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.
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.