Friday, January 25

Using the Good & the Beautiful with Upper Grades - Middle & High School

If you’ve been on any homeschooling chat groups lately, you’ve probably heard of The Good & the Beautiful…..but most of what’s out there is aimed at younger children.  Our kids are in middle and high school, and we wondered how the program would work for older kids.  After two years of using it, I can honestly say that it works WONDERS!

*We did not receive anything for writing this.  We love the curriculum and have found that a lot of folks have questions about the upper grades, so wanted to share our experiences.*

In case you’re unfamiliar, The Good & the Beautiful is a relaxed approach to homeschooling.  I have to jump in here and say that, the first time I saw it, I really didn’t think it would be enough for a school year.  My fear was that it would require a lot of supplementation, but it doesn’t.  In fact, in only six months of using this curriculum, my struggling middle school learner jumped FOUR AND A HALF grade levels in reading!

The price is very affordable for families, there are morals included in every lesson, and it’s designed for the busy mom with its open-and-go format.  While it is Christian-based, it offers up a neutral world-view, allowing parents to tailor it toward their family’s beliefs.  The print quality is amazing, and the vintage reading material is a delightful change from what our children were gravitating toward before we switched to this curriculum.

What’s Not Included
High School CoursesWhen looking at this curriculum for upper grades, bear in mind that you’ll need to go outside it to choose a math program, as they are still writing the early elementary levels.  Personally, we use Saxon and have been very happy with it.  

You can use their science program for early middle grades, if it helps you to teach younger kids at the same time, but it’s not really rigorous enough for a standard middle school curriculum, and definitely not enough for high school.  We typically switch to Apologia around 5th grade, using their Exploring Creation with… series as a transitional tool into their upper grades courses.

You can choose to order printed or downloadable curriculum.  Our family has selected primarily print format because it's such high quality at an affordable price.  We do, however, print some....and large families might find it more cost-effective to purchase curriculum once and just pay to have it printed.  We recommend the Homeschool Printing Company.  Here's a video of our experience, as well as a coupon code to use there!

SchoolhouseTeachers has many excellent options for science, foreign languages, maths, and electives, which are currently not offered for upper grades students by TGTB.  We have used their website for several years and love it!  They also have courses for parents, a print magazine, and extra goodies and giveaways just for their subscribers.  You can try them out for only $5 - with complete access to everything on the site - to see if it's a good fit for your family.  Two good places to start are High School Courses and High School Help.

So what exactly DO we use?  
History, handwriting, and language arts – which covers a lot more than just reading and writing!  The Good & the Beautiful’s language arts is one of my favorite program components, as it covers reading, spelling, writing, dictation, literature, grammar, vocabulary, geography, and art.  By including geography and art, it takes a bit of a unit study approach.  For example, in High School-1, unit five covers the Arctic areas.  They read a book about the Arctic, and the geography, art, vocabulary, and writing assignments tie in with that region.  You can cover quite a bit with just the one class!

Language Art & Handwriting
At the middle grade levels, my students are working more independently, but still need instruction, particularly on the grammar concepts and sentence diagramming.  We also do spelling and dictation aloud together.  This is a time when they are learning to work alone, but not quite ready for the whole enchilada.  It is at this level that we also use the handwriting – particularly levels 5 and 6, which focus on cursive.  The handwriting curriculum not only teaches letter formation, but grammar, states and capitals, and presidents.  There is also quite a bit of student drawing involved, which my kids love!

Once they hit high school, however, the curriculum is set up to reinforce those skills of time management and responsibility.   Divided into ten separate units, the student is able to take a unit and work on it for two to three weeks before turning it in for grading.  If more instruction is needed, he can come and ask (and I do check in occasionally), but it’s his responsibility to progress at a pace that finishes the unit on time.  

Our family has always loved to read aloud books together….from the Little Golden Books to entire series (such as A to Z Mysteries and Magic Treehouse) and now we’re reading big chapter books together.  The history curriculum has a minimum of four read-alouds each year, so if you don’t like reading together, it might not be a good fit for your family.  However, for us, it’s given the kids the perfect excuse to still curl up with mom in their teen years.

One of the things I like about history is that it takes the classical education approach – of four different eras of history – and teaches from all four of those each school year.  Rather than doing an entire year of ancient history, we’re doing one quarter on ancient history each school year (with each year focusing on a different region, such as Egypt or Greece).  It’s easy to get burnt out on a particular era when you’re knee-deep in it for an entire year, so we like that things get mixed up!
The history includes read alouds, audio recordings, and accompanying worksheets.  At the middle school level, these worksheets include timelines, coloring, extra readings, and short research assignments.  At the high school level, all of these are included as well as projects.  Each quarter (each historical era), the high school student has a short list of projects to complete before we move on to the next era.  This goes back to student responsibility and time management.  He can do them little by little throughout the quarter, or save them for an all-nighter on the last day of the quarter (which, I hope he learns from!!), but it’s his responsibility to do a good job within the time constraint.

What is Sparks Academy?

 Sparks Academy provides live / blended classes for high school students, using The Good & the Beautiful for language arts, Apologia / Berean Builders for science, and Notgrass for history.  These classes meet weekly, allowing students the opportunity to discuss the literature, get additional instruction on concepts covered, and show off their art projects and recitations.  Students alsoto receive a grade for these courses from a source outside of the home.

Sparks Academy is not affiliated with The Good & the Beautiful, but is run by parents who use and love their curriculum.  They are providing support, accountability, and community for upper grades families who use this curriculum by creating an online homeschool co-op for high school students.  Currently, students can register for High School Levels 1-3 in language arts.  There are also writing consultation packages for Level 6Level 7, and High School (for those who only want essay feedback).
Visit Sparks Academy to Learn More!

Looking Ahead
The number of upper grades families using The Good & the Beautiful is sure to grow in the future, as the current elementary-age families progress.  If you’re ahead of the curve, have no doubt…this is still an amazing curriculum for middle and high school students!   This video shows the materials more in-depth.

book listAn integral part of any well-rounded high school curriculum is literature!  Though not part of the TGTB curriculum, this free book list is designed for 8th – 12th grade college-bound students, and includes many classic pieces of literature as well as more modern day stories. The books represent a range of historic eras, and include elements from both American and World Literature courses. Parents should read the book description ahead of time and choose books based on their personal standards. It is not expected that every child will read every book on this list, but should be used as a guide for what colleges will expect to see on a well-rounded reading list.

You might also like Beautiful Book Studies!

Each unit addresses a new topic, including science, history, and geography.  Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.

  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the topic to life.

Table of Contents

  • The King’s Fifth
  • Red Falcons of Tremoine
  • Golden Hawks of Genghis Khan
  • Red Hugh of Ireland
  • Calico Captive
  • The Story of Eli Whitney
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins
  • The Lost Kingdom
  • The Secret Garden
  • Heidi
  • Girl of the Limberlost
  • The Winged Watchman
  • When the Dikes Broke
  • Using the Good & the Beautiful in High School

The books selected for these unit studies can be found in the upper grades areas of The Good and the Beautiful Book List.  However, Homeschool On the Range and Sparks Academy are not employed by or affiliated with, nor do they receive any compensation from, The Good and the Beautiful.  It has simply been their curriculum of choice for many years.  These unit studies are not endorsed by The Good and the Beautiful or Jenny Phillips.


  1. I have never heard of this curriculum before (for any grade level!) Thank you so much for sharing with us at Encouraging Hearts and Home. Your post was most viewed last week and will be featured tomorrow. Pinned.

    1. Oh yay! That's a first for exciting. Thank you!

  2. I'm interested in finding the additional spelling words for TGTB that you mention in your video about level 4.(European Cities???)

    1. When the video was created, there were additional files that moms had made up to share with other TGTB moms, including these spelling word booklets. Unfortunately, they are no longer allowed to be shared. You can, however, create your own booklet! The booklet used the spelling words from the list inside Level 4 and just had photos of European cities on each page.


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