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Fifty States Under God (Grades 3-12) Review by Tracey Masters

Joy Dean
A Helping Hand
PO Box 39298
Indianapolis, IN 46239

I’ve been looking for an age-appropriate United States Geography curriculum that focuses on learning the 50 states. I remember failing Geography lessons in 5th grade and having to stay after school labeling a United States map over and over again until it was perfect. I strive to provide my daughter with a better education and experience. I am constantly searching for curricula that will make learning fun using fascinating content.

Fifty States Under God is a complete self-contained United States Geography and History curriculum written by Joy Dean that brings to light a new way to teach Geography. The author has a passion for sparking a love and curiosity for learning geography and history. This curriculum studies all 50 states in chronological order based on their statehood date. The states are presented using a timeline approach emphasizing important events starting with the birth of our nation from a Christian perspective. Furthermore, it gives an overview of State History and Geography. This curriculum addresses the states and their capitals, state symbols, bordering states, a timeline of events, map work, relevant people, and important historical facts for each state. Interesting historical stories are provided as a way to ignite a love for History.  

The content is suitable for children in 3rd-12th grade and can be used over the course of a year. The book provides additional scheduling options to extend the program or further study the content using one or more of her other books such as Geography of the Fifty States or Fifty States Under God for Young Learners.

The consumable spiral-bound paperback book contains 238 pages in addition to the Appendix resources. The book is organized into three main parts: Lesson Plans (timeline), Statehood Order, and Appendix. The lesson plans give an overview of relevant facts from our state’s history. The second section contains all the workbook pages for the states in order of statehood. The Appendix can be found at the back of the book in the third section. It also contains resources and full color state symbol clipart to complete the notebooking portion. Appendix 11 and 12 are duplicated which enables the child to tear out a copy. A reference copy will remain in the book. The company suggests that you remove the answer key from the book. You will find the answer keys in front of the state symbols. Appendices include informative pages about state facts, capitals, counties, government, symbols, mottos, gross state products, weather data, economy, population and land area, sources of information, presidents, and a list of the Declaration of Independence signers. A helpful bibliography is found at the back of the book.

There are a total of 55 numbered lessons included in this curriculum. One lesson is dedicated to each state. Sprinkled throughout the curriculum sequence are five 2-part review and test lessons. These lessons are labeled Part A for reviews and Part B for the tests. The reviews are built into the lesson schedule and timeline. The review asks your child to color and label the map using state abbreviations. The review lesson also summarizes relevant historical facts studied up to that point. Lessons 14, 18, 30, 35, and 55 are review lessons immediately followed by a test. Your child must first label the map. They also must know the state, two-letter abbreviation, state nickname, and the capital city. A blank map is provided and your child must complete the information about the designated states. The states that must be filled in on the chart are listed at the top of the page on the back of the test. Lesson 55 contains the last test where all 50 states and their capitals must be filled in the formatted chart.  

I used this curriculum with my 8-year-old daughter, Alyssa, as our homeschool core Geography program. She works at a 3rd-5th grade level and has strong reading and writing skills which is why I was thrilled to review this particular book. We worked on Geography lessons 3-5 times per week for approximately 30-90 minutes each day. The author suggests working 4 times a week for 20-45 minutes covering one lesson (state) a day. We aimed to cover one state over a 1-2 day time period with hopes to study 2-5 states per week. We’ll use this curriculum over a 1-2 year range. The scheduling suggestions helped make decisions about usage and provided different ways to utilize the curriculum. Research and extra hands-on projects were added for fun but weren’t necessary, because the program is comprehensive as a standalone curriculum.

First, we started lessons in numerical order. The state to be covered was indicated on the lesson line. I read the state’s timeline entry that provided us with information about the state or events from the statehood time period. The lesson number line also indicates in parenthesis the state page you should read next. There are four workbook pages in this section for each state. We took turns reading the “Interesting Facts” about the state. Then, she would use resources and books including but not limited to encyclopedias, almanacs, and the Internet to research a fact about the state independently. This is an optional activity, but it really helps children take ownership of their learning. It also is the only part that requires information from resources outside the book’s appendix. The researched fact was written in the space provided. Plenty of writing space was offered in addition to a blank drawing box. I loved reading the facts my daughter found and seeing her drawings. My daughter was assigned the state notebooking worksheets for independent work. She used the Appendix to complete the second and third fill-in-the-blank pages for the state we were studying. Detailed instructions are clearly given on the pages. Alyssa loved using the colorful state symbol pages. She would cut and paste them in the appropriate state fact boxes. We would either read these two pages together or it would be assigned for her to read independently. After completing all pages and research, a “Test Your Knowledge” section followed. This activity can be taken as a quiz grade. Alyssa wrote the two-letter abbreviation, capital city, and nickname for the state. She also labeled the state and its bordering states on a partial map. The last page to complete consists of a story related to American History and correlates with the state. I usually read this story aloud, but occasionally we would take turns reading paragraphs. She completed reviews and tests as indicated in the book.  

The curriculum can be used by the entire family or independently. The curriculum specifies that each child needs a copy of the book. I do not recommend this book to children younger than 3rd grade, because there is a decent amount of writing required and many words on a page. The parent has the option of paraphrasing the content if read aloud. The company offers a Fifty States Under God for Young Learners book for children age 4 through 2nd grade.

My daughter thoroughly enjoyed using this curriculum. Her favorite activities were the coded mottoes, scrambled state nicknames, and notebooking the state symbols. It is giving her a solid understanding of Geography. The curriculum schedule and workload was fairly manageable. Even though my daughter could read the material independently, she still wanted to snuggle on the couch and read it together. Lessons could be easily adapted and there was a lot of flexibility with regards to usage. I could spread out one state lesson throughout the week or choose to cover one state a day. I could work through the book in a semester, year, or over two years.

I was grateful for the lesson schedule. It really helped save time planning. The layout also made following the plans easier. The fascinating facts inspired us to dig deeper and learn more about each state. Furthermore, I appreciate the fact that this curriculum was based on a Christian perspective. This unique approach had a huge impact on how the states were studied. We will definitely continue using this curriculum throughout the year. We’ve decided to slow things down by spreading the worksheets out across the week instead of completing all four in one sitting. Eventually, I want to add in the State History from a Christian Perspective with the Master Lesson Plan Book and study our home state, Texas.

This was a great introduction to Geography and American History. It explained historical events related to how our nation was built. Fifty States Under God was jam-packed with fact-filled trivia and tidbits of information. The stories were interesting. My daughter saw an overview of the changes that occurred by consistently viewed the maps. The chronological timeline and map work served as excellent visuals showing this progressive growth. The workbook sheets following a notebook approach were handy. I appreciated having tests and quizzes. I can add the book to my daughter’s portfolio upon completion to show her work and progress.

My daughter and I both found the book to be overwhelming at first. The small font and number of words almost discouraged her from using the curriculum. I wish the colored state symbols were larger enabling us to see the details better.

I highly recommend this curriculum to all home educators. There are components that would benefit different types of homeschool approaches. Individuals implementing a Classical approach will appreciate the fact that the 50 states and their capitals are memorized. Unit Study educators and homeschoolers using a Notebooking approach could utilize the book as a 50 state study. Traditional educators will like the workbook, fact oriented, spiral approach, and testing components. I firmly believe that all types of learners will benefit from using this curriculum, but visual learners will have the opportunity to recognize the nation’s growth and changes using the maps and timeline. Hands-on learners may enjoy the cut-and-paste notebook approach.

The curriculum price is affordable and reasonably priced at $34.95. The store website offers additional books and resources to purchase if you want to further expand on the study.  

-Product review by Tracey Masters, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October, 2016