Welcome!  
I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my daily digest via email or RSS feed. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Pros & Cons of Using Tapestry of Grace

Pros & Cons of Using Tapestry of Grace {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Can I be honest with you? I mean r-e-a-l-l-y honest...the kind of honest that might offend some and anger others?

I wanted to like Tapestry of Grace. I wanted it to be the curriculum that would carry us through the rest of our homeschooling years....an anchor to keep us firmly-rooted in schedule and habit and cadence.

I wanted it to be the "tapestry", shall we say, for which all academic threads of our schooling were woven in and through.
But, after only six weeks into this looks-really-great-in-theory dream, I realized that Tapestry of Grace was definitely not for us.


As a FINISHER kind of momma, I trudged through those first six weeks like the Little Engine that Could...chanting "I think I can...I think I can...I think I can"...assuming that it would surely get better...that I'd figure it out...that I'd eventually find a rhythm to it all.

But, the hurdles were just too big and the rhythm never came.

And so, I did the only sane thing I could think of..I boxed up the curriculum guide, re-shelved what books I could salvage, and created a PLAN B.

Before I dive into the nitty-gritty tell-all of what I DID and DID NOT like about Tapestry of Grace, let me first interject by saying four simple facts.
  1. I am an eclectic homeschooler. I have never before used an all-in-one curriculum like TOG for multiple subjects.
  2. I have only ever used a living literature approach when teaching history in our homeschool.
  3. Because we had previously studied Ancient Egypt and Greece, I chose to start TOG in Year 1, Unit 4, Ancient Rome. It is naturally more difficult to come into a curriculum midstream than to begin at the beginning.
  4. I think this is a really good program. Truly. It's just not good for me and my kids...at least for right now.

Pros & Cons of Using Tapestry of Grace {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Tapestry of Grace Pros

Multi-level Learning

With an eight-year learning span between my oldest child and my youngest one, the mult-level learning schedule of TOG was what initially captured my attention. The plans are laid out in such a way that a high school student and a first grader can each be working through history at a similar speed chronologically but at their own academic level. 

Designed with a Classical approach, TOG divides learning into four major learning levels (lower grammar, upper grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric) and follows a four-year cycle meaning that a child will study through the entire time line of history four times before graduating from high school. 

Socratic method of teaching

True to its Classical nature, TOG follows the Socratic method of learning where students are stimulated towards critical thinking...answering a question with another question and scrutinizing belief systems. 

All-in-one design for unit-study learning

I can see where a "package deal" curriculum that supplies not only the obvious history component but also writing, vocabulary, church history, geography, literature, and art would be appealing to many homeschool mommas. That is most certainly an efficient way to plan a year and would greatly benefit the larger-than-average family who seeks to fit in all the extras.

Quality book selection

While I have packed the curriculum guide away, I have kept out several of the spine books for reference and have designated others to be used during our morning "circle time" next year. To be honest, many of the books are more textbook in nature than we are used to for history, but even spines have their place in a living literature approach. You will find no twaddle among the titles. They are all superior books worth adding to your collection, no matter what curriculum you use.

Multi-sensory learning

As a momma who whole-heartedly subscribes to the project-based learning method, I loved all of the project suggestions included in the weekly lesson plans. Project ideas were never lacking and could be woven into the day quite naturally.

Pros & Cons of Using Tapestry of Grace {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Tapestry of Grace Cons

Confusing curriculum guide

I'm gonna don my "honest but very blunt" hat for a second and just call a spade a spade. As a former classroom teacher and an eclectic homeschooling momma who has used more-than-her-share of different curriculums over the last 15 years of teaching-in-some-form-or-another, the Tapestry of Grace curriculum guide is the most user un-friendly manual I think I have ever come across.

Ouch...that was painful to write and I'm sure painful to read. 
But there...I've said it.

I consider myself pretty curriculum savvy. But even after pouring over the weekly plans for what seemed like hours each week, I felt overwhelmed. There are just so.many.words in the guide. Each weekly lesson plan is about fifty pages long. I wish I were exaggerating here. Sadly, I am not.

Granted, each lesson must meet the needs of all four levels of learners. But, holy-information-overload, Batman! I think I sat in a word coma many nights trying desperately to weed through all the words. ME! A self-proclaimed "I heart words" girl!

I realize that every new curriculum brings about a learning curve. But, even after six weeks, I still felt so clueless.

Too many good choices

At the risk of going against all my firmly-held eclectic learning beliefs, I think that the amount of activity choices provided each week was paralyzing. In an effort to provide an a la carte style schedule, the curriculum suggests a plethora of activities for you to choose from each week. It is up to you to select the ones that will work with the time that you have and be OK with passing up all the rest.

Since I tend to chase after all-things-shiny, I had a really hard time "passing up all the rest". I could never seem to decide which activity was best because they were all so good. In this case, sometimes less is more. Having a selection of two or three good things to choose from is perfect for my personality type. Having a selection of fifteen good things to weed through? Why, that's just asking for spazz-momma to suddenly rear her ugly head...every.single.day.for.six.whole.weeks!

Not in line with our schedule

We are eclectic homeschoolers in every sense of the word. I like the luxury of tailoring all of our learning to our current needs, passions, and educational ideologies. I like rabbit trails. I like slow, deliberate learning. I like exhausting a topic and not feeling rushed to skip to the next one.

Tapestry of Grace was just too scheduled for my liking. Up until this year, we were used to carving out two days a week to devote to history. We would wander through time periods at our own pace and devote ample time to really unpacking the small pieces and parts of an era. With TOG, I had to make the choice of either spending two full days almost exclusively learning history OR spreading out all the reading over a four or five day span. There was just so much to do and not enough time to do it all. Everything seemed rushed and time consuming.

Prior to TOG, we had devoted two entire school years to traveling through Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. I was saddened with the notion of barreling through Ancient Rome in eight weeks. Eight weeks! An entire era of history in only eight weeks!

Not in line with my methods

As I mentioned, many of the book suggestions, especially for the lower grammar stage, are not living literature in nature and are more spine-like. I would also argue that the books are not always aptly leveled for reading skill. My sixth grader is an exceptional and avid reader, but many of the books listed for the upper grammar stage were unnecessarily difficult and lengthy. They were ALL wonderful books, but ones which I think would be better suited for dialectic-stage students. 

Perhaps due to the lack of TRUE living literature suggestions, much of the actual teaching comes from encyclopedia inserts in the teacher's guide. I was suppose to read pages of background information each week and then regurgitate it all to my children in lecture format. I think?...I'm still very confused about all of that. 

In addition, so many of the components of each unit rely heavily on memorization skills rather than TRUE learning. Both the vocabulary and geography elements seemed forced and disjointed and definitely went against my philosophy of real-world learning which gives a piece of information relevance and value.

Not in line with eclectic homeschooling

Since I already had a grammar and writing curriculum that I prefered, a method for teaching REAL vocabulary words, elements of church history in our morning "circle time", art project plans, and children who love reading a variety of different genres of literature, seventy-five percent of the TOG curriculum was wasted in our eclectic homeschool. 

After the first week or so, we ended up doing only the reading elements and scrapping all the rest. It is just not very economically efficient for me to spend a hefty sum on an all-in-one curriculum if I only ever intend on using twenty-five percent of the material. 

One final word

Tapestry of Grace, like all other curriculums, will be loved by some and hated by others. That's just the nature of opinions...they are as individual as the individuals giving them. What works for one person isn't going to necessarily work for another. The elements I didn't like about Tapestry of Grace and which caused me to opt for PLAN B might be the very elements which would work perfectly for you and your homeschool. I, personally, have three dear friends who all use TOG and love it. It works wonderfully for their households and personality types. Their kids are thriving and learning much! Mine were not.

I still believe the program to be GREAT. It just wasn't great for us in this season. I have decided to hang onto the curriculum guide as it just might prove to be perfect for the high school years. 

22 comments:

  1. Thanks now i know this curriculum is not for us. Im glad i discovered that my library has the first volume of mystery of history which was another curriculum i was looking into.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Its nice to know I'm not the only one out there who feels this way about TOG. I really wanted to like it each time I tried it. (Yes, there were multiple attempts.) I just couldn't for many of the reasons you stated.

    Just an FYI: I've just started using a new curriculum by Kathy Jo DeVore of Barefoot Ragamuffin Curriculum. Its called Wayfarers. She describes it as a mix of Charlotte Mason and Classical. To me it is everything I wanted in TOG without all the extra stuff that weighed me down. There is no busywork. It is multi-level learning with tons of great literature to pick from. The website is www.barefootmeandering.com.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for this! I asked you a few weeks ago if you would touch on this topic -- thanks for your honest evaluation. This has been helpful to me as I search for a history curriculum for our family. K

    ReplyDelete
  4. I get so much out of all of your posts! Especially the curriculum reviews since I am currently planning for our first year homeschooling next year... Thanks!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for this post! I am researching curriculum for our first year of full-time homeschooling and TOG is one I've been looking in to. I am curious why Truth Quest no longer fits your needs (that is my current top choice for our history curriculum). Is it because it doesn't work for such a large age gap? And I am curious as to how TOG and TQ compare to each other.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I absolutely love Truth Quest American history. But, their ancients guides, while wonderful for upper elementary and beyond, do not have very many resources listed for the younger grades. While working through Egypt and Greece, I felt like there were wide gaps of time that my younger kids had nothing and I had to fill in the gaps. I still think TQ is an absolutely wonderful history program and I can't wait to get back to it. I'll be looking into their medieval era guide and hope to find it to be just as great as the American history guides.

      Delete
    2. That is very helpful information. Thank you!
      I noticed the TQ American History 1 has a PDF download available to make a timeline. I've also read your post about using the Sonlight pre-printed timeslines. Would those two be a similar thing?

      Delete
    3. The TruthQuest timeline sheets are time line pages and prefabbed cut-outs of important people and their significant dates. Your child colors the person and glues it on the timeline sheet. That download also comes with maps too. The Sonlight book that we have is just a spiral bound timeline. I'm not sure if Sonlight provides timeline figures to add to it or not. We've only ever made our own and glued them into the spiral book.

      I have used one of the TQ downloads...the notebooking one for Ancient Greece. It was OK. We didn't end up doing a lot of it because it covered topics that we didn't cover in the younger grades.

      Delete
    4. Thank you for that info! I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions Jamie.

      Delete
  6. Thank you for this post that validates my own experience with TOG. I used it for several years when my oldest was in k and 1st. It was overwhelming for just one very young child, so I set it aside and hoped I'd get more use from it when he and his siblings were older. 3rd was Sonlight (also not my cup-o-tea), and then off to school for three years.

    When I brought all the kids back home I had three school aged, one on the edge between dialectic and UG and I was SO excited to get back to TOG! I loved it. For, like, three weeks. But then those three weeks turned into six weeks and we never seemed to move forward because I ran out of time, and I was spending 5hrs/week *planning* - finding books (because the dialectic were just as unreliable in their reading level as the grammar level), making timeline figures, weeding through all. that. maddening. text. Plus I was using the digital edition which was even less navigable than the print! So... we quit too. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one, because for quite a while I feared there was something very wrong with me that I couldn't keep track of the curriculum, find time to read the zillion pages of notes, decide which activities to do, etc. We started MFW midway through that year and have loved it ever since. So, thank you!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most definitely not alone! I think it is a good program. It just wasn't good for us.

      Delete
    2. Exactly. And here I am again because I keep *wishing* I could make TOG work. I really should know better by now. Btw here's my experience with it: http://www.rebeccagrabill.com/blog//2015/01/homeschool-indecisions-or-tapestry-of.html?rq=tapestry

      Delete
  7. Thank you for such and an honest and thorough review. Where do you find ideas about weaving in various projects when doing history? I'd like to beef up that part of our curriculum.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I understand you feel overwhelmed by the curriculum, but you should try Tapestry of Grace in a co-op.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have also tried TOG (Year 1) last year. There was so many good reviews that I thought it would be great. I HS'd 3 kids w/this program (at 3 diff levels) and felt like I spent most of my time trying to find my place in the manual. It is so un-user friendly as you said. If they would keep the levels (upper & lower grammar, dialectic & rhetoric) separate, I may have managed. But, they put them all one right after another for each section (History, Lit. Fine Arts, etc.), so I couldn't separate them. Then you're flipping around the book to find the student sheets and then the teacher answers (for each section). It made me crazy and my kids hated waiting around for me to find out where I was in the manual. (My older's also didn't like the program). I'm a book junkie, but the info overload is too much, I wasn't sure if the TG was trying to teach me or my kids. Maybe it's me but it just seemed like some of the questions they asked were college level and over the kids heads (I have my Master's so I know). It's tough because you want your kids to have a thorough education, but sometimes you need to say enough is enough so they love learning again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, balance is key. I, too, felt like the organization of the binder was very confusing.

      Delete
  10. As I sit here with Year One and Year Two, both partially (frustratingly) used... you totally validate my feelings! I wanted them to work soooo bad. I felt like such a failure that I couldn't make it happen. Too much prep work, too much confusion created by the 50+ page teachers guide each week and too much self-loathing as I realized we weren't finishing anything. Thank you for such an insightful article! Glad to pass along (without guilt) my books now to another momma who might enjoy them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah for NO GUILT!!! Pass them along. They might be just the thing that some other momma has been looking for.

      Delete

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...