The following is a comparison chart for the two options of The Great Ideas through the Great Books courses with Tree of Life.


Great Ideas 'Self-Paced' Great Ideas 'Online'
When was the course first launched? Level 1 (grade 9) was offered beginning 2003 Beginning in 2013; developed through following years
What grades does it cover? Grades 9-12 Grades 9-12
What sort of student is it for? Students interested in ideas and well-prepared for essay writing, challenging academic reading (including classics, theology), and plenty of independent work. Students equally well-prepared, but desiring peer interaction and able to follow a weekly schedule through the school year.  If the family's school schedule is unpredictable or irregular, this is not a good option.
Is there a schedule? Only a suggested weekly sequence of books and assignments.  Any pace can be followed, and the course could be 'paused'.

Yes, there is a weekly schedule from Sept-May including assigned reading (esp. Mondays), live and text-based class discussions (Tuesdays), as well as study exercises and writing assignments (rest of the week).


Levels 1 and 2 have live discussion classes every three weeks, and levels 3 and 4 hold such classes every two weeks on Tuesdays.  Two times are typically offered in each course.

Are there deadlines for assignments? No. There are suggested deadlines in the schedule for most assignments, and hard deadlines for Forum questions (text-based discussions).
Can the student ask a question if he/she needs help? Evaluators can give some help/direction with the content of the course as well as assignments, but this is limited. Yes, students can ask questions by message (and these can be shared for the benefit of other students) and during live classes.
Are the course themes the same?

Yes, the same basic themes:

Level 1: God and Man

Level 2: Truth and Lies

Level 3: Good and Evil

Level 4: Beauty and Ethics

Note: the Great Ideas Online gives the opportunity to consider and discuss some themes and aspects of the literature in greater depth.
Are the same books used? Yes, they use the same books. Yes, they use the same books.
How does the marking differ?  What kind of assignments are there? The final mark is based on an average of all assignment marks.  Some assignments are single paragraphs, essays, and chapter by chapter study guides. The final mark is based on written work (essays, study guides), participation in discussions, and reading quizzes.
How many credits will the student earn?

Levels 1-2: 2 credits (English and Bible/Worldview

Levels 3-4: 3 credits (English, Bible/Worldview, and History)

How much does tuition cost?
$400 (plus book costs)
$550 (plus book costs)
What does tuition include?
  • Evaluation (marking) of 18-20 assignments
  • Electronic (printable) course guide
  • Student login access
  • Evaluation (marking) of assignments
  • Moderation of discussions and live classes (levels 1/2: 12 hours; levels 3/4 18 hours)
  • Electronic (printable) course guide/schedule
  • Student login access
Is there a registration deadline?
Since the courses start in the first full week of September, students should register by the middle of August at the latest.


Further questions?  Email


What do the online discussion classes look like?

We have used Zoom this past year.  Classes meet for around 1 hour and involve both some instructional background as well as discussion prompts to review material in the readings.


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What do students say about the Great Ideas Online courses?


Select Anonymous Responses from Great Ideas 1 (grade 9) students:


Question 1: What was the difficulty of this course, compared to your other courses this year?

  • Much easier: 0 (0.0%)
  • Easer: 0 (0.0%)
  • About the same: 2 (18.2%)
  • Harder: 6 (54.5%)
  • Much harder: 1 (9.1%)
  • I didn't take any other courses this year.: 2 (18.2%)
  • Don't know.: 0 (0.0%)

Question 3: Were the assignment expectations reasonable?

  • No, the assignments were too long or too hard.: 0 (0.0%)
  • It was really hard, but fair for the type of course.: 4 (36.4%)
  • Yes, the expectations were challenging a good way.: 6 (54.5%)
  • The expectations were not very challenging.: 1 (9.1%)
  • It was too easy.: 0 (0.0%)

Question 4: Was the marking fair for this course?

  • No, it was too easy to get high marks.: 1 (9.1%)
  • Yes, the marking was fair for the work done.: 7 (63.6%)
  • No, the marking was too hard.: 1 (9.1%)
  • Not sure.: 2 (18.2%)

Question 7: What was your favourite part of the course (eg. book or assignment or idea, etc.)?

1: The readings were my favorite part

2: I liked the mythology part the most.

3: My favourite part of the course was the great and meaningful books I read. Not only did I learn from them academically, but they were helpefull with my own personal walk with God.

4: i loved the reading part of the course

5: my favorite book was Robinson Crusoe and i enjoyed the part in the course when we went through Mythology.

6: My favourite part of the course was when we came together on zoom to discuss the material we covered during the last three weeks.

7: My favorite part of the course was the short stories.

8: My favourite part of the course was Calvin's confessions.

9: My favorite part of the course was probably the Robinson Crusoe and Augustine Confessions books. I also liked the way the Bible reading assighnment were done.

10: My favourite part of the course was reading The Yearling and Robinson Crusoe, as well as the Forum questions and online classes.

11: I loved reading the monster stories. in general all of the books were very good.


Select Anonymous Responses from students in Great Ideas 2 (grade 10):


Question 7: What was your favourite part of the course (eg. book or assignment or idea, etc.)?

1: Study guide assignments, they help you understand the book and they aren't essays.

2: rasselas

3: Postmodern Times

4: Reading

5: I really enjoyed reading and studying post-modern times! :)

6: I personally really enjoyed Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. It was a really funny read and if I had enough friends would be really fun to put on.

7: My favorite book in terms of deep and applicable thought would have to be Postmodern Times, my favorite book in terms of storyline is definitely Great Expectations.

8: I think the book I enjoyed the most from a novel perspective was Out of the Silent Planet. But to be honest its mostly due to the fact that C.S. Lewis wrote it. I also really enjoyed postmodern times even if it was challenging to grasp some of the things that were stated.

9: I loved the ironic plays and just getting older literature into me. Great Expectations was quite enjoyable, because of the older language and the intricate plot line. To kill a mockingbird was a good storyline, but I loved how it put forward some food for thought like racism and judging.

10: My favourite part of the course was the postmodern times book

11: Some of my favourite parts of the course were the the books Out of the Silent Planet and To Kill a Mockingbird. I also enjoyed the discussion that happened as a result of reading Postmodern Times.

12: The ability to compare the various books to one another.

13: I really enjoyed reading Postmodern Times. It helped me get a better understanding of how our culture thinks today, and how to talk to the unbelievers in my life better. The Institutes reading we did this year was also really good! And the Out of the Silent Planet essay, or the Great Expectations essay were probably my favourite assignments this year. I loved how relevant the study of Truth and Lies is to the issues we face in our culture today.

14: the part of reading book because i love getting in to stories.



Select Anonymous Responses from students in Great Ideas 3 (grade 11):


Question 7: What was your favourite part of the course (eg. book or assignment or idea, etc.)?

1: My favourite part was reading Institutes, I really learn a lot when reading those books.

2: I really liked Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. I also really enjoyed Job.

3: I believe a highlight of my experience during this course was the analysis of the Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce

4: All of the books were really interesting, my favourite one was the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. I also really enjoyed Hamlet and Macbeth.

5: The recurring and connected theme of Good and Evil from all the books from The Illiad to The Lord of the Flies.

6: I enjoyed the study and essay on Job.

7: I think my favorite part of this course was The Universe Next Door reading assignment and study guide. I liked it because it helped me understand others point of view and how they think of the world around them.

8: I loved the book "Lord of the Flies" and the discussions around it. The whole connection of good and evil represented in different ways through different works of literature is very interesting! But likely my favourite part of the course is the interaction between everyone in both the class calls, and the forum questions.

9: I enjoyed reading the books of C. S. Lewis.

10: I really enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the different books and ideas with the other students in the forum questions and in the live discussions: these often helped me gain new perspectives about the books we were reading and inspired me to continue reading and thinking more deeply about what I read. My favourite books/ assignments were Ivanhoe, reading The Iliad and Beowulf, and The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis.

11: Most likely Universe Next Door.