The Good and the Beautiful (TGATB) curriculum is designed so that students who have completed Language Arts & Literature: Level Seven can move directly into high school courses. Since there might be reasons for delaying that shift into high school courses, TGATB has created book study guides to accompany biographies and an autobiography that they have published to help fill the gap, typically at the eighth-grade level. At present, there are two book studies available.
One of these book studies is for the biography of Abraham Lincoln by Wilbur Fisk Gordy. The other book study covers The Touch of Magic and The Story of My Life which combines two related stories into a single 270-page book. The first story, written by Lorena A. Hickok, is about Hellen Keller’s teacher, Annie Sullivan. The second story is Keller’s autobiography. The biographies and autobiography, like many other books published under The Good and the Beautiful Library imprint, are republished editions of unabridged books from many years ago. TGATB has sometimes updated some of the vocabulary and spelling in their editions of these books.
Along with the book study guides and the biographies/autobiography, students also need The Good and the Beautiful Grammar and Writing Guide and a blank notebook for both writing and drawing. The Grammar and Writing Guide is a non-consumable book that can also be used along with high school level courses. For the Abraham Lincoln study, students also need tracing paper, and for The Touch of Magic and The Story of Helen Keller study, they need drawing paper, a drawing pencil, a ruler, an eraser, and a 36- or 48-count set of Prismacolor pencils which will be used for a few art exercises and projects. The biographies and autobiography are available only as printed books, but the book study guides and the Grammar and Writing Guide can be purchased in either print or PDF format.
The book study guides present step-by-step lesson plans that students can follow without supervision. The lesson plans tell students when to read each chapter in the book and lay out specific activities for them to complete. Lesson activities in both guides cover grammar, usage, punctuation, composition, spelling, vocabulary, literature, handwriting, and art. The study of Abraham Lincoln also includes geography. Free answer keys for the guides can be downloaded under the “FAQs, Helps, and Extras” section.
Students can write some of their answers directly in each book study guide, but some activities direct them to write in their notebook or work on drawing paper. While some activities require specific answers, others are more open-ended. For example, page 21 in the guide for Abraham Lincoln says:
In your notebook, title a section “Noble Character Traits of Abraham Lincoln.” As you read Lincoln’s biography for this book study, keep notes in this section about his character. What little and big things made him great? Write your observations and include examples in your notebook. You will use these notes to write an essay after reading the book. Illustrate your notes if desired.
The writing assignments for Abraham Lincoln are more demanding than are those for the other study. There are no essay assignments in The Touch of Magic and The Story of Helen Keller that are like the one alluded to in the quoted paragraph. Instead, students write short paragraphs from time to time.
The Good and the Beautiful Grammar and Writing Guide serves as a reference tool, and some lesson activities tell students to read a particular section in the guide before completing an activity.
Students can complete either or both of these book studies in whatever order you choose. Because these book studies are optional, the guides review grammar, usage, and punctuation that was taught up through seventh grade but do not introduce new concepts.
TGATB says that students should complete one or two lessons per day in these studies. These two book study guides have about 30 lessons each. Even if extra time is spent on reading, composition, work, or art projects, students should be able to complete each study within one to two months. So if you use these for eighth grade, you will need to add other coursework for the year. Forthcoming book studies might fill the gap, but it could be useful to do more extensive work on composition, using resources from other publishers. (The goal of TBATB is to publish at least two new book studies per year, so it could be a while before they have the equivalent of a complete course.)
The level of difficulty varies greatly. Some activities─such as copywork, alphabetizing words, and identifying the correct homonyms for sentences─seem very easy for eighth graders. Other activities are more on target for this level—activities such as editing, learning challenging vocabulary words, and the composition assignments. If parents think some activities are too easy for their teen, they can allow them to skip them.
While these two book studies are intended for eighth graders, they can be used at other levels. The Touch of Magic and The Story of Helen Keller book and study guide should be suitable for students down to sixth-grade level, especially those who will enjoy the art activities. The Abraham Lincoln book and study guide are probably best for seventh or eighth graders because of the more challenging composition work.
However you use them, these book studies present students with well-written, wholesome literature and learning activities that reinforce and expand skills in language arts. An important bonus is that these books and study guides can lead students to appreciate and emulate the admirable character qualities of Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, and Annie Sullivan. While they can be used as “filler” course material as intended by TGATB, they also serve well as literature-based supplements alongside other language arts courses.