Q and A: Starting a Tapestry of Grace Co-op

February 22nd, 2013

This is a post for my Tapestry of Grace (ToG) friends all over the country who are interested in starting a co-op using this rich curriculum. When my friends and I began our co-op it was difficult to find information on how to start. I googled Tapestry of Grace co-ops and wrote every leader I could with questions. Thankfully, I found a couple of sweet souls willing to correspond by e-mail. I asked one leader if I and our core-team could come visit. We desperately wanted to see a co-op in action! Unfortunately for us, we were unable to do so. Though we lacked the information we desired, our team “got to planning” and two years later, we are so blessed by our thriving group. I hope this post (and subsequent posts, if needed) may make the process a little easier for some of you. Grab a cup of tea and feel free to peek at what we do through my Tapestry posts (in sidebar.) Leave your questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Be sure to visit Marcia Somerville’s co-op information. This is a great starting point. Our first year schedule and rules and regulations are uploaded there as well as documents from other Tapestry groups.

Without further ado, here are the first 10 questions I’ve been asked about our co-op:

1. Why did you begin a Tapestry of Grace co-op?

I love ToG and, before starting our co-op, had used it at home for five years. For basic information about Tapestry, please read my posts about its benefits for various levels. It is, in my opinion, the most family-friendly, comprehensive, flexible curriculum on the market. Foundational to its use are Socratic discussions. Students learn by reading. However, discussing themes, ideas, and worldview takes learning to a much higher level. Until my children were in high school, I held most discussions through read-aloud time or casually over our lunch break. I desired more for the high school years. However, because I also had a four children in the dialectic and grammar stages, I knew I could not set aside the 4+ hours a week for these discussions.

Two of my friends, also ToG users, were in the same predicament. We did not want to abandon our curriculum in favor of paid high school classes at another co-op for several reasons. The classes, while reasonable, were about $500/year per class. Also, none of us had drivers which meant the twice-a-week commitment for our older children would take us away from homeschooling our younger ones. We felt strongly that if we pooled our resources (time and talent), we could put together a dynamic discussion group for our rhetoric students using the curriculum we owned.

2. How did the idea transpire to a co-op?

First of all, we prayed about it for several months. There were four of us. Three of us used Tapestry already. We decided to start with just a Dialectic/Rhetoric-level group in a home if that is what the Lord wanted for us. However, as we talked and prayed, we felt strongly that we all preferred our weekly meeting time to benefit all of our children. So, we brainstormed a few other families that might want to join and contacted them personally. We targeted rhetoric and dialectic-level families who also had younger children. Without advertising, we pretty quickly acquired twelve interested families. With these twelve families, we had 36 children which gave us 5-8 in each level – preschool, lower grammar, upper grammar, dialectic and rhetoric.

3. When, where and how often do you meet? 

Once we knew we had enough families to begin a co-op, we prayerfully approached our church staff and graciously were given permission to meet on Mondays from 8:30-1:30. This was the only day available, so we took it!

4. How did you decide what year plan to use?

Three out of four of our “core team” ladies had used Tapestry for several years. Two of them were beginning Year 1. So, the beginning seemed like a very good place to start. 🙂

5. How are your age groups broken down?

The first year, we had 4, 5 and some 6 year olds in a pre-k/k group; 1st-3rd graders in lower grammar; 4th-6th in upper grammar; 7th-8th in dialectic and 9th-12th in rhetoric. This year, we do not have a preschool. We have a K-1 (lower grammar), 2-3 (lower grammar), 4-5 (upper grammar), 6 (dialectic), 7-8 (dialectic) and 9-12(rhetoric). Next year we will have a preschool. We also plan to separate 9th grade for a hybrid class (rhetoric lit and dialectic history).

6. How do you decide who teaches each class and how are the teachers compensated?

Teachers are not compensated. Each participant must stay the whole day, lead-teach at least one class, assist at least one class and, if needed, additional classes. We determine who teaches each class via Surveymonkey. So far, each teacher has been able to teach where she/he feels most interested/competent. Each class has at least one assistant. If a teacher can’t be at co-op, she makes arrangements with her assistant.

7. Do you only use ToG or do you use other curriculum as well?

At the rhetoric level, we only use ToG. Rhetorics discuss literature (1.5 hours) History/Church History/Geography (2 hours), Philosophy (45 min) and Government (45 minutes). That is all they have time to do in our 5-hour day. Dialectics have a little more time, so they have a science class. Upper Grammars have ToG art and science as well as literature, history, geography and lapbooks. Lower grammars listen to Story of the World, take turns reading ToG literature aloud, have a PE time and do lapbooks and science. K/1’s have a music class, science, art, story time, phonics time and Story of the World time. We have used both Apologia and Elemental Science. Elemental Science has been a huge hit for our lower grammar students and we are considering using it for all classes 8th grade and under next year.

Basically, the younger the class, the more time there is in our co-op day for additional classes.

8. Do you use ToG writing?

Absolutely.

Last year I worked two conferences in the ToG booth, and was frequently asked this question. Moms particularly wanted my opinion about Tapestry writing compared to theme-based IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing). I am a certified IEW instructor, and I like IEW products. However, I am a huge proponent of ToG writing assignments. We ask all our members to purchase Writing Aids.  Part of the beauty of Tapestry is the multi-faceted learning of which writing is a vital part. Writing about the history and literature solidifies many themes for students. I recommend that moms watch Teaching Writing With Structure and Style videos (an IEW resource) to help them learn key elements of the writing process and gain confidence in teaching. However, it is not necessary nor do I recommend that ToG’s writing assignments be abandoned for another program. Writing Aides contains excellent notes for the teacher, graphic organizers, and grading rubriks. The writing assignments help solidify key concepts of the curriculum. You will want to study grammar. You may want to spend a good semester teaching essay components or supplementing where you see areas of weakness with your student. However, Writing Aids and ToG assignments are excellent. We’ve had great success using them.

9.  How many members of your co-op used Tapestry before joining?

Of our 12 families the first year, 5 used it previously. Only two of the families were on the same year plan. However, those not on Year 1 were willing to adjust for the sake of the co-op.  The second year 11 families returned and 13 families joined. To my knowledge, all our new families had never used ToG. I am very excited about next year because we will have 22 out of 30-ish families with at least one year of Tapestry use under their belts! Exciting!

10. How do you teach moms to use the curriculum?

This is an ongoing process. We begin by requiring interested families to download the free three-week plan from Tapestry, study the website and watch the introductory videos. They then meet with a core-team member. We show them a week’s plan. We show them student notebooks. We answer their questions. The beauty of our co-op is each member contributes something. Thus no one has to do it all. “Many hands make work light” is very true of what we do. Moms are motivated to invest time in learning the curriculum but they do not have to “have it all together” to get started. We require SAPacks (and soon the Map and EvalPacks.) We share ideas during “free” periods at our co-op day. We have a Yahoo forum where we encourage one another as well. There is still a little ToG fog. However, because we meet on a weekly basis, there is regular opportunity for encouragement and mentoring.

… And there you have it. If you have further questions, please ask away in the comments and I’ll happily answer them in another post.

 

 

Year 2 Unit 2 Celebration

December 21st, 2012

Our co-op had a Reformation focus for our Year 2 Unit 2 celebration. The 4th-8th graders replicated the door of St. Mary’s Cathedral where Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses. It was interesting to copy them on sentence strips and see exactly what the theses were, and it was impressive to tape all 95 on our big paper, red door!

95 Theses

95 Theses

All but the rhetorics in front of the 95 theses.

After working on our door, we met for presentations. The 6th grade class presented a skit that introduced everyone to Martin Luther.  4th-5th graders recited Psalm 46, the inspiration behind A Mighty Fortress Is Our God  which is known as “The Battle Hymn of the Reformation.”

Psalm 46

Psalm 46

And then Daniel led us in singing  “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. “

Several of the children said they’d never heard this famous hymn! It was a joy to sing it and so meaningful for them to see the connection of Psalm 46 to this great song.

Another special highlight of our presentations came from the 7th/8th graders who worked hard for several weeks on a literature quilt. Each square of their quilt represented a key date, figure, literary term or character from their Unit 2 literature studies. This was certainly an impressive project!

Other presentations included a Reformation Rap, reports and a K/1 science question and answer time.

After our presentations, we gathered for lunch. While our meal was a not “Reformation themed,” our dessert was. After our subs, the children enjoyed their “Diet of Worms.”

We hope our students don’t quickly forget that at the “Diet of Worms” Luther defended his 95 theses!

After we ate, we enjoyed looking at some projects completed this unit including our Coats of Arms, a Castle, a display board of South America and many lap books.

It’s hard to believe we are already half-way done with Year 2! We’ve learned so much and have had a great time doing so. While we’re all looking forward to our Christmas break, we look forward to Unit 3.

A Week of Tapestry Geography

August 23rd, 2012

Before I begin… a little disclaimer. Geography has not traditionally been a huge priority in our homeschool. While my son, Nathan, excels at this subject, his sisters and his mother do not. About two years ago, Bethany begged me to teach her geography and I felt like a terrible failure. “Mom, it’s embarrassing how little I know. Nathan knows the whole world and I can’t even find Texas!” she wailed in exasperation. After looking up where Texas was, I showed her. (Just kidding but I am about that bad.) That was a wake up call. Jobe Academy needed to take geography a little more seriously.

Our curriculum, Tapestry of Grace, integrates geography with history, Bible and literature, government and philosophy studies. It is wonderful. Each week there are maps to print and a list of geography terms and countries, rivers, mountain ranges, etc for students to find. It made sense to start with our own curriculum. (Yes, I ignored that little section of our curriculum for several years just because I wanted to get to the “good” stuff… the writing, history and lit!)

Tapestry has an impressive geography project recommended in the curriculum that involves base maps and transparencies. For several years I’ve dreamed of doing it. I probably will some day. However, for lack of time and organization, I have not as of yet. Instead, I simply asked the children to label their maps using a globe, the terms, their printed maps from our Map Aids CD-Rom, and their mother who was armed with the answer key. This technique was a step ahead of where we’d been. However, the children really didn’t retain much. Also, for my youngest school-aged child, the writing was tiresome.

Over this past summer, I came across a fantastic resource – the Tapestry of Grace Yahoo groups. In each year’s files, someone kindly donated documents containing all the geography terms for each week of the curriculum. They are designed to be printed on clear mailing labels so that grammar students can peel and stick instead of write, write, write. I’ve adapted the use of these documents and now have a geography plan that my children are really enjoying.

At the start of each unit, I print on white card stock, laminate, cut out, and then magnetize (with magnetic tape) the geography terms.

On the first day of our Tapestry studies, I have the children locate the geography terms using our globe and several Atlases I’ve accumulated. The Atlas of World History is a resource on my wish-list, but usually, the books I own suffice. My older children write on their printed maps. My 5th grader uses the labels. We use magnets to adhere her weekly map to a magnetic board and then she puts each magnetized label where it belongs. I am still armed with the answer key but I have found that it is very worthwhile to have a few good history Atlases. You never know, the children may actually read all the facts about the maps they are studying!

Printed map from the Map-Aids Cd-Rom. The children keep these in their notebooks for easy reference.

After the first day of “work, (finding and labeling,)” geography gets fun. I set up all the terms for the week on my giant magnetic whiteboard along with the a large map from Geography Matters. I can not recommend their “Whole Kit and Kaboodle” maps enough – 26 large, laminated maps for $50. This, of course, is not a mandatory Tapestry of Grace resource. However, I like the fact that it gives my children another perspective of the places they are studying. If you don’t have these maps, you can certainly continue to use the printed maps from Map Aids. A neat place to label these smaller maps would be your refrigerator. Just hang it eye-level for your child and ask for several labels to be placed on the map before each meal or snack 🙂

The children enjoy this activity. After putting the labels on the big map a few times, they like to “see who’s fastest!” They are challenged to go to the answer keys if they can’t figure out where one of the labels goes. Here is our completed map for Year 2, Week 2. (You may click any picture to see it enlarged.)

If the children need help, I just let them look at my laptop with the answer key for the week. After a time or two, they usually can label the map from memory.

Actually, not the same week’s plan… but an answer key for another week.

I store the labels in envelopes labeled for each week and put them in a small accordion file.

And that is it! You could test at the end of the week by just asking them to point to the locations. Of course, you could print another map from Map Aids and require pencil labeling, if you like. Or you can skip the test and ask them to do the magnetic “puzzle” one more time without looking at the key.

Today Sarah, who is now about the age Bethany was when we had our geography lesson on Texas, excitedly exclaimed, “My history book just mentioned Italy, Corsica and Sicily, and I know EXACTLY where those places are!” After this fun discovery, she ran to the map just to confirm her new knowledge and yes, she was right! (For a 5th grader, that is all the “test” I need!)

And Bethany, by the way, no longer complains that she can’t find Texas. I think that today she beat her siblings on the speed test 🙂

 

To access the geography labels, go to the Tapestry Yahoo year plan group (whatever year you are studying.) Each year has a sidebar called “files.” Click in the files and then click on “geography.” You will need to join the group first.

Year 1     Year 2     Year 3     Year 4

 

 

 

 

Easter

April 9th, 2012

Anna danced at all three of our Resurrection Day worship services. This is the first time I’d not seen her dance as she practiced. “I think you’ll like it, Mom,” she told me the night before. I did. Her expression of worship was beautiful.

Verse 1:
Lost are saved; find their way; at the sound of your great name
All condemned; feel no shame, at the sound of your great name
Every fear; has no place; at the sound of your great name
The enemy; he has to leave; at the sound of your great name

Chorus:
Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up; that all the world will praise your great name

Verse 2:
All the weak; find their strength; at the sound of your great name
Hungry souls; receive grace; at the sound of your great name
The fatherless; they find their rest; at the sound of your great name
Sick are healed; and the dead are raised; at the sound of your great name

Chorus:
Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up; that all the world will praise your great name

Bridge:
Redeemer, My Healer, Almighty
My savior, Defender, You are My King

Chorus:
Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up; that all the world will praise your great name

The “Why” Stage

March 16th, 2012

Three lovely dialectic friends

“Why?”

… This is a question we often think of toddlers asking. However, believe it or not, it is more typically asked by students in 6th-9th grades. Yes, junior high, or the dialectic stage, is a season full of questions. Even compliant upper-grammar children often turn into questioning, reactive, argumentative dialectics. And guess what?…

That’s normal!

This is because young teens are in the “logic” stage of development. It’s a season characterized by questioning E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G!

When I say dialectics are argumentative, I don’t mean they are necessarily disrespectful. They’ve simply learned to use reasoning skills and ask questions. They want to know why.

My dialectic daughter still loves those "hands-on" activities. Here, she is an Egyptian.

Dialectics are a mixed group. I have two dialectic-aged students who are twins! My son loves philosophy and geography while my daughter’s favorite subject is writing. My daughter organizes her schoolwork. Her notebook is impeccable. She writes her own lists and pays close attention to detail. My son… not so much, but he is a math whiz. However, as different as they are, they both ask “why” on a daily basis.

Even today, I heard this question coming from my son – “Mom, why do atheists say they aren’t religious? Isn’t atheism a kind of a religion in itself?” When studying the Greeks, this same child observed, “We tend to think of the Greeks as unintelligent, or at least I do because they really believed in all these crazy gods and goddesses. However, they weren’t dumb… They actually had to have been quite smart to have made up reasons for all they questioned.” Such comments are examples of “connections” being made through their studies. Dialectics have moved beyond reporting “facts” to reasoning and questioning material they’ve studied.

For moms, this new season of questioning can be exhausting. We miss the “just-give-the-facts” grammar stage! However,  it is our job to answer the dialectic “whys.” It’s time to teach more than just the facts.

Our curriculum, Tapestry of Grace (ToG), understands dialectic-aged students. Tapestry’s well-written thinking questions in the curriculum encourage dialectics to make connections and reason. Taking students back in history, the literature brings history to life, also promoting reasoning, analytical thought of the time period being studied.

In addition to the outstanding thinking questions and excellent literature selections, I appreciate the versatility of the ToG plans. Mom can truly customize ToG to the ability level of each child. At the beginning of this year, my 9th grader transitioned to rhetoric-level work by participating in rhetoric literature and dialectic history. My 7th grade son enjoys philosophy. Because

My son is a "just-the-facts" dialectic.

I wanted him to participate in Tapestry’s Padgeant of Philosophy readings and discussions from year 1, I let him join the rhetorics for this one class. At times, I’ve moved my upper grammars up to dialectic literature and kept them reading easier history texts until they matured. ToG reading selections are truly customizable, and for the dialectic-aged student, I find this extremely beneficial.

Not only is the reading customizable, but the writing assignments are too. I’ve found writing abilities to vary quite a bit with dialectic students. Some are ready to write research papers. Others need to keep working on tight paragraph construction. Again, I appreciate the versatility of the ToG curriculum. There are twelve levels of writing and mom, the teacher, can pick a level and move up or down as needed to meet individual needs.

Dialectics are definitely a fun group to teach. They’re silly and they’re serious. They are children one moment and adults the next. They giggle and they philosophize. They come  extra-small and extra-tall. They like “hands-on” and they prefer “just the facts.” Yet they all ask “why?” a hundred times a day.

Thankfully, Tapestry of Grace helps me answer some of the whys… at least the ones related to their history and literature studies!

Let’s Celebrate Year 1 Unit 2!

March 9th, 2012

My son, as Gideon

Year 1 Unit 2… For these nine weeks of our Tapestry of Grace studies, we traveled around the globe studying ancient civilizations including the Indians of the Indus Valley, the Chinese of the Hwang Ho River, the Native Americans and the early South Americans, particularly the Mayans. We studied the rise of the ancient Greek civilizations and Greek mythology. We read Joshua and Judges and discussed the Israelites and their taking of the promised land. We studied the Philistine civilization and the Phoenicians and the rise of the Israelite monarchy. We covered a lot, and had much to celebrate when we reached the end of this unit.

The children planned the program for this gathering. After our Unit 1 celebration, they couldn’t wait to take the stage! Our dialectic class wrote and performed a play about Gideon.

the dialectic Gideon cast

I teach our upper grammars writing, and we spent a great deal of time working on reports in first person about the Greek gods and goddesses. For our end-of-unit party, this class dressed as their favorite character. Many students memorized their speeches. They were very proud of themselves as they should have been!

Greek gods and goddesses

Lower grammars shared some facts they learned.

The highlight of our celebration came from our rhetoric literature class. These six students met weekly, wrote dialogue from various scenes of the Iliad, filmed and produced an outstanding short video. This is a small excerpt. The complete production lasted about fifteen minutes and included many various scenes. From the writing of the scenes to the filming, our rhetorics did it all.

Iliad Shorts | Oenone’s and Paris’ Scene from Joshua Ezzell on Vimeo.

The entire audience loved the drama! And yes, the entire fifteen minutes of Iliad Shorts were just as dramatic as this one.

Our twelve Tapestry of Grace families involved in our co-op belong to a Yahoo group. We’ve found it to be the best way to communicate with one another. Our entire celebration was planned replying to “threads” of conversation – from paper-product volunteering to sequencing the official program. Our Unit 2 Celebration fell on the Monday before Christmas; yes, 6 days before Christmas Day! To say the least, each mom in our co-op had Christmas plates overflowing and “to-do” lists a mile long. However, due to circumstances out of our control, we either celebrated December 19th or we couldn’t celebrate at all. Our children simply worked too hard not to set aside time to reflect and share our unit 2 accomplishments. Yet, because of the timing of this event, we kept the food as simple as possible and ordered pizza.

Enjoying our pizza party

We could have done more. We didn’t display our art. An international meal would have been nice. However, we met to celebrate the mid-point of our Year 1 studies only six days before Christmas! The children experienced closure to their school work. And after the celebration, we moms quickly disposed of the pizza boxes, gathered Gideon, god and goddess and Iliad costuming, and checked “Tapestry party” off the list. We still had shopping to do!

Why Rhetoric?

March 9th, 2012

High school literature discussion

What is “rhetoric?” The Miriam Webster Dictionary defines this term “The art of speaking or writing effectively.

I desire my teens to develop excellent communication skills. I am thankful for Tapestry of Grace (ToG) because this curriculum shares my goals. Emphasizing the development of mature rhetoric skills, ToG excels at high-school instruction. The literature is challenging and full of themes to examine. I’m thankful that church history and world history exists together. As we discuss “his story,” morality, God’s law, sin, redemption, and grace are intermingled with wars, rulers, power, and people groups. We compare and contrast. Sometimes we debate; yet, we respect one another. Opposing sides in a debate often reveal unexplored themes. This leads to more discussion and more communication. All the while, rhetorical skills are strengthened.

Is the material challenging? Absolutely! Students at the rhetoric level read college-level material. They write weekly essays as well as several research papers their junior and senior years.

Is Tapestry of Grace fun for high schoolers? We think so. Here, my oldest daughter delivers the last of a seven-minute humorous speech. She is Hera from the Iliad.

To take a classic piece of literature and write from a character’s point of view clearly portrays understanding of story. It’s true that the Iliad requires concentration and discussion. Yet Tapestry’s well-laid-out plans aid discussion leaders. The teacher’s notes are thorough. This results in high-school students who can read, analyze and understand the great works… and even write snarky speeches about them 🙂

My 9th grader's first research paper

Not only do rhetoric students learn to articulate their ideas through the spoken word, but they do so in written form as well. Weekly, the writing instruction aids them in assimilating material read and putting ideas to paper. The Tapestry model of “read, discuss, write” is beneficial at every stage of development. For rhetoric students, however,  such practice prepares them for college-level writing. We often implement the essays on the evaluations for timed-SAT practice. Doing so has helped my students grow accustomed to writing while the timer ticks. They are learning to write from their literature experiences which I have no doubt will improve this timed-essay-SAT skill. My high school students are becoming excellent writers, and I thank Tapestry of Grace for its emphasis on this component in their curriculum.

Why learn to express ideas through speaking and writing? Why is this even important? Is it to do well on the SAT essay? To get into college? To make friends laugh at a humorous speech? To win an argument? I think not.

My children may or may not attend college, but whatever God has for their future will require persuasive, articulate speaking and writing skills. Competence in these areas is necessary, be they a doctor or homemaker, carpenter or missionary. No doubt, communication is a life skill. Ultimately, however, my goal for my children is for them to possess the ability to articulate the love of Christ to others.

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” -1Peter 3:15

I’m thankful that I see my rhetoric students developing excellent communication skills, and I’m thankful for the academic role Tapestry of Grace plays in their lives. I know God has a beautiful plan for their future, and it is a blessing to daily watch them develop. As they learn to communicate well, I am overcome with joy. I have no doubt God is preparing them not only for their future professions but also “to be ready to give an answer..”

My lovely rhetoric daughters and some Tapestry essays


Poetry in Motion

March 8th, 2012

Posting this one because I’m so proud Joshua, the producer…

This was taken by one of my dearest friend’s son. My girls enjoyed an afternoon at their house last weekend. This video captures a few moments of life and makes it beautiful… something we should have eyes to see always. Our days and moments are gifts. As another friend of mine posted, this is “poetry in motion.”

Ice Cream, Please?

March 7th, 2012

This little girls likes treats!

A funny…

Yesterday, Esther accompanied Anna and me to town for one of Anna’s dance classes. Shortly after dropping Anna off, we approached McDonald’s. Esther asked sweetly, “Mommy, how about if you and I get a little treat.”  I responded, “Not today Esther, we need to get home.”

A few stoplights later, Esther tried again with a “good for us” tactic. “Mommy, mommy… Sweet Frog! Frozen yogurt is healthy. We should do that instead!” Again, I denied her request.

One stoplight later, as we approached the last “treat spot” before the stretch of highway leading home, Esther says, “Chick-fil-A! It’s my favorite. Chick-fil-A ice cream isn’t expensive. Please, Mommy?” I responded just a little more firmly, “Esther, we are not getting ice cream. We need to get home.”

Esther, a little exasperated but as persistant as ever and with a “let’s-end-this-now” tone responded, “Mommy. I do NOT want to fight with you about this, OK???? I just want some ice cream.”

It was the tone I use and the exact words I use when requesting my children do something they don’t want to do. I know she has heard, “Esther, I do not want to fight with you. Pick up your toys and put them away (and then there is usually a warning of consequence.) I need you to obey.”

Now, for the record Esther did not get her ice cream. She also was reprimanded for her tone and given a little “respect” talk.

But I am still chuckling. You can’t blame her for trying 🙂

Building Our Shelves

March 6th, 2012

"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!