Creating Tapestry of Grace Student Notebooks

Tapestry of Grace student notebooks | customizing Tapestry of Grace

We’ve used Tapestry of Grace as our core curriculum for going on 6 years. I love it, primarily because it is designed to be customizable. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, Tapestry presents a buffet of choices and ideas for reading, crafts and art, literature study, history discussion, and more. It’s perfect for customizing a learning plan that fits our unique ADHD/dyslexia struggles. But for the first time this year (as a solution to the enormous loose-paper crisis we experienced), I’m also customizing our own Tapestry of Grace student notebooks.

While the option is available to purchase these in printed bundles, ready to assemble, I prefer to print my own, allowing my kids to be in-between levels. Also, I wanted to separate the projects into separate notebooks—history and literature—rather than combine these, since we tend to work on them at separate times during our homeschool week. I’m loving the result and am looking forward to a lot less mess this next year.

Creating Tapestry of Grace Student Notebooks for History

Lower Grammar/Upper Grammar Notebook

My daughter will be officially fourth grade this year. While she faces some stiff learning challenges from her dyslexia, she’s made tremendous progress. Technically, she should probably be entirely Upper Grammar this year, but I’m still allowing her to be in-between. Especially for history, where information is more technical and less story-driven, she needs the lower grammar level. Her notebook includes the following items.

Weekly Overview. This page includes major theme and project ideas, famous people we will be covering, and the vocabulary words that she will be encountering in her reading. Each week, she looks over this sheet with me and looks up any words that she isn’t familiar with in the provided glossary. Because of her dyslexia, I do not make her write or copy any of this information, she just reads over it.

Tapestry of Grace student notebooks | weekly overview

Glossary. Last year, I kept one copy of the Year 1 Glossary in my Teacher Notebook, and the kids shared it. However, sharing the notebook didn’t always work out well. To streamline things, I went ahead and printed off a glossary for each child and included it in their own notebook. While this exercise builds my daughter’s vocabulary and prepares her for any difficult words she may encounter in her reading, it also gives me the opportunity to work with her on dictionary skills without an overwhelming amount of information for her to navigate.

Binder Pockets. We’ve used these binder pockets for years to organize different resources in our Case-it Binders. This year, I’ve included one in her history notebook to help my daughter organize lapbooking projects that she is working on. Once these are completed, I will oversee that they make it to their final destination (the portfolio) without taking an indefinite detour to her bedroom floor.

customizing Tapestry of Grace student notebooks

Upper Grammar/Dialectic Notebook

At the end of last year, we tip-toed into the Dialectic stage. This year, we’ll be delving more deeply into this level of thinking with history discussions and accountability questions. Because there is more involved at this level, there is also more included in my son’s history notebook. 

History Topic Summary. Each week, there is a brief overview provided for the student to read that provides the basic summary of what we will be covering and a Biblical point of view on that topic. While the content is a little technical and difficult for my daughter to understand, my son will be ready for it this year, and it will provide the groundwork for our discussions each week.

Tapestry of Grace student notebooks | dialectic history

Accountability and Thinking Questions. As part of the Tapestry of Grace curriculum for the dialectic level (grades 6-8), each week there are accountability questions that come from the reading and thinking questions that provoke the student to form some opinions and comparisons about what he is learning. (Yes, the answers are provided in the teacher material, so I’m not on my own on this.) This will be our first time to use this consistently, and I’m expecting to do quite a bit of hand-holding as my son gets used to thinking critically in this way. I have provided these questions in his notebook so that he can read over them and know what we will be discussing as he does his reading. This is not pop-quiz. It’s just a step to help him understand how to read for information.

Weekly Overview. This is the same sheet that my daughter has in her notebook, but my son will be using the upper grammar vocabulary while she uses lower grammar. It is the same exercise, looking up the words in the glossary; however, my son is required to write the definitions of words he doesn’t know. The Weekly Overview also includes dates for my son to enter into his timeline. Typically, we do not include all the dates. At this stage, I require a few but allow my son to choose those dates that are significant to him because of his reading and the connections that he is making. 

Glossary. This is the exact same glossary in my daughter’s notebook, and will be used for both dictionary skills practice and vocabulary.

Creating Tapestry of Grace Student Notebooks for Literature

 

Tapestry of Grace student notebooks | literature

Our literature ties in directly to our history studies. These selections are either historical fiction novels that demonstrate the history and culture we are studying, or they are classical selections that were written during this time-period. Our curriculum includes literature study activities for these selections. Activities for sequencing, cause and effect, character analysis, plot study, narration and summary writing, and more are included in their Tapestry of Grace student notebooks for literature.

My daughter has a good blend of lower grammar and upper grammar activities depending on the skill involved. Because of her dyslexia, she will be doing many of these activities orally while I scribe or write down her answers. Though she is capable of making the connections, she needs some coaching with communicating her thoughts.

For my son, there are a few skills he still needs to work on that are covered more thoroughly in the upper grammar materials (cause and effect, character analysis, etc.) The other three-fourths of his notebook include the dialectic level worksheets, with more in-depth studies of plot, characters, and genres. 

I love the fact that I can create these custom Tapestry of Grace student notebooks for my kids that meet their specific needs and still challenge them appropriately. And hopefully, we will not have quite as much paper on the floor throughout the house this year.

Teaching Spelling While Homeschooling Dyslexia

teaching spelling | homeschooling dyslexia | right-brained homeschool spelling curriculum for kinesthetic and visual-spatial learners

Teaching my daughter to read was a challenge. We both fought hard to win that battle. But just as she was finally making strides in reading, her phonics curriculum switched from an emphasis on reading to an emphasis on spelling, and her performance plummeted while her anxieties surged. No matter what technique we tried, no matter how long we spent going over words, she couldn’t spell. Half way through her second grade year, it was clear we were dealing with dyslexia. Teaching my dyslexic daughter to read was tough; teaching spelling to my dyslexic daughter has seemed impossible on many, many days.

My daughter has a beautiful way of seeing the world that is uniquely her own. Unfortunately, this creates challenges for her when it comes to language. The spring of her second grade year, we abandoned teaching spelling with a traditional curriculum and opted for a homeschool dyslexia therapy instead. She completed Dyslexia Games level A that year, and we followed it up with Dyslexia Games level B her third grade year. My technique was constant exposure. Without a spelling curriculum, she practiced spelling on her dyslexia apps, her Dyslexia Games therapy, her keyboarding program, and some various copywork exercises.

This coming fall, we will be tackling our first spelling curriculum in a year and half. She’s still below grade level, but I’m hopeful she’ll continue to make strides with our new spelling curriculum, A Reason for Spelling.

The pros and cons of standardized testing for homeschoolers

pros and cons of standardized testing for homeschoolers

Though standardized testing might not always be the best method of assessing a child, sometimes, as homeschoolers, we find ourselves without a choice. Currently, we are in a homeschool situation that requires regular testing. It’s taught me a lot, about myself, about my kids, about the pros and cons of standardized testing. Whether you are deciding if testing is right for you or trying to make the best of a state-mandated testing policy, here are some pros and cons of standardized testing that may help you gain a little perspective.

The Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing for homeschoolers

Cons of Standardized Testing

I love the emphasis that learning styles have received, in both homeschool and public education. I love that we are appreciating differences in learning and equipping kids to understand how they learn. But the great irony is that while we are making strides in educating according to the different learning styles, we are still assessing in one style—the standardized test. Consequently, my number one reason for disliking testing is that it is, more often than not, an inaccurate reflection of what a child knows.

Tests are long, boring, and intimidating. Children zone out, or don’t test well. If the material is asked in a way the child is not familiar, he may answer incorrectly even if he knows the material. Tests hurt a child’s self-image, especially if that child is already insecure about certain learning struggles. And honestly, nothing kills a love for learning like struggling through a standardized test. I’ve seen smart children (including my own) feel like they are losers or stupid because of a less than gratifying score. For all the time we spend praising differences, standardized tests reduce a child’s learning to a single line on the graph. And not every child is going to follow that graphed trajectory. We don’t expect them to be on the same trajectory for height or weight at the doctor’s office. The growth of their bodies is expected to vary, but the growth of their brain is supposed to march along the same upward incline as everyone else.

Pros of Standardized Testing

My kids have struggled and excelled on standardized tests at varying points in time. Being in a situation that requires testing has been a growing process for all of us. But as my kids struggle through the emotional roller coaster of testing and test scores and national averages and learning trajectories, etc., we’ve learned a lot, too. Sometimes, the tests confirm struggles I felt we had, learning gaps I was pretty sure were there. Sometimes, a test will help a homeschool parent see a struggle she wasn’t aware of at all. But perhaps the greatest advantage to testing, the one I remind my kids about each time testing comes around, is the practice and preparation for life. For better or for worse, our culture is a testing culture. Driving tests, college entrance tests, college midterm and final exams, further education for job training, performance and certification testing—bottom line, our children will grow up to be adults who have to take tests.

If your kids are anything like mine, they have a lot of testing anxieties. Both my older kids have an ADHD diagnosis, my daughter has anxiety and dyslexia, and both panic any time you say “timed” anything. We’ve worked for years on the “timed” test anxieties, and made great strides. Now, in one sense, we are stepping up that test anxiety with standardized testing and scores. I tell my kids that standardized testing is merely practice for the tests that matter. My kids are told to do their best, but not to stress about the final score. The end goal right now: learn to take a test.

By the time my kids have to take the ACT or SAT, they will have had lots of experience with standardized testing, without the pressure of performing. They will have had lots of time and room to grow beyond the anxieties they experience today. They will learn what questions look like and will have the maturity to think critically and problem solve. There will be a day when the test matters, but for right now, standardized testing is just practice for life.

Whether you have the choice to test, or the choice was made for you, your child can benefit from your knowing the pros and cons of standardized testing. A whole lot about the testing experience is determined by the adults involved. Coach your child through the process and the results. In the end, it could be a great asset to your child’s curriculum for life.

Handling Unfulfilled Expectations, Disappointments, & Failure

unfulfilled expectations | parenting through meltdowns and anxiety

Disappointments are a part of life.  Unfortunately, we have to face that reality pretty early in our existence.  If I could pinpoint the number one reason for meltdowns, anxiety, and emotional outbursts with my kids, it would be unfulfilled expectations. From my oldest to my youngest, they each have certain expectations of what the day will be like, how their siblings will play with them, where we will go, what we will eat, etc. And if any of those expectations don’t happen, it can get pretty ugly.

I can hardly blame them. After all, even as an adult it’s often not easy to process unfulfilled expectations. I know the usual advice is to set “realistic” expectations, but the reality is that no expectation is truly realistic.  After all, when I have to combat Murphy’s law, my own forgetfulness, people’s short comings (including my own), ADHD multiple times over, and all of the chaos that comes from parenting three kids, the only realistic expectation is getting up in the morning. (And even that occurs earlier than I expect most mornings.)  So how can I maintain my sanity and help my kiddos understand a healthy way to process and deal with life’s disappointments? The answer to unfulfilled expectations is not really what I am expecting but WHO I am expecting it from. 

“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.” ~Psalm 62:5

wait upon God | Psalm 62:5 | unfulfilled expectations

You see, it really is ridiculous to think that I can expect anything from anyone else when I can’t even meet my own expectations.  And while I could easily blame a number of people and miscellaneous factors for my unfulfilled expectations, the truth is I’m a sinner—and so is every one else, except for One.  That One is the only One who is perfect, holy, and unchanging.  He is the only One who can fulfill and even exceed expectation.  He is the only One in whom my confidence should rest.

When my expectation is in the right place, the tempest of my emotions can settle.  No longer am I expecting my children to realize I have needs or to be motivated to clean their rooms and finish the dishes on their own; no longer am I expecting myself to have everything under control and to remember the 1001 things I need to be doing; no longer am I expecting my husband to never have a bad day on the same day I have one or to come to my rescue and meet all of my emotional needs.  Instead, I wait for, rest in, rely on the One who knows all, controls all, provides all. 

I have to believe this and live this out with my kiddos. Together, we have to lay all of those expectations in His hands and trust Him to work out the details. So we’ve started praying a simple prayer together:

“God, this day is not going the way we expected.

Please help us to trust you with the day you’ve given us instead.”

Our only “realistic expectation” is that God will come through for us and provide us with everything we need for everything we will face. When He is our only expectation, we receive only fulfillment.  After all, how could we expect anything less from the One whose name is “I AM”?

Finding the right homeschool curriculum for ADHD

finding homeschool curriculum for ADHD

I love homeschooling my ADHD kiddos, but it’s challenging for sure. Even with diet changes that have been more effective than their ADHD medications ever were, it’s still a challenge. If you can imagine with me, I homeschool Flint Lockwood (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) and Dory (Finding Dory) with Winnie the Pooh keeping an eye on meal times and snack options. It’s noisy, high energy, messy, and loads of fun. Certain days are rough; some days rocket and dive and veer into a range of extremes: anxiety and emotional melt downs, high distractibility, zero self-regulation, etc.

If you are homeschooling or are thinking of homeschooling an active or challenged child, finding a homeschool curriculum can seem even more daunting. How do you know what will work? Will they be able to stick with something for the entire year? Can we make it through all the subjects when we can’t make it through a single meal? But let me reassure you, finding homeschool curriculum for ADHD isn’t as hard as it sounds.

Classically Homeschooling with Funschooling Journals

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschooling ADHD & dyslexia | homeschool curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

I’ve been a fan of Thinking Tree curriculum, particularly Dyslexia Games, for awhile. The thinking skills, right-brained approach, and creativity of the curriculum and dyslexia therapy has made a world of difference for my daughter. So when I was looking for a way to help my daughter connect to our classical, literature-rich style of learning, I went back to the company that really seemed to understand her best, and I took a good long look at the funschooling journals.

There are so many funschooling journals, all with slight variations, that choosing one took me a long time. In the end, it was the bright pink cover with the kitty that ultimately sold us on the Homeschooling Journal for Creative Girls (though the YouTube reviews were also very helpful). The books are intended to be used with unschooling or delight-directed homeschoolers. The children are supposed to select up to 8 books that they want to learn from and work through 5-8 pages a day in the workbook. The pages cycle through similar activities that include drawing and narrating from the reading, copywork, nature study, some art and creative pages, recipe pages (to write a recipe), listening pages for audiobooks and DVD material, nature study pages, and more. There’s plenty of space for coloring, doodling, drawing, and other creative expression.

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschooling curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

We obviously are putting our own unique spin on the funschooling journals. Because we use Tapestry of Grace as our main curriculum, I already had a shelf of books that I wanted her to read. But rather than assign particular books for each week as I had been doing, I gave her the new funschooling journal and allowed her to work through the books on the shelf at her own pace. Instead of 5-8 pages a day, she was assigned 5-8 pages for the week to work through at her leisure. 

The result: what would have taken her weeks to read (with tons of nagging and frustration on my part) took her a little over one week. She flew through her reading and loved journaling in her book about the parts of her reading that she loved best. She loved drawing the pictures, copying her own selections, filling out the listening sheet for her audiobook and science DVD, and the other various activities. She’s done much less coloring than I expected, but I could care less. I’m just counting my blessings that she loves this so much! 

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschool curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

I absolutely intend to use these next year as well and have a couple more in mind to get (although I think she’d be perfectly happy to continue with another of the exact same journal). My intention is to continue using it as a means to supplement and motivate her to engage with our classical curriculum. While I do have books from our Tapestry of Grace that I want to be on her reading list, I also allow her freedom to add a few titles of her own. It’s a perfect blend of classically creative curriculum for my active, right-brained non-traditional learner.

And, of course, because these are such a hit with sister, my creative fifth grader thinks he really needs one, too. I may just relent. After all, this Minecraft Funschooling Journal looks way too cool. (Perhaps I’ll use it as a subtle way to add some summer learning.)