Building Our Shelves

"I am Poseidon"

Not long ago, my son made a comment that I’m still chuckling over. He astutely stated, “Mom, I read some articles on homeschooling in a magazine and I’ve come to the conclusion that before we started Tapestry of Grace, we were unschoolers.”

Now, I know some wonderful, successful unschoolers, but that is not a term that I ever would choose to describe our schooling methods. However, when my oldest child began school,  I was way too busy with three preschoolers to attempt a real curriculum. Instead, we focused on the basics and enjoyed good books. I bought some art supplies that we used once a week. We talked about everything and enjoyed learning all the time… not just during our “official” school hours. Curriculums scared me so I tended to avoid massive amounts of lesson plans.

Enter Tapestry of Grace (ToG)

A dear friend of mine introduced me to ToG when my oldest was nearing junior high. I purchased the dialectic books only and it was a perfect fit! Her siblings, however, became jealous. “How come she gets all the new books?!” they’d complain Gradually, much to my little people’s delight, I added lower and upper-grammar books, to “be fair.”

Back in the early days, I was afraid of curriculum, but if I could go back, I’d have invested in ToG from the beginning.

ToG is a Classical curriculum that follows the Trivium, or three stages of development and learning. These three stages are grammar, dialectic and rhetoric. During the grammar stage, or until a child is about twelve, children readily memorize facts. In the junior high years, young teens enter the logic stage and begin to reason and ask questions. Finally, during the rhetoric stage, which occurs in high school, students  reason and make judgments about information. Tapestry’s curriculum challenges children at each of these stages to first acquire a base of knowledge (grammar), then learn to ask questions and analyze the information (logic) and finally, persuade and communicate effectively their opinions about the information (rhetoric).

My grammar-aged children love Tapestry! The beauty of homeschooling with ToG, is mom remains in control of that stress-o-meter. Mom can choose to accomplish as much or little as she chooses.

A lap book my upper-grammar made with two of her friends. What a fantastic way to incorporate writing with history studies!

I’ve heard it explained that ToG is like a buffet. Mom has the privilege of deciding how much school is accomplished from a plethora of options. The first year plan I bought took us two years to complete and we still skipped a lot. However, it was delightful and we learned so much!

Our upper-grammars at co-op working on their newspaper articles

My grammar Tapestry students do not memorize dates. They don’t do the timelines. We don’t attempt defining all the vocabulary words. Yes, we do some memory work but my children are not stressed. They LOVE learning and feel included in a common homeschooling purpose. After all, they are studying the same history as their high school siblings! This makes them feel that their academics are just as important.

When asked what she likes most about school, my 9-year old exclaimed, “I love all the history I learn and the art. I also like how everything always goes together… like my literature books are about the history and the art is too.”

I agree, wholeheartedly! While she didn’t mention the writing as part of that “going together,” it is one of my very favorite aspects of Tapestry’s grammar instruction. ToG follows a model of “read, think, and then write.” Thus, grammar students know the subject material they are asked to write about. Often, when teaching writing, student lack of information is the most difficult hurdle. Young children just don’t know what to put on the page. The Tapestry model takes care of that. Furthermore, the writing reinforces their history studies.

ToG gives my grammar students confidence. I’ve heard the knowledge “base” that grammar students acquire through Classical education described as a “shelf.” Later, the shelf will be full, but for the grammar years, a shelf is all that’s needed. My children are exposed to rich literature, history and vocabulary though the excellent Tapestry book selections. On a weekly, if not daily basis, they are given little trinkets to put on their shelves:

  • A Sunday School teacher speaks of the Nile River and my 4th grader exclaims, “Hey! I studied that. It flows south to north!”
  • Our neighbor has a Honda Odyssey van and the connection is made… “Is that word “Odyssey” like the book?”
  • An expression is heard, “We don’t want to open Pandora’s Box!” and the Greek myth immediately comes to my young one’s mind.

In addition to giving them confidence, Tapestry encourages creativity in my younger children. Yes, the art activities are wonderful, but even in their spare time, my grammar students create. Often their creative endeavors are history-based.

“Look,  Mom, It’s a Ba-Gyptian house! (my almost kindergartener)

A "Ba-gyptian house" and a sphinx

My little Aphrodite made her own costume, wrote her biography and recited it at our end-of-unit celebration.

Aphrodite - Goddess of beauty

In some ways, our early days of homeschooling were much like they are today. Then, we enjoyed learning and tried to incorporate art into our lives when we could. We discussed great books. We learned all day long, not just during school hours. We still do all those things. However, I now have a buffet to choose from whereas I once felt I had to “cook from scratch” in order to eat. We love our non-stressful, fun, confidence-building, creativity-encouraging curriculum. My grammar students are building their shelves and those shelves are getting bigger by the day!

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2 Responses to “Building Our Shelves”

  1. Heather Says:

    This is a great post, Tina. This year has been such a blessing to our family. I am so excited about next year already even though we aren’t finished with this year yet. I am, however, just fine with a summer break! 🙂

  2. Tina Says:

    Thank you, Heather. I too can hardly wait for Year 2! Did you hear that Jacob was disappointed that we weren’t going all summer? Too funny… We’re on the home stretch!

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