Review of America the Beautiful from Notgrass Company

Finding the perfect history program has been a work in progress since I began homeschooling many years ago. At first, I was going to focus solely on American history in the younger grades. This was the structure of the curriculum I had used as a teacher. Then I stumbled upon classical learning and was convinced of the importance of teaching cycles of world history. I searched for books that have a “living book” feel but that had a Christian worldview. There have been some we liked more than others, but it has been a long search. To be honest, I had never heard of Notgrass Company in more than a passing context until I was able to do this review. Notgrass Company is a Bible-based, family run homeschool curricula company. I chose to review their American history program for elementary students because I have wished for some exposure to American history in the midst of our world history studies.

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I received for review the America the Beautiful curriculum package. This includes America the Beautiful pt.1 and 2; We the People, a collection of reading that contains, real journal entries, speeches, short stories, and historical documents from real Americans; a map workbook, a timeline workbook, and an answer key. This sells for $99.95. I also received the America the Beautiful student workbook that has games, puzzles, and activities for reviewing. It sells for $11.95. And I received the America the Beautiful lesson review book. It contains review questions for the chapters as well as quizzes. It sells for $9.95. The entire curriculum is meant to be for grades 5-8, ages 10-14.
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I used the curriculum with all of my children together (ages 14, 12, 9, and 7) as an American history review this summer. Although only two of them were within the target age, I like to do things as a family, and I thought they all needed the American history focus. There is American history that we have covered on and off over the last few years, but this was a good way to have some focused attention on American history.

I was impressed when we first received the books because it was just a beautiful set! I love books, and I really love history.

I like the set up. There is a suggested activity list in the front that has suggested daily activities for each grade level, 5-8. Because I was teaching multiple ages and two of my students were younger than the recommended age, I aimed for the lower end of that list when deciding what activities we would do, and I read each day’s reading aloud. A seventh to eighth grade reader could easily read the material independently. And many fifth and sixth graders could probably read it alone.

There are some supplementary books used throughout the course. These can be purchased through Notgrass, purchased independently, or checked out from the library. A list in the front of the book gives the book list and tells in which unit each book will be used.

The curriculum is designed to be completed in one school year doing a lesson most days. We needed about 45 minutes to do each lesson.

The book begins with an introduction to the people and animals that were around in the United States even before the first European settlers. I read each day’s lesson out loud. After my reading, we completed the activities that are listed at the end of each lesson. These are meant to be kept in a notebook throughout the year. I love notebooking and keeping a notebook of completed assignments that can be looked at again and again. The activities include things like “Thinking Biblically”- a section that guides kids in reading or discussing Bible people or lessons that relate to the day’s reading; map work (to be done in the map workbook); timeline activities (to be done in the timeline notebook); and readings from the literature books or We the People. Once a week there are family activities. These are crafts or recipes that the whole family can do together. There are also instructions for using either the student lesson book or the review book each day. Because we received both in our review, I usually asked the review questions from the review book orally and then gave the kids the activity from the lesson book to work on.

I really enjoyed everything about this curriculum.  I love the way it’s written. It’s a textbook with a “living book” feel. I love that it has a Christian worldview focus. I love that it is flexible enough to use with multiple ages. I love that there are “real books” that are used in conjunction. And I love the way the book is set up to be very clear and easy to use. My favorite thing about the curriculum – and one I think the kids enjoyed also- was the We the People readings.

There wasn’t much we didn’t like. My older children complained a little that the reading sounded too young for them. I do think that using it through 8th grade may be a bit of a stretch. But if you have a slower reader and want them to read independently, this may be a good fit.

I am going to continue to use this one throughout this school year, but my plan is to supplement it in here and there with our world history curriculum to be able to have some American history throughout the year. I was also very pleased to find that my high schooler’s history through My Father’s World- which we are using for the first time- is the Notgrass Company world history for high schoolers.

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 You can click below to find out what other Review Crew members thought of this- and other- products from Notgrass Company.


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