We started using a history curriculum this past summer that is a departure from our normal “living books” approach. The America the Beautiful series that Timberdoodle sent us to review definitely falls into the “textbook” category, but my elementary-aged children have thoroughly enjoyed studying it.
The textbook is divided into two volumes. Each contains 75 lessons and hundreds of photographs and illustrations. If you really worked at it, you could finish both books in the course of a year, but we’ve chosen to take the material a little more slowly, so as to enjoy some of the suggested activities and other learning exercises.
In addition to the learning activities listed at the end of each lesson, the curriculum comes with consumable workbooks to supplement and reinforce the lessons learned.
The first is a book of maps to help students envision the changing geography of our country over the years, and the various trails and routes taken during exploration and expansion, as well as military maps with key battles marked.
The second workbook is a timeline, which provides a framework for putting historical events in a chronological context. I love the way this book is arranged with some events already recorded alongside detailed line drawings just begging to be colored.
A third hardbound book contains a collection of stories, songs, poems, letters, and newspaper articles, thus tying in some of the “living book” kind of literature to which we’ve grown so accustomed.
Overall, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by America the Beautiful. I find it much more interesting than the dry history texts I had as a kid, and my children stay engaged when I read it aloud, asking lots of questions and poring over photos.
I like the fact that the curriculum is well organized, and I feel that I’ll have covered everything I need to cover by the time I finish (which will take us the better part of this year to do, but we’re committed to sticking with it to the end.)