Jennifer Phillips College Essay

Most essays don’t sound like hers, and that, according to the college admissions directors who read many hundreds of them each year, ought to be the precise point of the exercise. Most essay prompts are open-ended enough that you can write about whatever you want, so a winning one speaks in a unique voice and tells a story that does not — cannot — appear in a high school transcript or a teacher’s recommendation letter.

How often does money, work and social class come up? Not often enough to feel overly familiar. “I don’t see a lot of them, that’s for sure,” said Jim Rawlins, director of admissions at the University of Oregon.

But this season, he saw an essay from Tillena Trebon of Flagstaff, Ariz. At her father’s house, Ms. Trebon hauls water. In her mother’s neighborhood, kids wage war with water guns.

“I live on the edge of an urban and rural existence,” she wrote. “On one side of me, nature is a hobby. On the other, it is a way of life.”

I detected a slight side-eyed glance at the Patagonia-wearing set here, and she added a subtle hint that her father drove a truck because he needed to. But she also seems to know the weekenders well and count herself among them, even.

“I belong at the place where opposites merge in a lumpy heap of beautiful contradictions,” she wrote.

Mr. Rawlins, who is also a musician, described her essay as a tone poem not unlike works by Romantic composers trying to evoke a particular mood. Indeed, I read it aloud over breakfast to my family, and even the toddler fell silent.

At Columbia University, the admissions staff also hopes for essays that beg to be read aloud, even though everyone around the table has the text. This time around, an essay by Zöe Sottile, a senior at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., made the cut.

She wrote about her laptop — the Dell that she got free from the school as a full-ride scholarship student, and the Mac she didn’t realize she wanted until she discovered that most of the full-paying students had one.

That Dell was a tell, giving her away as an outsider. But she hadn’t arrived at Andover with nothing, as her parents had gone to college and provided plenty of cultural capital. So when she finally did get a Mac during her senior year, it didn’t quite sit right, either.

“My hyperawareness of how my Dell hid my privilege and how my Mac hid my financial need pushed me to be aware of what complicated stories were hiding behind my classmates’ seemingly simple facades,” she wrote.

That almost aching self-awareness spoke to Jessica Marinaccio, dean of undergraduate admissions at Columbia. “It really showed a window into the way I would think she would approach challenges and questions academically — with great consideration, depth and fairness,” she said.

Admissions officers aim to fill beds, but they’re also trying to craft a well-rounded class filled with individuals who will meet the faculty’s high standards. So a good essay will prove that the writer belongs around the seminar table, mixing it up on social class or whatever the big issue of the day is.

“There are people who might be 40 years old and wouldn’t be able to articulate this view,” Ms. Marinaccio said of the Mac vs. Dell essay. “It only underscores the tremendous promise of who she could become.”

Another student, Jonathan Ababiy, rose above the crowd in describing how far he has come already. The son of Moldovan refugees, he eloquently describes the intellectual artifacts in the professors’ house that his mother cleans. He tagged along to help quite often over the years, and the newspapers, magazines, books and photos in the house were a “celebrity-endorsed path to prosperity” that opened a window to new worlds.

“Work could be done with one’s hands and with one’s mind,” wrote Mr. Ababiy, who lives in Blaine, Minn., and plans to attend the University of Minnesota. “It impressed on me a sort of social capital that I knew could be used in America.”

At the Peppertrees Bed & Breakfast in Tucson, Caitlin McCormick has watched her own parents work hard, sometimes for an unappreciative audience of poor tippers, scammers and late-arriving guests who once made young Caitlin late for her own birthday party.

“For most of my life I believed my parents were intense masochists for devoting their existences to the least thankful business I know,” she wrote.

But as she turned her growing awareness of the imbalance of power in the service industry toward an appreciation of public service, she came to understand the nobility of all work, even when there is no one to say thank you.

“Slowly, my mother’s gingham apron began to look more like metal armor,” she wrote.

I stopped to consider that passage, as did Jennifer Fondiller, dean of enrollment management at Barnard College, where Ms. McCormick plans to matriculate.

“I wanted to have a conversation with her about it,” Ms. Fondiller said. “And I love leaving an essay like that, where you want to say, ‘Let’s keep talking.’”

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This one-of-a-kind, non-denominational curriculum, much of which is free, was created by best-selling author, songwriter, teacher, and homeschool mom Jenny Phillips, along with a carefully selected team of reading specialists, teachers, grammarians, historians, editors, writers, and homeschool parents.

Why the Curriculum was Created

To teach advanced academics while connecting children to the good and the beautiful in life and in learning: God, high moral character, and the wonders and beauty of nature and human life

Too many children are losing a love of learning and  love of good, wholesome, and powerful literature. Also, learning materials today are largely disconnected from God and high character, taking meaning, depth, and joy from learning.  This curriculum is designed to help children recognize, appreciate, and seek out the good and the beautiful in learning. The images, exercises, and lessons focus on teaching high moral character while remaining academically strong and thorough.

To make homeschooling less overwhelming and time consuming

Homeschooling can be very overwhelming and time consuming! The curriculum is carefully designed to be very easy to follow and to require very little to no preparation time. In addition the curriculum helps in the following ways:

  • Language arts & literature courses combine several subjects (reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, literature, geography, and art.) This not only connects learning and gives it deeper enjoyment and meaning, but it means you do not have to find, purchase, and use 6-7 different courses.) It also reduces the total time needed for the subjects.
  • Children are on their own individual lessons for language arts & literature, but there is no prep time required! Just open the course each day and learn and explore along with your child for Levels Pre-K to 3. Levels 4 and above are designed to be self-directed by the child, but parents can be as involved as they would like.
  • The science and history curriculum is family style with lesson extensions for older children. Enjoy learning together as a family and having only one science and history curriculum to keep track of and complete.

To make homeschooling more affordable

This curriculum is also free or extremely inexpensive compared to most home school courses. Why? The underlying goal of The Good & the Beautiful is truly to strengthen children and families. Our profit margin is extremely low. We hope this curriculum will make it more feasible for families to be able to use a faith-based curriculum.

Price Comparison for Third Grade Language Arts & Literature
The Good & the Beautiful Level 3 Course Set is $68 (really!) and thoroughly combines the subjects contained in the products below, which would equal to $431.68.

Level 3 All About Reading (complete package + required kit): $141.80
Level 3 All About Spelling (complete package + required kit): $62.80
Level 3 All About Homophones: $19.95
Level 3 BJU Press Grammar & Writing (kit): $94.85
BJU Fundamentals of Literature (teacher & student text, test, answer key): $97.22
Down to Earth Geography, Grade 3 ($21.99)
Art Appreciation: Pieced together on your own from free websites

“I want to tell you the things I love about your curriculum:
     – I can just open and go.
     – Everything is explained clearly.
    – It is advanced academically.
     – I can trust that everything in it appropriate and uplifting.” ~ Michelle

“I just wanted to let you know that my second grader and I LOVE your Language Arts curriculum. You have done an amazing job of creating and organizing a program that is simple but thorough. Every day, I am pleasantly surprised and impressed with the material that we learn. There is just the right amount of repetitive exercise mixed with new activities to give it a rhythm without becoming boring or drudgery, and it challenges and expands my daughter’s skills in a gentle but firm way. In the past, my biggest struggle with LA curricula has been trying to make it all work together – spelling, dictation, memory work, reading, writing, etc. The full programs that we’ve tried were too rigid, sometimes way too rigorous, or many times left gaps in instruction (for teacher or student), or didn’t give a clear way to move at a different pace when the student (or mom) needed to. So, I’ve been piecing language arts elements together for years, trying to make it be what I wanted and what my kids needed. Then I found The Good and the Beautiful. I am not exaggerating when I say that it has completely changed the tenor of our school day.” ~ Traci. M

General FAQs

Q: What curriculum is free?

A: Levels 1-5 language arts and literature course sets are offered as free downloads! To save you time and money, we also offer high-quality printed course sets for less than the average cost of having it printed on your own. As the courses contain a lot of beautiful, detailed art, it is suggested you do not use a home printer to print the full-color materials unless you have a high-quality printer.


Q: What worldview does the curriculum take? Is any specific Christian denomination favored?

A: The curriculum takes a general Christian worldview, focusing, not on the doctrine of any particular Christian church, but on high moral character and basic Bible principles such as gratitude, honesty, prayer, and kindness. Parents can add in their own doctrinal beliefs as desired. Jenny Phillips is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but the curriculum is reviewed by members of many different faiths to make sure that the curriculum does not include doctrine specific to any Christian church. We have reviewers and users of the following denominations and more: Lutheran, Assemblies of God, Catholic, Baptist, Mennonite, Nazarene, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Methodist, Non-Denominational, and Seventh Day Adventists. As one user posted on Facebook: “We are southern Baptist and have been using history, science, language arts, and handwriting for a year now. Zero complaints. Very nondenominational, beautifully written curriculum. I am so grateful to have found it.” ~Michelle W. Some of the levels include occasional quotes from leaders of many different faiths such as Catholic, Evangelical, and LDS. Whenever quotes are used from religious leaders, they are not on doctrinal issues, but on simple concepts such as love of learning and appreciation for nature.


Q: On what level should I start my child in language arts and literature?

A:Administer the assessment test.


Q: As the high school levels are not yet available for language arts and literature, can you recommend a program?

A: From Jenny Phillips: “Unfortunately, I have not found any language arts & literature programs that I feel comfortable recommending for high school. Most of the curriculum that has aspects that I do like also integrate books with profanity or inappropriate content. It’s not possible at this time for me to give any recommendations for high school language arts and literature. However, many families are starting their high school children with our Level 7 course as they wait for our high school courses to be released.

Q: Does the religious content in this curriculum prevent me from getting the curriculum paid for by programs like My Tech High?

A: Yes. Most of the curriculum contains religious content. We have made the curriculum as inexpensive as possible to make it more feasible for families to use faith-based materials.

The following items have no religious content: phonics cards, Year 1 History Board Game, Year 2 history game, Grammar & Geography Cards, Level 3 Challenging Word Cards, Typing Course 1, Creative Writing Notebook #1


Q: Why do the lower grades contain such little writing instruction? What is the curriculum’s philosophy behind writing instruction?

A: The creators of The Good & the Beautiful believe that learning to write well is one of the most important academic skills a child can gain. However, pushing younger children to complete writing assignments can overwhelm them and cause them to dislike writing. This is because most children in lower levels are still working on basic handwriting, spelling, and grammar skills. There are exceptions; some children are ready to write earlier. If you have a young child who loves to write, let him!

At lower levels, the best way to develop great writers is by #1) teaching the child to think through parent-child discussion, #2) reading a lot of great literature to the child, #3) teaching the child to read well so that he can begin reading a lot of great literature on his own, #4) having the child complete occasional, simple, meaningful writing projects, and #5) having the child participate in oral narration often, which means he retells in his own words what he just read or heard, and also that he tells his own stories and compositions orally instead of writing them down.

Serious writing instruction begins in Level 4 and increases in emphasis with each course level.

Q: Does the curriculum follow Common Core standards? How do the courses compare academically to public school?

A: The Good and the Beautiful curriculum does not follow Common Core standards. However, because the curriculum is thorough and advanced, it goes well above and beyond Common Core standards.


Q: What educational philosophy does the curriculum use?

A: The curriculum is not based on one specific educational philosophy or method. Rather, the creators of the curriculum intensely studied many different philosophies over a period of years and compiled what they felt were the best elements from several different philosophies, pulling mainly from Charlotte Mason.

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