Math-u-See: I still love it. I still believe he pirated it from Mortenson Math, but he has much better workbooks. I highly recommend getting the VHS version because you will spend much less money. Obviously the VHS version has been discontinued and turned into a more profitable venture by breaking each main category into its own level and has probably been changed somewhat, but the old way works very well. Math-u-see has a website with lots of review material right there--very nice, but I haven't used it much. If you can get your hands on it, the workbook with extra practice sheets is a nice addition. You won't always use it though. (At least I haven't.) If you don't have manipulatives, Math-u-see sells a small set inexpensively. If you have Saxon Math manipulatives, sell them. Mortenson Math manipulatives work very well. Another reason I believe he pirated it.
Great Courses DVDs: Superb. We viewed the first lesson on Early American History today. The teacher makes the material fresh and lively. He tells stories of American history. Who doesn't like stories?! The 30-minute lecture engaged my sons immediately. It came with a study guide with an outline of what each lecture covers, questions to answer, and suggested topics for papers. I think I will assign a paper a week since I'm tentatively planning to watch one lecture a week and use supplemental materials throughout the rest of the week. We'll see. I may have to stretch that to 2 weeks for each lecture since I have so many other books I want to use. Those materials include history encyclopedias, atlases, storybooks, picture books (like of the Anasazi ruins), fiction, and non-fiction materials. Their required book list encompasses many of these. (They may read other books as well. I'll be tracking those too.)
Rise of the American Nation: I love this textbook. For being a textbook, it is relatively interesting to read. I have a nephew that has read this book multiple times and has claimed the copy my parents bought years and years ago for his own. I went onto Amazon and found a copy for us. I will be using it to supplement the Great Course DVDs since I want the class to be worth a full high-school credit. The DVDs are an awesome starting point but would not constitute a full year's class on its own.
American Government by Ray Notgrass: I have been desperately trying to get through the entire textbook. I have yet to accomplish it although it has been a goal all summer. Does that tell you anything? I believe that the Constitution of the United States can be returned to its original glory. I believe that we the people still have the ability to turn our future around. I do not care to get mired down in discussions of the government as it is now with its layers of bureaucracy and protocol. That is bunk. We need to understand how the Constitution laid things out, where the responsibility for each issue lies, and then we can act. That is my most basic view of the Constitution. So many voices keep confusing the issues today. We need to focus on the PRINCIPLES of freedom, not the details. Without Principles, details become a quagmire. With Principles, we have a chance to deal with the details realistically. It's the concept of missing the forest because of the trees. This book tries really hard, and it begins fairly well, but I have gotten extremely depressed by the fatalism it projects. I believe the Lord's hand guided the creation of the Constitution and that He remains vitally interested. He will help us. That is my testimony. Therein lies hope. Real hope that will not be extinguished.
So now I get to figure out how to teach a class with that textbook as its centerpoint without getting mired down in the mud. I have ideas. It will work, and it will be good, and parents will not be mad at having to buy an expensive textbook for naught. (For starters, I have a lapbook that I'm stealing ideas from. For finishers, I will be using Cleon Skousen for supplementary material for classtime. In the middle, the students will use Notgrass' worthy effort because it is that. It is not trash. It's just not proactive enough in projecting hope.
For What It's Worth, those are my reviews. Two thumbs up, one sideways. Not totally down because it has its merits but depressing by its fatalism.