Monday, August 12, 2013

Review: America the Beautiful

America the Beautiful is an American history and geography course for students in grades 5 through 8.  It was written by Charlene Notgrass of the Notgrass Company.  We received the America the Beautiful Curriculum Package  for review, and this consists of two hardcover textbooks (America the Beautiful Part 1 and America the Beautiful Part 2), We the People, Timeline of America the Beautiful, Maps of America the Beautiful, and an Answer Key.  We also received America the Beautiful Lesson Review and America the Beautiful Student Workbook. In addition, there is a literature package available for purchase.

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America the Beautiful is a chronological study of American history. It begins with a unit on Native Americans, and continues through the election of President Barack Obama. America the Beautiful Part 1 covers America from 1000 through the last 1800s, while America the Beautiful Part 2 covers from the late 1800s through present day. There are 75 lessons in the first book and 75 lessons in the second book (15 units with 5 lessons each), and each book is designed to be completed in a semester. The books are loaded with pictures and photographs, and the text is written directly to the student. 

Each lesson is only a few pages long, so it does not take a lot of time to read the daily lessons. There are five different lesson types:  “Our American Story”, “God’s Wonders”, “An American Landmark”, “An American Biography”, and “Daily Life”.  The “Our American Story” lessons teach about major events, “God’s Wonders” lessons describe a remarkable place in America, “An American Landmark” lessons teach about significant places in America, “An American Biography” lessons tell about a famous person, and “Daily Life” lessons describe the day-to-day life of people who lived during the time period being studied. Each unit typically contains one of each lesson type.

Each lesson ends with a list of activities, including writing assignments, vocabulary assignments, family activities, “Thinking Biblically” assignments, and assignments from the timeline book, map book, student workbook, or lesson review workbook. Mrs. Notgrass expects you to pick and choose from the list of activities.  In addition, a
fter many lessons in the America the Beautiful textbooks, the student is asked to read a something out of the book We the People. This book contains the text of various letters, documents, songs, speeches, articles, and other original source documents that are important to our nation’s history.

Maps of America the Beautiful contains various maps of the country that coordinate with many of the daily lessons. Students are asked to look at the maps and label or color during the lessons. Timeline of America the Beautiful will allow students to fill in events important to America’s history. There are various dates preprinted in the book for the student to reference.  The America the Beautiful Student Workbook is filled with various puzzles, drawing activities, word searches, and other activities that reinforce what was studied. There is one activity for each lesson. The America the Beautiful Lesson Review contains lesson review questions and questions from the books in the literature package. It also contains quizzes for every unit. The Answer Key includes answers for the Timeline, Student Workbook, Lesson Review, and the vocabulary assignments from the main textbook.

I absolutely love this curriculum and used it with all my boys.  I read the lessons from the main text and the assigned readings from We the People.  Sign of the Beaver is used alongside Units 4 & 5, and the storyline dovetails perfectly with these units on Colonial Life.  I used the Lesson Review book with my older 3 boys (9th, 8th, 6th), and the Student Workbook with my younger 2 boys (4th, 2nd).  These books are not reproducible, so you'll need a copy for each student.  Using both these books with the same student would be overkill; I'd recommend the Lesson Review book for those in middle school, while the Student Workbook is great for those in late Elementary.  We worked on the Timeline and Maps together.  

This American history curriculum is fabulous and I look forward to finishing it with my younger 3 boys this year (I loved America the Beautiful so much that I purchased their high school American history program, Exploring America, for my older two boys). America the Beautiful is in-depth without being overwhelming, and I love that the layout and ease of use for me as the teacher (it's pretty much an open-and-go curriculum). There is a great mix of activities to keep the attention of various types of learners. At a price of $99.95 for the package, $11.95 for the Student Workbook, and $9.95 for the Lesson Review, the price is reasonable and the materials are high quality. I would definitely recommend you take a look at America the Beautiful if you’re looking to give your children a solid education in American history.

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For more reviews of America the Beautiful, along with Notgrass' Draw to Learn program , visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


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