Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Notgrass Company~America the Beautiful {Schoolhouse Review Crew}

History is one of our favorite subjects here at Rossmont, at least for some of us. Typically, our favorite method of learning history is through reading living books, watching videos, and attending living history events, such as Civil War Reenactments, or visiting historic plantations, or the Indian mounds in Natchez, etc.

I have heard of the Notgrass Company for quite some time, mainly their Record Keeping products. When we were offered the opportunity to try out their America the Beautiful curriculum package, I jumped at the chance! We also received one copy each of America the Beautiful student workbook (for grades 5 & 6), and America the Beautiful lesson review (for grades 7 & 8).
Ray and Charlene Notgrass began homeschooling in 1990, and began publishing homeschool curriculum in 1999. Ray has a Master's in history, and enjoys writing. Charlene is a 20-year homeschooling veteran. Together they have authored several homeschooling resources. Their grown children also help with the company.

America the Beautiful curriculum is designed to be a one-year American History, geography, and literature course for your grade 5-8 (or age 10-14) student.

The curriculum package includes two textbooks, which are written in a conversational, pleasant to read, style. They cover American history, beginning around 1000 A.D., and end in current, modern history. The texts are filled with illustrations and photographs, which make them appealing to us visual learners.

Also included is a book called, We the People: Words from the Makers of American History, which is a compilation of readings from original source documents, such as journals, newspaper articles, poems, etc.

You'll also find copies of Timeline of America the Beautiful, Maps of America the Beautiful, and America the Beautiful Answer Key. For our review we also received one each of America the Beautiful Student Workbook, and America the Beautiful Lesson Review, which are...well, workbooks.
The boys have been working on this together, with me reading the text aloud to them. I've chosen to have them working together on this, even though Little Bit is "technically" only 4th grade this year, but he is 11. I did purchase another copy of the Maps of America the Beautiful ($8.95), so each boy would have his own copy.

Often Botanist Boy will work on the map activities in his book while I am reading aloud, which frustrates Little Bit sometimes. He isn't reading fluently enough yet to be able to read all of the instructions himself, and has to wait for me to read them aloud to him. Occasionally, Botanist Boy will allow him to copy from his book...if he isn't feeling too ornery or uncharitable at the time. <rolls eyes>

Botanist Boy fills in the timeline information in the Timeline book, while I help Little Bit fill in the big timeline book we already had. Then he works independently in the Lesson Review while either Jen or I help Little Bit with the Student Workbook.

I like the way the text is laid out. Each unit begins with an overview, then is divided into five daily lessons (so typically you could cover a unit a week). One thing I like is that at the end of each lesson is listed the activities for that lesson: the pages you will do in the maps, timeline, workbook and lesson review books, as well as what you'll read from We the People. Often there will be Thinking Biblically, Vocabulary, or Creative Writing suggestions, as well as an additional literature resource: such as The Sign of the Beaver, Across Five Aprils, or Little Town on the Prairie. There are also several Family Activities suggested throughout the texts, which are fun to do.

Our Iroquoian Longhouse wasn't quite as long as the book suggested we make it. The boys enjoyed working on it anyway! The only gumdrops I could find in this town were spicy ones...and we don't like "spicy" that much, so now we don't know what to do with all these leftover spicy gumdrops! LOL

My only complaint is the textbooks are so large and heavy, my hands hurt when I hold them while reading aloud. LOL You see, I have to sit in my nice, comfy chair beside my bed while I read; the boys use my bed as their "desk." I also have to hold the book at arm's length, thanks to my aging eyes. <sigh>

The boys are enjoying America the Beautiful well enough, that they want to continue using it throughout this school year! I like the added literature aspect, as well, since the literature approach to learning has always been a part of our homeschool journey.

I've also been eying some of their other products as well. Maybe Botanist Boy will be using these resources during his high school journey!

Be sure to read the rest of the Crew reviews, because besides those of us who received America the Beautiful, others received various Draw to Learn products.

Cost: The America the Beautiful curriculum package can be purchased for $99.95. America the Beautiful Student workbook costs $11.95, and the America the Beautiful Lesson Review costs $9.95.

Contact Information:
Notgrass Company
975 Roaring River Rd.
Gainesboro, TN 38562
Phone: 800-211-8793



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  1. Thank you for reviewing our curriculum, and thank you for homeschooling!

  2. Thank you for stopping by, John. It truly is our pleasure to be using America the Beautiful; thank you for allowing us this privilege!


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