TGTB, Where Have You Been All My Life?!
I don’t know where I first learned about The Good and the Beautiful. Probably in one of my many (many, many) Facebook homeschool groups. I really am a member of too many and while it’s hard to keep up it’s also so much better than Yahoo Groups. I really do not know how they have survived when all of the other Prehistoric Internet entities have faded into obscurity (goodbye, AOL Instant Messenger). But, I digress.
The Good and the Beautiful (TGTB) is everything I was trying to accomplish on my own and at a price that is really too good to be true. So good, in fact, that the meat and potatoes of the curriculum is free. Yes, free. No promo codes needed. Each and every day you can download Levels 1-5 of their language arts curriculum for free. So, I did. It was love at first site (get it web-site?! Bwahaha!).
What is it?
Our homeschooling background is largely classical in goal. The Well Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer, is the most pivotal homeschooling book I have read. I have a serious literary-crush on Mrs. Bauer. Her method is beautiful and the education I would have loved to have had. It is also time-consuming. To give your child a traditional classical education is not for the faint of heart. It involves no less than the basics, plus music and art and Greek and Latin, a broad array of quality living books, and a firm time commitment to accomplish those things in a manner that you feel you have done your child and the work justice.
We even dallied with enrolling our youngest in a private Classical Hybrid School. It was almost perfect. Unfortunately, the distance was too much for the family and we sadly only completed a semester. Then, last summer, I found it and I downloaded it and it was beautiful.
We are year-round homeschoolers so I started my eldest on the Language Arts curriculum over the summer. Without being expressly classical The Good and the Beautiful feels classical. There is an emphasis on quality and beauty. Where we were struggling to incorporate spelling, writing, grammar, poetry, handwriting, art, reading, phonics, and faith, The Good and the Beautiful has it neatly bundled into a single curriculum. Before I had a spreadsheet to try to hit certain subjects so many days per week. Now, they flow naturally as we follow the curriculum.
Another thing I really value is TGTB’s emphasis on time limits. It spells out the suggested times for you very simply and stresses that each lesson may not take the 30-minutes (which is the recommended time for LA lessons). Some days you may do multiple lessons. Some lessons may take multiple days. You are able to take the lessons at your child’s pace without trying to hit some imaginary benchmark that may lead to exhaustion, fights, and tears (I’ve heard this happens in some homeschools…it’s mine, it has happened in mine).
After spending the summer with TGTB’s Language Arts curriculum I decided to purchase the printed versions of the Language Arts Kindergarten level, for my younger son, as well as the History – Year One, and a science unit – Space Science.
Why purchase? For several reasons. First, the Kindergarten level is not free, just Language Arts Levels 1-5. However, even if it were I would have still purchased the printed set. This summer I downloaded the first set and printed it myself. If you have a laser printer this may be a good option to get a quality print. If you are using an inkjet then you will use a lot if not all of your ink. With the cost of ink and paper, the set is reasonably priced – plus you get all the digital files too. If you are looking into having it printed and bound the costs are astronomical. The only place that is even a little affordable is The Homeschool Printing Company and many online have used and recommended them. I have not. For the cost, I prefer to simply order the printed set directly from TGTB because it’s very affordable and high quality and it’s nice to have the people who came up with a product I love receive profits for their wonderful work.
Here you can see what the Kindergarten level looks like:
I have been talking pretty extensively about the Language Arts portion of the curriculum but we also began using the History – Year 1 curriculum. Previously, we used The Story of the World (SOTW), also by Susan Wise Bauer. Classical education approaches history in cycles that focus on time periods. Generally, you begin with Ancient History to the fall of Rome. Then from the fall of Rome through the Renaissance. Followed by AD 650 to the Civil War (1850) and the fourth year would be from 1850 to modern times. On a four year cycle, you would repeat the cycle three times and progress in depth of ideas commensurate with your child’s intellectual level as you retread previously learned time periods. The Good and the Beautiful approaches history a little differently.
TGTB’s history is also divided into four cycles. However, instead of focusing on one time period across the globe the curriculum begins in Ancient times and moves to modern times throughout each Year. They have separate courses for US Constitution & Government and Economics & Finance. As with most homeschool history curriculums, they are also designed to be completed family style with different student explorer sections for the different grade levels. As well as different literature suggestions as the reading levels progress.
Is it better than SOTW? It is different. I enjoyed SOTW as did my children. The audiobooks are great and are available from the Harris County Library System. The problem I was running into was based on the aforementioned shortage of time. We would prioritize math and language arts and everything else got pushed back. Some years we wouldn’t even finish or the kids would just listen to the audio and we wouldn’t really have time to go deeper with activities and such. This is our first year with TGTB History so I have not been able to see how it will play out, but I’m hoping since we will make it to modern times each year it will give us more of a chance to explore the children’s interests. For instance, WWII had a big surge in our house last year, but we never made it to it when we were actually studying history. So, while we read great books and watched documentaries, we never got to the original foundation on which to frame all that information.
TGTB History also comes with an audio “story” that my kids are enjoying. The open and go nature of the curriculum makes it very user-friendly and easy to use. So far, the whole family is enjoying it and I am enjoying slightly less reading (or at least being able to break it up into more manageable “chunks”).
Here’s a look at TGTB History Year One:
Science as Unit Studies
As we have rolled along our homeschool adventure unit studies have reared their heads. A unit study is taking a topic and diving in whole-hog. You can buy unit studies, you can make your own, you can just immerse yourself in a topic. There is no one way to do a unit study. Lapbooks are a very popular option for unit studies because they frame the topic a bit so you don’t end up down the rabbit hole of unending knowledge. The Good and the Beautiful handles Science as unit studies. Our first unit is Space Science. There is a little prep work but then it is just open and go. This includes all of the “text” parts of the study as well. So, there are no additional books (outside of those you choose to incorporate).
The science units are also designed to be taught family-style with older children expected to delve more deeply into the topics within the unit. Again, the units are very affordable. To have the printed set sent (and included pdf – which is great for printing off copies for multiple children) the prices currently start at $16 and do not exceed $22. The paper is high quality and the illustrations are very nice.
Here’s a look at how I have our Space Unit set up:
It’s a Beautiful Thing
Another thing that TGTB has in common with classical education is the priority it places on quality literature. A word that often comes up in classical circles is ‘twaddle.’ Twaddle are books that are trivial and foolish. Books that do not develop language and character. You can find some beautiful books on classical lists. They will usually be wholesome in nature with vocabulary and stories that do not talk down to your perfectly intelligent child. Books you may find on such lists would be The Velveteen Rabbit, Beatrix Potter’s stories, The Story of Ferdinand, Charlotte’s Web, Blueberries for Sal, the Frog and Toad Series, The Little House on the Prairie Series, The Secret Garden, Aesop’s Fables, Robinson Crusoe, Dracula, The Illiad, Shakespeare, The Chronicles of Narnia, and the like.
The Good and the Beautiful offers a similar list. TGTB is a faith-based curriculum, as are most Classical curriculum’s I have looked into. One of the many benefits of homeschooling is that you can pick and choose what is right for your family. If you are looking for something Biblically based you will have no problem with TGTB. The only issue I could forsee Christians having, in general, is dependent upon their view of Creation (TGTB “supports creationism from a general Christian viewpoint, but does not point to an old earth or young earth theory”). A few minutes of pre-reading before presenting to your children should allow you to note anything you would like to skip or change. The vast majority is Christian but not controversial.
If you are not Christian you may need to do a bit more pre-reading to weed out what you would like to skip but it is still a viable option. You should be able to get a good idea from the samples provided on their website.
The reason I address the issue of religion in relation to literature is that The Good and the Beautiful’s book list is more restricted than the average classical list (many are the same) in that you will not find much magic (and it is noted) or anything that may be unwholesome in the least. In their own words, “…these books [are] free from unclean language, taking God’s name in vain, and disrespectful or inappropriate behavior made to look funny or acceptable.” What you will find on TGTB’s book list is a curated list of wholesome, clean, and highly appropriate books. Each and every book has been actually read and vetted by TGTB team.
Each year a new book list is released and through November 11, 2017, you can download the current list for free.
Have you heard of The Good and the Beautiful? We would love to hear your thoughts (especially in regards to using this curriculum with older children). Please leave us a comment or chat over on our Facebook page. So far, I love it and the kids seem happy with it. We will continue with it and I look forward to trying some of the other science units, delving into our nature journal, and generally spending time with together in a learning environment that is just as they say, good and beautiful.