April 23, 2009

Tapestry of Grace (Review)

Tapestry of Grace is a homeschool curriculum, printed by Lampstand Press. Since I am new to homeschooling, I had not heard much about this curriculum prior to receiving it for review. I now know that Tapestry of Grace (TOG) has been used and loved by many homeschoolers!

TOG uses the classical approach to Christian education. It is a unit-based curriculum that is centered around the study of world history. History is studied in chronological order and is set on a 4-year cycle, meaning that you will go through the entire program 3 times during your child's 12 years in school. The foundations are set out for the younger children and built upon with each cycle. It is written for children of all levels, so that a large family can use it with the same success as a smaller family. The units are broken down by level (using the classical labels of lower/upper grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric) so that you, as the teacher, can easily find activities for each child. All of the humanities (history, church history, literature, geography, fine arts, government, philosophy, and writing & composition) are covered through TOG, which leaves out phonics, science, math, grammar, spelling, and foreign language.

I received the new digital edition of the first unit of Year 1. Each unit is comprised of 9 week-long lessons that can be taken at your own pace. There are 4 units in each year's plans. The year-plans are as follows:

I chose to spread the first 2 weeks' worth of lessons over the period of 3 weeks. I was a bit overwhelmed at the sheer volume of information contained in each lesson. But, as I delved into it and gave myself some time to read through everything before getting started, I felt much more comfortable. I LOVE unit studies, so I may be a tad biased on that end. The great thing about this curriculum is that literally everything is provided for you. It takes the work out of preparing unit studies. The Loom on the TOG website contains links to even more activities, links, and hands-on projects.

I do want to say that if you are just teaching younger children, the vast amount of information provided to you may be a hindrance. I found myself having to wade through all of the plans to find the few items that pertained to my daughter. So, instead of spending my time gathering resources for my unit (which I actually enjoy doing), I spent a lot of time stripping the units down for my daughter. I realize that the curriculum is primarily used by larger families and it is a great asset for them to have everything contained in one place. I just want you to know that this was a bit of a disadvantage for someone like me, with just one child.

Another facet of the program that I am not completely sold on is the classical approach. I have to say again that I am still new to homeschooling. I have not had the time yet to try out each method to find out which one works best for us. I have done a little bit of reading on this approach and I would like to find out more, but right now, it just doesn't feel like our style! Of course, my daughter is also very young and we are really not even getting into history to the depth that TOG reaches. What I do know about Ella so far is that at this point, she learns best through stories. She does not like to be read dry facts. In each of the first 2 weeks, there was only one story book to read that went along with the lesson. I did some more digging and found a few more books to add to our lessons. I rarely used the core and in-depth history books that were recommended. We wound up mostly reading stories, doing the hands-on projects, and finding some fun things through The Loom that really brought the history home for Ella. In my opinion, I would not be able to get my money's worth from the curriculum at this time. That is not to say that others could not find much more value in it, especially when homeschooling children of various ages. (I want to note that all of the extra books that are used alongside the curriculum will either need to be purchased separately or checked out at your local library, which may not have every title you need.)

As you can see, my opinion about TOG varies based on your approach to homeschooling, how many children you are working with, and how much money you are able to spend on a core curriculum (that leaves out several crucial subjects). I see definite advantages to using this program for a wide range of ages because I think it will ultimately save you time and money. I also see advantages for those of you who have incorporated the classical style into your teaching methods. This is why I am having a difficult time giving it a whole-hearted recommendation. On this particular product, I strongly urge you to read all of the reviews written by the TOS Crew, posted HERE. You will get a wide variety of opinions so that you can make an informed decision before investing your money into something you may or may not love in the long run.

The cost of the Tapestry of Grace curriculum varies according to the resources you decide to incorporate (like the core history books I mentioned earlier). I did receive the Year 1 Unit 1 Lapbook to review and found it to be a nice addition to the curriculum. If you use lapbooks, you will like the clean graphics and the way the lapbook is presented. The pricing on the extras can be a little bit confusing, so I am going to direct you to the TOG website. You really need to spend some time there with pencil & paper to figure out the best deal for you and your family (look at the bundles for bargains). The website is also rich with samples from each year-plan. I highly recommend doing some extensive reading there! The Community will be especially helpful!

The basic curriculum for Tapestry of Grace Year 1 is $170 for the Digital Edition versus $225 for the printed version. You can also add $100 to the price of the digital version to receive a printed copy as well. If you are looking for a history-centered core curriculum that is based on solid biblical principles and follows the Classical approach, this may be the curriculum for you!

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