So we've been using this curriculum for an entire school year now. In a word, the author is fond of lists. We just got done reading the section on the Appalachian Mountains. It lists all the animals that can be found there. Then it lists all the plants. Then it lists all the smaller ranges of note. etc. etc. A week ago, we did the Revolutionary War. It listed the dates and what happened on them....but what about the WHY of what made those dates so important? I have a very hard time keeping my kid's attention with this curriculum, which has resulted to supplementing A LOT with movies, internet pictures, and other resources to keep us chugging along.
Things I do like: The Map book...Since it's not always easy to have a map out when discussing certain events, it's helpful for the students to go back and find the places themselves and get a broader idea of geography. The suggested fictional literature has been enjoyable. Also, my kids enjoy some of the suggested family projects that they have (for example, we made and played marbles the other day), and a lot of these I would have never thought to do on my own.
However we purchased both the Student Workbook and the Lesson Review. The Workbook can be dismissed as busy work (though my kids like the excuse of getting to do crossword puzzles and the like). The Review questions are of the nature of simply finding the answer in the text and "filling in the blank." For instance, it asked "Who convinced the French to support America in the war" (Ben Franklin), but in no way does it talk or ask about why this was important (in the very least, because America was quickly running out of money and needed outside support in order to progress with their war for independence. However, France had been on iffy terms with the British for a long time so they were hesitant to get involved in ANOTHER fight...especially one they might not win!!).
I continuously have thoughts about switching curriculum, but its so hard after we've come this far already (and after the money has already been spent).
I am using ATB with my kids, ages 6, 8, 11 & 12 this year. We are taking it slow and will be using it for two years, so we're currently only on Lesson 50. But the kids all love it and so do I.
I knew this would be the curriculum for me when I read the "Some Reminders So You Will Not Feel Overwhelmed" section on page xiv. "God does not expect you to do more than you can do. Be kind to yourself. He knows exactly what you and your children need this year." Mrs. Notgrass goes on to encourage homeschoolers, including me, to "rejoice and be glad" in what God has given us. I'm not gonna lie, it made me cry tears of relief.
And using ATB has been fantastic for our family. For me, the mom/teacher, I love that the plans are all laid out in each chapter for me. I don't need a separate teacher's addition. We pick and choose what we do for each lesson, sometimes using the ideas for creative writing, vocabulary and the other suggested activities. As of right now, we have but are not using the timeline book. My kids don't really seem to need it. Of the suggested activities, we almost always read the literature but my kids have not enjoyed "We the People." I think it's a great resource, but because it's often written in the 200 year old vernacular, they've struggled to understand it. We usually do the creative writing and vocabulary assignments. They seem very age appropriate for my two oldest kids.
We also always do the maps. Everyone but the 6 year old has a map book. Initially, I hadn't purchased any books for my 8 year old, thinking he would just listen in, but surprisingly, he saw the other kids using the map book and the crosswords in the red student book and insisted I buy them for him. He's been a bit of a reluctant reader, so this was huge for him. He has completed each assignment with gusto and it has improved his reading to have to use that skill to answer the questions. As the mom, I love these books! They reinforce and explain the lessons so well! They are one of the best aspects of ATB. Do not skip these books! They are, in my opinion, essential to the student's understanding of the lessons.
I ordered both the blue and red books for my 11 & 12 year olds, as they are in 5th & 6th grades. Like I mentioned before, I did not initially get any books for my 8 year old 3rd grader. The red book is really too easy for the older kids but just right for the 8 year old. I have them do both because I bought both books and it doesn't take very long to do.
Our favorite parts are the read alouds. We've read the first three and even my 6 year old is engaged every single time. We are between books right now and he just asked me when we could start the next book. When I told him it would be a week or two, he was very disappointed.
In all, I love ATB. I love being able to pick and choose the parts that work for our family, the emphasis and Christianity and the easy layout of the lessons. It's a curriculum our whole family enjoys. I highly recommend it.
Not only did my "History is Boring" son LOVE this but we have done 3 years of Notgrass History now, and he is still loving it! The activities are great and super flexible. Not all appeal to us but that's ok we pick and choose with no reorganizing required. Work can be virtually independent or very interactive with the parent depending on how you want to do things - no planning necessary. Also, thanks to Notgrass we knocked out History, Bible, Literature, Writing, Vocabulary/Spelling, Geography, Culture and Social Studies and even had Art or Home Economics activity each week - all in one set! No work on my part, no planning required, it's all just there! Optional Workbook pages are fun and varied and Review pages are straightforward question and answers so take your pick and both have unit tests included for the bean counters. Buy their literature set and always be sure to get the best version of the books or borrow from the library either way all are readily available. Reading selections are good and interesting reads (even if my son thinks one or two were rather "girly") Nothing about this material is complicated either! Just follow the textbook... pick and choose how many/which activities you use (handy separate lesson assignment checklist is available at no cost to make day to day tracking easier) then add review &/or workbook when you want, and voila... easy as pie! Honestly the best written, best looking, best organized and by far easiest to use curriculum I have ever had the pleasure to employ.
This History is a great start to learning US History. I am so thankful for the combination of Bible, History, and Lit it provides. My children have done most of the work on there own. They have enjoyed the different workbooks, Maps, lesson reviews, and the Student workbook. We have continued to use Notgrass in High School as well.