American History for Elementary: Our Star-Spangled Story Notgrass Curriculum Review

October 8, 2020

Sarah Shelton

Sarah Shelton

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This is the first year that I am using a full history curriculum with my 9 year old daughter. We were excited when we learned that Notgrass History released a brand new, elementary aged American History Curriculum that is just perfect for her age group. 

American History for Elementary text with image of children\'s history books

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. 

For the past few years my youngest has listened in on her older siblings’ read-alouds for history. We would discuss what they were learning, but never used a separate curriculum. We have done many history-type field trips along with using more of a unit study method to go along with what the rest of the family was doing. Now that she is in the 4th grade, I wanted to start using a separate history curriculum with her. 

Our Star-Spangled Story is a one-year long American history and literature course from Notgrass History for grades 1-4.

It was designed specifically for children in grades 1-4. Notgrass is usually known for designing curriculum for upper elementary, middle school and highschool students. This new curriculum designed for younger elementary ages has really filled the need for a solid, well-rounded history curriculum for that specific age group.

I wish I would’ve taken a photo of our unboxing day. My daughter was literally jumping up and down when she saw the huge box of books and couldn’t believe that she had her “very own reading books that I don’t have to share with anyone else.” She kept saying how pretty the spine books were and loved all of the beautiful illustrations and historical photographs. 

various history books for children

Although this is a textbook-style curriculum, don’t let that worry you if you lean more towards the Charlotte Mason method of learning. I was hesitant at first because I am not a fan of textbooks. If you have read any of my reviews and posts you know that we love the Charlotte Mason style of learning, and using rich, living books and classic literature in our studies.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the fullness and flexibility of this curriculum. The textbooks are meant to be read aloud to your children. The stories are rich and engaging and written in a conversational tone. They didn’t have a textbook feel to them,  more like a great history spine. 

Let’s take a look at how this curriculum is laid out:

Curriculum Package Includes:

2 History Textbook Spines – Volumes 1 and 2

These are broken up into two volumes to help it not feel overwhelming, and they are easier to hold and read out of. The quality is wonderful; they are nice and sturdy. We also like how tall they are, and not as heavy as some of the older grade books. The book begins with a sweet letter to the student about why learning history is important and how it brings glory to God. 

There is a letter to the parents with a breakdown on how to use the curriculum. I was excited to read how flexible this curriculum is. Many homeschoolers live very full and busy lives, and it can be hard to complete a curriculum in one year. There are 30 units with 3 lessons each. The recommendation is to complete one unit a week.

If you normally do a 36 week school year than this gives you 6 weeks of flexibility if you need to take a week off. This made me very happy! If there is a unit that is extra special to you, you can park there for 2 full weeks to dig deeper or do more hands-on activities. Each lesson takes only about 10 – 15 minutes to read all the way through. The extra activities can take as little or as long as you would like. We personally set aside 30 minutes for history 3 times as week.

I like to read it aloud to my daughter, but sometimes I will have her read some of it out loud to me. At the end of each lesson it tells you exactly what lesson activities need to be completed next, such as looking at maps, the Timeline Book, student workbook page and using the Rhythms and Rhymes book. It also tells you what literature book you need to be reading out of, and for how many units that book will be read.

There are review questions after each lesson which are great for reading comprehension and listening skills. The Hands-on History ideas gives your students projects that they can choose to work on that helps history come to life. These make history fun, engaging and memorable.

Student Workbook

The workbook has one activity page to complete per lesson and a review page at the end of each unit. Your child can complete a combination of drawing and writing activities. If you have an older child, like my fourth grader, it is recommended to have them write a short composition. My daughter sees the big space for a drawing and would rather draw and color than write something. She also doesn’t like to write without lines, so I would prefer that the workbook had lined pages for writing.

I can see that writing might be overwhelming for a first grader, but more notebooking pages would be nicer for an older child. My daughter has a notebook she uses for school, so I have her write in the history portion of her notebook instead, and use the workbook for her drawings. It will make for a nice keepsake at the end of the year. 

A Star-Spangled Timeline 

This is a simple, hardback timeline book that opens horizontally. I really like how it is laid out; two  pages cover about 1-2 lessons in the unit. When the lesson tells you to pull our your timeline book, my daughter gets very excited. She really enjoys reading what happened and then finding it on the timeline.

There are great photographs and illustrations for each timeline. I appreciate that I can just pull out a book and that we do not need to create our own timeline. That has always overwhelmed me as a busy, homeschooling mom.

Rhythms and Rhymes Book with MP3 CD

This book contains songs, folk songs, and poems that Americans have sung and recited for centuries. There is an introduction and a short history of the song and where it came from. They have also included instructions for dances and party games that are fun to do with your own family. We like to read the history of the song, and then play it out loud on the track that accompanies the book. If it is an especially fun one we will play it over and over. 

Answer Key and Literature Guide

This is a small paperback booklet that will fit nicely into a teacher binder or folder. It includes the answers to the review questions for each lesson. The back half of the book holds the Literature Guide. It introduces each literature title with a brief history of the book you will be reading and includes discussion questions for each book.

Literature Package:

The Literature Package is optional. If you are already using an English curriculum that includes literature, then you may not have time for extra reading. I appreciate how the books tie in beautifully with the history. You may use the literature guide that comes with the answer key and check the books out of the library (many you may already have in your own home library).

You can purchase the complete set of brand new books at a discounted price. Some prefer to save money and use their library, while others like to receive everything at once and have it all ready to go at the beginning of the year. 

Literature Package includes these books:

  • Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry 

  • Toliver’s Secret by Esther Wood Brady

  • Freedom Crossing by Margaret Goff Clark 

  • Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder 

  • Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates

  • Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary 

  • The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill 

  • Katy by Mary Evelyn Notgrass 

Final thoughts:

I have 2 older daughters, one of them is currently using the High School American History. Our Star-Spangled Story has been a huge blessing for me and my 9-year old. It is something that we can do together without her older siblings. She loves listening to the stories and that she gets to sit with Mommy all by herself to do history. 

I asked her what her favorite part of history was and she said “I really like the pictures, and I like drawing my own pictures, and I really, really like the songs and music.”

I personally love how this is an open and go curriculum. It did not take me long to figure out how to use it. It’s laid out simply and not overwhelming and tells you what you need to do every step of the way. I really appreciate that it tells you how long you have to complete a literature book. I am not normally successful with getting all of our reading done, so having a reminder with each lesson, to read the book, helps us out a ton. We are excited to complete so many read-alouds in one year. That will be a first for my youngest.

Like everything from Notgrass, it is put together in a beautiful package. It is written very well, and weaves the Bible and God so beautifully throughout the entire book. All of the components are very high quality and will hold up for a long time. This is a great choice if you have lots of littles. The only thing you would need to purchase for each student would be the consumable workbook. 

If you are looking for a sweet, well-rounded American history curriculum for your early elementary children, this is a great choice.

American History for Elementary Star Spangled Story text with image examples of history books for kids

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