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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: America the Beautiful Curriculum

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First, let me say - WOW!  Upon opening the box, I was thrilled and very happy to receive the America the Beautiful curriculum package, written by Charlene Notgrass, from the Notgrass Company for review. Once I started using it with my children, my choice of history and geography curriculum for this coming school year was immediately decided.

This curriculum is completely comprehensive, incredibly thorough and presented in a very impressive and inviting chronological format.  Even my son, who absolutely despises any form of traditional school work that he is "forced" to do, became excited after he delved into the student workbook with all its fun hands-on activities.

The curriculum is intended for children ages 10-14 in Grades 5-8. I used it with my daughter, who is going into 6th grade this fall, and my son, who will be in the 8th grade this fall.

The idea behind the textbooks is to incorporate a unit study style.  It is presented from a Christian worldview.  It is set up in two main, thick hardcover books that each cover 15 units of 5 lessons each (75 lessons per book) - For a total of 30 units and 150 lessons, when you use both books.

Book Part 1 covers America from 1000 to 1877
Book Part 2 covers 1800s to Present

At a pace of one lesson per week day, you should be able to finish Part 1 in one semester, and Part 2 during the second semester of one school year.


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The entire package sells for $99.95 and includes:


  • America the Beautiful Part 1 and Part 2 hardcover books, 75 lessons each.  These books are the core of the curriculum pak, but the additional books enhance the learning.  There are activities at the end of each lesson that correspond with the other books in the pak.
  • We the People – Hardcover book, A collection of 150 documents from history
  • Maps of America the Beautiful – 30 maps in a saddle stitched glossy paperback book
  • Timeline of America the Beautiful – Starting from 1000 AD in a 57-page saddle stitched glossy paperback book
  • America the Beautiful Answer Key – 55 page saddle stitched glossy paperback book, includes answers to all of the books in the curriculum pak

You can choose to use either the Student Workbook or the Lesson Review, or you can use both, if you prefer:


For the review, I received the entire pak listed above.  This was everything we needed with the exception of a spiral-bound notebook I added to keep track of some of the written activities.



There is a chart inside the textbook that outlines suggested uses for each grade level from 5-8.  Of course, my children always turn things upside down - But, hey!  Whatever works, right?  The chart suggested that the teacher read aloud to 6th graders and that the lower grade range might prefer the Student Workbook, whereas the older students would probably prefer reading the material themselves and to work out of the Lesson Review book instead.

My children flipped this, with my 6th grader preferring to read the material herself and work both the Student Workbook and the Lesson Review booklet; while my 8th grader preferred to work the hands-on activities in the Student Workbook while I read the lesson aloud.







We started in Book 1, but saw toward the end of Book 2 that there was a lesson about Homeschooling in America, so since I wanted to see what Book 2 was like also - for the sake of the review - We jumped ahead and read this lesson as well.

 







My son, even though he is entering the 8th grade, was most excited about the activities in the Student Workbook.  This one captured his interest because the Golden Railroad Spike happened "This Day in History" on his birth date.

The Literature hardcover book that comes with the curriculum pak is called We The People.  The book is edited by Bethany Poore, and is such a nice addition to an already comprehensive curriculum package.  The addition of this book turns the entire learning sessions into history lessons that encompass literature as well.

It contains tons of documents straight out of history.  Here's some examples of what's included, and I found these to be very fascinating.  Some of the documents included in this book, such as the ones written by the American Indian who later took on an American name, Charles Alexander Eastman, I had never known about.




The Timeline booklet corresponds with the activities at the end of each lesson, asking students to fill in information and color pictures that relate to historical periods.  It is really nice and concise.  I completely prefer this format to the long hallway filled with paper stuck to my walls.  This way, the entire historical timeline is contained inside one easy-access booklet. 


The Lesson Review booklet is a glossy plastic spiral bound workbook that is in fill-in-the-blanks test/summary format.  My 6th grader likes this kind of question summary books.






The Map book includes maps of the United States and beyond.  There are activity instructions included for the lessons.  Some of the map pages are used for multiple lessons, adding additional steps with each additional lesson.  This one below, for instance, asked the student to color in the Great Lakes for one lesson and to color Cape Code area on another, and it then had additional activities for future lessons that we have not yet covered.


At the end of each lesson, there are a list of activities.  Some of them include things to do with the family, and some of them include creative writing.  The lesson activities say to use a separate piece of paper, or notebook.  I decided to just set aside a spiral-bound notebook for these activities.

I really liked how many of these activities summed up the lessons asking students to reflect how they relate spiritually, from a biblical perspective.








Please read what other members of the Review Crew thought of this curriculum and of other products from the Notgrass Company, here, or click on the picture below:

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