Exploring America (Notgrass)

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  • Reviewed on Monday, August 3, 2015
  • Grades Used: 11th
  • Dates used: 2009-10, 20013-14
I have used Notgrass Exploring America with two of my children, and both of them loved the course. History is explained from a Christian perspective in a rather conversational style that my children found interesting. The coverage is thorough and engaging, leading to thoughtful conversation.
This curriculum covers history, literature, and Bible. The lessons are of a length that can be covered in a day without too much stress, and can even be doubled up if the child wants to get ahead. There is not a lot of emphasis on dates but on understanding the reasons behind actions, and the results of those actions. The material does not cover over the mistakes made in our history, nor does it overemphasize those mistakes. Instead, it leads the children to really think about cause and effect.
What I like about the Bible portion is that a lot of it is focused on the place of Bible in history, and what the Bible has to say about events in our lives, as history sees them.
The writing portions of the curriculum, as others have pointed out, or not very guided. However, at this age, I don't think they need to be. My children liked them because they led to deep thought and personal understanding.
The literature portion is just the reading of novels and biographies that are pertinent to the historical period being studied.
One of the best facets of this curriculum is the inclusion of a book of primary documents. Through this, the kids have the opportunity to read the thoughts of real people, to see firsthand what people were hearing and reading at the time. Not of all these documents are interesting, and some we just skipped, but having them all available added a depth that many curricula do not have.
I have, and will continue to, recommend all Notgrass curricula to my friends, and will continue to use it.


  • Reviewed on Wednesday, June 6, 2012
  • Grades Used: 11th
  • Dates used: 2011-2012
Exploring America is a pretty good curriculum. The text itself is a little dry and confusing when you compare it to reading only living books. It would be helpful if the student knew a little about government before reading the text. Otherwise, when it discusses the number of electoral votes received in an election your student might be confused.
The writing portion has no instruction, just assignments. The assignments are very interesting and thought-provoking. They were not boring or silly. There is one 8-10 page research paper required, but there are no steps on how to do one. It would be helpful to have a book with examples and directions on how to do a research paper. Even though the writing instruction is lacking, it worked out nicely for us. This student already knew how to write essays, she just needed lots of practice. By the end of the year she had a binder filled with all of her essays and one research paper. All of this practice really improved her writing.

Susie in MS

  • Reviewed on Monday, September 22, 2003
  • Grades Used: Highschool
  • Dates used: 2002-2003
Exploring America is a unit study for highschoolers that will be easy to use even if you have always used text books. It is a cross between a text and a literature approach. This is one of those unit studies that comes close to being a one size fits all (of course non actully is).

It covers Bible, history and literature and can easily be done independently by the student. It comes with two main books, two reference books that include documents and speeches, and a poetry book. You have the option of buying the literature package or using the library for the required books. There is also an optional teachers guide that includes daily questions, test, and exams.

The two main books (part 1 and 2) include 30 weekly units that are further divided into 5 daily lessons. At the beginning of each week you start with an introduction. It will include a brief of what's to come that week, a Bible verse(s) to memorize, list of books to have on hand, a few writing assignments to choose from and work on through out the week, and a write up about the author of the literature book to be read that week.

The daily lessons start with reading a narrative written by Mr. Ray Notgrass. These narratives are informative and interesting. They can vary from a couple of pages to several pages long. At the end of the narrative there will be instructions to read from the source books (documents and speeches) and to start reading the literature to be read that week(s).The child may also work on his/her writing assignment.

Monday - Thursday the lessons focus on history. Friday the lesson focuses on Bible as it pertains to the subject matter covered that week such as what the Bible has to say about abortion and Roe v Wade, etc.

The two main books are very nice, spiral bound, plastic clear cover over the cover page, and a good layout of the lessons. It is black and white on the inside, but still very attractive.

A word about the writing assignments. There is no instruction, but the choices are great! They're assignments that get the child to think. Ex: Write a one-page argument on whether or not the US should have used atomic weapons against Japan. another ex: Summarize the spiritual blessings and problems of the 1950's. In what ways were they the good ole days and in what ways were they not? What would you have liked about living in that time and what would you find difficult to accept? or Write and editorial either defending or attacking the Scopes Trial (or elements of it) and setting forth what Christians ought to do to stand up for God's truth. (Taken from three different units at random)

The literature is either about the time period being studied or written during the the time period.

The documents and speeches really add to this study, because you are getting so much from the horses mouth. These are not just someone's opinion or evaluation of what happened in the past. They are the words of those who were there. It is truly refreshing to read what these men had to say.

Other features of EA would be What Was Happening In The World? charts, maps, drawings, ending each lesson with a verse, additional resource list (for who want to do more), and a website list.

This curriculum is designed to last a year, but some choose to do it over two years. It is packed! If used for one year (as designed) you child earns one credit in history, one in literature, and one in Bible. Over two years, double your credits.

The one and only complaint that I have heard about EA is that their is an over abundance of reading. If you find this to be true for you, you could just cut back on what you require of your child in literature, or do as others and take the study over two years.

If you want to see sample lessons you can view them at their site. This curriculum gets an A+++ in my book.