Notgrass History’s America the Beautiful is an interactive and captivating homeschool history program perfect for middle school children. Reading, writing, map skills, poetry, and hands-on activities make it a hit for our daughter!
I don’t remember ever really enjoying history in school, even until the day I graduated high school. Something happened in between then and becoming a homeschool mom, because history is one of my favorite subjects now.
When I was offered the opportunity to review America the Beautiful from Notgrass History as part of being a Timberdoodle blogger, I admit I was hesitant at first. It seemed a bit textbook-ish, and I have this thing against homeschool textbooks. They’re boring, amiright?
But after looking the program over more and mentally giving it a chance, I decided we could try it.
And I’m so glad we did! It’s quite different from what I thought it would be and isn’t at all the dry textbook/workbook program I worried it might be. Best of all, my oldest daughter adores it.
America the Beautiful Books
The history program comes with two very hefty hardback books like textbooks, but much more narrative and interactive. They might seem overwhelming to a child who’s had a bad experience with dry textbooks, but since that hasn’t been the case in our home, my oldest two children were actually thrilled to see how massive the books are!
The reading sections for each lesson are very doable. There are plenty of illustrations and photographs included, so although the books are quite large, my daughter has been surprised by how many pages she covers in each lesson.
After each day’s reading, there are some assignments to do. These are actually quite enjoyable! Map work, vocabulary work (okay, maybe that’s not always thrilling), creative writing, timeline work, or extra literature reading might be included.
What got me interested in the program is the extra book called We the People. It’s a collection of reprinted newspaper articles, journal entries, photographs, letters, and other historic documents that allow children to “hear” from the people they read about.
A workbook featuring maps and one featuring a timeline completes the set. I appreciate the attention to geography because on the whole, many of us aren’t great with maps. The timeline helps children understand the continuity of history.
Timberdoodle includes America the Beautiful as part of their 5th Grade Curriculum Package, and I think that’s a very accurate guideline for the reading level. Both my daughter, who is 11, and my son, who is 9, find the material engaging and on-level. However, my son enjoys reading World War II adult encyclopedia’s, so take that into consideration if you have a child his age.
America the Beautiful Projects
There are five lessons in one unit, and children do a unit a week. At the end of every unit is a family project that the children can share with everyone in the home. These have become my favorite part, and my children work really hard on them.
One of the first project assignments was to build a longhouse with toothpicks and gummy drops. Now, this might be shocking to you, but we didn’t have any gummy drops in our house and I wasn’t about to buy any.
Instead, I suggested they pull out their Engino set and make a longhouse with those. Winner! That actually worked perfectly, and I was pleasantly surprised to watch them figure it out without any plans.
Navajo flatbread was another project. My daughter was so, so, so excited to make this for the whole family! The directions for every project are very thorough, so I only had to supervise from a distance.
My son helped with frying and flipping the flatbread, but I think he enjoyed drumming on them while he waited more.
We all ate eggs on the flatbread after they were complete. School projects that you eat are always winners!
By far, this has been my favorite project, and I think they’ve been the proudest of this one, too. They created their own museum all about Pocahontas, using items from our home and making their own for the displays.
Miss L, my oldest, was the very joyous museum curator who welcomed the family to the exhibition. Mr. M, the intimidating figure who is armed (it’s a model, don’t panic) and in camo, served as museum security.
That copy of the Pocahontas portrait on the far left? Wow! I was pretty impressed with that one. Miss L worked really hard on it.
Each of the little exhibits had a museum “plaque” describing the object or artifact and explaining its importance. I thought this was such a unique way to have the children share what they learned!
I spy a chubby baby belly…
I love that America the Beautiful doesn’t require a teacher manual and really is self-taught. It reminds me a lot of Apologia’s science series for children, so if you like that, this is right up your alley!
America the Beautiful leaves me a bit torn. I love getting history books from the library and doing our own projects. But my daughter just loves how this program is laid out, and I have been really impressed with all they are learning. It’s something I could wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who doesn’t want to take a DIY approach to homeschool history.
I think we’ll go back to our usual history routine when we finish this series. I think. But for now, as we do a little bit of schoolwork during the summer months, America the Beautiful is going to play a starring role.
Have you ever used a set from Notgrass History?
I’m delighted to be a Timberdoodle review blogger this year! For this review, Timberdoodle supplied the America the Beautiful set, but I was not compensated monetarily. All opinions are enthusiastically mine.