Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Notgrass Company ("America The Beautiful" History)

I have heard friends rave about the Notgrass company for years, so I was excited to be chosen to review their America the Beautiful Curriculum Package as well as either the America the Beautiful Student Workbook or the  America the Beautiful Lesson Review (we received both), for grades 5-8, and get a close up look at what it entails. 

What's included:

This is the very first time as a homeschooling educator that I have, in point of fact, used a physical history TEXT BOOK! The curriculum package actually comes with TWO textbooks and four support books! 

  • The blue book you see pictured in the middle with the Rocky Mountains and the grizzly bear is textbook 1. 
  • The textbook with the Nubble Lighthouse on the front is book 2. 
  • The book to the left "We the People" contains copies of  original source documents: newspaper articles, stories, poems, advertisements, etc... which all enhance an understanding of the time being discussed. 
  • The Timeline and the Maps books are consumables to be used during the lessons. 
  • The answer key is there if you need it (it includes answers to the vocabulary work in the main text, the timeline, and also answers to the lessons in the Student Workbook and the Lesson Review book).
An aside: Personally, I find it delightful that both textbooks have photos on their covers that are near and dear to me, having grown up in Montana(Rocky mountains), and now living in New England~ America, from East to West! (Yes, I do recognize that lighthouse... we visit it yearly at the least!) :) 

Each textbook is a hefty 400-500+ pages and is intended to last a semester. The books are divided into 15 units each, with 5 lessons in each unit, for a total of 75 lessons/book. The Introduction includes recommendations on how to use the America The Beautiful curriculum, with specific suggestions for each grade 5-8.

How We Used "America The Beautiful"

Because I have a mix of ages, and it was summertime, even with only one child in the target range I decided that we would use this curriculum as a read-aloud time for all three children, especially as I have been a little light on a chronological study of American History.

The information was interesting for all.

  • While I'm not totally sure how much Youngest got out of the text, he enjoyed sitting still and listening to "The Sign Of the Beaver" which is the literature selection for the portion of history we went through.
  • Because some of Eldest's history has been more "unit related" it was fun to watch her piece a few things together as we read. She also made the nifty collage you see to the right of some of the pages in the workbooks and "We the People."
  • Middlest, of course, had the majority of work to do (the others really just listened) for this review. He did the mapwork (which is well laid out~ the text book directs the student to the correct map, and the map has specific directions for each lesson. This is important to note, as some maps are to be used throughout the curriculum, for more than one lesson), and the Lesson Review.

    We didn't use the Student Workbook (I'm saving that for when Littlest is old enough to use it in a few years, as it was a little below Middlest's interest level~ but it sure looked like fun! A variety of neat activities!), or the Timeline (Once again, saving for Littlest~ it seemed to be more on the younger end of the recommended age range). 

Some Of the Extras

While I was reading, I allowed both of my boys to build "minecraft" structures on their i-devices. Here are some of Middlest's structures (He forgot which world he built the others in, but this gives you an idea of how you can integrate some of that fun technology with your history studies. :) 
Based on Viking church established by Leif 
Eriksson's mother. (Interior view)
based on the French Settlement Fort Caroline

based on the later fort, Castillo San Marcos
One of the "Family Activities" (included at the end of each unit) entailed making Navajo Flatbread~ We happened to have some Flat Stanley's from Australia visiting, so here are some pictures from that day~ 

Further Thoughts 

I was particularly pleased with the way the history is presented, with an emphasis on God and His creation. Each chapter links our history with Scripture, whether it has to do with God's provision, or creation, or moral code. 

The only negative point I have to make has to do with the text. Although all of the pictures are captioned, the text refers to them directly (Generally using the same wording as the captioning), which made it rather awkward to read aloud. There were frequent references to "See the illustration at left."  and "Look at the picture of ___ on page ___ and the illustration on the right(or left)." As a read-aloud history text I felt that interrupted the flow of the narrative. As a read-alone text it didn't bother me as much. Because both read-aloud and personal reading are recommended, I felt it was worth mentioning~ even if it just prepares you to skip those sentences, as I have made my habit lately. 

When I asked Middlest his thoughts on "America the Beautiful" he said that he has been enjoying it. He likes the variety of reading material ("America the Beautiful" Text, "We the People" original source text, and the Literature selection), the map work, and he doesn't even mind filling out the Lesson Review pages. He particularly enjoyed learning about the Pueblo Indians, and Mesa Verde. I think because we live in New England, other regional Native American people groups have received less time, so this was a good overview! 

The variety of activities throughout the week, beyond those mentioned above include 
Thinking Biblically,  Creative Writing, and Vocabulary assignments. The work isn't onerous, and of course, each family can choose to do as much as works for their particular student and/or family. 

We are looking forward to continuing our read-aloud "Together Time" history throughout this next school year! 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Notgrass Company 
  • Product: America the Beautiful Curriculum Package  (Be sure to check out this page, as there are a number of sample pages that can be downloaded)
  • Ages: 5th-8th grade
  • Price: Curriculum Package $99.95
    Student workbook $11.95 (grades 5/6)
    Student Lesson Review $9.95 (grades 7/8)
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.


1 comment:

  1. I hope your family continues to enjoy this study! I'm glad it has been working well for you so far.

    Mary Evelyn McCurdy
    Notgrass Company


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