There are fewer things in homeschooling I am pickier about than the study of American History.
So much curriculum today is rife with progressive ideas and revisionist ideology. I am not interested in either. What I am interested in is teaching America’s providential history. It is for this reason that we have managed to skip most curriculum and just learn history from living books, unit studies, and original source documents.
Until now, thanks to Notgrass Company. I am so thankful that Notgrass asked us to take a look at their middle school American History curriculum, America the Beautiful.
Notgrass Company exists to glorify God by producing materials centered in His Word that help parents train their children to honor God with heart, soul, and mind. Charlene Notgrass has written an American History curriculum that meets my high expectations for teaching this important subject based on a biblical worldview and God’s providence.
America the Beautiful is a one-year course for students age 10-14 (approximately grades 5-8). We received all of the following to use in our homeschool:
America the Beautiful Part 1: America from 1000 to 1877 — one of the two main textbooks for this curriculum, designed to be completed in one semester. It begins with the way of life in America before Europeans discovered it and continues through the first years of the Civil War.
American the Beautiful Part 2: America from the Late 1800s to the Present — the second of the main textbooks, also designed to be completed in one semester. This book begins with westward expansion and continues through to modern times.
We the People — a collection of original letters, poems, songs, stories and other writings. My personal favorite of all of the books!
Timeline of America the Beautiful — a timeline of American history designed specifially to include facts learned in America the Beautiful.
Maps of America the Beautiful — a book with maps, drawn especially to accompany the curriculum.
America the Beautiful Lesson Review — (optional) a book of daily questions, literature review questions, and weekly quizzes, designed for older students.
America the Beautiful Student Workbook — (optional) a book of puzzles and other activities which review information learned in the daily lessons, designed for younger students.
America the Beautiful Answer Key — includes answers for the Timeline, Student Workbook, Lesson Review, and the vocabulary assignments included in the main text.
Not included in what we received, but required for the program are 10 works of literature assigned during the year to enrich the study. These wonderful selections include titles such as The Sign of the Beaver, Amos Fortune: Free Man, Across Five Aprils, and Homer Price.
America the Beautiful combines textbook with a modified unit study approach. I know that sounds odd. And with many textbooks, it would be. But these books are not your usual textbooks. They are gorgeous, full-color, hard cover, living books, written conversationally and filled with rich vocabulary and interesting full-color pictures. The curriculum combines history, geography and literature, which I very much appreciate. I enjoy knocking out as many subjects as possible with one curriculum.
It’s the unit study teacher in me.
Together, the two America the Beautiful books contain 30 units (15 in each book) for a total of 150 lessons, to cover all of American history chronologically in one school year, each unit covering a different time period. Each unit is divided into daily lessons, incorporating all of the books listed above for different assignments.
Provided is a sample schedule based on grade level, encouraging more independence with each level. For example, at the grade 5 level, the parent is doing much of the reading aloud, with the student completing the written assignments, map work and timeline entries. The parent also chooses which Bible Study, Vocabulary, and Creative Writing activities the student will do during the week. By grade 8, the student is working completely independently, doing all of the reading and assignments without help.
Lessons are designed to be completed on a 5-day per week schedule. However, we don’t homeschool on a 5-day schedule. We generally work 4 days per week, and because we were trying this curriculum during the summer off months, we only spent 2-3 days per week, completing about one Unit every 2 weeks. It would be simple to continue on this schedule and complete one book per year rather than per semester. I think is more doable for us and great way to use America the Beautiful.
The design of America the Beautiful is such that Ben can do much of the work independently, but I often have him read aloud to me and I kept a close eye on his written work, an area in which he doesn’t always work diligently. We did purchase the literature books required, so we would have full benefit of the program.
There is no extra Teacher Guide because all of the assignments are built into the textbooks. Each lesson begins with readings from the textbook — generally the equivalent of 3-4 pages (and some great photo captions). After the reading, there are several activity choices. The activity choices are where the other supplemental books come into play. Examples of these activities include:
Bible Reading — often includes notebooking assignments
Map Study — completing map activities such as labeling in the Maps book
Literature — reading from We the People or the literature selection
Creative Writing — this might be choosing a photo from the book to write about, or writing a letter as Pocahontas
Lessons from the Student Workbook or Lesson Review
Vocabulary — this sometimes includes dictionary work for a list of vocabulary words and writing sentences
Family Activities — discussions, cooking, and other hands-on projects are assigned weekly
There are generally 5 activities offered per day and how many of those assignments are completed has been at our desgression. Younger children might only complete 2, while older students like Ben should be able to complete them all. Most days, Ben completes all 5 assignments.
We created a notebook using a 2 inch binder. Ben uses the notebook to house writing, vocabulary, and Bible Study assignments. I also have plans to cut the bindings from the Maps and Timelines books and 3-hole punch those for inclusion in Ben’s notebook.
While I am a huge fan of the way this program is designed for independent learning, with interesting, challenging, and fun assignments, it is the biblical worldview that is most impressive. The book is peppered throughout with biblical references and seamless transitions into a God-honoring worldview. For example, when we were studying about different Native American tribes, it was mentioned that the word “Hopi” means peaceful person and that this tribe generally lived in peace unless they were attacked. This story immediately transitioned into God’s desire for us all to seek peace according to Psalm 34. One of the activities Ben completed on this day was copying several “peaceful” verses into his notebook.
I am so impressed with this curriculum that we will continue using it as our spine for Ben’s 7th-grade year. One of my main goals for the new school year is to move Ben toward more independent learning with excellence, and I am convinced that America the Beautiful is the perfect way to begin meeting that goal. There is virtually no preparation required either — a huge plus for the procrastinator non-planner in me.
As Americans, we are in the unique position of living in a country founded upon biblical principles. It is so imperative that we pass along this legacy to our children. America the Beautiful is a beautiful way to begin that process.
We think you’ll love America the Beautiful, too. You can purchase it by clicking on the links below:
Literature Package :
- The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare (Units 4-5)
- Amos Fortune: Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (Units 6-7)
- Brady by Jean Fritz (Units 9-10)
- Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen (Units 12-13)
- Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt (Units 14-15)
- Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Units 16-17)
- All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (Units 19-20)
- Blue Willow by Doris Gates (Units 21-22)
- Homer Price by Robert McCloskey (Unit 25)
- Katy by Mary Evelyn Notgrass (Units 29-30)
If you enjoyed this review of Notgrass America the Beautiful, you may also enjoy learning about these 80 Free Living History Books for Kindle.