Choosing books from my Tapestry of Grace plans has been somewhat of a challenge. There are so many fun options! And yet I know there’s no way we’ll truly enjoy this if I try to do it all. Then, too, there’s the issue of the budget. So, there were quite a few books to get nixed from the list.
With such a monumental task, I thought I’d share my strategy (so that I’ll remember next year when I have to do this all over again.)
Though many veteran TOG bloggers have suggested purchasing the books one unit at a time, I really didn’t see that working for me. Planning the next unit’s lessons will be enough of a challenge; selecting and ordering books could put us very far behind. So for this year, I purchased them all up front. Next year, perhaps I’ll feel more confident to do it differently. However, there were several purchasing tips that I did keep in mind through the selection process.
On my first trip to Bookshelf Central, I was a bit overwhelmed at the price of the total book list for the Lower Grammar (LG) books for Year 1. For the TOG plans and the books, the total would have been well over our entire homeschool budget without purchasing any math or phonics materials. Although I would have loved to purchase everything suggested, I knew that the limits of our budget could actually work in my favor.
After purchasing the Tapestry of Grace plans, I then deducted all of the other items we would need to purchase for the year. Next, I took a look at what we had left to spend—and did a lot of praying for wisdom. My remaining budget was less than half the cost for the books.
The Alternate Books
Tapestry of Grace has two booklists, primary sources and alternate sources. Though the alternate sources often do not have notebooking pages to accompany them, they do cover the material that needs to be covered. When I searched our public library, I looked at both lists. I also looked beyond our learning level. Tapestry of Grace is divided into learning levels rather than grades: we will be in the Lower Grammar (LG) learning level. But when I looked for books to substitute, I looked at the lists for both our learning level and the level just above it, the Upper Grammar (UG) books. These UG books would have to be read-alouds, but then many of the LG books would be as well, so it really made very little difference. And what I found out by doing this is that I really preferred some of the UG books to the LG choices.
I also checked the library for books within the subject itself. For instance, for Unit 1 I searched in the juvenile section for books on ancient Egypt, or even more specifically the Nile or mummies. By comparing the book descriptions, I could tell if the general library books would cover the same information as the Tapestry books; and by checking the previews available on many of the books at Amazon.com, I could often tell if I liked the substitute book as well and could decide on favorites that were at the top of my list of books to use for the year.
Last of all, I looked for the resources that could be used for multiple units rather than just a single week of reading. For example, the Usborne Encyclopedia of the Ancient World was listed as an Upper Grammar resource throughout the year in all units, whereas the Lower Grammar listed several different titles. Because I already own the Encyclopedia (and my kids love Usborne books), it made more sense to use this resource than to purchase additional books.
Creating a spreadsheet, I made lists of the books I could get at the library and the books I would need to purchase, organizing them by unit and week. This gave me an idea of how realistic it would be to actually read that many books within the time-frame. I could keep a check on my gluttonous appetite for books by taking a look at our schedule. I mean, how many read-alouds can you realistically tackle in one week? If a certain week looked too tight, I re-evaluated the book choices and rated them by priority: which books were my favorites and what information was most important? Was there any other resource where the same information could be found?
I also hung out at Amazon.com quite a bit, looking over the book previews and evaluating how each title would fit into our schedule. I looked at number of pages, the table of contents, and (when possible) a sample page to get an idea of the reading level.
Several more books were eliminated this way, or at least prioritized lower on the list of possibilities. And at this point, my list was fitting much better into our budget. But there was one more step to getting the most bang for our buck.
When I made my purchases, I used two different websites: Amazon.com, as I just mentioned, and Children’s Books Inc. I chose these sites because they carried the most titles at the cheapest prices for the least amount of shipping. But then on Amazon, I also chose only the books that were available for the free shipping. When a couple of titles were not available for the free shipping, I once again evaluated those books. Could I find the information from this title in any other resource? Could our schedule during that week use a little less reading? And in all of the cases, I found I really did not need the book that required the extra shipping (which in some cases would have been equal to the price of the book itself).
The result, by God’s grace, was that I was able to purchase the books we needed for even less than what was in the budget! (Also, I’ll be able to skip shopping at the homeschool book fair in May with a two month old in tow.)
The choices weren’t easy ones to make, but hopefully we’ll have the time to actually enjoy the books I’ve chosen. I can’t wait to share that journey with you!
* This post contains affiliate links for Tapestry of Grace.