, wodaking!

I CAN tell that you are a history lover! We are going to be enjoying this study for months to come, Charlene! Thenk-YOU! said...

I know I'm not alone, wodaking!

I CAN tell that you are a history lover! We are going to be enjoying this study for months to come, Charlene! Thenk-YOU!