Notgrass Company: America the Beautiful {TOS review}



The Notgrass Company is truly a family-owned business with a long history of homeschooling behind it (more than 20 years) as well as ahead as the next generation of Notgrasses begin to raise their own families. Ray and Charlene Notgrass are the founders of the company, which has been producing “ materials centered in His Word that help parents train their children to honor God with heart, soul and mind” since 1999 after homeschooling for nearly 10 years.

Parents can find curriculum for students in grades kindergarten through the twelfth to satisfy studies in history, geography and literature like the America the Beautiful series we were able to review. Charlene Notgrass wrote the main textbooks that come with accompanying books that are authored by her daughters, Bethany and Mary Evelyn (Mev), and husband, Ray truly making the Notgrass Company a family affair.

I will have to say that the company was very generous (as are many of the vendors we review) with their products. I received the America the Beautiful series and it was full of a lot of hard-back, well-constructed textbooks. The America the Beautiful curriculum package includes:

• America the Beautiful Part 1
• America the Beautiful Part 2
• We the People
• Maps of America the Beautiful
• Timeline of America the Beautiful
• America the Beautiful Answer Key

Along with the America the Beautiful package books, we received the following:

• America the Beautiful Student Workbook (see sample)
• America the Beautiful Lesson Review (see sample)
• Maps of America the Beautiful (see sample)
• Timeline of America the Beautiful (see sample)
• America the Beautiful Answer Key (see sample) not shown

If anything, the quality of the books are enough to whew you towards the curriculum. I will also say that the books are also as beautiful as the country we are studying.

Another available option is the literature books (we didn’t receive) that accompany the lessons, which you may purchase as a package or individually.

Don’t fear the textbook!
When it has come to studying history, I have pretty much veered away from the standard textbook curriculum. I enjoyed creating my own studies and making something that is exciting and fun for my children to work through. I did not know what to expect regarding America the Beautiful from the Notgrass Company.

The curriculum is geared towards students ages 10-14 years of age or fifth through the eighth grades. I must admit that when I opened the box, I thought about how much the books reminded me of the textbooks I used in school while growing up. The difference is that the content is not as dry and boring as I remember about the books from my school days.

River was the one who received the chance to work through the material. I am going to purchase the additional workbooks to use with Lily who will be joining us in our study through America this year, because the curriculum is kind of like awesome.

There are 75 lessons in both volumes that are written to be completed daily. I think that the pace is adequate for the targeted age range, but I was not ready to move at that pace, so I broke each lesson up to be covered over a two-day period. It will take a little bit longer to cover the material over the school year, but I wanted to do all of the activities that include exercises like Thinking Biblically, Literature, Creative Writing, Map Study and more, which are part of the lessons (see sample units of book one and sample units of book two). The literature books that compliment the curriculum are a plus and I want to be sure to have time to read the ones we have not yet read. There are a total of 30 units combined in each book with five lessons per unit, which comes to about 30 weeks of lessons if you follow the schedule.

The units in book one cover the period of America before the European invasion through the Civil War (1000-1877) and the units in book two cover the continued growth of America to the present (late 1800s – 2011). The books are full of history and can become a page turner as it did for River, who decided to read ahead.
Besides what I have already mentioned, some of the things that I really like about the curriculum are the following:

• The Biblical-base and Biblical world-view of the material.
• It is well laid out taking the student through a progressive and orderly walk through American history. There is much that is covered, but not too much to overwhelm the student.
• Additional exercises (i.e. mapping, pieces from We the People, etc.) are well labeled, so you know when to include them in your lessons.
• The activities (i.e. creative writing, mapping, etc.)

As we progress through the material, I may catch us up to speed and try completing one lesson a day.

On a side note, I remember learning about John (Ray and Charlene’s son) and Audra Notgrass’ son, Avery John Notgrass, who passed away in 2012. In Avery’s final days, prayer requests came through on a homeschool loop on which I participate, probably because I live in the same state as the family. Immediately following Avery’s death, John and Audra continued to share their faith as did John’s parents, which impressed me durng such a tragic time. I think that speaks volumes about the heart that is behind the Notgrass Company and the curriculum they write and publish.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The America the Beautiful curriculum package is available for $99.95 and I would say that it is worth every penny. The books that make up the package as well as the additional books we received may be purchased separately. If you plan to use the curriculum, then I would suggest that the least you purchase is the curriculum package.

You can read more reviews of this item by fellow crew members on The Homeschool Crew Blog.


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