Monday, October 30, 2006

Tapestry of Grace: A Review

A while back, a dedicated homeschooling mother of 6 greeted her husband at the door with the statement, "This is where we stop homeschooling," Her older children were moving on to more rigorous high school studies. Exasperated, she was not sure that she could give them the excellent education she had provided when they were younger. There was just one problem, her husband was an attorney with HSLDA!

Thankfully, instead of quitting, this homeschooling mother, Marcia Somerville along with her husband Scott, designed a curriculum called Tapestry of Grace. Our family is very thankful the Somervilles kept going. Their perseverance has been a blessing to us and countless other homechool families.

We were devoted Sonlight users for many years. I enjoyed the literature selections and the well thought out lesson plans. But as the children grew, I began to feel like an octupus in 6 different oceans. The children were each focused on different historical periods and we were losing some of the joy of learning together. I tried to combine levels and use one year for many children. That worked well for a while, but I still found myself growing more frustrated. Finding books and projects for those at a lower or higher level was difficult and time consuming. I began to look for a curriculum that would allow multiple ages to study the same subject, but at their level.

Enter Tapestry of Grace (TOG). The curriculum is designed to teach muliple ages the same time period simulaneously using quality literature. TOG works on a four year cycle. That means, once you have purchased all four years (about $150), you will have a complete curriculum from kindergarten through graduation. Similar to Sonlight, the books used in each year are purchased separately. As an experiement, we made the switch last year from Sonlight to Tapestry of Grace (year four).

It was everything I hoped for and more.

Tapestry of Grace is a classical approach with a Christian worldview. It blends history, with geography, English, Bible and church history, along with several electives. As they children advance in their abilities, they cycle through a chronological study of history. Their website says it this way, the curriclulum is designed for learning "stages" not ages. It mentors parents in instructing Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric level children.

At the request of my oldest daughter, we began our study at the "end" of history in the twentieth century (year four). I was a little nervous starting at the end of the curriculum, but I needn't have been worried. Each year is designed to stand on it's own. There were only a few places where the material referenced previously covered topics or books.

TOG presents a lot of material. It was a little overwhelming at first to see what we were going to cover in one year. But as we plunged into each week, we slowly adapted the suggested readings to our family's learning style.

All the children have been fairly enthusiastic about Tapestry of Grace. The boys found the work load a little more than they were used to, but they have really stepped up and taken more responsibility for their learning. The best part of using TOG is that I feel like we are learning as a family again. When I hear the children conversing with each other about a subject it's not just one "lecturing" about what they have learned. They are all contributing facts and ideas. There are plenty of hands-on projects to engage all types of learning styles and ages. Interestingly, I have found the older children reading many of the "lower grammar" books. And I have seen my younger children peeking into the books of the older children.

No curriculum is perfect. I miss the read aloud suggestions that Sonlight provided. As a replacement, I have chosen books from our library that go along with our study. Tapestry of Grace gives only weekly reading assignments, not daily. So with some of the children, I have to break down their reading into a daily schedule. It's not insurmountable, but when you're accustomed to someone else doing the work, it's a minor inconvenience.

I began TOG last year with a child at each level and a toddler. I knew we had a made a good choice when my daughter told me she wished she were starting high school all over again - just so she could go through all four years!

Stay tuned: Tomorrow, I will be giving away a free unit of Tapestry of Grace.

UPDATE: Click here to enter to win a free unit of Tapestry of Grace.

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