Review: “Our 50 States” by Notgrass History

We are nearly to the end of our lessons with Notgrass History‘s Our 50 States, and it has been an amazing course. We have absolutely loved this curriculum, and it has been the most engaging history course we’ve ever tried! The kids get so excited each time we sit down for a lesson!  I am also sharing some of the resources we used to supplement this curriculum. (Note, I will say right off the bat that it doesn’t *need* any supplements, we just added a few extra things for fun!)

 

The Curriculum

 

The “Our 50 States” curriculum is designed for grades 1-4. I bought the workbooks with my two 1st graders and 3rd grader in mind, but we quickly found that my pre-school age twins loved being a part of the lessons as well! You can purchase the Curriculum Package (main book, atlas workbook, lesson review, & answer key) and the Literature Package (includes the 6 recommended books pictured + Rabbit Hill) separately or as a bundle. I chose to buy the Bundle and added on the additional workbook & lesson reviews we needed.

The course can be completed without the additional literature, as the books are not tied directly into the lessons. However they do add value to learning about the different regions as each book correlates with different areas of the United States. Our favorite stories have been Soft Rain & The Story of George Washington Carver so far. We had a hard time getting into Rabbit Hill (not pictured): the story is written in a style that was awkward to read and was hard for the kids to follow and pay attention to. (We ended up not bothering to finish that one.)

 

The Textbook

 

Each state’s lesson is divided into two sections: The first sections covers several different facts and locations within the state including the capital. The second section, “A Song and Story of…” shares the story of someone from that state as well as a historical song from the state. These two sections are designed to be done 1 per day, covering 2 states (4 days) per week, and then reading a little bit of the related book per day as well. We found that we preferred to read the whole state in one lesson (around 20 minutes, depending on how well the kiddos were listening that day) and added in the extra literature reading  throughout the week. This also made it easier to alternate days for History and Science.

The text also includes various crafts and recipes related to the region or state you are learning, woven throughout the book. The kids loved trying many of the different treats and foods mentioned throughout the text and in the activities!

 

The Workbooks

The Curriculum package (& bundle) include the Atlas Workbook and Lesson Review Book. The main textbook instructs you to when to do which activities after reading, but we found we preferred to fill out the Atlas Workbook while I was reading. This definitely helped the kids pay more attention as they were listening for the facts or story that correlated to what they needed to color. I often made copies of the map workbook pages for my twins/preschool so they could follow along and color as well (the workbooks of course went out of stock when i realized the twins could easily have used them too!)

We also ended up not using our lesson review after the first lesson (the instructions in the textbook are worded “if you are using the lesson review…” suggesting to me they consider it optioning as well.) I found they retained more discussing each element as we went rather that trying to recall it at the end. That being said, if you have more upper elementary children, or want to try having them fill in the blanks during the lesson as we did with the Atlas workbook that could be very useful as well! And of course, you can use these as instructed, I am just sharing what we found worked best for my kiddos and their ages.

 

Supplements

 

Youtube: One of my goals was to have the kids be able to name all the states and capitals by the end of the year. There are several different songs we tried, but the one that seemed to be the best for helping them remember is 50 States and Capitals Song by Hopscotch. We have started most days listening to this song, and the kids know it well now!

Chalkboard: The beginning of the main book has a bright and colorful map for reference, so an extra map isn’t needed, but I liked being able to fill in the states as we went. The company that made our chalkboard has closed their shop, but even a simple print out blank map could do the job if you wanted to fill in as you go! I also found a similar USA chalkboard from Rainbow Resource.

Books: We also already had a couple of Usborne books on hand related to the course, so of course we had to use them!

 

 

Conclusion

The curriculum also includes many scriptures throughout and the personal stories often reflect how God worked in real individuals lives. I also really appreciate how they were careful handling sensitive topics such slavery and Native Americans by not glossing over them, but sharing age-appropriate stories of their struggles and trials in our history.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this course! We did some minor tweaks to make it work for us, and this kids have learned SO much! Everything is broken down into very manageable sections that can be done throughout the week or just a couple times a week like we did. The additional literature was a little hit and miss with us, but it’s still so good to expose your kids to a variety of books, so I really appreciate the variety we were able to read through.

 

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