The Good and the Beautiful’s Language Arts & Literature K (third edition) covers phonics, reading, spelling, grammar, and art appreciation, making it the mainstay of their kindergarten program. You will need to add a math course (See my review of The Good and the Beautiful [TGATB] math courses here.) and a handwriting course, and you might want to add more beginning readers, such as TGATB’s Beginner Books Box A through Box D, and a religion or Bible course. The Language Arts & Literature K course set includes the course book, a set of phonics cards, the Level K Reader, and a set of Kindergarten Mini Books.
All of the course components are available in print or as PDF files. The reader and the course book both have metal-comb bindings and are printed in full color. The phonics cards are printed on glossy, bright yellow card stock. The pages of phonics cards are perforated so that you can easily separate them. Thirty, heavily-illustrated Kindergarten Mini Books are printed on glossy paper. Most of the mini books are printed in full color, but a few are black and white. Each page needs to be cut in half, then two pages are stapled together to construct each of the 30 eight-page books. If you purchase PDF files, you will need to print out most of the course book, the phonics cards, and the Kindergarten Mini Books, so bear this in mind as you consider the options.
Before starting Language Arts & Literature K, children should know the name and the most common sound for each letter of the alphabet (only short vowel sounds). They should also be able to recognize both upper and lower case forms for each letter. Children should understand that reading progresses from left to right and that the sounds of letters blend together to form words. If you have used the Level K Primer from The Good and the Beautiful, your child will have learned all of this and should already be reading sentences with short vowel words and a few sight words. Keep in mind that this is a high expectation for pre-kindergartners, and the Level K Primer might be a better starting place for some kindergartners.
Here is a brief summary of the progression of the instruction in Language Arts & Literature K. The first five lessons have children read and trace two-letter words such as it, up, and at along with some sight words. Lesson 6 introduces three-letter words and those are the primary focus for the next 20 lessons (along with sight words such as have). Lesson 26 introduces words with consonant blends such as jump, last, and sent. From there through Lesson 119, the course gradually adds long vowel words, words with suffixes (i.e., ed, ing), and plurals. By the end of the course, children are expected to read sentences such as “Today we eat at home” (p. 210).
Along the way, children learn about syllables, nouns, verbs, capitalization of proper nouns, forming sentences with the correct ending punctuation, homophones, antonyms, rhymes, and spelling patterns. They will also memorize poems, give oral narrations (retelling what has been read to them), and develop art appreciation skills. I spotted only one craft activity in the course, and this is because The Good and the Beautiful recommends that those who want arts and crafts activities supplement with TGATB's Creative Arts & Crafts Projects: Levels K-3.
The teaching methods in this course are fairly traditional, although there are some elements of Charlotte Mason’s methodology such as dictating words or sentences for the child to write, having children memorize poems, occasional narration assignments, and “picture study” discussions of artwork reproductions. Occasionally, lessons add hands-on or movement activities. For instance, Lesson 5 has the parent write words on index cards and lay them on the floor in a trail. Children hop from card to card, reading each word as they go.
The course book can be used with hardly any preparation. Once in a while you will need items such as cotton balls or index cards, but these few items are listed at the beginning of each unit so that you can gather them in advance.
Both parent and child work directly with the course book which makes this course most suitable for one-on-one instruction. (It can be used with two or three children as long as each child has their own book.) Every lesson is scripted, telling the parent what to say and what to read to the child. Children will complete learning activities directly in the course book. Their written activities are incorporated within the instructional information rather than printed on separate activity pages, so you will not remove pages for the child to complete.
Lessons include stories to be read aloud to your child, instructions for activities with the phonics cards, and artwork reproductions to discuss using questions provided in the lesson plan. The course book has periodic review lessons and an assessment at the end of each of the course’s five units.
Each of the 30 Kindergarten Mini Books is scheduled within the lesson plans at the appropriate time. Parents are given less direction for the Level K Reader. The course book tells when you can begin using each of the three sections in the 155-page reader. It also tells when you might use the optional Beginner Books, Boxes A through D. (Note that only Boxes A and B are available at the time I am writing this review, but I expect that Boxes C and D will be available soon.) The Kindergarten Mini Books and the Level K Reader provide quite a bit of reading material for kindergarten level, so you might not need the Beginner Books.
Illustrations in the Level K Reader, as well as some of those in the course book, look like those from readers of the mid-twentieth century or earlier, although they include some multicultural images. Clothing and hairstyles in most of those images are out of date. On the other hand, the majority of the illustrations in the course book and mini books appear to be of more recent vintage. I don’t see older style images as a problem since they are lively and attractive, and children will probably like them.
Spelling is taught simultaneously with phonics, as children learn to decode words with phonics and then encode words by spelling them. Children also learn to spell sight words. There is a section in the appendix with “Optional Additional Spelling Practice” if you want to spend more time on spelling.
Lessons on grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and other skills are interspersed through the lessons. The emphasis in the early lessons is primarily upon phonics, and it gradually broadens out to encompass other topics.
There are a number of references to God in the course. For example, one mini book is titled God Gave Us the Sun. The Christian content is very basic (e.g., we pray to God, God created things) and does not promote any particular denominational beliefs. The few biblical quotations in the course are from the King James Version of the Bible.
Language Arts & Literature K is beautifully presented, very affordable, and should be easy to use. The content seems more on level with what used to be considered first-grade level rather than kindergarten. But more and more publishers have shifted toward the earlier introduction of academic skills in keeping with the Common Core Standards, although even the Common Core Standards don’t include long vowel words in kindergarten. Homeschoolers whose situation leaves them free to choose the level of a program that best suits their child might decide to use this program with either kindergartners or first graders.
Note that I review Levels One through Seven of TGATB's Language Arts & Literature program separately, and Levels One through Five (in PDF format) are available free through the publisher’s website.