The Good and the Beautiful History Curriculum (GBHC) is a multi-level, interactive curriculum that incorporates stories and hands-on activities. The curriculum is designed for the family to use together, covering grades 1 through 12. It is written from a Christian worldview and emphasizes both Christ-like character and patriotism.
GBHC draws its historical material from more than 40 history books that were written during the late 1800s and early 1900s. While older source material has been used, it has been rewritten somewhat for modern audiences and combined with additional, newly-written material.
Year 1, Year 2, and Year 3 are available as I write this review, and Year 4 will be released in August 2019. The curriculum for each year is presented in four units. The units cover some world history and some U.S. history each year.
The first unit in Year 1 begins with biblical history and ancient Egyptian history. The second unit jumps up to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The third unit shifts to U.S. history covering the French and Indian War up through the Revolutionary War. The fourth unit broadens out to world history, covering selected events from the Victorian era up through the fall of communism.
In Year 2, students learn about ancient Greece and ancient Asia in the first unit. The second unit begins with the Vikings and Marco Polo and continues through some of the major explorers of the 15th and 16th centuries. In the third unit, students study U.S. history, focusing on the colonial period and the U.S. Constitution. The fourth continues with U.S. history with selected topics such as Education in Early America, Noah Webster, Henry Ford, and the Great Depression, but it also has five lessons on World War I.
Year 3 covers ancient Mesopotamia and ancient Israel in the first unit. (Interestingly, the course teaches about the Code of Hammurabi in one lesson, and about the Ten Commandments in the next. At the same time, students begin playing the Bill of Rights Roundup game that is part of this course. While I don't see instructions that have older students compare and contrast any of them, their close juxtaposition makes this relatively easy to do,) In the second unit, students learn about ancient Africa and native North Americans. The third unit addresses the Industrial Revolution in the U.S., westward expansion, and five key people: Daniel Boone, George Washington Carver, Samuel Morse, and Thomas Edison. The final unit is on World War II.
Year 4 is not yet available, but it begins with ancient Rome. Unit 2 will cover the history of Islam, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, and the history of the Bible. (The publisher tells me that the "Reformation unit was written together by a Catholic and a Protestant and has been reviewed by members of many Christian faiths for accuracy and sensitivity. Lessons are taught on Protestant Reformers as well as on Catholic Heroes and Counter-reformers. The goal of this unit is not to say who was right or wrong, but to provide an accurate historical account and to promote unity, rather than divisiveness, in modern-day Christians.") Slavery and the Civil War are topics for the next unit, and the final unit covers a few selected topics from modern history since WWII along with some Canadian history. The Year 4 game, called History Houses, will review units from Years 1 through 4 and will be the only suggested game in Year 4.
As I’ve mentioned, coverage is selective since it is often told through expansive stories and biographies rather than the snippets of facts commonly used in history textbooks. History stories are presented along with instructions to make lessons more interactive. For example, in Year 1, Lesson 44 that is about the Battle of Trenton, the lesson begins with children observing and discussing the reproduction of a painting, The Battle of Trenton. Then a simple activity has children stand barefoot on an ice cube as long as they can to experience just a bit of the cold that George Washington’s soldiers did in that battle. The story is then read aloud to children from the Course Book. The story is interrupted twice for the parent to ask children to summarize the story up to that point, a form of narration. This happens again at the end. Four discussion questions follow the story. This lesson format is typical for the presentation of the stories throughout the program.
A Course Book is the heart of each course. It has bolded text with instructions for the parent, while normal text is to be read aloud to students. You also will use Student Explorer files that suit your children. There are four different levels of Student Explorers to help differentiate assignments and make them age-appropriate. The levels are grades 1-3, grades 4-6, grades 7-9, and grades 10-12. You will need to print out the Student Explorer for each student from a downloaded file and put it in a three-ring binder. (Students in seventh grade and above will also compile a history notebook.) The Course Book shows when to use Student Explorers, play the games that are used with each course, participate in activities, work on long-term projects, etc.
Parents read aloud to students from the Course Book and from a book of stories when there is one for the course. In addition, a read-aloud book that is chosen from among a number of recommended titles is used each quarter.
For each course, there are dramatized audio recordings of history stories that are accessed online. The audio dramatizations are very well done. They address the same historical periods as the rest of the course for which they were created, but they do so with different stories than in the other books for the courses. These audio stories vary in length from about seven to eleven minutes each, so they are just the right length to hold students’ attention. These should not be skipped since they add additional course content.
For Year 1, in addition to the Course Book and Student Explorers, and dramatized audio recordings (accessed online), you need The Big Book of History Stories and Keys of History Board Game. Read-aloud recommendations for this course include books such as The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw.
Year 2 differs slightly from Year 1. The book Maps and Images is used rather than a book of history stories. While the Course Book refers to the Keys of History Board Game, another game, Explorers and Settlers, is added the second year. If you have Keys of History, it can be used at the suggested time to review material learned last year. (You can order Keys of History separately if you don’t already have it, but it isn’t essential for Year 2.) A timeline with stickers has been added beginning with Year 2. It includes some stickers for events from Year 1 that can be used as a form of review.
Year 3 adds the companion book The Big Book of History Stories that includes maps and images. You will use the same timeline from Year 2 with Years 3 and 4, but you receive new sets of stickers to add each year. While Year 3 adds the Bill of Rights Roundup game, it also recommends playing the games from previous years for review.
With students up through fifth grade, you should complete about two lessons per week, and one course per year. With older students, you should plan to use about three lessons per week, which means that you would complete each course in about 20 weeks.
Course work for each lesson varies according to the level of the Student Explorer that students are using. For one course, the Student Explorer for the youngest level has only 29 pages with many simple activities such as coloring and drawing while the oldest level has 63 pages and requires additional reading, research, and writing.
Lesson structure varies from day to day. On some days you will read aloud a history story directly from the Course Book. You might also listen to audio dramatizations or read the script of the audio drama. Discussion questions in the Course Book often follow the reading and listening activities. On some days you might be reading a story or doing map work in one of the other books for a course. Children work on Student Explorer activities throughout the week. The Course Book advises you when children should be doing additional research or preparing to make oral presentations. Craft activities for each course are generally fairly simple and often use reproducible pages from the Course Book. Year 1 also includes some memorization activities. While the courses include multi-sensory learning activities, they are not extremely time-consuming.
The games for these courses serve as tools for review and reinforcement. The games are compact, but they are well-constructed. The Keys of History game has a sturdy 10-inch game board, playing pieces, and a deck of cards. The cards each have information from a key topic covered in the course. Instructions include various ways to play the game to make it suitable for different ability levels. The Explorers and Settlers game used in Year 2 is a card game that plays like a sophisticated form of the Memory card-matching game. Players supply the identities for descriptions of famous explorers or settlers, but play is made more challenging by a requirement to also find the matching card. The Bill of Rights Roundup game is somewhat similar to The Keys of History game with a 10-inch game board, playing pieces, a deck of cards, and instructions for a few variations for play.
There are no tests for The Good and the Beautiful History Curriculum. Older students will be completing history notebooks and other work that can be used for evaluation and grading purposes, but parents will need to figure out how to evaluate the work on their own.
The Course Books explain that students should cycle through the four courses again as they get older. They will encounter different assignments in their Student Explorers each time through. While I like the story approach to history, I think that more comprehensive coverage is vital somewhere along the line. Repetition is certainly useful, but I think it might be more productive to expand into other topics rather than repeat so extensively. I’d be most likely to use GBHC for grades one through eight, then switch to something else for high school. The publisher is aware of this issue, and they tell me that they are in the development and writing process for high school history courses that they plan to release in 2020 or 2021. The present program will remain available for families that prefer to do their history together as a family. The new high school history courses will be part of their own Green Leaf High School and will be what they recommend for high school students at that point. Those who want to stick with the present program should supplement for high schoolers to provide more comprehensive coverage.
While biblical and Christian history is included, GBHC does not promote any single denomination. Protestants and Catholics are both treated with respect although information leans slightly in a Protestant direction as evidenced, for example, by Lessons 51 and 52 that treat foreign missionary work during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as an exclusively Protestant endeavor. But at the same time, there are entire lessons on Catholic historical figures such as St. Patrick and Joan of Arc. When quotations from the Bible are used, they are from the King James Version of the Bible. A free PDF supplement is available for Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
GBHC also reflects a conservative political outlook that shows up from time to time. On the publisher’s website it explains: “These history courses teach conservative principles such as limited government, keeping the power as close to the people as possible, self-reliance, avoiding entitlements, and the role of government as providing protection and not goods.”
All components except the games are available as PDF downloads, but you can also buy printed copies of the Course Books. Course Books are printed in black and white, and you will need to copy or print out some activity pages. I think that a PDF Course Book should work well for most situations. The Big Book of History Stories and Maps and Images are both also available as lovely, full-color books. If you can easily view them on a device such as a tablet, that will work. I would also recommend purchasing a printed set of the timeline and stickers.
GBHC is relatively easy to use given the wide variety of learning methods involved. Course Books clearly show what to do when, making it easy for even new homeschoolers to use. While other publishers use a similar story-based approach for teaching history, the fact that GBHC has worked hard to make it suitable for a broad Christian audience makes it appealing for many families.
You might want to check out the ready-made lesson plans from Homeschool Planet that are available for GBHC.
Find lesson plans available for this product at Homeschool Planet. Sign up for a 30-day FREE trial.