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Exploring America Review by Kate Kessler

Notgrass Company
370 S. Lowe Ave., Ste. A
PMB 211
Cookeville, TN 38501

Exploring America, from the Notgrass Company, is a thorough and engaging high school American history, American literature, and Bible course. The complete course comes with two softcover student textbooks, (Exploring America: Volume 1 - Columbus through Reconstruction, Exploring America: Volume 2 - Late 1800s through the Present), another softcover book, American Voices: A Collection of Documents, Speeches, Essays, Hymns, Poems, and Short Stories from American History, a spiral-bound softcover Quiz and Exam Book and the answer key for the same. Volumes 1 and 2 have a combined total of 150 lessons that are divided into thirty separate units of five lessons per unit.

Exploring America fulfills three high school credits. From the website: Completing the full course provides your child with a year's high school credit in American History, English (literature and composition), and Bible. The History credit involves reading the lessons and the original documents and speeches (and answering the questions in the optional Quiz & Exam Pack if desired). The English credit involves completing the weekly writing assignments and one research paper; and reading the assigned literature, poems, and short stories in American Voices. The Bible credit involves reading the Bible lessons, completing the Bible assignments at the end of many lessons, and reading the hymns and other religious literature assigned.

The American literature portion of the curriculum is located within the Exploring America lessons. The titles to be read and studied are as follows:

The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne)
Narrative of the Life of David Crockett (Crockett)
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Douglass)
Uncle Tom's Cabin (Stowe)
Co. Aytch (Watkins)
Little Women (Alcott)
Humorous Stories and Sketches (Twain)
In His Steps (Sheldon)
Up From Slavery (Washington)
Mama's Bank Account (Forbes)
Christy (Marshall)
To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee)
The Giver (Lowry)

A week (or unit) of study encompassing five lessons from Exploring America begins with the Unit Introduction. The Unit Introduction gives the student a concise write-up of what will be covered in the unit over the five lessons in the week. You will be given a memory verse to learn, a list of other books used (literature selection and American Voices when needed) in addition to the Volumes of Exploring America, and then a choice of writing assignments. For every lesson, the student will read the material in the textbook and then complete the assignments. Sometimes this involves answering questions given and sometimes it involves multiple days of writing for the same assignment. For example, Unit 8 has two writing assignments offered and the student chooses one.

  • Write a two to three page report on the contributions of the Adams family to America, especially John and Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams, Charles Francis Adams Sr., Charles Francis Adams Jr., and Henry Adams.
  • Write a two to three page paper in which you compare the religious experience in the Massachusetts Bay colony and that on the frontier during the Second Great Awakening.

As you can see, these assignments will take more than one day to complete so the other days they will do reading of the literature selection or American Voices, memorize Scripture, or answer the lesson questions found in the Quiz and Exam Book.

Throughout the books, you will find many appealing side notes, graphics, photographs, maps, and sections that were especially interesting, What Was Happening In the World? This section gave world history events of significance and facts about individuals living at the same time to help with context. For example, did you know that Napoleon crowned himself Emperor or that Beethoven's third symphony premiered one year after the landmark Supreme Court case of Marbury vs. Madison? It is helpful to see American history in the proper framework of the rest of the world.

The fifth lesson of every unit is a Bible study. Your child will study such interesting and applicable subjects as: How You See the World Makes a Difference; God is Sovereign; The Bible as Spiritual Constitution; Faith on the Front Lines; God and Freud; The Dilemma of Suffering; Were They Really the Golden Days?; Public Leaders, Private Lives, and many more. Obviously there is some author opinion in these sections, but that is what makes it great for thinking and reasoning out. You can use these as opportunities for great family discussion too. There are questions to ponder and answer and Scripture to discover here.

The American literature selections are solid well-respected choices worth the time your student will take to read them. In the Quiz and Exam Book, there are questions for the student on the book. Each lesson has questions to ask and answer on the subject in that lesson. The quizzes and tests also found in this resource are multiple choice as well as paragraph format.

Probably the single neatest aspect to this complete curriculum is the book, American Voices. There is just nothing like reading an historical figure's own words to get to know them and why they cared so deeply about whatever they were involved in. Their stories, poems, essays, hymns, speeches, and of course, the most important historical documents they created make the study of history come alive. You will find such treasures as excerpts of the New England Primer, sayings from Poor Richard's Almanack, George Washington's Farwell Address, the response of W.E.B. Du Bois to Booker T. Washington and Others "...on the best path to take for black equality and opportunity" and his essay is shared here. The reason I love history so much is because it is a great compilation of peoples' lives and thoughts. Many people view history as a bunch of dates and wars. While there are many important dates and too many wars, it is the people behind these events that lived during these dates that make it worth our time. We are living in our own historical time period, but we ought never to forget those that went before us. We have much to learn from them if we only give them the time. Notgrass History has been an exceptional way to do this. I highly recommend it!

Product review by Kate Kessler, Product Reviews Director, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2012