Monday, August 12, 2013

Notgrass America the Beautiful {A Review}

A comprehensive American history curriculum with something for everyone.

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America the Beautiful 

The Essentials - What you need to know

The Review

 photo Untitled-1_zps4833bafe.jpg Last year I could not find an American History curriculum for Zippy.  As a trained history teacher I had very exacting parameters.  I wanted a curriculum that is easy to read, does a good job of relaying the historical facts, including, if possible, primary sources, maps, timeline and a literature component. I found the history curriculum I was looking for, and bonus, it is written from a distinctly Christian point of view.

The truly beautiful thing about this curriculum is it has so many wonderful inter-working parts.  After the introduction to the textbook there is a six page section titled "How to Use America the Beautiful" The authors do an outstanding job of describing each resource and how to use it.  That would be enough to intimidate any teacher, but the last page of this section holds two gems.  First is a chart detailing exactly what to do for each grade.  What the responsibilities of the parent are and what the responsibilities of the student are. Then there is a short paragraph under the heading "Some Reminders So You Will Not Feel Overwhelmed".

The Textbooks:
Hard bound, non-consumable books, together they cover 30 lessons, perfect for a year's coverage of American History. The lessons are organized into units 5 lessons long, each unit intended to last for a week. Each lesson is just a few pages of text with lots of beautiful pictures and illustrations, nearly all of them primary source materials.  Primary source materials are things that are recorded at the moment in history. Photos, writings, letters, diaries, things that are the first impression at the time.  At the end of each lesson there are activities that expand on the text. Some activities are in the other books in the curriculum, some are more independent activities such as vocabulary, creative writing, and thinking biblical.   Each unit also includes a family activity. These activities usually involve parental supervision and/or involvement.  Examples include making Navajo fry bread, colonial printing craft, and dancing the Virginia reel. The textbooks all by themselves would make a fabulous spine for any American history study.

Everything Else:
We the People is a hard bound, non-consumable that is full of stories, documents, newspaper articles, journal entries, poems, speeches, letters and songs.  The content of this book is like a fine wine.  It complements and enhances the meat of the textbooks.

Maps of America the Beautiful is a consumable, soft bound book of black line maps.  At the beginning of each chapter of the textbook it indicates which map(s) relate with that chapter.  The book is set up so as you open the book, the map is on the right page and the directions for that map are on the left page. Students color, underline, label and other reinforce information learned in the chapter, as well as a small dose of geography too.

Timeline of America the Beautiful is a consumable, soft bound book that is basically a timeline in book form.  It is illustrated with very color-able black line pictures, with areas for the student to fill in information. Some information is already filled in.  This allows the students to see other events that happened around the time that they are filling in.

America the Beautiful Answer Key is self explanatory.  It is always nice to have the answers.

America the Beautiful Student Workbook is a spiral bound, soft covered book full of all kinds of
worksheets.  According to the website the workbook is intended for students grades 5 and 6.  It is a creative way for students to reinforce the information they learned through the text book.  There is every kind of worksheet in this book, each one different from the one before.  There are fill in the blank, word searches, cross word, mixed up letters and much more.

America the Beautiful Lesson Review is a spiral bound, soft covered book with questions reviewing each lesson.  According to the website this book is intended for students in grade 7 and 8.  Again this a great way to reinforce reading comprehension of the text.  I used it as a way to get Zippy to narrate what she read in the text.  This book in particular is very classical in the way that it is organized.

The Literature. In addition to the text and all the extra resources this curriculum comes with a recommendation of 10 works of literature.  (They are available as a literature pack from Notgrass Company, but they are also readily available in bookstores or libraries.) We made it through some of the first book, which paired nicely with the text giving a different point of view to the time.  Letting the student into the head space of a boy who lived at that time, making not only the history in the fiction come alive, but adding a sense of reality to the actual historical account.

Zippy and I really enjoyed reviewing this history curriculum.  We took a smorgasbord approach, doing something a little different with each lesson, mixing it up, trying out all the options.  While I love the fact that there is something for every kind of learner, the thing that I liked the most was the text, the meat of the curriculum was bite sized.  For Zippy, who has a short attention span, this was perfect.  She really felt like she had success with this curriculum.  While I have chosen a different World History curriculum for this fall. The Notgrass  American the Beautiful Curriculum will make an appearance in eighth grade.


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