This year was our first (long-awaited) year for both classical education and Tapestry of Grace curriculum. And it was as awesome as I dreamed it would be. There definitely was a learning curve and lots of adjustments along the way, but the core of what I was looking forward to with Tapestry was definitely accomplished.
Tapestry of Grace is a classical/unit studies curriculum that covers the humanities: history, geography, art, writing/literature, and Bible/church history. It is full of read-alouds and hands-on learning. It is absolutely anything you want to make it to be, which is why there’s a learning curve. The choices are there for you to select from, but there is no lesson plan per se.
We’ve had a fantastic time with it, especially as I settled into a method toward the end of the year. I’m still tweaking, still learning. But it’s been a fantastic journey.
What I loved:
I have really enjoyed incorporating the Bible and church history into the world history and cultural studies of the time period. I’ve loved weaving the story and truths of redemption and contrasting those realities with the myths and false religions of the surrounding civilizations. I’ve loved seeing my kids light up when they see a name from history in their Bible reading. And I’ve loved having us all learn together.
What I’d change:
Tapestry gives tons of choices, but it sometimes felt that the flow of the story was sacrificed. We read about culture here, architecture there, government here, a biography over here, and Bible over there; and at the end, even I had trouble seeing how it all came together. The teacher notes helped, but those were so above my kid’s heads that I had to basically interpret and narrate passages to them. It just didn’t fit as nicely as I would have liked.
Mid-way through the year, I added a timeline study and some lapbooks, which helped tremendously. I’m still experimenting here and making decisions; it’s not exactly what I want it to be yet, but we’ll get there. And I can’t wait for next year.
How I’m planning:
As I prepare for next year’s study with Tapestry of Grace, I’m keeping pretty much the same approach as this year with a few variations. Next year, we’ll be studying the Middle Ages all the way up to the Revolutionary War. It’s a huge span of history, and an enormous selection of readers and projects.
Last year, just to get a feel for what would work for us, we purchased just about everything: DE (digital plans) and printed plans, Map Aids, Pop Quiz (audio and flashcards for Dad to follow along), Evaluations (test and quiz questions), and a Student Pak. This year, I only purchased the DE and the Map Aids.
- I found the printed plans too overwhelming. I had two 3″ binders of plans, about 30 pages for each week of study. It was so much easier for me to maneuver through all of that info on a computer than to flip pages.
- Pop Quiz was a great idea, but didn’t end up working well for us. I loved the thought of Dad following along with us. But so much of the time it seemed that the Pop Quiz questions were over extra details rather than the meat of the lesson. Since I had small Lower Grammar students, we often did not cover much more than the main emphasis of the week.
- Evaluations I used only as a source for my flashcards, and this year I’m going to try something else with my flashcards.
- I only ended up using a couple of activities from the Student Pak. The activities only loosely related to the stories and ended up largely being busy work that we just didn’t have time for.
- Map Aids I loved and used extensively. I tried several different methods for our map work but always had these as the main resource.
- As far as selecting a spine resource, a main resource to use through most of the unit or the year, I’m going to try out Story of the World this next year. It’s listed as an alternate spine resource in the Tapestry plans, and it has audios. My kids love audio books, and having someone else do the reading will free me up to do a few other things (like potty-train Littlest, Eek!)
As far as the reading selections, my first stop is always to compare the Primary and Alternate Resource List with what is at our library. And I’m getting much better at finding what we need at our library. Not only do I search the exact titles, but I also take a key word to search the person, event, or time period. This really broadened my search and narrowed my list of resources to purchase.
*Another lesson learned, last year I ordered a few different Upper Grammar resources, intending to use these as read-alouds. While my children are definitely used to having advanced stories read to them, it wasn’t the vocabulary or diction that posed the biggest problem. Many of these readers contained content that was just a little too mature for my little ones. Just an FYI.*
Another way I narrowed our purchase-list was limiting our reading. This was tough. But after this year, I have a much more realistic expectation of what we will be able to get through. I tried to pick one or two read-alouds per unit instead of per week. Then, I chose one or, in some rare instances, two books that Oldest can read either by himself or with a little read-aloud help from me.
The last thing that was a little different this year was that I felt a little freer to customize. Last year, I wanted to follow as closely to Tapestry as I possibly could until I knew what it had to offer. Now, I’m feeling confident enough to use Tapestry to fit our family, to mold it and select from it, and even to deviate from it slightly. For instance, Tapestry of Grace didn’t emphasize the Reformation nearly as much as I’d like to, so I’m straying from their recommended resources for those weeks and selecting a few of my own to fit our needs.
Also, I’m going with the Story of the World activity book rather than the various activity books that Tapestry recommends, for a couple of reasons. For one, I’m looking for simple this next year (did I mention potty-training is on the horizon?) Many of the recommended activities within the Tapestry resources were very involved and required supplies I don’t usually have on hand (terra cotta clay, metal washers and wire, etc.) The activities are really cool, but very hard to fit into our school week. I needed something that the kids could make with scissors, colored pencils, glue, and toilet paper rolls. Know what I mean? Story of the World has, at the very least, coordinating coloring pages; sounds perfect. My second reason was that my library as an excellent selection of these types of books, not always the exact titles but definitely comparable. If we really felt the itch to do something extra, I could check out my library for the really extreme crafts.
With a year of Tapestry under our belt and another year’s planning nearly done, I’m thankful to report that this curriculum is the perfect fit for us, especially since we get to make it a custom fit.