You can use The Good and the Beautiful’s Level K Primer as your complete curriculum with children who already know the alphabet and the primary sounds for most letters, how to count to 10, and basic shapes and colors. The publisher believes that some pre-kindergartners are ready for the Level K Primer, but I think that this might also be the starting place for reading instruction for some first graders who have not already begun to learn phonics. The Good and the Beautiful's Language Arts & Literature: Level K should be used after this course, whether that be in kindergarten or beyond.
In this review, I’ll discuss the Level K Primer as it might be used for pre-k or kindergarten since that is the publisher’s expectation. You can use The Good and the Beautiful’s free Language Arts Course Level Assessment if you need help determining the right level for your child.
The Level K Primer set includes the Level K Primer: Course Book, My First Reading Book, and 20 learning songs. The course book and the reader can be purchased as either printed books or downloadable files, while the songs are only available as downloadable files.
The Level K Primer teaches the sounds of consonants and both short and long vowels, but it teaches the most common sounds, leaving the less common sounds for later courses. Still, this is more than you would expect from a course labeled as a primer. From the first lesson, the course simultaneously teaches both uppercase and lowercase letters as children learn to identify sounds a particular letter makes within words as well as how to print that letter. Children learn to isolate sounds in the first three lessons, and the fourth lesson has them blend the sounds together to read the words at and cat. They continue working on these skills throughout the course as they learn the different letters.
In addition to phonics and reading, children learn to count and recognize numbers up to 15. Along the way, they build fine motor skills while also learning things such as sequencing, sorting, and the values of coins.
The full-color course book presents 34 lessons that can be used at whatever pace you choose. These step-by-step lessons show what parents are to say and do and what they are to have the child do. The lesson pages themselves are also used by the child. The comb binding on the course book allows it to lie flat, making it easy for children to write on the pages. There are a few student pages that are to be removed from the book. Those pages are used for cut-and-paste activities, sorting, practice with identifying vowels, and other learning activities.
When you purchase the Level K Primer, you receive a free download link for the 20 songs. The songs teach the sounds of the letters, including both long and short vowel sounds. These songs are not scheduled into the lessons, so it is up to you to determine if and when to use them.
Children build a solid foundation in phonics while also learning some sight words. They quickly learn to read enough words that, starting in Lesson 21, they can begin to read from the My First Reading Book, a small comb-bound reader with seven short stories. The stories use only short vowel words and the sight words I, a, and the. The stories have a short sentence on each page along with a lovely full-color illustration. The artwork is exquisite for a beginning reader!
The Level K Primer adds an interesting twist by including images of a few paintings and using them for children to practice phonics. For instance, in Lesson 15, a painting of a girl alongside a dog with an umbrella in its mouth is used as the parent asks the child questions such as: “What letter does UMBRELLA start with?”, “What letter does the word HAT start with?”, and “What letter does the word HAT end with?.”
Lessons revolve around interaction between parent and child. Some simple hands-on activities are included, such as placing buttons on a chart as children identify letters, sounds, or words; sorting letters that have been cut out from pages; and working with pennies and nickels. The learning methods are best for children who have well-developed small motor skills and who can focus for 20 to 30 minutes.
The Good and the Beautiful states in their Age/Level Guide portion of their shopping checklist that If you use the Level K Primer for pre-kindergarten, you don’t need to do anything else. Math instruction is minimal, but they believe that more extensive work in math can wait until kindergarten. They do mention that you might use read-aloud science picture books or their Creative Arts & Crafts Projects: Level K-3 book if those are suitable for your situation.
While most courses from The Good and the Beautiful have Christian content, I found none in this course.
The Level K Primer seems very advanced for pre-kindergartners. It wasn’t that long ago that the content of this course was considered appropriate for kindergarten and first grade. Some pre-k children will not yet have the fine motor skills to be able to do even the small amount of writing and cutting required, and some won’t be able to sit still long enough for the lessons. While you can break up the lessons into shorter sessions, don’t be overzealous about having a pre-k child complete this course, since he or she might not be developmentally ready for a year or more. On the other hand, if your child is ready for early academics, the Level K Primer offers an attractive option that is easy to use.