Tailoring Tapestry to a Custom-Fit

Tailoring Tapestry to a Custom-Fit

I re-evaluated everything last spring, even Tapestry, and asked myself some hard questions. I was disillusioned with it, to be quite honest. I had expected the first year fog, but the second year I ought to have found my stride. Unfortunately, I still had some growing pains. The kids were fine; they’re fine with just about anything I do. (Bless them!) But my expectations weren’t being met, or at least, I was feeling insecure.

So I asked myself why I loved Tapestry to begin with. My #1 reason? It wasn’t the book lists or activities, it wasn’t necessarily the whole family learning or the integration of subjects. I love many of those aspects, but at the top of my list was customization. Of course, you CAN customize just about any curriculum, but what I love is that Tapestry was designed to be customized.

I “customize” and find substitutes for a lot of the books a lot of the time. The activity suggestions I’ve almost entirely replaced; they just didn’t our family and my time-limits. I loved the Bible suggestions and world-view, but even those were merely a jumping off point.

Bottom-line, I’m not a curriculum-follower; I’m a curriculum-creator with not enough time to create from scratch. Tapestry allows me to customize, and I love that.

After learning that about myself and about Tapestry, I’m maximizing that possibility. I am customizing the curriculum to the point where some of you might not even recognize it. But I’m loving it so far.

Divisions by Topics, not Weeks

Toward the end of last year, I found myself totally overwhelmed with keeping up with the week plans. Trying to accomplish the reading deadlines was throttling our joy of reading and learning together. I hated it. To survive, I tossed the week plans and studied by topic instead. We studied the explorers, the colonies, and the American War for Independence. We moved on when we were ready, when our books were read—and we took the time to enjoy our books.

This worked so well that I’ve implemented it from the very beginning of this year. I’ve selected the events we will cover (and we won’t cover them all; no history curriculum does) and arranged our Terms by topic instead of by week.

I do have a rough idea of how long we will spend on each topic, but I’m keeping it rough.

Divisions by Terms, not Units

Tapestry is divided into four 9-week units. But I overhauled this, too. It became difficult last year to work our vacations around our units. Also, some units were very busy while others seemed pretty empty. By arranging our year by topics, I could smooth these busy times out. But then my units were all messed up.

Instead of units, I’ve arranged our year into three Terms of about 12 weeks. Tapestry, for the most part, will fit into the first two terms. (That’s right, 24 weeks instead of 36.) And the last term will be for science. Why?

To counter-act burnout. When spring hits, I’m ready for a change and so are the kids. Tapestry felt like it dragged on forever both years we’ve done it. When the sun comes out, I want to study outside and explore. Science seems like such a natural subject that time of year.

I’ve even rearranged Tapestry topics to tailor this. For instance, at different points in Year 3 we are supposed to study inventors and inventions. I’ve pulled these weeks out of place and arranged that topic for part of our science study in Term 3.

I told you, I gave Tapestry a massive overhaul. But it’s custom, and it fits.

 

Q/A:

What about maps?

I’m only using the maps as a reference point for our reading and discussion. We will be using the Classical Conversations dry-erase “Trivium Table” maps instead. And an old GeoSafari, for those who remember what that is.

What about chronology?

I’ve kept the topics in order for the most part. The only rearranged item were the inventors. I’m really wanting to free us up to form relationships with the people we are studying, something I felt too rushed to do in the past.

What about books?

I use Tapestry as a starting point and search my library by topic. I also do a lot of comparing on the SimplyCharlotteMason.com website. I’m pickier about book choices. We only have time for the best, living books. No dry fact summaries. And I’m not opposed to searching Netflix or my library’s videos. Liberty Kids was a life-saver toward the end of last year, and very effective.

What about activities?

There’s nothing wrong with Tapestry activities. In fact, when I first looked at Tapestry, this was a huge selling point for me—making bricks like the Israelites did, making armor like the medieval knights wore, etc. But, life happened. And I realize that I’m just not up for that most of the time. I don’t happen to have rebar or cement or wire or washers on hand. Not to mention that I’m tired of feeling guilty for not fitting it in. It’s just not us. (Not that my kids wouldn’t love it. You are more than welcome to come over and stomp bricks with them in the wading pool. But I’m lucky to have supper cooked and laundry caught up.)

Oldest likes to draw and caption, while Middlest likes to imagine and execute her own craft ideas. We like paper-crafts with glue and scissors. That’s more our speed.

Why do Tapestry at all if you are going to maul it like that?

This is my own question asked to myself. And my answer is, I looked at all the other curriculums very closely once more. Tapestry still had the core of what I wanted, more so than all the others. I like the literature woven into the history, I like the discussions and world view highlights, I like the 4 year rotation and the classical learning divisions (grammar, dialectic, rhetoric). I like that Tapestry was designed to be customized.

So there you have it.

A face-lift, an overhaul, a demolition, or—

a perfectly tailor-fit Tapestry.

Facing Our Challenges

Facing Our Challenges

All of life is a journey, with a thousand twists and turns and detours and unscheduled maintenance stops. And while some families may have a journey that looks like a road trip across Texas or Ohio (think miles of nothingness), ours feels more like a roller coaster. And just when I feel like it’s time to unbuckle and get off, it lurches forward again.

In our latest hair-raising episodes, we’ve encountered the full impact of an ADHD diagnosis. Without names, just think multiple family members, and you’ll start to get an idea of how life-altering this has been. It’s been a nightmare and a relief at the same time. A nightmare to realize what lies ahead, and a relief to understand that there are solutions to our difficulties.

I know this is a highly charged and controversial diagnosis, and I’m not about to debate any of that here. For a fantastic overview of what it is and how it can affect a family, visit BenandMe.com’s blog series on ADHD. It’s amazing, and has been a tremendous (not to mention, timely) encouragement.

Needless to say, this has meant some huge changes in our family-life, parenting style, and homeschool. And it’s meant that I’ve lightened up on some of my extremely idealistic expectations to provide a little relief for us all. Here’s a sneak-peak at what has worked so far.

A New Homeschool Routine

Homeschooling ADHDIf you know anything about ADHD, then you’ll understand how crucial structure and routine are. But I needed a routine that was on one hand structured, but on the other hand capable of flexing with our high demands. The solution…drum roll…

Mornings are reserved for exploration and activity; discipline subjects (think phonics, spelling, math) come after lunch.

So after our chores, our mornings include things like a nature walk, a read-aloud and art project, music lessons, or Latin videos (Song School Latin). I don’t “schedule” these activities (other than our Tapestry of Grace history lessons). Instead, I suggest the next thing on the list during the next opportunity we have. If chores take too long, we miss the extras. But if the kids have been diligent and we have time, I look at what’s next to offer up. If it’s a pretty day, I suggest a nature walk. If I’m having trouble with my Littlest, then I suggest a Kinderbach lesson or the Latin video.

After lunch, we have a rigid system that pretty much never changes. It’s time for discipline. Oldest does his Reflex Math, copywork, mapwork, and some reading while Middlest does math and reading with me. (Littlest is fed and happy and pretty content to explore on his own during this time of day.) Then, we switch it up. Middlest does Reflex and plays with Littlest while Oldest does language and math with me.

It takes us roughly two hours. And I’m done by 3. Which means all the kids go to quiet time and leave me in as close to absolute silence as we can possibly acquire. I’ve insisted: mommy needs quiet time or mommy becomes a momster. And after proving that out a few times, they’ve pretty much gotten the idea. Lol!

A New Evening Routine

Evenings are our “witching hour” in every sense that the parent books warn about. My children never outgrew this. It’s absolute chaos. Plus, it’s time to make dinner. Which means that inevitably, my husband walks into a storm.

Here’s where I’ve relaxed my ideal. I have allowed a daily cartoon time while I make supper (horror of horrors!) They watch cartoons until I have supper prepared, and my husband can sneak into the house and transition himself to “family time.” My rules are as follows: if you come out of quiet time, you will lose your cartoon time. If you whine or pout when I say time is up, you will lose your next day’s cartoon time. So far, there have been NO infractions. Amazing!

Tot school

A New Chore System

Chores have been a nightmare. And I’m not Cinderella’s step-mother: most of my children’s “chores” are brushing their teeth, making their bed, cleaning their room type of tasks. But between HIGH-distractibility and extreme emotional melt-downs, chores have been a Twilight Zone.

Until I went searching for a chore app with a reward system. What I needed was a chore system that ran itself and offered rewards for tasks done. If it depended on my husband or myself to resupply the rewards or come up with the cash or whatever, I knew it would fail. I knew our limits.

ChoreMonster has been a dream come true. First, it’s free! (Hallelujah!) Second, the chores, point system, and rewards are all customizable. I enter the chores and equivalent points earned for each child. I enter the rewards and points for purchase. I customize whether or not the chore needs to be approved by me (getting dressed does not but cleaning a room does). And the app literally runs itself.

My kids have their own login to check off the chores they finish. For each chore finished, they get a spin on the monster wheel that will either win them a new cleaning monster to add to their collection or something monster-ish like dirty underwear, a banana peel, an empty soda can, or a jar of farts. They love it!

For rewards, they can earn video game time, a movie night, a bubble bath with no time limit, a candy bar on my next trip to the store, a new lego set, and other items of varying value.

I’ve included good character as “chores,” if they show responsibility, a servant-spirit, a great effort during a difficult situation, or excellence in school (attitude and focus), they earn points as well.

It’s been a huge success! And a huge relief.

Logic of English FoundationsWe still have a lot of changes to make. But just to catch my breath from the chaos has been such a blessing. And knowing what it is I’m up against has been the greatest blessing of all.

Ready, Set, Go…2014 school year

Ready, Set, Go…2014 school year

First Day Pictures 2014-2015

It’s been a great start, though not an easy one. We’ve buckled down and pulled out the books and are knee-deep in Napoleon and Revolutions and an upcoming Louisiana Purchase.

Homeschool Open House

We kicked off the year with an “open house/orientation” of sorts, previewing all the coming attractions and attempting to get all my little minds salivating over the opportunities. It was simple but very effective. I pulled out some books, set the table display, popped some popcorn, and in 30 min. we’d done the thing from start to finish. It’s definitely something I’d like to see remain a tradition. Just what we needed to get us going.

Karate start

Reflex Math

The highlights this year are karate for the older two, Reflex Math for Middlest (she has waited a loooooong time for this), and some adventures with our local homeschool co-op. Littlest has also found plenty to be excited about.

Tot School activities

It’s been a fun start, not without the bumps in the road. But there’s definitely been plenty of blessings over the last couple of weeks to remind me of why I love homeschooling my kiddos.

Learning my “Best Yes”

Learning my “Best Yes”

My mom sent me a book. Even thousands of miles away, my mom knows me so well. She knows that “no” is foreign to my everyday vocabulary and that I say “yes” to more than I ought most of the time.

So I’ve been reading The Best Yes by Lisa Terkeurst, and I can’t tell you how timely it has been.

Here are a few thoughts that have been inspiring me lately.

Passages from The Best Yes

 

Decisions and Demands

 

My Best Yes

What are you reading?

The 2014-15 Curriculum Reveal

The 2014-15 Curriculum Reveal

Disclaimer: This post contains one affiliate link, which means that if you make a purchase through that link, I get a small compensation. You can read more in my disclosure.

2014-15 Curriculum

So, I’ve been busy. Plotting, planning, scheming, conniving, imagining, dreaming, wishing, purchasing, drooling, planning some more, etc. Many of you can probably relate. And I’m finally—FINALLY—ready to share next year’s vision.

Are you ready for this reveal?

Here it is: our 2014-2015 School Year, in all it’s glory!

Tot Time

For my toddler, I’m mostly keeping him occupied. But I did pick up this super easy and cute activity book that I happened to notice at the A Beka Materials Display in our area.

Nursery Arts and Crafts

I loved that the activities were pretty easy, AND they were organized by week. Glory! Which made them very easy to file into my weekly file folder system. He’ll do 2 to 3 of these activities a week. And I’ll probably recruit Middlest to help him with what he can’t manage on his own.

First Grade

Middlest is entering first grade. I can’t believe it! Her curriculum is pretty simple.

Foundations C (Logic of English)

A Beka Arithmetic 1

When she finishes her phonics book, which she will probably do pretty quickly based on her progress this last year, I’ll either have her begin Writing with Ease or English for the Thoughtful Child.* (See my notes on this below)

 

Third Grade

The bulk of my time has been spent on researching third grade books. Oh, my goodness, the hours I spent on this! But I am happy with the results.

CLE Math 300 series

I’m switching from A Beka to Christian Light this next year. We did a trial run with a couple of the 2nd grade math books from this company, and we both loved it. My primary reason for switching was that I needed a curriculum less teacher-dependent. Even though many use A Beka as a student-led curriculum, it isn’t designed to be used that way, and I could foresee problems with that. What I loved about CLE is that it is very much like A Beka in content (it’s still very challenging), and yet it is designed for independence. The teaching instruction is included right in the student’s book. Oldest loved this, too. He always found the A Beka explanations to be too brief and confusing. As an added bonus, CLE is strong in geometry and critical thinking, two areas I always felt we were a little behind in with A Beka.

Visual Latin I (lessons 1-12)

Winston Grammar

A Beka 3rd Grade Cursive Writing Skillbook

English for the Thoughtful Child*

This link is not actually to EFTC book, because I found an older ebook version of the same text. It’s dated and not in textbook format, but I love the style. Not to mention, I love FREE! The name of this is actually Lessons in the Use of English. We started using this at the end of this year, just so I could see if I was going to like it. And I totally do.

I also picked up the A Beka cursive book. This is a huge surprise for me because I have NEVER liked A Beka handwriting. But when I saw this book, it was everything I wanted to accomplish with our Charlotte Mason-style copywork, already done for me! This is a really amazing book. Short excerpts from historical documents; character traits, quotations, Bible verses; state information; short science sentences with an animal glossary to teach alphabetical order—it was a dream come true. And Oldest is stoked. He wanted to begin this summer, but I’m being mean and making him wait.

 

Combined Studies

We always have several subjects that we do all together. To help myself, I’ve divided all of our subjects into subjects of Discipline (math, grammar and usage, foreign language) and subjects of Inspiration. The Discipline subjects are grade-specific; but our Inspiration subjects are more relaxed and inclusive. They include history, science, art, music, poetry, reading, etc.

Tapestry of Grace, Year 3 (lower grammar and upper grammar)

Activity Supplements include Time Traveler pak Early 19th Century, Draw through History: Napoleon, and History Pockets Civil War.

Kinderbach Level 2

See the Light Art Class (affiliate link)

Artist Study: Frederick Remington and Winslow Homer

Ecology and Biomes (various library books and memory work from the Classical Conversations apps 1 & 2)

 

That’s our year in a nutshell. It’s always so exciting to start putting the pieces together and seeing the plan unfold. And I’m unfolding it a little differently this year, truly customizing Tapestry to the max. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains one affiliate link, which means that if you make a purchase through that link, I get a small compensation. You can read more in my disclosure.

The Next Step to Simplicity

The Next Step to Simplicity

The Lord is moving and shaking in my life right now. Praying to be satisfied in Him has been one of those life-altering prayers: buckle up before you pray it! A lot of those lessons have been very hard. The spiritual warfare in our lives over the last few weeks and months has been intense. But through it, we’ve been blessed to see God, in an amazing, personal way. Pray for us!

But in the midst of all of this, the Lord is moving my heart and priorities as well. My blog is one of those changes. I’m no longer reviewing products, and I’m no longer pressuring myself to post on a schedule, to maintain consistent daily views, to promote and increase readership, to slave over pinteresting pictures to accompany every post. Perhaps you’ve noticed some of those changes.

What I’ve discovered during my quiet moments before God is that my blog has become a burden over the last several months. It was another area of my life where I felt I was failing. Failing to post regularly, failing to include pictures, failing to maintain readers. And I lost the joy of writing. Then, too, the time I committed to blogging took away from what was most important, my God and my ministry to my husband and children. I really WANT to make these changes I’m blogging about to you, and it takes time to do that.

So you’ll see a few different things around here. Namely, I’m not blogging to fit into the blogging culture. I’ll blog what I’m learning and what’s on my heart. I’ll blog when I have time. And when I have cute pictures to share, I’ll try to include those, too. The “quality” of my blog might suffer some, but I prefer to look at it as simplicity. It’s just the next step in simplicity, in being satisfied with less—and yet being satisfied with more, through Christ, at the same time.