Preparing Tapestry: our Fourth Year

We are headed into our fourth year of our Tapestry of Grace curriculum, which means we will have completed the cycle at the end of this year. (It also means this is my last year of all grammar level.) Last year, I felt like we really made Tapestry our own and found our rhythm, our stride. It felt good, like a fitted glove. Of course, when you end a year like that, it makes planning the next year exciting. I love the aspect of homeschooling where I trouble-shoot and research and find our answers, but the Lord knew I would be doing that in several other areas of our life; so homeschooling was off the hook. No massive revamping this year. With that said, preparing Tapestry for this year went really smoothly.

In summary, I love manilla folders. I keep 36 folders for our weekly “must-do” assignments like language and math and Latin. Then I keep a second set of folders for Tapestry that are labeled by Term (we do three 12 week terms) and by topic (I don’t cover everything; instead, I select the events and topics that will best suit my learners). All of our reading lists, media lists, and project papers are printed off and filed in these topic folders.

So here’s what it looks like. At the beginning of a week, I pull out two folders: the week we are in and the topic we are studying. Within the weekly folder, I pull out assignment pages and file into the kids’ daily pockets inside their binders (we use case-it binders with the accordion file inside). Within the topic folder, I look at my list all of the books and projects assigned for that topic and the number of weeks that I’ve guessed it will take us to complete (i.e. Titanic, 2 weeks). I then allocate those assignments that will fit with our week’s schedule. Last year, this method cut my weekly prep to about 30 to 45 minutes total! Both kids filed and ready to go in around a half hour. It was beautiful.

Reading Lists

Tapestry’s reading lists are copyrighted, so I can’t share the specific book titles that we are using. However, I will list a couple of other resources I use to compare and substitute book titles. SimplyCharlotteMason.com has a book finder feature that I love. Just type in the event or person you are studying, the reading level of your students, and a great list of engaging living books is listed for you. My second resource is my local library online catalogue search feature. Again, I type in the event or person, narrow it to children’s resources, and voila! I love my local library. It has an enormous selection.

I also use SimplyCharlotteMason’s Story of America and Story of the Nations ebooks as my core. These are not Tapestry titles, but the table of contents make it very easy to assign chapters that fit what we are covering. And the books are very engaging. We love them.

I select my favorites. Depending on how long we intend to study a topic, for each week I will select one to two read-aloud titles, one to two independent reading titles per child (depending on the length of the book), and the rest will be assigned merely as reference, as in “let’s look at more pictures.”

Media List

I love audios. Awhile back I scored Diana Waring’s history audio from Answers in Genesis‘ history program. We love listening to these on the way back and forth to karate and co-op. So, on the days we don’t get to our reading, we are still getting to our history. And this is another very engaging resource.

Netflix is also a resource where I search for related films to what we are studying. We don’t always get to this, but it is great for those off-days or sick days to already have this list compiled.

Projects

Homeschool in the Woods is not a Tapestry resource either, but we LOVE these projects. I use the Time Traveler activities. We make notebooking pages using both the notebooking and lapbooking project ideas. Especially since my kids are finally old enough to do their own cutting and pasting, these have been really fun activities to assign. They work on these while I read-aloud. It keeps their fingers busy but doesn’t distract them from the reading.

I generally choose the projects that fit what we are studying, our time-frame, and my kids’ interests. I spend one long afternoon printing all of my chosen activities and filing into my topic folders. This saves me so much time during the school year.

I also have the Draw Through History titles. My son loves to draw; my daughter loves to trace. And it gives them some ideas for drawing and enhancing their notebook with images of what we are studying.

Our Rhythm

I mentioned that I note about how many weeks I think a topic will take us. Last year, this was very fluid. We moved on when our books were read and our projects were done. And I found that in the end, things balanced out. Some topics took longer than I estimated, and some topics didn’t take as long. If we read everything in a week, we moved on. If it took us five weeks, because of interest or illness, we took our time and enjoyed it all. Sometimes, it was just a dud, and rather than struggle through 3 more weeks of something we were not enjoying, we covered the basics and moved on.

I’m also sensitive to my kids’ reading interests. There were some books that my son just hated, and while I realize that not all learning can be interest-driven, I think at the younger levels, reading should be. Occasionally, I’d make a call that he just needed to get through a book. But if I made that call, I ensured that I had a very tantalizing book as a reward when he finished. There were books we didn’t read cover-to-cover. (Pause for you to gasp in horror.) We survived, and were no worse for that decision.

In spite of all that flexibility, I was amazed by how much my kids retained and learned. A little went a really long way.

What about discipline and teaching kids to push through the difficult stuff? I split my subjects into two categories: our discipline subjects like math, grammar, spelling; and our inspiration subjects like history, science, and reading. This helped me define my objectives. My discipline subjects were challenging but in short spurts (no more than 15-20 min. per lesson/subject). My inspiration subjects were kept inspiring and interesting and often took closer to an hour or hour and a half (hands-on projects take awhile). But again, I watched my kiddos. If they were engaged, we took our time. If their eyes were glossing over, it was time for lunch.

Want to know more specifics? I’ve listed our specific curriculum choices here. Feel free to browse those links. Not sure what your homeschool style is? Be encouraged with my post about losing the labels.

I’m looking forward to another really great homeschool adventure, and I hope you tag along on our journey.

The Post Where Middlest Begins to Read!

I’m starting this post with a disclaimer that, technically, Middlest did some reading last year. But it was strained; it was a struggle. Last year, reading was a cross between guessing and memorizing—with lots of tears in between.

This year, she’s reading—and still all smiles! She’s reading words that she sees during the day on packaging and store signs, not just during school with a required reader.

I know a year makes a lot of difference in development and maturity, so some of our success could be due to that. But a huge part of the success is the Foundations curriculum that we are using. The steps to reading are very incremental, taking nothing for granted. And the games make reading irresistible.

She earns blocks to build a tower by reading words.

Learning to Read

She moves her game piece down her colored board by reading blends and words.

Learning to Read

She races across the room and up the stairs in a reading relay.

Learning to Read

And she makes her own books, cutting and pasting the right picture into the book after reading the page.

Learning to Read

She’s just finished the first level of this program (Foundations A), and we are both ecstatic at the results: not just that she is reading, but that she is smiling, too.

Learning to Read

A Foundation for Fun: a Logic of English review

This review is purely out of love (I love this program!) All the materials in this review were purchased, and I received no compensation for my opinions.

Logic of English Foundations review Logic of English Foundations Phonics

This year, I made a very scary decision. I changed our phonics program to something new. I can’t tell you how many times I re-evaluated that decision and wondered if I were making the right own. We’re only a few weeks in to our new year, but I’d have to say—all my fears have been relieved!

Not only am I impressed with what Middlest is learning and the things I’m discovering about her in the process, but I am thoroughly convinced that the program must have been written with her in mind!

Logic of English Foundations teaches solid phonics and eliminates nearly all the exceptions and sight words. It teaches detailed awareness of sounds and how to make them. It teaches phonemic awareness and how to blend sounds. It teaches consonant blends and reading in a very logical, simple progression. But best of all, it does all of this in a way the child would never suspect because we’re having so much fun.

We explore sounds; we play guessing games (she “guesses” the word I’m sounding out to her, or I “guess” the word she’s sounding out to me) and scavenger hunt (she hunts for the word I’ve sounded out); we play phonogram hopscotch; we march, twirl, dance, shout, jump, and run.

Logic of English Foundations

And in the process, I’m uncovering problem areas before they become problems. For instance, in one lesson (the work page pictured above), Middlest was to stamp the picture that had the initial sound I said. When I said “ch,” she kept thinking the answer was the tree because she says “chree” instead of “tree.” And I’d never noticed before. We were able to correct the sound before it caused her trouble in her reading.

Last year, consonant blends were nearly our undoing, but this year she is learning to blend orally before she ever sees it on paper. It’s a brilliant strategy that keeps learning to read a lot of fun rather than intimidating. Last year, she dreaded phonics time and pouted nearly everyday; this year she asks to do it first. Best of all, she’s sounding out and reading simple words all on her own throughout the day, before we’ve even introduced a single reading book. I’m ecstatic about the difference!

Logic of English Foundations Cursive

Although Logic of English Foundations gives you the option for cursive or manuscript instruction, cursive is recommended; and I must say, this is another aspect of the program that I have been most impressed with.

Just the like the phonics, the writing instruction is simple, methodical, and logical. It engages both fine and gross motor skills, and it’s creative. This is Middlest’s favorite part. Games are a big part of this instruction as well, games that get my child out of her chair and moving. For my little wiggle-worm, this is ideal. We write in the air with our noses, elbows, feet, and fingers. She writes on my glass door and on my whiteboard. She writes on the line size that she is most comfortable with, and then we each draw funny faces over our favorite letter she’s written.

Logic of English

And honestly, there are days when I wouldn’t be able to tell her letters apart from mine; she’s learning it so well! As a matter of fact, I’ve retaught Oldest a few of the letters using the LOE program because he’s had so much trouble writing the letters with our original program. The LOE cursive makes so much sense and actually helps the children to be less confused about letter-formation. It’s a-mazing!

Logic of English Foundations comes in 6 different levels (A-F) with about 40 lessons each, equivalent of K4-2nd grade. These levels can be used one or more a year, depending on the level and maturity of the child. We opted for two levels this year. Though I probably could have jumped to Level B (a kindergarten equivalent), I really felt that Middlest would benefit from a quick review with the Logic of English approach. We are whizzing through Level A at about a lesson a day, and the lessons are taking roughly 20-30 minutes for both phonics and cursive instruction. We’ll slow down when we get to Level B and take a couple of days per lesson.

I couldn’t be more pleased with Foundations, and highly recommend it over any phonics program I’ve seen or used.

I received the Basic Phonograms cards as a part of an earlier review of the Essentials program. Otherwise, the only other materials I’ve purchased for Middlest are the teacher and student copies of Levels A and B and the Doodling Dragons app on iTunes for $4.99. Teacher copies are $38 each, and student workbooks are $18.

If you are looking for thorough phonics instruction that will totally engage your child, Logic of English Foundations is all that and more.