Sunday, August 11, 2013

America The Beautiful by Charlene Notgrass - a Review

A review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew about the America The Beautiful Curriculum by Charlene Notgrass reviewed by Arlene Emmert, age 13, (and her Mom!)
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 America the Beautiful was originally published in 2011 by Notgrass Company, the two student texts were written by Mrs. Charlene Notgrass. The supplementary books are; Timeline of America the Beautiful written by Charlene and her husband Ray, We the People: Words from the Makers of American History, edited by Bethany Poore, America the Beautiful Student Workbook and America The Beautiful Lesson Review both written by Mary Evelyn McCurdy. The curriculum is available from the publishers, Notgrass Company for $99.95. This includes: America the Beautiful parts 1 and 2, We the People, Timeline of America The Beautiful, Maps of America the Beautiful, and the America the Beautiful answer key. Two additional books I recommend are the Student Workbook ($11.95) and the Lesson Review ($9.95.)

Inside the Student Workbook

The books were fun, I liked We the People and the Student Workbook the best. The maps were also fun, learning about the land divided up as it was back then. The Timeline was also cool once I started using it. I did not much like the Lesson Review book, but that is more because of my personality than the book, as it is still a great tool. 

Inside the Lesson Review

Inside We the People
Each lessons takes about one hour. 20 minutes is reading, and the other 40 is doing the various workbooks and activities. It is divided into Units, which are then divided into lessons. The first Unit is about the Indians that lived here in North America. It describes their way of life. The second Unit is about when the Spanish came, and the third unit is about when the French and the English came. The Units are each 5 lessons long, or about one week. At the end of each unit there is a 'Family Activity' that goes with each unit. These are crafts, games, or activities that range from building an Indian Longhouse out of gumdrops and toothpicks, to going into the kitchen and making Indian flatbread or Southern Plantation dinners. You can also make a Pocahontas museum, become a Niagra Falls tour guide, do dancing and singing, make paper airplanes, have a family game night, learn about a President and his family, make your own coins, and even celebrate with a party when you are done.
Family Activities

Although there are a lot of great family activities, there are still a lot of fun things for the student to do with each lesson. Such as: copying Bible verses, coloring the maps, making their timeline, and reading We the People (a complementary text filled with American literature, speeches, songs, and radio and TV reports that the child reads from during each lesson.) There are also two books that are sold separately, one is the Student Workbook. It has word puzzles and games that go with each lesson.  The second is the Lesson Review, which has questions to go with each lesson to help the child remember what they learned. Maps of America the Beautiful has maps separated into areas as it would have looked during the time you are studying. You color different sections of the map as the lessons go on. The Timeline you do not use every lesson, but when you do, you copy one or two short sentences out of the main textbook to the box labelled with the correct year.  

The Timeline book is illustrated with black and white blackline pictures like those in a coloring book, that depending on whether you wish it or not, you can have your child color them in. The main textbooks are 2 parts. Part one, America from 1000 -1877. Part two, America from the late 1800's through the present.

From Mom (Carol)
I gave Arlene the box of books, and told her to let me know if she had any questions. As you progress through the curriculum, there are 10 outside literature books for your student to read. Most of these can be found at your local library, but are also available from Notgrass for $59.95. Since Arlene had read one of the first two titles this past year (Amos Fortune Free Man) and we own the first one (The Sign of the Beaver) this was an open and go curriculum. The student texts clearly outline what the students should accomplish for each lesson, including telling them when to read from the outside literature selections.

Other than the family activities, Arlene was able to accomplish everything on her own...with some gentle reminders from me. She did admit, it would be easier to do during the school year, because she found it more difficult to focus when the great summer weather was beckoning her outdoors. Rest assured, she was richly rewarded for her efforts on this review. :)

The American the Beautiful course is designed for students in grades 5-8. Your younger students may require more attention as they learn how to follow the lesson plans, your older students can be self- sufficient. I would label this a unit-study approach wrapped into a textbook. Arlene's favorite part was the We the People book. It might be my favorite too. The excerpts in it vary, and include a wide range of sources. Arlene pointed out to me that if you had two or more students in the same age range doing this, you would only need one set of the texts and We the People, and could just purchase them their own timeline book , maps book, and either a workbook or lesson review. (I gave Arlene both the Student Workbook and the Lesson Review, but it is recommended that you choose one or the other for your student.) Some do better with activities, many older students do better with the Lesson Review where they can write the answers out in their own words.

Cost can be a real factor when deciding what to use for history for your students. If you are going to use this, I would definitely recommend purchasing the Curriculum package @ $99.95 for the six main books. If you choose not to purchase either the Student Workbook or Lesson Review book, know that it will mean you as the parent need to spend more time reviewing the materials covered each day/ week with your children. For Middle School aged students, this could definitely cover both History and Literature. While Notgrass also offers a High School level American History course, Exploring America, I feel that if you have a challenged student, you could adapt this level and use it for High school as well.

We had not used any resources from Notgrass before this review, and I will say I was pleasantly surprised with this curriculum. I had thought it might require more work from me than it did, and it could be a great resource to recommend to families new to homeschooling who have no idea where or how to start.


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