The Good and the Beautiful Science and Health unit studies are ideal for family learning. You can use a number of them each year as your core science curriculum, or you can use them as supplements. The unit studies that are available are:
- Water and Our World
- Space Science
- Beginning Chemistry and the Scientific Method
- Motion and Simple Machines
- Kingdoms and Classification
- Health and the Physical Body
- Marine Biology
- Maturation and Sexual Reproduction
- Reptiles, Amphibians, and Fish
Most of the unit studies are written for students in kindergarten through eighth grade with extension activities for seventh and eighth graders. You really need to use the extension activities with older students to make the unit studies sufficiently challenging. The exception is with Beginning Chemistry and the Scientific Method since it was written for grades five through eight.
On the younger end of the spectrum, there might be too much information for kindergartners and first graders, and you might have to adapt student activities that require writing. The sweet spot for most of these unit studies should be grades two through six. Nevertheless, including older and younger students so that the whole family participates together might still be the best choice.
The Good and the Beautiful (TGTB) has published the first in a series of three courses for the younger end of the spectrum: preschool through second grade. The series is called Science for Little Hearts and Hands, and the first study is Fields and Flowers. I'll review this series separately when I get time.
You can use the unit studies in whatever order you wish, although TGTB recommends using Kingdoms and Classifications before any other biology units.
The unit studies are written by different authors, but they all follow a similar lesson format. Differences in style seem to be minor. For example, Meteorology lists two to eight read-aloud book recommendations for each lesson, while Space Science lists only four recommended read-aloud books for the entire course. Also, the unit studies vary in length from 6 to 24 lessons, and this is reflected in their prices.
For each study, all of the essential printed material is contained in one book that comes as either a PDF or a packet of shrink-wrapped pages. (Many of the pages need to be cut or copied, which makes it impractical to offer these studies as bound books.) With the purchase of the printed packet for each unit study, you also get a PDF version of the book so that you can easily print out what you need onto regular paper or cardstock. All student worksheets are included in each unit study and can be either photocopied or printed from the PDF for additional children. Each book includes teaching instructions, lists of resources, experiment directions, text to read aloud to children, full-color illustrations, colorful mini-books, pages with vocabulary words and images on cards to be cut apart, and activity pages for students.
Students will prepare a three-ring binder that serves as a science journal as they work through each study. Completed activities and written work will be compiled in the binder.
At the beginning of each unit study, there are a number of vocabulary words (in a very large font) and some images that need to be cut out. These will be placed on a “science wall” at different points throughout the course, creating something like a bulletin board.
Information to be learned is sometimes within the text that the parent will read aloud to students, and many times it will be in mini-books that are to be cut out and stapled together. These mini-books have substantial amounts of information accompanied by full-color images. Parents can read them aloud to children, but older children can also read them independently. Lessons sometimes list optional videos (free online at other websites) that expand upon lesson topics. Extension activities for junior high students usually have them research topics, and the research can usually be done online as well.
Each course includes a list of recommended read-aloud books that you can borrow from the library or purchase. The recommended read-aloud books for each course are optional since the core information is already included within the curriculum. Still, reading some great children’s books on the topics being studied should enhance the courses. Some studies have an optional Read-Aloud Book Pack or an optional book for seventh and eighth graders; these particular books are published by TGTB. For example, the optional Read-Aloud Book Pack for the Mammals unit study includes three outstanding books published by TGTB: Mammals of Small Pond, Can You Track It? Mammals, and Marvelous Mammals for Down Under. For most of the courses, the lists identify which optional books align with which lessons. However, when there are just a few recommendations, as for Space Science, the books can be read at any time.
You will need to gather supplies for experiments, demonstrations, and other hands-on activities. The number of supplies varies dramatically from a brief list for Space Science to a lengthy list for Meteorology. Many of the supplies are household items, but you might need to plan ahead for items such as ping pong balls, empty soda bottles, black tissue paper, or weather station equipment.
TGTB describes these courses as open-and-go once you’ve prepared the required materials. This is accurate, but be aware that there is quite a bit of advance preparation to do for each course.
Each lesson might take an hour or two to complete, and TGTB recommends completing two to three lessons per week. While the time required to complete each unit study course varies, you should be able to complete all of the science, health, and safety units in about four years. Then you can repeat the entire series shifting up to higher-level activities.
Together, the unit studies cover key topics from life science, physical science, earth science, space science, and health. They are comprehensive enough to serve as your complete science curriculum for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
All of these unit studies are presented from a very basic Christian point of view. There are occasional quotes from the King James Version of the Bible. In the few courses where the age of the earth might be a factor, the courses do not take a position, leaving it for parents to present their own point of view.
The Good and the Beautiful Science and Health unit studies add another valuable subject area to the outstanding line of products from this publisher. Because of their family-friendly design, they should work well for many homeschooling families.
If you choose to sign up for TGTB email list, you can get a free PDF of the Marine Biology unit study.