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.

Homeschool planning a new year

homeschool planning and curriculum | thinking through a new homeschool year

As we are wrapping up the last of our subjects, I’m in the throes of homeschool planning for the new school year. My decisions are all made, my online carts are empty, and the boxes of curriculum are beginning to roll in. In my routine, May and June are my intense planning months. I like to get all my homeschool planning out of the way so that I can truly take a break. Nothing homeschool related is swirling around in my brain come July and August; it’s done, on the shelf, and just waiting for us.

I plan the new year while the struggles of this year are fresh on my mind. I map out my solutions to all of our homeschool problems, from learning struggles to organization-fails, and then give it all a rest. My kids salivate over the new folders and books they are dying to read, and I dangle next year in front of them—my proverbial carrot—tantalizing their appetite for next year’s menu. It’s fun. We all love this time of year.

So since homeschool planning is consuming all my mind and energy right now, I thought I’d share with you the method to my madness, my steps to mapping out our next year. And over the next couple of weeks, I’ll go into more detail.

My steps to homeschool planning:

Planning our core curriculum: Tapestry of Grace

I’ll just give you a brief summary here, but just know this one step is getting a complete post of it’s own. For one, 60% of my homeschool planning is tied into Tapestry of Grace. It’s a huge undertaking, and when it’s finally done, I feel like I’ve scaled Mt. Everest. When I plan Tapestry, I’m not just planning our history studies; I’m planning our reading list, literature skills, Bible study, writing assignments, arts and crafts, and geography—for all three kids! This year, I will be teaching Tapestry of Grace on three of the four different levels that the curriculum provides: lower grammar, upper grammar, and dialectic. I combine as much as I can, and have my upper grammar student practicing her reading-aloud skills by reading the lower grammar book choices to my kindergartener. A lot of the writing, arts, crafts, and even Bible we will be doing together. The key to teaching multiple ages and keeping your sanity is to combine as much as you possibly can so that you can maximize your time. Tapestry of Grace is wonderful for this.

Gathering our other curriculum.

I have to see what I have to be able to plan. I can’t visualize anything on my own. Whether my husband is discussing house renovations or I’m planning math, I just can’t imagine what something is going to look like until I have it in front of me. Thus, the next step for me is to lay it all out where I can see what I’m working with. I’m also a sucker for the downloadable, print-your-own curriculum. I have a decent printer that uses inexpensive ink, and I shop paper prices and buy it in bulk by the case. So, in order to see what I have, I usually have a ton of printing to finish. Once everyone’s curriculum has been printed or has arrived in the mail, then I’ll take a look at one child’s complete curriculum at a time.

Mapping out the weekly/daily schedule.

In order to make sure I’m not biting off more than we can all chew in a reasonable amount of time, I sketch out a rough daily schedule for each child. It’s not a precise schedule. I simply jot done each child subject’s, the days of the week they will work on that subject, and how much time I anticipate them spending on that subject. I’ll also jot down how much time I expect to work one-on-one with each child. This way, if I’ve planned for a subject to take 15 min. each day, then I need to be sure I don’t assign more than 15 minutes worth of work. If I’ve decided that a total of one and a half hours of independent work is appropriate for one child, than I need to be sure I don’t assign him more than that. If I have only 45 minute with each child, than I need to be sure that I don’t assign more work than we can get through in that amount of time. A rough-draft of our schedule provides boundaries for me as I plan the assignments.

Tackling the master plan.

Some subjects require more planning than others. But in general I usually keep this as simple as possible. I divide our year into three 12 week terms. Some resources I use for just one term, to add some variety to our year. For the subjects that we will be doing through out the year, I schedule out how many lessons we need to accomplish each term or how many page numbers we need to get through. Some subjects, like math, require nothing more than that. Other subjects, like science or writing, I need to think through more specific assignments. Because I’m a little OCD about my planning, I plan on “scrap paper”; I actually have a notebook of grid paper that is specifically for these rough draft plans. Then, when I’ve sketched it all out the way I like it and I’m finished making all my mistakes and alterations, I’ll copy it into a finalized plan for my planner. (I’m an editor at heart, even more than a writer, so everything I do has to have at least a few rough drafts and revisions—even my text messages.)

Organizing the resources.

This is not necessarily a final step. Usually, I’m organizing resources throughout the whole process. And this year, I’m totally overhauling my system of organization. We had a major “loose-paper and missing-supplies” crisis this year. As a result, I reworked and revised how I’ve doing everything. Where will books go, where will loose paper go, what folders will go with what subject, how will each subject be organized, how will the kids recognize their own supplies, what supplies will be shared, how will I be able to quickly and efficiently double-check to make sure books and supplies get back where they belong—I’m serious! I rethought everything. (And I’ll be sharing the final results when it’s finished.)

Bonus: Accommodating ADHD and Dyslexia

There is a difference between coddling a child and accommodating learning struggles. If one of my kids has an attitude or behavioral issue that does not necessarily stem from their difficulties, I will not coddle that behavior; I allow my kids to experience consequences of bad decisions. However, I do believe in accommodating if there are legitimate struggles. I my kids have some legitimate issues. For instance, we have always accommodated ADHD with short bursts of learning. I keep most subjects limited to about 15 minutes each. For my fourth grader, her longest subject is scheduled for 20 minutes. That means on a good day, when her attitude is right, she has no problem completing the assigned work in 20 minutes. On a bad day—well, yes, we have bad days that require further adjustments and natural consequences. For my sixth grader, 30 minutes is a good average for his major subjects. I arrange my schedule according to which children will need me most. This next year, that will be my kindergartener and dyslexic daughter. My oldest is not suffering from this arrangement; he’s old enough for the responsibility and, in my opinion, it’s part of his learning process to need less of me. My daughter, though fourth grade, requires more hand-holding than my other two; it’s a combination of her dyslexia and ADHD. She’s my “Dory,” and she needs some accommodations for her short-term memory struggles. (I also make accommodations to fill in her learning gaps.)

So yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to and what I’ll be wrapping up next month as well. By July, I hope to be posting pictures of me on the beach with not a single homeschool planning thought in the world!

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Homeschooling Schedule for preschool, third, and fifth grades

homeschooling schedule preschool, third, and fifth grades | homeschooling multiples | homeschooling routine

Homeschooling is, like parenting, all about making adjustments. What works at one stage in life with one child, is not going to work two weeks from now. There is no perfect schedule, and there most certainly isn’t a permanent homeschooling schedule; it’s simply what works best for one point in time.

This year, we’ve kept a very fluid homeschooling schedule or routine. I’ve mentioned our casual Monday routine, with a mix of art and games and easing into the week. We tackle a lot of our whole-family learning on Mondays. Read-alouds, history projects, and science experiments are usually part of the Monday routine. As for the rest of the week, we’ve got a pretty flexible schedule.

To set the stage for you, here’s what I’ve learned about my different kids that has influenced our final routine.

  1. My oldest does best with as little involvement from me as possible. If a subject must be taught by me with regular meetings each day, we both struggle. He prefers an assignment and a list of expectations, which I do mostly when I meet with him on Mondays.
  2. That same approach would paralyze my third grader. She’s fine doing the things she loves on her own: art, reading, journaling, anything creative. But math, grammar—anything that involves structure and discipline—she has to have me right by her side. She wants, at the very least, companionship.
  3. My littlest is a mix of these two approaches. He likes time with Mom, but he prefers to merely impress me during this time. The actual learning he wants to experiment with on his own.
  4. I also factor my needs into the equation. Just how long can I endure the intense, hand-holding type of homeschool before I need a break? How much time can I devote to each child and their unique needs? With all that in mind, our homeschooling schedule has morphed into what is currently working well for us.

Our Homeschooling Schedule for Preschool, Third, and Fifth grades

Our schedule has two variations, depending on the extra-curriculars for the day. Monday is our only day with no obligations. Otherwise, we usually have something going every day, either in the morning or afternoon. On the days with afternoon activities, we use our morning homeschooling schedule. On the days with morning activities, we default to our afternoon schedule.

Morning Homeschooling Schedule

We are not morning people. A houseful of ADHD and insomniacs just doesn’t lend itself well to strict morning routines. Still, we manage to get up and at ’em by 7 or 8 in the morning. One child takes the dog out, the other starts breakfast. I will usually homeschool my preschooler either during this time while breakfast is being prepped or immediately after breakfast. I’ll drink my coffee and read my scripted Logic of English Foundations A. My preschooler will act out his various parts, complete his worksheets and play his games. We’ll break for his breakfast, and then finish with some learning apps (Montessori Numbers, Cursive Writing Wizard, and Logic of English Phonograms are our favorites.) His reward for doing school with me is time on Starfall.com. I’ve used this free website with each of my kids as they were learning to read, and we all absolutely love it.

homeschooling schedule | homeschooling preschool | starfall.com

This preschool time takes about half an hour to 45 minutes max. But keep in mind, I’m also parenting during this session. Reminding older kids to get dressed, brush their teeth, stop playing, stop fighting, do the dishes, etc. By the time I’ve wrapped up with the preschooler, my older two are usually fairly well on their way to starting the day. My oldest begins his independent work (I usually check in with him about once a week unless he needs assistance). And my third grader brings her clipboard, pencil, and Math Mammoth lessons. While my preschooler is playing his ipad apps and Starfall.com, I read and explain the overall math concept we are working on to my third grader, then she reads the directions out loud and proceeds to work through a section at a time. We work between 2-3 pages depending on how long it’s taking her and on whether it’s a good day or a moody/anxious struggling day. Once we wrap up Math Mammoth, we work through a short grammar lesson in First Language Lessons level 3. On a good day, this should be about 45 minutes to an hour’s worth of work. But some days, it takes us MUCH longer. It largely depends on her mood. Once she finishes up with me, she has some independent time with some computer programs (ReflexMath.com, Keyboarding without Tears, and Simplex Spelling ipad app), piano practice, and then her funschooling journal and reading books.

homeschooling schedule | homeschooling third grade | math mammoth

We break for lunch around noon, depending on what activity is schedule for the day. And that’s it!

Afternoon Homeschooling Schedule

Our default afternoon schedule is very similar to our morning schedule, except it gets started after we’ve made it home from our karate lesson or nursing home ministry and had lunch. I will not always do a preschool lesson with my youngest, depending on how he’s holding up. Sometimes, he just needs the play time. And I’m a firm believer in the importance of play time at this age. All in all, I work with him about three times a week, and that’s been plenty.

My third grader rounds up her clipboard and Math Mammoth, and we launch into our routine together. Hopefully wrapping up by 2:30 or 3 for the day. And I check in with my fifth grader to see what all he’s gotten done. Sometimes, he’ll surprise me by getting up early and finishing before breakfast; other days, he works through the afternoon, finishing up pretty closely to the same time as his sister. Occasionally, on rough days, homeschooling doesn’t wrap up until 5, when I have to start getting dinner. I hate that, and I try VERY hard to not let that happen often.

homeschooling schedule | homeschooling fifth grade

Our homeschooling schedule has not always gone this smoothly (even this year), but it’s worked well for the last couple of months. And next year, we’ll probably have to readjust everything again as I homeschool a kindergartner, fourth grader, and sixth grader (oh, my!!). It’s part of the package when your homeschool, and honestly, I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to make those adjustments.

Homeschool Helper Review (for homeschool planning & record keeping)

homeschool record keeping | homeschool planning | homeschool reviews

Though I do not plan online or on my iPad, I have an iPad app that I love to use for my homeschool grades and records. Attendance, grades, and reports I’d much rather have that automated; numbers just aren’t my thing. So for recording grades and creating reports, I love Homeschool Helper on my iPad. It’s beautiful, user-friendly, and I actually look forward to opening it up and using it.

Set-up took a little time but wasn’t complicated. I set up each child with the subjects they would be covering for the year. For each subject, you can assign a grading system—A, B, C, or Excellent, Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory. You can adjust the grading scale and set up weighted grading (10% of the grade is for daily, 20% is for quizzes, 50% is for tests, 20% is for projects). Once set-up is complete, using the reports is simple, too.

Attendance is as easy as touching a date on the calendar. If I forget to do it daily, I can simply touch all the dates I know we did school. If we did a half day of school, I touch the date twice. It automatically records the total number of days we’ve done school and includes this info on the report card and other reports.

homeschool attendance | homeschool record keeping | homeschool helper review

Entering grades is just as easy. It even has a calculator. Enter the number of correct answers; enter the total number possible; touch “calculate.” The percentage grade and description is then saved for that assignment or test.

homeschool grading | homeschool record keeping | homeschool helper review

You can plan or record field trips and books read. You can also create a variety of reports, including report cards. Just enter the range of dates you want included on the report and information you want on the report. Then, you can either save or email the report. I usually email it to myself and then print it from the email. There is also a function to plan lessons, batch plan lessons, etc. But I can’t review those functions since I’ve never used them.

homeschool record keeping | homeschool report cards | homeschool helper review

I have used this app to record my grades for about 5 years, and I love it. I can’t see myself switching to anything else any time soon. While I love my pen and paper planner, I wouldn’t want to go without my Homeschool Helper.

homeschool helper review | homeschool apps
from the website
homeschoolhelperapp.com

Visit the website HomeschoolHelperApp.com or look for it in your app store.

Have more questions or want a little more help on the topic of homeschool planning? Read about different styles of planning, combining those different styles to find your perfect solution, organizing your child, and finding your rhythm—all in my free course “Planning your Homeschool.” Plus, get free downloads to get you started. 

Click here to find out more!

Loop Planning with file folders (for themes, topics, and unit Studies)

homeschool planning | lesson planning | loop planning

Some subjects, like math and grammar, can be pretty straightforward when planning. But other subjects that are more topic or theme oriented are a little harder to schedule with traditional lesson planning. For those subjects, I’ve found that I really like loop planning.

The idea of loop planning is that you plan the order rather than the timeframe that a lesson is completed. When you finish one theme or unit study, you pull out the next one. There’s no deadline or getting behind; you finish when you are finished.

For instance, I plan my Tapestry of Grace history this way. I have file folders for each history topic we want to cover. Book lists, project templates, notebooking pages, and all other pertinent info goes into the file folder. On my folder, I mark about how long I expect this topic to take, but it’s only a guideline. Some topics take longer than I expect, and some topics finish more quickly. Because I know I have this flexibility, I don’t panic when we take a little longer on a topic; I know it will work out by the end of the year. Also, because I’ve marked approximate lengths of time on my folders. I can make quick judgement calls. (Hmm. I said two weeks for Ancient Incas but we just spent 5 weeks instead of 4 in Egypt. I bet we can cover Incas in just a week.) Whenever we finish one topic, I pull out the next folder to complete.

Simple Steps to Loop Planning Unit Studies

  1. Decide on a list of topics or themes to study.
  2. Decide on a method of organization to compile your resources for each study (file folders, Pinterest boards, Evernote, whatever you like to use).
  3. Decide on an order or arrangement of topics.

*(Optional) Decide on a rough time-frame for each unit or topic.

You can use loop planning for discipline subjects as well (math, spelling, etc.) And I will often default to loop planning whenever I can. If you want to attempt loop planning for all your subjects, here are a few suggestions.

Using Loop Planning for Traditional Subjects

  1. Decide on the number of lessons you need to complete each week.
  2. Set up a filing system for each week. (I love file folders and have a folder for each week.)
  3. File the correct number of lessons for each week inside your file folder. (5 math lessons, 3 latin exercises, 1 spelling list, etc.)

Your done! Pull out the correct folder, finish it, and move on to the next folder when you are ready!

The loop planning method also works really well for creative subjects or extra-curriculars like art, music, or nature study. You can even arrange the subjects themselves to loop. Nature study follows art which follows music, etc. Plan language arts and math everyday, then loop plan history, science, art, etc. completing one or two of these each week.

There’s no end to how you can creatively use loop planning. But the major benefit is that there is no falling behind or meeting a deadline. You are free to enjoy your topic until you’ve exhausted it. You are free to work on it whenever time allows; some weeks you may have 5 days and others you may have 2 days. Loop planning allows for maximum flexibility.

While loop planning has not worked for every subject in our homeschool, a combination of traditional lesson planning and loop planning has worked really well for us. Find a combination that works for you—your personality as well as your homeschool style.

Have more questions or want a little more help on the topic of homeschool planning? Read more about loop planning, other methods of planning, and combining different methods to find your perfect solution in my free course “Planning your Homeschool.” Plus, get free downloads to get you started. 

Click here to find out more!

Free Homeschool Planner pages | free download | free homeschool printable | weekly planning pages

5 steps to traditional lesson planning

homeschool lesson planning | homeschool planning

For most people I know, lesson planning is the part of homeschooling that they despise. But I’m a nerd; I love to lesson plan and organize our year. And I have two methods for getting my ducks in a row: traditional lesson planning for subjects like spelling and grammar and loop planning for subjects that are more topic or unit study oriented. (We’ll tackle loop planning in my next post.)

I actually do a lot of my planning during the summer to help relieve some of the time pressure that lesson planning can create, so my school year just about runs itself during the actual school months. During that process, here’s how I break down our year and create traditional lesson plans.

5 Steps to traditional lesson planning

  • Think through vacation days and breaks your family likes to take. Do you want a winter break or spring break? When do you take family vacation? Will you have relatives visiting? Plot these times in your calendar first.
  • Set start and end dates. At this point, these are just rough estimates, you can always move these forward or backward as you define your year. But roughly, when do you want to start and end?
  • Calculate the number of weeks/days in your year. The traditional U.S. school year is about 180 days or 36 weeks. As a result, a lot of your curriculums will be designed for this time frame. However, depending on your state requirements, you can do less or more. Some families school year round; others finish up when the books are completed no matter if that is week 33 or week 48.
  • Divide your year into periods or terms (6 weeks, 9 weeks, 12 weeks). This step is optional. But it can be helpful to break your year into smaller increments: (1) if you plan on having report cards and grading periods, (2) if you are planning unit studies or themes throughout the year, (3) or if you just need to “eat the elephant” a bite at a time. 
  • Divide the number of pages or lessons by the number of weeks in the school year. (The average school year is about 36 weeks.) The answer will be how much needs to be assigned each week.

homeschool planning | plan your year

From there, you can decide how you prefer to keep track of progress. You can write in the lesson numbers each day (but then, if there are sick days or spontaneous field trips, your planner is all messed up), write in lesson numbers for each week (a little more flexibility with this approach), or record how many lessons you complete each week (maximum flexibility, but you will need to double-check that you are completing enough to ensure you finish on time.)

I use a combination of weekly planning and recording. For some assignments, I chart what needs to be finished on a weekly basis. So each week, I fill this in (and never more than 2-3 weeks ahead of where we are, in case of the unexpected): “read pages 20-30” or “complete lessons 35-40.” For subjects that only need to be completed 2 to 3 times a week. I write the subject into my planner and then record the days we worked on those lessons. For instance: FFL (First Language Lessons) M W F; WWE (Writing with Ease) M W; WA (Writing Aids) F

Subjects like math, spelling, grammar, etc. lend themselves to this kind of planning best. The rigid structure of these subjects fits well with the rigid structure of traditional lesson planning. Creative subjects, especially those that are based on theme, topic, or unit study are often easier to plan using loop planning. Stay tuned for my next post for more info on this method.

Have more questions or want a little more help on the topic of homeschool planning? Read more about traditional lesson planning, other methods of planning, and combining different methods to find your perfect solution in my free course “Planning your Homeschool.” Plus, get free downloads to get you started. 

Click here to find out more!

Free Homeschool Planner pages | free download | free homeschool printable | weekly planning pages