Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tapestry of Grace

I remember when I first heard of Tapestry of Grace I thought it was amazing, yet complicated. It certainly seemed to be the type of education people dream of for their kids, but could I use it? My best friend of the time had just purchased Year 1 and was showing the volumes of paper which made up the manual. She spent nearly an hour explaining to me how she planned to use the curriculum the next year with her daughter, the great literature they would read, the philosophical discussions that would result from reading said literature, the variety of activities they could do. I was extremely impressed, but a tad overwhelmed at the sheer volume of it all.

I have since come to understand that the “overwhelmed” feeling is common to those of us new to the “Tapestry” way. The authors of the curriculum in fact warn users to allow two to three weeks of use to become comfortable with the curriculum. Once comfort has arrived, however, it is my understanding the delight ensues.

Tapestry of Grace is one of the most comprehensive unit study curriculums I have ever seen. Created by homeschool parents and home education leaders, Marcia and Scott Sommerville, this history based curriculum is designed to aid families in teaching their children in grades K-12. According to “An Introduction to Tapestry” published by the curriculum authors, “Tapestry of Grace is a homeschool curriculum: a plan of study that helps parents provide a Christian, classical education using a guided unit study approach with the history of the world as the core organizational theme.”

Comprehensive is such an inadequate adjective to describe Tapestry of Grace. Colossally comprehensive, delightfully detailed, everything you could possibly dream of and more written out for your convenience in a very large manual might be a better description. Ironically, it is the comprehensive, detailed nature of the curriculum that has driven up printing costs for the company creating financial woes recently. In an effort to continue to provide the quality products they offer at an affordable cost to home educators, Tapestry of Grace is now available in digital format.

I received Year 2, Unit 1, Tapestry of Grace Digital Edition for review. The file was immediately accessible to me for down load but, before I could open it I first had to download Lock Lizard a special program which allows users to view protected PDF files. Tapestry of Grace makes use of Lock Lizard in an effort to supervise copyright issues as each Digital Edition is meant to be used by one household. If for some reason a problem arises with your computer or download, Tapestry of Grace offers the opportunity to download a purchase more than once from their website free of charge. Unit 1 of Year 2 was a 107 Megabyte file and took my computer operating on a DSL internet connection 20 mins. to download.

Tapestry provides a “Simple Start” guide for all newbies like me. The helpful 17 page guide answered questions like, “What is Tapestry?” and “What is the philosophy of education?” Detailed descriptions complete with small screen shots of the pages discussed were also provided explaining various aspects of the curriculum including writing assignments, student activity pages, Pageant of Philosophy, Teachers notes, and Setting up Tapestry. Once a homeschool teacher has worked through the “Simple Start” guide the typical overwhelmed feeling should begin to dissipate.

Being more of a paper in hand type of girl than a digital one I printed all the pages which coordinated with week 1 of Unit 1 for Year 2. This was no small task as it contained 66 pages! It was easier for me to understand the depth of information and begin to see its flow as I flipped through the various paper pages, however. Included were extremely detailed teacher’s notes complete with history, geography and church history background information, discussion questions and answers to be used with students, mini world book articles with detailed basic information regarding the topics at hand, the first installment of the Pageant of Philosophy, accountability and thinking questions for rhetoric level students, and worksheets. Papers are color coded on the edges for easy reference with blue representing rhetoric level students, green for dialectic, yellow for upper grammar and red for lower grammar. I thought this a nice touch for busy Moms trying to keep organized.

Tapestry of Grace is comprehensive in nature, but users will need to have access to a well stocked library as the curriculum makes use of many living books for literature, church history and biography study. For those with inadequate library access, Tapestry does offer an on-line shopping tool called “Bookshelf Central” accessible from the Tapestry of Grace website. Simply plug in the unit being studied, age of child and subjects of books needed and a handy excel spread sheet appears with direct links for purchasing the books listed. Bookshelf Central can save moms and dads with multiple children planning several levels of study for a school year hours of time and energy. Nice touch Tapestry!

Tapestry of Grace has been written to follow the classical four year cycle of history model of education. I know many families whom have chosen to spread each year of Tapestry of Grace over two years or only commit to one or two units of study in a school year. Tapestry of Grace offers such depth of information and study opportunities that however it is used students will benefit.

The cost for one full year of Tapestry of Grace is $225.00 for the full year program in print version or $170.00 for the Digital Edition download version of the full year. Currently, only the Digital Edition is available for Year 2, but pre-orders are being accepted for the print version. For those unsure about committing to a full year of Tapestry, individual units which comprise of about 9 weeks of study are available for $60.00 each for printed versions and $45.00 for digital editions. Currently, only units 2, 3, and 4 are available in the printed format on the Tapestry website, but all four units of the digital edition are available.

If you still feel a bit overwhelmed as I did after reading about all Tapestry of Grace offers the company has made a free download sample available on the Tapestry website of the first three weeks lesson plans of Year 1 along with other helpful “getting started” information. In addition a Tapestry of Grace forum created and monitored by the company allows opportunity for homeschooling parents to enjoy the benefits of a homeschool support group just for Tapestry of Grace users. With all of this help, support and test marketing available you might just find your homeschool learning the Tapestry way.

1 comment:

Librarian Lou said...

I have recently created a blog aimed at Tapestry of Grace users

As a children's librarian who worships and works with lots of homeschoolers, I wanted them to know that we often have excellent resources available that are often very similiar to TOG. (I think TOG is an excellent curriculum but it can be very expensive to buy all those books.)