The three courses in the Good and the Beautiful’s high school language arts program are designed primarily for independent study. The courses are titled High School 1 Language Arts, High School 2 Language Arts, and High School 3 Language Arts. Each course covers grammar, composition, literature, spelling, and vocabulary (for one credit in language arts), plus sufficient coverage of art and geography for a half credit in those two subjects.
A Christian worldview underlies the courses and is evident in occasional Bible verses (KJV), some of the poetry, the biographies of authors, and elsewhere. Positive character traits are emphasized throughout the courses, such as in the selected literature, biographies of authors, and even in vocabulary practice sentences.
Each course uses a combination of ten unit booklets and selected literary works, along with the non-consumable Grammar & Writing Guide and the set of High School Geography & Poetry Cards. All components are available in both print and digital formats. You only need the new unit booklets and literary works for each subsequent year.
How the Courses Work
Parents should watch the “How to Complete the Course” video where course creator Jenny Phillips shows how to use the components. Scheduling guidelines are suggested for using the courses either four or five days per week. At five days per week, each unit should take 35 to 60 minutes per day for 14 days per unit, and a four-day school week makes each unit take about 45 to 70 minutes per day for 11 days. Information in the “How To” video, along with instructions in the unit booklets, provide clear, detailed guidance for both parents and teens. Forms are included for scheduling and grading, as well as for students to write dictated sentences, Tests (called Unit Checks) and answer keys are emailed to parents at the time they purchase a course. Parents also need to access the free resource page on the publisher’s website for each course that has the Reading Challenge PDF (discussed below) plus extras, such as an Essay Feedback Form and a Unit Grade Tracker Sheet.
The full-color unit booklets guide students through the course, providing both lesson plans and course content for language arts, art, and geography. All aspects of language arts are covered, including sentence diagramming and composition skills. Exercises in the unit booklets include space for students to write. Some exercises are standard fare, such as circling the correct synonym for a word from a multiple-choice selection and writing sentences using new vocabulary words. Others are more unique. For instance, page 20 of the second unit of the first course provides the sentence, “The audacious climber scaled the cliff” and tells the student to rewrite it three ways without beginning with the word “the.”
The unit booklets assign students portions of the literary works to read, and those assignments are followed by instruction in literary analysis and questions. Occasionally, reading material is incorporated into the unit booklet, as with an excerpt adapted from Les Miserables that is included in the eighth unit booklet for the third course.
The literary works used are a combination of novels and collections of prose and poetry. The novels used in High School 1 Language Arts are Up From Slavery, Just David, The Story of John Greenleaf Whittier, Patterns on the Wall, and Into the Unknown. High School 2 Language Arts uses The Christoph von Schmid Collection (stories), Men of Iron, Sagebrush Surgeon, A Girl of the Limberlost, and Harriet-The Moses of Her People. High School 3 Language Arts uses Florence Nightingale-The Angel of the Crimea, The Call of the Woods-An Edgar Guest Collection (prose and poetry), The Little Duke, and The Good and the Beautiful Short Story Collection. My only concern here is that parents might want their students to read some more-current literature.
The unabridged novels are available from The Good and the Beautiful, but you can use versions of those works from other publishers. It’s important to note that the Good and the Beautiful’s versions often have updated the spelling and grammar to modern forms, and they remove profanity.
In addition to reading the assigned literature, students are advised by the unit booklets to spend a minimum specified time on their “Reading Challenge.” This is a downloadable list of books with both moral and literary merit that represent a variety of genres. There are no questions or quizzes; students just track the time spent reading. Parents can adjust the time spent on the Reading Challenge as needed. This is the place where more-current literary titles might be substituted.
Composition, Grammar, and Spelling
Students will write “Insights Journal” entries in response to their choice of prompts, such as Option 3 on page 32 of Unit One of the first course: “What does this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson mean to you? ‘Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.’”
Most units have a substantial writing assignment, and rubrics are provided so students know what is expected and parents know what to consider when evaluating the work. The writing assignments gradually become more challenging. Students write a few essays and many Insights Journal entries in the first course. The second course requires many essays and a research paper, and the third course has students write a research paper and also branch out into articles, a response paper, a short story, and a résumé. A few units have students create projects that incorporate some writing. For instance, one unit in the first course has students research the Hudson River School of Painting and create a slide show presentation.
Spelling is learned through dictation exercises. For each unit, students will write by dictation six sentences that they listen to online. An answer key is available for them to self-correct for spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. Some suggestions for error correction are included in the answer keys. Students are told to practice spelling correctly any words they missed. The next day they repeat the dictation for any sentences that were not completely correct. They can repeat this process again if they still have errors.
The unit booklets tell students when to read pages in the Grammar & Writing Guide which teaches grammar, usage, and composition skills in the style of a handbook. The guide often has URLs for brief videos on the publisher’s website that provide an alternate way for students to learn about topics. A quick primer on diagramming near the front of the Grammar & Writing Guide will assist students who have forgotten or never learned diagramming. (Diagramming focuses on basic structures rather than those for very complex sentences.) Students complete exercises in their unit booklets on what they have learned in the Guide.
The art component of these courses teaches appreciation, history, and skills, with activities scattered through each unit—usually connected to the instruction in language arts and literature. Beautiful reproductions of artworks are featured in every unit booklet. These are often accompanied by some art history, artists’ biographies, and art appreciation information. Each unit concludes with an art project. For example, Unit 1 of the first year introduces the poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer. Seven images with scenes of trees of varying types and colors are provided for students to study by focusing on the colors, shades, areas of light and shadow, textures, and other details. The end-of-unit project for this unit teaches how to draw and shade a leaf.
Drawing skills are taught at each level, but additional art media varies each year. High School 1 teaches painting with watercolors. High School 2 teaches students to work with watercolor pencils and charcoal, and High School 3 works on advanced drawing skills.
Geography and Memorization
Geography is taught both within the units and with the Geography & Poetry cards. For example, in the second unit of the first year, students will work on learning the geography cards for New England. Within the unit booklet, students learn about New York, the Hudson River Valley, and New York City. Students trace a map of New York City, divide it into boroughs, and label each one. It’s important to point out that the artworks studied in this unit are beautiful paintings of scenes of the Hudson River Valley created by artists from the Hudson River School of Painting.
The 42, full-color High School Geography & Poetry Cards are used by students for memorization of geography, poems, and Greek and Latin roots. The geography cards cover countries around the world and major geographical features (i.e., rivers, seas, deserts). The poetry cards include some with a complete poem and others with the same poems but with missing words. Greek and Latin roots cards each list 15 roots, their meanings, and example words that incorporate the roots. Cards to be used with each unit are specified near the beginning of each unit booklet. Students should watch the video “How to Practice Memorization” which applies specifically to memorization for these high school courses.
Completing a Unit
Upon the completion of a unit, students turn in the unit booklet along with completed assignments to parents for grading. At this point, parents should have students complete the assessment, called the Unit Check. A grading sheet is included at the front of each unit booklet.
To complete the Honors version of one of these courses, students will move more quickly through a course. They have the option of completing one or more Honors Book Studies of classic literature or The Good and the Beautiful High School Creative Writing course. Honors Book Studies are available for Little Men, Pride and Prejudice, and The Screwtape Letters, and each novel has a companion Honors Book Study guide.
The Good and the Beautiful’s high school language arts courses are well-designed for students working independently, while also making it easy for parents to assess how well students are doing. The academic coverage is excellent, meeting or exceeding national standards.