Using literature-rich curriculum with dyslexic and ADHD kids

literature-rich curriculum with dyslexia ADHD | Tapestry of Grace with special needs | classical homeschooling with learning struggles

I’ve made a lot of curriculum adjustments over the years, but one constant for us has been Tapestry of Grace, a classical, literature-rich curriculum. I love using a literature-rich curriculum in our homeschool—with busy, loud, active ADHD kids, one of which is also dyslexic! In our classically-inclined, charlotte-mason inspired homeschool, we use tons of books, lots and lots of them. Living books, classics, historical fiction, and engaging nonfiction books line my shelves, spill onto the floor, cover our dining room table, and sit by the door (in hopes that we’ll remember to return them to our library.) 

Using a literature-rich curriculum immerses my kids in a culture of reading. Reading is not a school subject. It’s not a checkbox on their assignment sheet. It’s our lifestyle. We read books together and on our own. We listen to books. We talk about books. We buy books. We borrow books. We make room for more books. Why choose a literature-rich curriculum like Tapestry of Grace for kids who are active and have language-struggles?

Three reasons to choose a literature-rich curriculum:

Exposure

We currently don’t use a “textbook” for any subject. Instead, we learn history, science, literature, etc. from library books, lots of library books. Last year, each of my kids read about 50 books each. We are on par for at least that this year, and that’s just for school; that doesn’t include the “just for fun” books. Using a literature-rich curriculum allows my kids to be constantly exposed to books. They are surrounded by them, and reading is a normal part of life—not just school but life itself.

This constant exposure to language through stories (whether audio books, read-alouds, or books they read themselves) has tremendously helped my daughter especially. She’s a strong, confident reader in spite of her challenges. She knows she doesn’t read as quickly or as easily as others, but she loves stories. And the exposure through so many senses and with so much variety, strengthens her understanding and skill in an otherwise challenging area for her.

So what does this exposure look like practically? I select several books for each kid on our topic that we will be covering for 2-4 weeks. For my oldest, I’ll suggest a couple of titles that I’d like him to read each week, chapter books often taking 2-3 weeks. Then, I’ll “strew” the other books around the house to tempt him to read more on the subject. Because my daughter requires a different approach, I’ve recently just assigned all the books for the term and allowed her to work through them at her own pace. She’s using (and loving) this funschooling journal along with her reading. She gets to creatively draw a picture, write a sentence, or choose some copywork from her book of choice to record in her journal. 

Variety

Honestly, I don’t think my busy rambunctious kids would be readers if we had chosen a traditional curriculum with textbooks and readers. The key to engaging my ADHD kiddos is variety, and Tapestry of Grace provides such fantastic variety. My kids are exposed to classics, biographies, picture books, historical fiction, encyclopedias, and more. Although my kids love books in general, they don’t love every book and are sometimes skeptical of a book I’ve assigned. So, I’ve instituted the “five chapter” rule. For all fiction, they must read at least read five chapters before they can decide whether or not to finish the book. In nearly every case, by the time they got to chapter 5 they were totally engaged. In some cases, the book even turned out to be a favorite. For nonfiction books, I don’t require them to read every word. They read for information, to learn certain facts, or to discover facts that interest them. In both instances, the variety of books means that there are books that appeal to all of my children for one reason or another. It also means that my kids have often discovered they were interested in a book or subject that they didn’t think they’d like.

The variety also allows my kids to connect with the subject matter in their own way, to make their own connections based on what interests them. My daughter connects with art, beauty, nature, and animals of a culture. My son connects with wars and weapons and inventions. They remember different things about the different time periods we are studying together. This has been awesome because as we share as a family what they’ve been reading and learning, we get such a wide spectrum of information.

Shared Experience

Books create memories. My kids have favorites they love to re-read. They have favorites that Daddy alone can read to them. (Babaji is a favorite from when they were very little that they still love to have him read—in character.) They have books that we share together as read-alouds. Books makes those moments special for us. Books bond us together, all snuggled on the couch listening to a story, or side by side each with our own book as we wind down for bedtime. Tapestry of Grace allows for tons of great book selections to always be available at every reading level. I don’t insist that every book be “read.” We have fond memories of listening to Mr. Popper’s Penguins and The Railway Children as audio books. And I don’t insist on reading every read-aloud myself. My kids read-aloud, too. This year, we’ve read selected chapters from the Story of the World and Grandpa’s Box to go along with our ancient history studies. It allows me to give the input and emphasis of our study, to draw out the major themes we are studying, but it also allows them the opportunity to contribute as well.

I have very fond memories of reading aloud with my mom, chapter by chapter through multiple books all the way through college. Even now when we visit each other, we select a book to read aloud together. I love those memories with my mom, and I love those memories with my kids.

There are so many reasons for choosing a literature-rich curriculum, even with a household of ADHD and dyslexia. My kids read upside down on the couch, under tables, outside, in giant refrigerator cardboard boxes with flashlights, or in the most cock-eyed positions. And we still stay very active, with lots of hands-on projects to supplement all that reading. But the constant exposure, variety, and shared experiences from using a literature-rich curriculum have been treasures to my family and to my kids.

How do you know if a literature-rich curriculum is a good fit for you?

  • Don’t let reading or attention struggles rule this out for you.
  • Do consider how committed you are to reading as a lifestyle. If you look at a literature-rich curriculum as simply school assignments to get done in a week, you will probably both hate it.
  • Do consider access to a good library. Honestly, a good one is worth paying for if you aren’t local. A good library allows that maximum exposure and variety without breaking your budget. I could never afford to keep my kids in books without our local library (and that’s where we find our great audiobooks).
  • Don’t assume that a particular learning style will prevent a child from enjoying literature. Instead, use that learning style as a means to enjoy literature.

It would be easy to see all that energy and assume my kids would never sit down long enough to read. But that just hasn’t been true of our family at all. Books are a calming constant. It wouldn’t be home without them.

Want to know more about how we use Tapestry of Grace with ADHD/dyslexia? Check out these posts:

Tapestry of Grace Writing Aids

Celebrating progress with unit parties

When a pinterest-fail is NOT a homeschool-fail

Learning is about discovery, not perfection. | homeschool success | imperfect progress

I love Pinterest for homeschool inspiration. But for all that inspiration, my homeschool isn’t always “pinterest-worthy.” Sometimes our projects are very nearly pinterest-fails. And yet in those moments, I see my kids beam with admiration. They aren’t comparing their creativity to the perfect projects online; they are glorying in their learning success, reveling in the joy of creating something original. So why should I compare our imperfect homeschool progress to someone else’s? Learning is about discovery, not perfection. A pinterest-fail is NOT a homeschool-fail.

Case in point, we’ve tackled clay this year. And my kids have loved it! There is something soothing about wet, squishy clay that even my uber-sensory-sensitive child enjoys. We’ve tackled bas-relief, clay pottery, and sculpture. It’s been so much fun, and my kids will remember this year and our clay adventures for quite awhile, even though much of what they have created would not be necessarily pinterest-worthy. Our pinterest-fail is NOT a homeschool-fail; it’s imperfect homeschool progress.

 

not homeschool-fail | imperfect homeschool progress

My lesson plan was Greek pottery, but my kids had ideas of their own—including sculpting Alexander the Great (and a monkey face but somehow I didn’t end up with a picture of that one, another example of my imperfection for you). And just one week later, my daughter dropped her bowl while painting it, shattering it into pieces. Her presentation to her homeschool friends that week included how she had learned that Greek pottery is fragile.

Our display boards are another pride and joy. They worked hard on those projects and loved every minute of the journey, but few will find those images on Google and stand in awe. That’s okay! Because my purpose was not to impress others with our artistic ability. My purpose was to create lasting memories that fuel their love for learning.

Do you find yourself skipping a project because you know your kids can’t produce what you see on Pinterest or Instagram?

Are you tempted to micromanage the project to make it look better?

Are you embarrassed to share the final result?

Trust me, I’ve been there. But I’ve realized over the years it doesn’t matter; I’ve learned to share our homeschool imperfections proudly. As we cycled through history this year, I listened to my kids share about our first time through ancient history, squeal with delight when they saw favorite stories from five years ago, and recall for each other our first projects and adventures. I loved hearing their memories and realizing, this is why I make the effort at hands-on family learning. Not so that someone will re-pin our Nile River or our bas-relief, but because my kids will remember the year we played with clay and learned all about Greece and Rome. A pinterest-fail is NOT a homeschool-fail. No matter what others may see, we remember a huge homeschool success!

Tapestry of Grace Writing Aids: a buffet of writing ideas and resources

tapestry of grace writing aids review

I’ve owned Writing Aids since we first started using Tapestry of Grace curriculum four or five years ago, but I’ve been too insecure to really lean into it as my complete writing program until this year. Writing Aids is a very different “program” from what you will find anywhere else, and depending on what you are looking for, I think Writing Aids will surprise you.

What Writing Aids Is

Writing Aids is a supplement product of the Tapestry of Grace curriculum that is purchased in addition to the main curriculum. Tapestry is a guided unit study approach to studying the history of the world in the classical or Charlotte Mason style. It integrates history, Bible, literature, writing, and art into a rich study for the whole family (K-12). Within the curriculum, then, are writing project suggestions for twelve different levels. You decide what level your child is at, what projects you want your child to complete, and how many projects seem realistic for you through the school year. From the buffet of ideas presented to you, you select what fits with your goals and learning objectives for your family and your child.

tapestry of grace writing aids review

The ideas are meant to be used in conjunction with the time period you are studying. Do a comparison/contrast paper on a couple of generals you are studying. Complete a mini-book about the people of ancient Egypt. Create a display board of the people of ancient Palestine. Research papers, newspapers and articles, book reports and book reviews, literary analysis and character analysis, descriptive papers, and persuasive papers—you name it, every genre of writing is included at some point over the entire twelve levels (1st grade through 12th grade).

Within the purchase of Writing Aids are the instructions for the suggested assignments, grading rubrics, and graphic organizers that help you to create your own writing curriculum from the suggested assignments in the Tapestry of Grace plans.

So what does this look like in use?

I can choose to teach one writing assignment to both kids—both my highly-motivated fifth grader and my dyslexic third grader. For instance, they both created display boards this year, and they both have written book reports. My fifth grader has been working on a five paragraph book report, while my third grader is working on a well-developed single paragraph. 

I can assign as many or as few projects as I think is necessary during our term. For my fifth grader, that has been a book report and a couple other writing projects each term. He’s written a personal narrative, a display board, a fiction story, a couple comparison/contrast papers, and by the end of the year, a biography and a historical fiction story. For my dyslexic third grader who struggles with incredible writing anxiety, that includes a single project each term: a mini-book of Egypt, a display board of Palestine, and her first book report. 

I can choose the level I feel is appropriate for my child, even switch levels mid-year or even mid-term, depending on how my child is progressing and which projects seem best-fitted to my child’s skill level. My fifth grader is not stuck in level 5. I can choose a project from level 6, level 4, etc.

Writing Aids provides instructions (written to the teacher or an older student) about the project, the objectives of the assignment and what a well-done project will include, the grading rubrics, some graphic organizers and a few sample papers.  In a sense, Writing Aids and the Tapestry of Grace writing assignments offer the same buffet that is offered in the history plans themselves. It’s an open buffet of ideas and resources that allows you to create your own writing curriculum.

tapestry of grace writing aids review

tapestry of grace writing aids review

What Writing Aids is Not

Writing Aids is not a weekly scripted plan for teaching writing lesson by lesson. If you are looking for something equivalent to IEW or WriteShop or Brave Writer, you may be disappointed. Though it includes some ideas for teaching grammar, it’s not a grammar curriculum or an all-inclusive language arts program. It is exactly what the title says it is: writing aids.

It is also not a course to teach you how to teach writing, as some of the other writing curriculums offer, though it provides plenty of instructions and teaching resources and grading rubrics. Writing Aids provides instructions on the genre, the project, and what to look for in the assignment, but not necessarily how to teach the skill of writing to your child. Teaching how to write a book report and teaching writing are two different things, for sure.

What I love about Writing Aids (& how I’ve used it)

I love that I can assign the same project to both my children with age-appropriate requirements and teach the same material ONCE. 

I love that I can customize my own writing curriculum. ‘Cause after all, who am I kidding? I never use a curriculum exactly the way it’s written. Instead, I pick and choose the projects we will be doing and, for the most part, the time-frame for the assignment.

I love that the writing integrates with what we are learning rather than being it’s own separate subject. This is not just one more thing to fit into the schedule; this is one more avenue to explore and reinforce what we are learning together.

I am a writer: I have taught writing and editing at the college level and in homeschool co-ops, but even I still have doubts about whether I’m doing enough or teaching it right. I’m still plagued with that dreaded question: “am I missing something?” I look at all of those other writing programs and wonder if I should bite the bullet and choose one. And in the end, maybe I will. I see the value in many of them. But I also know that teaching writing isn’t nearly as complicated as we make it. And I’ve taught all kinds, including my own avid writer and dyslexic struggling writer.

Who is Writing Aids for?

It’s for the mom who wants to customize something that aligns with her goals for her child or children. Maybe she’s not necessarily confident in her ability to teach writing but confident in her child’s ability to learn writing. It’s for the homeschool parent who wants to teach all of her kids at the same time in a whole family learning environment and integrate that learning with history. It’s for the Tapestry of Grace user who fully embraces the concept of selecting what works for her family and her child from a buffet of choices.

Display Boards for whole family learning

whole family learning | hands-on learning | Tapestry of Grace

We’ve had so much fun with display boards recently that I just had to give you a peek at the action. As part of our Tapestry of Grace curriculum, we’ve been learning about the cultures and people of ancient Palestine during the time of King Saul, King David, and King Solomon. I love doing as much of our learning together as we can, so I assigned both of the older kids this display board project for their writing assignment. Immediately, they were all on board.

Preparation for the Display Boards

My preparation, overall, wasn’t bad. I printed off the Teacher Notes from our curriculum and highlighted the portions for them to read through for the writing part of the assignment, picked some images to print from Google images, and picked up some display board supplies at our local supply store. Each child picked their board, including Littlest, my preschooler. He wanted in on the action, and I figured getting him his own poster board would keep him from “participating” in the other kids’ projects in ways they would not prefer.

Directions for the Display Boards

We chose four cultures that had the most information available: Canaanites, Hittites, Philistines, and Phoenicians. And I gave them 3 weeks to work on it.

whole family learning | hands-on learning | Tapestry of Grace | display boards

For my fifth grader, I assigned a paragraph for each culture. Other than providing his materials and showing him a few sample projects, I really did not do much more for him. He likes his independence.

For my third grader, I only required a couple of sentences for each culture. Because of her skill level and dyslexia, I helped her quite a bit more. I read the information to her rather than have her read it, and she used a new favorite app of ours to write her sentences. (Dyslexia Aid allows her to speak her sentence into the app, and it gives her the text for her to copy into her projects.)

whole family learning | hands-on learning | Tapestry of Grace | display boards

dyslexia app | dyslexia aids for writing

For my preschooler, I gave him permission to use any left-over photos the big kids were not using. He got his glue stick and scissors and went to town. I love it! The red scribbles are his map of Palestine.

whole family learning | hands-on learning | Tapestry of Grace | display boards | preschool

In Love with Display Boards

Seriously, we are in love with display boards, and I keep asking myself why I haven’t tried this sooner. My daughter has already asked about a hundred times if she can make another one. And it was an easy way to incorporate everyone at their own skill levels, interacting with the same information, which after all, is why I love Tapestry of Grace to begin with. I love whole family learning, and I love getting to put that learning on display.

Why Teach Mythology in classical Christian curriculum

greek mythology | classical Christian curriculum

Teaching mythology and ancient gods in classical Christian curriculum can be a little tricky to navigate with your kids. It’s something I debate every time it comes up. But I must say, some of our richest discussions have come from reading these myths about the ancient false gods. The contrast between our God and these mythical gods is so stark that it never fails to leave me filled with gratitude and worship.

I remember four years ago when we covered ancient history for the first time, I had a moment like this when we read The Rain Player, a myth about a Mayan god. The main character had to win at a game against the god to get forgiveness from the god and rain for his people. I was moved to tears as I shared with my little ones that our God does not require us to earn forgiveness; He gives it freely. That our God sends rain upon the just and the unjust to show His common grace to all mankind.

And this year, our second time through ancient history, we had another opportunity. As we finished up our chapters in Story of the World on the ancient Greeks, we were discussing a Greek myth about the Trojan War and the vanity of the gods, and I asked them: What are you thankful for about your God as you read these stories?

I loved their answers. One child mentioned that God was slow to anger, and the Greek gods were not. Another mentioned how God was loving, sending His son to die for men. We mentioned a few other differences. We ended our time in Greek mythology thankful and grateful for the true God.

It’s such a humbling, beautiful thing for me to be able to have these moments with my kids, to worship God together as we study nature and art and ancient civilizations. It’s not just what I’m teaching them; it’s what we share together.

I’m grateful for homeschooling. I’m grateful for my kids and their perspective on life. I’m grateful for Greek mythology and the conversations it sparks. I’m grateful for a God who is slow to anger, merciful, loving, and intentionally revealing Himself to us in every day moments.

 

Celebrating Progress: Tapestry of Grace Unit Parties

Tapestry of Grace unit parties

I love celebrating progress in our homeschool. I love to throw a party! So one of the highlights of our homeschool year are our unit celebrations.

I use “unit celebrations” loosely. Our curriculum recommends celebrating after each 9 week unit. But I honestly can’t pull off more than 2 parties a year. So we usually celebrate midyear and end of year. It’s less work for me and yet still creates those special memories that I love about homeschooling.

5 reasons for celebrating progress with a “unit” party

  • a chance to review and recap: This is our cumulative review, but so much more fun than the pressure of a big exam. We have some kind of game that reviews all the content we’ve covered so far; the kids study diligently for these games because their rival opponent—is Dad!

    (file folder game from Homeschool in the Woods Time traveler pack)
    (file folder game from Homeschool in the Woods Time traveler pack)
  • a chance to include Dad: Our “unit” parties are a highlight for my husband as well. It’s a great time for him to interact with the kids and what they are learning, gives him an opportunity to see all that we’ve done, and allows him the platform to praise their accomplishments. And the trivia game is serious business. Dad reviews the questions for about 5-10 minutes before the game begins, and then—it’s on: the kids against Dad! (or youngest child + Dad against the olders) Sometimes, team names are chosen, and that is usually hilarious, too. One thing about a household of creative, out-going, ADHD family is that drama and humor abounds! My family is flat-out funny. I love them!celebrating progress unit party
  • a chance to positively report progress: I hand out report cards at the party. The kids see them at the same time Dad does. As part of the report card, I include not just their grades but a summary of some of the character they’ve shown and an area for progress. Dad looks over the report with the child, reads the character report outloud, and praises and affirms that child.
  • a chance to display and perform: The kids are often in charge of the program for the evening, though I do offer a few suggestions. Notebooks with the kids projects are usually on display, and then the kids have an opportunity to perform something they’ve worked on: a puppet show, a song, a speech from a President, a poem, a report, etc.
  • a chance to create memories: Over the years, we’ve made some really terrific memories. We remember ancient history four years ago because of the huge poster-sized map my son colored and dramatically re-enacted Scipio and Hannibal with his plastic army men. We remember wrapping plastic cups in aluminum foil to make goblets for our Medieval Feast. We remember singing “Get your Kicks on Route 66” and our hobo dinner in the garage. And we will never forget our hippy party, perhaps our all-time favorite!

The kids are already asking about this term’s party and making big plans: an ancient history Headbanz game, a puppet show, some poetry (“Ozymandias”), and maybe some Christmas cookies. It’s the kind of thing that allows me to look back on all the hard work and struggles of the last few months and say, “This. This is why I homeschool. This makes it all worth while!”