If you have a high school student, you know how daunting it can be to find the right curriculum. There are lots of choices, along with different types and styles. Many have huge, thick teaching manuals, whereas others teach to the student without any help from the parent.
It sure is hard to find a balance, but I think I have found it with the Exploring America High School History and Literature curriculum written by Ray Notgrass.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a free product in return for my honest review. I was not financially compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the developing company and/or its affiliates in any way.
Exploring America is a complete, one year long American history course for high school students from Notgrass History.
My daughter is in 10th grade. She is currently using this curriculum in a small high school co-op class. She does all the assignments and readings on her own at home. The class time is used to discuss what has been learned that week, review for exams, as well as encourage deep discussions on the literature books. There is so much great content in this course; it has been very enjoyable to discuss what they have learned in a group setting.
If your child is using this in your homeschool I recommend sitting down with your student at least once a week. This is a great way to go over some of the content with your child. It is very rich, and there are lots of subjects to explore and discuss further. Even though my daughter is attending a class once a week, I still sit down with her. We have had some very memorable discussions. She has enjoyed discussing some of the subject matter with her dad as well.
We are using the Exploring America Complete Bundle. This bundle includes:
Two history textbook spines – Volumes 1 and 2, American Voices, Student Review Book, Quiz and Exam Book, Answer Key.
Let’s take a look at how the curriculum is laid out:
There are 150 daily lessons that are divided into 30 units. Since most school years are 36 weeks, this gives you 6 weeks of flexibility to finish the curriculum. The authors are veteran homeschoolers, so they understand how busy homeschool families can be and allow you flexibility with the lessons. I can appreciate this greatly as we just took a full week off because our entire family was in a community theater musical. My daughter didn’t have to worry about being a week behind and trying to catch up before the end of our scheduled school year.
The history textbooks are beautiful, hard cover volumes with color photographs, art, maps and pictures. Part 1 covers Columbus through Reconstruction, Part 2 covers Late 1800s to Present (2019). The beginning of the book has a very detailed section on how to use the curriculum.
This curriculum is written directly to the student in an easy-to-understand format. My daughter is able to go through each lesson with little-to-no help from me, which is great for busy homeschooling families. It is suggested to sit down at the beginning of the week to go over the introduction with your student and help them plan out their schedule for the week. There is an introduction at the beginning of each unit which lets you know what the unit is about. It lists the lessons for the week, a Bible passage to memorize, and the books that will be used for that unit.
There is an introduction to the literature book that will be read over the course of the unit. Each lesson is even more detailed on what needs to be done for each day, like a reminder to read the literature selection. We take this time each week to add up how many chapters are in the book and divide it by how many days she needs to complete the book. This helps her to not get overwhelmed and to stay on track.
In regards to the student project: there are 3 choices for your student to choose from. My daughter likes that she has a choice. The projects range from academic to artsy, and cater to different learning styles, which is really nice. Some of the choices were writing a 300-500 page paper, making a video, or poster, creating and illustrating a children’s book about a famous president, cooking a meal from the time period studies, create a dramatized play and so on. They are challenging her to think outside of the box, and to try some different things she might not have tried before.
This book, along with the Bible, are what is used to accompany the history textbooks. American Voices really brings this curriculum to life. There are historical documents, speeches, essays, short stories, poetry and hymns. They tie into each lesson to give it more depth. This is another beautiful, full-color hardback book that makes a great addition to a homeschool library.
Student Review Book:
The student review book assignments are optional. There is so much depth to the readings, that some families may choose to opt-out of the student assignments. I think they add more depth and understanding, especially with the literature portion, so we do not skip these. There is a wonderful summary at the beginning of the book that breaks down how to analyze fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Students will learn about character and characterization, as well as a list of literary terms.
The review book is spiral bound. It includes review questions on each lesson, as well as questions from the American Voices readings and the literature books. My daughter has a nice thick, spiral bound notebook that is just for history. She uses it to record her answers to the review questions, as well as writing down what book she is working on and how many chapters per day she needs to read. She keeps all of her materials together in one basket with the book she is currently reading.
Quiz and Exam Book:
There are quizzes at the end of each unit that include 10-25 questions each. In order for your child to take the quiz, they need to study their review questions from the lessons for that week. The daily review questions work as a study guide for the quizzes. There is an exam after every 5 units. These are 40 questions long. It is recommended to study all of the quizzes to help to take the exam. There are also Bible exams and Literature exams.
My daughter struggled with the first history exam, as she got overwhelmed that it covered 5 units and she was afraid she forgot some of the material. After we graded it, she had only missed 4 questions, so she did much better than she thought. Now she knows that she needs to spend some more time studying the quizzes and looking over the review questions before she takes the test.
Literature Package with 12 American literature titles:
The literature package includes all 12 works of American literature needed to complete Exploring America. You can check out the books from the library or purchase them used, or try to find some of them for free on an e-reader. My package came with the books, which was really nice. They are brand new, and look great on a shelf. I didn’t have to search for a big list of used books, or remember to check them out from the library in time.
I love how these titles tie in with the different time periods being studied. It rounds the whole curriculum together in such a natural way. Some of these books are difficult to read. My daughter had a hard time with The Scarlet Letter, so I let her listen to that one on audio book.
Titles included are:
- The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
- Narrative of the Life of David Crockett (David Crockett)
- Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Frederick Douglass)
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
- Co. Aytch (Sam Watkins)
- Humorous Stories and Sketches (Mark Twain)
- In His Steps (Charles Sheldon)
- Up From Slavery (Booker T. Washington)
- Mama’s Bank Account (Kathryn Forbes)
- Miracle in the Hills (Mary T. Martin Sloop and LeGette Blythe)
- To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
- The Giver (Lois Lowry)
The literature analysis and student review questions in the student review book bring such a great understanding to the books. They are detailed and encourage your student to think and come up with their own opinions on what they have read. I am always hearing other homeschooling families say that they are struggling to find a literature curriculum. I was thrilled that literature is included in this curriculum, which saves us a lot of time.
The Bible is woven so beautifully throughout Exploring America. This curriculum glorifies God and challenges your student to memorize and study the Bible. It will challenge your student and their worldview, which is so important this day and age. There are many opportunities to discuss current events and how that ties in to a worldview throughout the curriculum. My daughter and I have had some difficult, yet important discussions on topics that we have come across during her studies. I believe it is so timely to study American history this year, and it has been a great choice for us.
This is a challenging curriculum. In the past we have been very relaxed, Charlotte Mason style homeschoolers and are very eclectic in our studies. I knew that this would challenge my daughter, which is what she needed. I wanted her to have a more meaty and thorough curriculum for the 10th grade. Some days she completes all her assignments and readings in under 2 hours, some days it can be closer to 3 hours. Though it is challenging, I keep reminding her that she is earning 3 full high school credits! We still have lots of time in the day to complete her other subjects and electives.
The only thing extra that we are adding is a daily grammar review to help with her sentence structure and grammar. There is not a lot of writing instruction so you may want to continue to use a writing program if your child struggles with writing. If that is the case with your child, then you can skip the writing projects, and let them choose a fun hands-on project instead. I am happy that there are so many options to keep it flexible with the ability to customize it to fit your child and your family. This is the beauty of homeschooling that we all love so much.
Sarah is a wife, daughter of the King and Mama to 4 children (one who is a homeschool graduate)! She is a an eclectic, Charlotte Mason style homeschooler that has been homeschooling for almost 20 years.. She is still trying to find the balance between work and keeping a home and says she can only do it by the Grace of God, and Coffee!