Imparting a classical education at home. Check out the Edwards Academy.

Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Using Tapestry of Grace

Amy, over at Learning at our House, has written,
“I really like what I see in Tapestry of Grace, but feel a little confused about it. I did order the package that they offer so I can get more into it. For those of you who do have experience with this curriculum, what do you think of it? What advice can you give me if we decide to use it?”
Since I love using Tapestry of Grace, I thought I would post an answer.

The Tapestry of Grace website describes their product as follows:
“Tapestry of Grace is a homeschool curriculum: a plan of study that helps parents provide a Christian, classical education using a guided unit study approach, with the history of the world as the core organizational theme.”
It is a humanities curriculum, meaning that it provides history, literature, art history, church history/worldview, geography, philosophy, and writing instruction. It is structured around two key elements of a classical educational model: the learning stages of the trivium (lower and upper grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric) and a chronological approach to history.

Because of its approach, Tapestry of Grace appeals to homeschoolers who were initially inspired to homeschool after reading The Well-Trained Mind. It also finds loyal users who are fond of the Charlotte Mason method, which focuses on reading living books and using notebooking and narration. As a Christian, classical curriculum with unit study characteristics, Tapestry of Grace competes in the homeschooling curriculum market with Sonlight, Konos, Mystery of History, The Story of the World (from the author of The Well Trained Mind), Veritas Press, and WinterPromise, among others.

Tapestry of Grace does not produce textbooks but instead uses reading assignments from a variety of books. Its assignments and activities (with the exception of literature readings) are not book specific, they are topic specific. This makes it extremely easy to substitute books and gives a tremendous amount of flexibility to the homeschooling mom. Many moms use The Story of the World as a “spine” resource for TOG and some also use Veritas Press history cards along with TOG. If you are a Veritas Press or Sonlight user, you will recognize many of the books on the TOG booklists. TOG high schoolers will study the important and traditional high school literature selections, such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Les Miserables.

Tapestry of Grace is also hugely popular for its four learning levels, which provide assignments for every child in your home. Your high schooler will study the rhetoric level, your middle schooler the dialectic, and your elementary kids will find their assignments in the upper and lower grammar level, BUT, all of your kids will be learning about the same topic. It is much easier on mom not to have one child learning about ancient Egypt while another child is studying the Renaissance and yet another is learning about early America. With Tapestry, the whole family is studying together the same period of history. As you can tell from my blog, our history studies spill over into our family life as we watch movies related to our studies and work on projects together and with our co-op. We read aloud some of the books so that we are studying together.

Although it is at first confusing, TOG is pretty easy to implement and flexible in how you use it. (Check out some of the blogs on the TOG blogroll for a look at how other moms use Tapestry.) All of history, from creation to present day, is covered in four years. Each “Year-Plan” provides assignments for all learning levels. We started using Tapestry of Grace Year 1 when my oldest daughters were in Kindergarten (I was eager!). Next year, in fourth grade, they will repeat Year 1 for the first time but encounter the same topics at a higher learning stage. By the time they graduate high school, they will have studied history chronologically three times.

Each year is organized into 36 weeks and lesson plans are given for the week (you decide how you work your daily breakdown of assignments). Each week has a reading assignment for history, literature, fine arts, and worldview along with geography map work. Student assignment pages provide kids with activities, discussion questions, and comprehension questions. Writing assignments are also provided and coordinate topically with the history studies.

We use a notebooking approach to TOG. Each quarter I give my kids a workbook I put together for them that includes the TOG student activity pages, blank “notebooking” pages I found from, maps, picture study pages, writing assignments, and blank lined paper for their writing assignments. This keeps everything neat and tidy and helps them know what is to be done for the week. Every Monday I give them an assignment sheet with all their assignments for each day and every subject (including math, Latin, spelling, and grammar). As they grow older, they will be expected to help divide their weekly TOG work into daily chunks themselves, learning to budget their time over the week to be done by Friday.

What advice can I give if you decide to use it? Here a few suggestions:
  • Order the Year Plan and the MapAids disk. This makes all the map work very easy to teach. MapAids gives you blank maps for the kids and teacher maps with the answers, all in easy to use PDF files. I usually give my kids the blank map for labeling and coloring and provide them with a teacher map to find the answers. Copying the labels and colors into their map is a very easy and effective way to learn geography.
  • Don’t order all the books on the booklist all at once! Once you receive your Year Plan, look over the book list and prepare your own list of what to buy and what to find at the library and what you might substitute. Until you get the hang of TOG, I recommend that you only buy the books you need for the first unit, or quarter. After you get the feel for TOG, you’ll discover that many of the books are better found at your library or that you have substitutes available on your own shelf. Some titles are real gems and it is worth it to buy the book TOG suggests, but sometimes it just doesn’t matter (for example, any elementary-level biography of Woodrow Wilson will suffice). 
  • TOG is a plan of study. For lower grammar especially, think of it as an outline that guides you in teaching your kids history. For our younger ones, we follow the topics by week, fill our home with library books, music, dress-up clothes, toys, and sometimes movies that fit the theme, and we experience it together. 
If you think history is dull, TOG will change your mind. Don’t worry if you aren’t a history scholar. All that you need is in your TOG teacher notes. TOG calls itself “curriculum for K-Mom” and it is quite true: TOG moms are learning along with their kids and loving every minute of it!

There are plenty of bloggers who have already offered up similar posts describing Tapestry of Grace and you can find them through the blogroll. Also, to see how we enjoy TOG, click on the topics "Tapestry of Grace," or "TOG Co-op," or "TOG Year 4."

A few hours after posting this, I corrected the link.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful post! I wish we lived closer to one another, or that I could at least fine a co-op in our area, but I am finally starting to feel like I understand the plan.

I did read "The Well-Trained Mind," as well as "The Charlotte Mason Companion," so I found it comforting that you noted both of those in your post. I have always liked both methods; using the Trivium and the Charlotte Mason approach. I am anxious to get my "orientation kit" in the mail.

I will write a post on my blog linking back to this post since it answers my question so thoroughly!

Thanks again!

Sharon said...

Just wondering, how do you find time to listen to all the stuff on your "The Academy is listening to..." list? Do the kids have a listening time in the afternoons while you read the WSJ online and blog? Or do they listen at meals or some other times?

Do you make CDs for them to listen to for a topic, copying all the stuff that fits together history-wise onto the one CD (or iPOD as the case may be)?

And where did you get some of these recordings, such as the Mixed-Up Files audio-book or the Story Hour recording? Do you borrow them from your library or find them online or what?

I really want to pick your brains on this!

~ Sharon

Mrs. Edwards said...

I'm so glad this was useful to you! Yes, the problem with finding like-minded friends through blogging is that eventually we long to have coffee together and can't! Check out the Tapestry of Grace Forum on their website. You might find TOG users close to you. Also, there is a Yahoo "Loose Threads" group that many TOG moms communicate on.

I think I'll write a post about audiobooks to answer some of these questions. As for the time, we have a laptop that I tote around during school hours for blogging (while their doing a grammar test or seat work) and writing on the book. I usually read the WSJ the old-fashioned way--I still love print media.

But, you've hit on my Achilles heel. I spend too much time posting to my blog, I'm afraid!

Mrs. Edwards said...

It kills me that I don't notice my spelling/typing errors until AFTER I hit "publish"!

Make that "while THEY'RE doing a grammar test..." For that matter it should probably read, "taking a grammar test or doing seat work..."

Have a great day!
~Mrs. Edwards

Sharon said...

Isn't that what the preview button is for? That's what wastes more time for me than anything else - proofreading because I can't stand spelling and punctuation errors!

~ Sharon

Mrs. Edwards said...

Yes, I don't know why I tend to proofread comments in the little box instead of with the preview button. I think it is easier to see errors in the preview mode. I'll change my ways forthwith!

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