Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tapestry of Grace Review

Tapestry of Grace is a big name in the homeschool industry. I have passed their table many times at conventions and even stopped and taken some information. Their curriculum interested me and I was glad I had this opportunity to review one of their units in digital format. I reviewed Year 2, Unit 4: The Age of Revolutions, which begins during the turbulent Colonial times and ends with an in-depth study of the US Constitution.

Tapestry of Grace is a four year classics-based Christian curriculum that is meant to be rotated as many times as possible up through high school. It is for K-12 grade which are split into four learning levels. Grammar is for K-3 and non-fluent readers who will learn basic facts. Upper is for independent readers in 3-6 grade who enjoy memorizing information. Dialectic is for children reading to learn in grades 6-9 and they will also learn to debate. Rhetoric students in grades 9-12 will be reading the great classics and analyzing and synthesizing ideas and arguments.

Each of the years cover a different time period. The years are divided into four units which include history, church history, literature, geography, fine arts, government, philosophy, and writing and composition. Logic, spelling, and grammar curriculum are also available through Lampstand Press. Each of the units are divided into weeks with lesson plans for each week. There is extensive background information included for the parent to read and know what the child will be learning about. I found the lesson plans to lack detail and would have liked a little bit more specific instruction. I like more structure in my teacher's guide and this one left you more on your own. For some parents, this may really appeal to them.

This program revolves around literature books. Very complete reading lists are included for each week. The are no books included with this program, although they can be purchased separately in their store. These lists can be a little overwhelming and have you coming out of the library with a huge stack of books, only to realize there is no way you are going to get through all of those books in one week. The list is meant for you to pick and choose and you really have to do that. There are a lot of good books included but you have to be realistic and know your child's level and how much time you have in a day. I found that this program can easily take up a large chunk of your day if you want it to. You are covering several subjects at once and that may make a difference for some families. This was tricky for us. Because my son is dyslexic, I had to do a lot of oral reading in order to keep him on grade level with the literature books. I also have other subjects that take up a lot of time so I had to work at keeping everything balanced. The nice thing about this curriculum though is you can pick and choose and make it work for your family. It is very flexible.

Here are the prices for these products:
Units can be purchased individually for $45 (digital) or $60 (printed)
1 Full Year Plan is $170 (digital) $225 (printed)

Here is a list of Pros and Cons:

  • flexible, you can pick and choose books, activities, and subjects
  • quality literature to read
  • Digital version is more affordable and you can just print what you need
  • there is a forum you can join to learn and discuss topics with other parents using TOG
  • schedules in a specific reading time with your child
  • can move your child up or down in the different levels (I moved my son down for some independent reading and up for read-alouds)
  • the supplemental materials you can purchase are very helpful
  • reading lists are thorough and give you lots of choices in case your library is limited
  • covering more than one subject at a time
  • can be used with multiple children
  • background information is provided for the parent to stay one step ahead
  • there are scheduling tools provided to help your child take control of his learning and become more independent
  • online help at The Loom, which includes general resources, project helps, booklists, literature helps, and writing helps
  • this program is very overwhelming at first and it will take a parent quite a bit of time to go through all the information and figure out how it works
  • I had to go to several different places to read all the materials needed to understand the curriculum
  • digital version is not as easy to navigate as having a hard copy in front of you
  • the program is costly, although a little more affordable in digital, but for those with a large family, it would be beneficial in the long run
  • it can take up a large chunk of time in your day if you try to do too much
  • there is not a lot of guidance, which some may prefer but I did not
  • there is a lot of teacher preparation involved each week
I was also able to review their Map Aids, which is a supplement that goes along with the curriculum. These are blank outline maps custom designed by Terri Johnson of KnowledgeQuest. They are wonderful and made a great addition to the geography aspect of each unit. The teacher keys are included also. My son really enjoyed these. The CD was nicely organized and easy to find the exact map needed for a specific learning level. These are priced at $24.95 and are available for Years 1 and 2 and in production for Year 3.

Overall I found there were things we liked about this curriculum and things we didn't. We did learn that we like the more relaxed style of learning history by snuggling up on the couch and reading together. My son has also become a little bit more independent because of the scheduling skills he developed. I did not like the amount of time it took me to prepare for each week. Because I do not have a large family, I'm not sure this is something I would have bought because it would not have been economical for us. I do see how it would be for large families though and being able to teach several different grade levels at one time would be very helpful to many parents.

There are sample lessons available online for you to try. To find out more about this company and all they have to offer, CLICK HERE.

Heidi Miller-Ford

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