Our Star-Spangled Story is a year-long U.S. history course for grades one through four that reflects a Christian worldview and patriotic attitudes. It has many elements of a unit study since it incorporates literature, music, creative writing, geography, and art along with the study of history. In addition, coloring, drawing, singing, dancing, arts, crafts, games, recipes, and projects reinforce learning and help address children’s different learning styles.
The course consists of six books published by Notgrass plus eight storybooks that you can borrow from the library or purchase. The Notgrass course books are:
- Our Star-Spangled Story Part 1 and Part 2 (two separate books)
- Star-Spangled Rhythms and Rhymes – book with an MP3 CD, both containing 60 songs, poems, and dances
- A Star-Spangled Timeline – visual reference book that reviews key people and events showing the chronology with images on a timeline
- My Star-Spangled Student Workbook – with a colorful activity page for each of the 90 lessons
- Our Star-Spangled Story Answer Key and Literature Guide – answer key plus notes and discussion questions for the eight storybooks
All except the Answer Key and Literature Guide are very attractively illustrated and printed in full color, and the first four books are hardcover, non-consumable books. For more than one student, you will need only an additional student workbook.
The course is taught from the two Our Star-Spangled Story volumes, Part 1 and Part 2. Each of these books has more than 300 pages, which explains why it is split into two books. Beginning with the first settlers of America and Native American cultures, the course continues up through the present day. Rather than trying to cover U.S. history in a comprehensive fashion, much of the time it uses stories of particular people, telling their stories in relation to key events. For example, Lesson 72: “Walking to School with Ruby Bridges” relates the story of a six-year-old African-American girl who was one of the first to attempt to act on the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education to attend a school that had been reserved for only white children. This lesson continues with an explanation of the civil rights movement, including brief information about Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The two course books together have 30 units with three lessons per unit. The intent is for lessons to take place three days per week, but parents can spread lessons out over five days if they wish to do so.
Each lesson presents the text information first, with all of the other activities listed at the end. Parents can read the text in these books aloud to children or older children can read it for themselves. The reading should take only about 15 minutes per day. There are three sections for the activities: Lesson Activities, Review Questions, and Hands-On History Ideas.
Under Lesson Activities are three or four of the following: map activities (using maps at the front and back of each book), Rhythms and Rhymes activities, a page in the student workbook to complete, a storybook to be read, and pages in the timeline book to explore.
The review questions should be used for discussion. Hands-On History Ideas are generally a “Pretend” scenario and a building blocks activity, or else they refer to a unit project. Pretend scenarios are presented like this one from page 127: “Pretend you are Daniel Boone or a member of his family, exploring, hunting, trapping, and preparing the way for new settlers.” That same lesson also suggests that students use building blocks to construct a wilderness fort. Unit projects (found at the end of each unit) are for crafts, games, recipes, or projects such as creating a care package. Since each unit takes one week to complete, you will have one of these projects every week. Time required for activities and projects can vary greatly, and some families might choose to skip some projects or substitute an idea of their own.
The eight storybooks used with the course are:
- Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin
- Toliver’s Secret
- Freedom Crossing
- Farmer Boy
- Mountain Born
- Emily’s Runaway Imagination
- The Year of Miss Agnes
The storybooks were selected to support lesson content, so they need to be read at the points designated within the course books.
While the lessons as well as the end of lesson activities are “open and go,” the projects require planning ahead to gather resources. A Unit Projects Supply List is available on the Notgrass website along with other extras such as a list of additional suggested literature, video demonstrations of dances and singing games, downloadable files required for two projects, and printable maps.
Our Star-spangled Story offers a well-designed blend of easy-to-use textbooks with storybooks, activities, and projects that is perfectly suited to the homeschool environment. In addition, the underlying Christian worldview and positive attitudes toward America are likely to be well received by many homeschooling families.