The Good and the Beautiful (TGTB) Language Arts & Literature curriculum is designed so that students who have completed Level Seven can move directly into high school courses. Since there might be valid reasons for delaying that shift into high school courses, TGTB has created book study guides to be used at the eighth-grade level. At present, there are two book studies available.
One of these book studies is for the biography Abraham Lincoln by Wilbur Fisk Gordy. The other book study covers The Touch of Magic and The Story of My Life, a single, 270-page book that presents two related stories. The first story, written by Lorena A. Hickok, is about Hellen Keller’s teacher, Annie Sullivan, while the second is Keller’s autobiography. The biographies and autobiography, like many other books published under The Good and the Beautiful Library imprint, are unabridged republications of books whose copyrights have expired. TGTB has sometimes updated some of the vocabulary and spelling in their editions of these books.
Along with the guides for the book studies, biographies, and autobiography, students need TGTB's Grammar and Writing Guide and a blank notebook for writing and drawing. The Grammar and Writing Guide is a non-consumable book that can also be used along with high school level courses. Students will need a few art supplies for exercises and projects within these studies. For the Abraham Lincoln study, students 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 either a 36- or 48-count set of Prismacolor pencils.
The biographies and autobiography are available only as printed books, but the guides and the Grammar and Writing Guide can be purchased in either print or PDF format.
The guides for the book studies 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 assign specific activities for them to complete. Lesson activities in both guides cover grammar, usage, punctuation, composition, spelling, vocabulary, literature, handwriting, and art. The Abraham Lincoln study also includes geography. Links to download free answer keys for the guides can be found under the “FAQs, Helps, and Extras” section on the publisher's website.
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 guide for The Touch of Magic and The Story of Helen Keller that are similar to the one alluded to in the quoted paragraph. Instead, students occasionally write short paragraphs.
The Grammar and Writing Guide serves as a reference tool for grammar, punctuation, usage, and composition. Some lesson activities in the guides tell students to read a particular section in the Grammar and Writing Guide before completing an activity.
Students can complete either or both of these book studies in whatever order the parent chooses. 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.
TGTB says that students should complete one or two lessons per day in these studies. These two book studies have about 30 lessons each. Even if extra time is spent on reading, compositions, or art projects, students should still 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 more useful to do additional work on composition, using resources from other publishers. (The goal of TGTB 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. Parents can allow their teens to skip some activities if they think they are too easy.
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, especially those who are likely to 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 The Good and the Beautiful, they can also serve well as literature-based supplements alongside other language arts courses.