Notgrass Exploring America: A Curriculum Review

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As an American, it seems almost logical for one’s first venture into the study of history to begin with the study of our country. And if you are going to study the history of America, it seems almost logical to begin with Notgrass Exploring America. So, that is where our history study begins.

Notgrass Exploring America is one of five high school-level history courses, written by Ray Notgrass. The other high school studies in the ninth through twelfth-grade series include Exploring World History, Exploring World Geography, Exploring Government, and Exploring Economics.

Although most students begin with World History as their first level of high school history, all of the Notgrass series for elementary school, middle school, and high school, may be used in any order preferred. Each book in the series is independent of the others.

So, if you feel daring, as we did, starting your high school history study with Exploring America is fine.

Notgrass Exploring America - textbooks

The Complete High School U.S. History Curriculum covers American history from when Columbus set sail to the present (or at least through 2019). The curriculum was updated from its last print in 2014 and walks students from Columbus through Reconstruction to the Late 1800s and onto the Present, through 2019 and includes the presidency of Donald Trump.

One of the main features of the Notgrass curriculum that makes it so appealing to parents is it covers three subjects – Bible, literature, and history – providing an all-in-one learning experience where the student can earn up to three high school credits by using just one curriculum.

I will tell you, finding a curriculum for each subject in high school can be tedious and Notgrass eliminates the need to search for additional resources. Although the three subjects easily weave through each other, the history portion can be studied independently, and the student will still get a thorough education in American history.

The Notgrass Exploring America Curriculum Package comes with three textbooks:

  • Part 1 – Columbus Through Reconstruction
  • Part 2 – Late 1800s to The Present
  • American Voices – Original Documents, Speeches, Poems, Stories, and Hymns from American History
Notgrass Exploring America - inside the book

The books are hardcover, and the layout of these Notgrass Exploring America textbooks is the same as in the Notgrass series of student history studies. Notgrass has a rhythm in its presentation of its curriculum, and it is one I like.

The curriculum has 30 units, each that are laid out the same way. The units begin with a brief summary, a title overview of the five daily lessons that will be covered in the unit, as well as the Memory Work (if earning the Bible credit), and Books Used in that unit.

It also includes a Unit Project with a variety of activities (ex: essay writing and writing prompts, art and video creations, jigsaw puzzle design, etc.) to enhance what is learned in the unit. The ideas of projects are ones that will appeal to any type of student, writer, artist, photographer, etc. 

The daily lessons are organized in a manner that provides the student with a schedule of what should be completed each day. Depending on the components (literature – book selection and Bible – Bible and learning memory verses) you plan to complete will determine which books your student will read from the list.

If your student is completing the literature component of the curriculum, the literature list includes the following titles:

Part 1:

Part 2: 

I really love the selection of literature that is part of the study as it includes a good cross selection of titles challenging the presence and overcoming of sin, an autobiography of a former slave, teaching the importance of individuality, and more.

Most of the titles cover several units, but there are a few like the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, read in Unit 8 – Growing Pains, that cover the Westward expansion, slavery, and the Missouri Compromise; and Unit 27 – The 1970s that brings us closer to the present discussing the Nixon Administration and the infamous Watergate scandal, and abortion rights with Roe vs. Wade.

If your student has already read some of the titles (or not), which is possible, or the parent may consider the content of the book to be appropriate, other titles are suggested for the student to read instead of the assigned book for a unit. The suggestions stay in focus with the unit it covers.

Notgrass Exploring America - picture of inside pages

I also really like how Notgrass Exploring America includes readings in the American Voices textbook from people who lived during the period of the study. We hear from John Smith from as early as 1616 with a “Description of New England” and as far into history as 2014 from President Barack Obama with “Remarks at the 70th Anniversary of D-Day”.

Other notable readings come from The Legend of Rip Van Winkle (Washington Irving 1819), Poems from Emily Dickinson (19th Century), and Speech Before the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition (Booker T. Washington 1895).

“Although the material is written for the student to work through independently, I have to admit, I found myself every once in a while, taking a peek and reading a few pages of some of the chapters, because of the interesting content from our American history.”

The “What Else Was Happening?” section is a great reference for significant occurrences in American history. It could be called trivia, but it is a great way to learn historical facts and it prompted interest in doing additional research about the different events in history.

Notgrass Exploring America - picture of inside pages

Notgrass Exploring America Supplemental Material

The Guide for Parents and Answer Key includes the answers for all of the unit and lesson questions, quizzes, and exams for the Bible, English, and History studies.

Student Review, Quiz and Exam book, and answer key

The Quiz and Exam Book has weekly unit quizzes, and exams for the Bible, English, and History components. Quizzes are done after each unit and the exams are done every five units. There will be an exam for Bible, an exam for English, and an exam for History after every five units.

Lesson and literature review questions, Bible commentary, and literary analysis assignments are included in the Student Review Book.

The review pack is optional, and your student could complete the History portion of the course without it. But as with all Notgrass curriculla, the review pack is a great way to reinforce what your child is learning, especially If they complete the literature and Bible components of the course. 

One thing about history is that it does not change. What makes one history curriculum different from another is how the history is told. Ray Notgrass does not just put words on the paper. With Notgrass Exploring America, Ray Notgrass brings to life the stories of the past through a beautiful selection of pictures, introduces students to voices of people whose experiences reveal a connection to the present, includes a variety of literature that prompts thought-provoking conversation, and sparks creativity through projects that allow students to present “in their own words” what they have learned. 

Read Our Other Notgrass Curriculum Reviews:

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