Archive for June, 2008

Training Hearts, Teaching Minds

We have been using this book for family devotions. Training Hearts, Teaching Minds is based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It has 6 daily devotions for each question. I made journal pages for my children to record what they are working on and am sharing with you here. The devotions are simple and quick but good in explaining and demonstrating what each catechism question means.


June 26, 2008 at 10:49 am 5 comments

Summary: Using Tapestry of Grace

Well, I think I covered the frequently asked questions about Tapestry of Grace. Here is a quick link to all the posts in one spot in case you want to go look at a certain one.

Part 1 Explains the 4-year rotation and costs involved

Part 2 Choosing a Learning Level

Part 3 Choosing Books

Part 4 Planning

Part 5 Looks at a week at my house

Part 6 Looks at what subjects Tapestry covers, and those it doesn’t

If you have just recently purchased Tapestry go to this Setup page and see how to organize and set up your new curriculum–great stuff!

June 25, 2008 at 7:46 am Leave a comment

Using TOG Part 6: Other Subjects

Tapestry of Grace is a unit study based on chronological history, but it doesn’t just cover history. It also includes Geography, Church History, Bible (year one only), Worldview, Arts and Activities, Government (Rhetoric only), Literature, Writing (with some Grammar), Vocabulary, as well as some group/co-op Activities.

So what doesn’t it have?
Math: For us, we use Singapore Math. I can’t sing it’s praises enough. I have also used and liked RightStart Math as well. Both are Asian based, one from Singapore the other US written but based on Asian methods. We have continued to use the upper level Singapore books and are still pleased. Others require more help. Teaching Textbooks duplicates the look and methods of  Saxon which I detest, so I wouldn’t go there. I’ve heard good things about Chalkdust for upper level math, check them out if the Singapore Math intimidates you at the secondary level.

Bible: TOG Year 1 includes reading almost all of the Old Testament. I would not plan on using a separate Bible curriculum while doing Year 1. Years 2-4 include Church History only so you will want to do some actual Bible study on top of this. For us we are reading chronologically through the Bible with The Narrated Bible using the plan as outlined in “The Heart of Wisdom Teaching Approach” but on a much slower pace. (I am actually in the process of writing up all we are doing as it is a combination of a few programs and if I ever get it like I want it I’ll post it here.)

Language Arts: Writing assignments as well as some basic grammar concepts are included in TOG for 12 levels like your typical grade levels. A list of suggested vocabulary words that are specific to the topic and time period you are studying are listed for you each week in TOG. So what kinds of language arts do you need to add?

For younger elementary I would just add phonics. We use Spell to Write and Read and wholeheartily recommend it! This is actually phonics and spelling along with some grammar. I don’t recommend a formal grammar until at least fourth grade. I think it is abstract and pointless to teach young children grammar beyond “capitalize the first letter of a sentence and add a period.” With Spell to Write and Read there are weekly optional activities that include lots of grammar. Your child would be totally prepared to start a formal grammar program in fourth or even fifth grade if you solely used SWR prior to that.

As your children approach the end of elementary you may want a more formal writing program along with a grammar curriculum. I’m not sure I’ve found anything in this category that I love. This fall we are going to begin CQLA-Character Quality Language Arts. I’m not sold on the spelling portion, but other than that it looks fabulous! I’ll have to let you know more next year. Let me explain the writing portion. In TOG you will find writing assignments, like write a 3 point persuasive essay on the Civil War. You will NOT find directions on what it means and how to actually write a 3 point paper. TOG does sell “Writing Aids” which is a writing handbook that will help you with the how-to part. Used with the assignments you will have a writing program. Just for simplicity sake a workbook is sometimes nice to use–no planning and thinking on mom’s part–that’s why we are going to try out CQLA this year.

Science: In Tapestry you will study important people in the field of science, but you will want to add a Science curriculum. For my high school students we use the Apologia series like so many other homeschoolers. For my younger students we’ve done a few different things: Christian Kids Explore series, Christian Liberty Nature Reader, Considering God’s Creation, and ABeka.

I think that is the basics of what you would add to Tapestry. Of course some families consider adding: vocabulary/SAT/ACT prep for high schoolers, Foreign language, character qualities, life skills, or logic.

June 20, 2008 at 9:08 am Leave a comment

Using TOG Part 5: A Typical Week

Many want to know what a typical week looks like and how much time is involved teaching with TOG. Of course with anything, this is true of MY family only. How you plan and teach will look different in your home. I share here so that you can see ONE example. Giving a time estimate is very hard. I do not seem to ever stick to a set schedule. We just start on something and keep moving! Some days we get more done than others. Of course, this is a typical week–whatever that is!

First I will tell you about my oldest child. She is 15 and was considered a ninth grader this year. She is an older 9th grader and actually did 10th grade work in a few subjects as well. I had her at the Rhetoric level this year. It was tough, she enjoyed the Dialectic level more. Usually she would look at my planning page and fill in her student planner on her own. She is a girl and is pretty independent. You would find her off in her room most of the week doing her reading and answering her questions. I would call for her to join us for mapwork together on Day Two. Towards the end of the week I go through the discussion outline with her and her Dialectic brother. I then look at her questions, mapwork, and key people which is all kept in her history notebook. (this is just a composition book, we use a couple of these a year for history…more for other subjects) At this level, TOG is easier on the teacher at the beginning of the week and more teacher intensive at the end of the week. I spend almost no time with her (for history) on Days 1 through 3. Day 4 and Day 5 maybe 45-60 minutes each day.

My Dialectic son is 13 and a typical boy. I must sit down with him and make sure he writes out all the assignments in his planner at the beginning of the week. I show him all the maps, questions, etc. that will be required of him for the week. Day One and Two are spent reading more than anything. Day Three I begin to make sure that he is completing all the other necessary things. He often listens in as I read aloud to my Lower Grammar son and preschooler. At this age you are trying to get them to be independent, if they aren’t already, and get them ready for the high school level. Spending time on character training at this level is just as important as getting the school work done! I feel like I spend the most time on this child with Tapestry. I am sure that each year will be different depending on the ages and stages!

Child #3 just turned nine. He was in the Lower Grammar level this last year and will be moving up to Upper Grammar this coming year. I work with him 30-45 minutes each day as we read, talk, and do mapwork and other notebook work. I try to spend more time with him on Days One-Three so that on Day Four and Five, when I need to spend more time with my older kids, we are only spending maybe 20 minutes each day.

I hope that helped to see what each of my children is doing during the week. Feel free to ask questions if not!

Missed Part 1? Part 2? Part 3? Part 4?

Part 6: My final post on using TOG will look at other subjects and curriculum that we use beyond TOG.

June 17, 2008 at 10:06 pm Leave a comment

Using TOG Part 4: Planning

blogged back in January with a link to my planning page, but I decided I would repost with a little more explanation and estimated time involved. I’ll mark it out step-by-step…which could be a little long! Remember that this is the ideal week–which almost never happens! But it is how I try to do it.

7-10 Days before we start the week:

  1. I move the week’s plan to a small one-inch binder so it will be easier to use. (I use 3-inch binders that hold as many weeks as I can fit in them!) Organizational Note: I keep pocket folders in this binder to hold the printouts for each child.   Slash Pockets
  2. I look over the Threads and the Reading List which are the first few pages. I highlight the titles that I own. I jot down the main topics on the top left of my planning pages. (Time: 5-10 minutes)
  3. I go to my libraries online site and look for any titles that I think I might need to fill in any holes and put in requests for them. (Time: 15 minutes; This can vary greatly. I try to buy a lot of my books so I don’t spend much time on this. If you don’t buy as much then this can take much longer.)

Over the days leading up to the start of our Actual Week:

  1. I skim and read over all the Teacher’s Notes. I usually do this over a couple of days. I don’t always get this done prior to our week starting, but I do try. On occasion I spend the first day of the teaching week reading. (Time: 30-60 minutes; depends on how in-depth I read, often I just skim)
  2. I go online to the eProducts and Loom page to print off the maps, Student Activity Pages, Evaluations, and any Key Documents I need. I use the small boxes on my planning sheet to check off in case I do this in spurts, which I am prone to. (Time: 30-45 minutes; to make better use of my time I usually print a few weeks off at a time. If I was smart I would print this out one Unit at a time. It would really help to shave off planning time.)
  3. Next I look at the Key People to be studied that week and look at the Historical Figures CD to print off timeline figures for my kids. (Time: 30 minutes; again, lots of times I do a few weeks at a time which helps)

Planning of Assignments:

  1. I look at the book list and write down the books I want each of my children to read on the right side of my planning page based on books I own and those I’ve requested at the library.
  2. I read over the Writing Assignments and jot down what each child is doing, very briefly, on Day Three of my planning sheet.
  3. I then look at the Writing Aids book to see what pages I may want my children to read. I write these page numbers down under Day One.
  4. I look at the appropriate graphic organizers, etc. on the Writing Aids CD and print off any pages that will be appropriate for that week. I write down these on Day Two.
  5. On my planning sheet I made a general schedule of when we read, work on Accountability questions, do mapwork, etc. Since this is already on my schedule there is no need to do anything further but follow my schedule when the week begins.
  6. Total time for this is probably around an hour.

I would say I spend roughly two hours each week planning for each Tapestry week. TOG does not lend itself well to just opening on Monday morning! There is planning involved, once you get in a groove of how it flows it goes pretty smoothly. Printing out needed papers is a biggie. Spending a day printing all you need for an entire unit will save you! Set up file folders for each week (number them) and just toss in the papers for that week. Then when you go to plan the week you just grab your folder and all the needed pages are there.

Missed Part 1? Part 2? Part 3?

Join me for Part 5 as I describe a typical week at our house with Tapestry of Grace.

June 16, 2008 at 10:54 am Leave a comment

Using TOG Part 3: Choosing Books

Now that you have chosen the learning levels you will be teaching you have to decide what books. Tapestry of Grace Year Plans are your blueprint for what you will teach and read each year.

So how do you decide what books to get? First I look at the books that are used many weeks, many units, or in multi-years. Go to the main Tapestry site and click on “Bookshelf” to go to the online store. On the front page of the Bookshelf you will see “How to order Tapestry in 5 Simple Steps.” Select #2 to look at Multi-Year Books and #3 to look at Multi-Unit books. You do have to go through a lot of pages to find what you need.

Here’s is a faster way: from the main Bookshelf page click on “Power Search” then select the Year Plan you will be using. Do NOT click on a unit. Click on ONE of the learning levels that you will be teaching. For Subject, select All. NOW hit “Search Now” then Print! Do this for each learning level you will be teaching.

From this list look at the second column titled “Units.” This tells you which units this book is used.

For example “Trial and Triumph” is listed when I search for Year 1, Upper Grammar. In the second column it says “Y1U4-Y4U4.” This means it is used in Year 1, Unit 4 all the way through to Year 4, Unit 4. I look in the second column to see if the book will be used in many units or even in many years. I also look in the “weeks” column to look for books that are used many weeks.

I highlight all the books that are used many weeks, multi-units, and multi-years. This becomes my wish list! I do try to buy all of these books. I look to the library for books that are just used one or two weeks. Listed below are some sites that I check for used books–which is mostly how I buy.

TOG is a topic specific curriculum and not book specific. That means that if you or your library has a book on the same topic you are welcome to read it and not the one listed on the Reading Chart. You will not miss out on some all important knowledge! That being said–of course if your first priority is simplicity (over frugality) then by all means stick with the list! Most homeschoolers have a budget and the education envelope is often puny–so stick with books that you can get free or cheap first.

If you are going for mostly free–look to your library. If you live in the US relatively close to a decent town you should be good. Remember that you can do interlibrary loans to get other books from different libraries. You should have good luck with the history and literature books, but I’ve not had good luck finding books on church history so often these get highlighted on my wish list as well.

Good places to look for used books: Amazon, Abebooks,, ebay, alibris and sometimes just typing the ISBN in a google search will result in finding it just as easy.

Good luck and happy shopping! Part 4 returns with info on planning out your week

Missed Part One? or Part Two?

June 14, 2008 at 3:28 pm Leave a comment

Using TOG Part 2: Choosing a learning level

One of the things that originally drew me to TOG was that it was multilevel. This means that I can teach many children of varying ages the same topic. My children are a little more spread out than some, 15, 13, 9, and 3. Finding something that we can all use is very rare! How does TOG accomplish this? By setting up the curriculum with four learning levels. TOG uses levels similar to the classical model: Lower Grammar, Upper Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric.

How do you choose which level? Here’s how I describe each level and the ages/grades I recommend:

Lower Grammar: This is your young elementary aged child. Children that fall in this group are usually grades kindergarten through third grade. TOG is icing on the cake for these kids as they should be devoting most of their time to the 3-R’s. You will find some wonderful picture books that go along with the older kids’ studies here!

Upper Grammar: This is your older elementary student that is usually third to sixth grade. When a child’s reading develops and they can begin to ‘read to learn’ instead of just ‘learning to read’ then they are ready to move up to this level from LG. This level to me has the broadest reach. If I had limited funds to buy books or maybe just wanted to simplify things–i would keep all my students below high school in this level. I think you could safely keep kids 2nd grade to 8th grade in this level. You might want to choose some of the literature readings from their appropriate level–but the history, government, art, church history readings would be suitable for the whole family here! Keep this in mind if you need to choose books for sharing (we’ll talk more about that in part 2: choosing books) If you are looking for an alternate read-aloud selection, choose a book listed for Upper Grammar.

Dialectic: This is your middle-school aged child from 6th to 9th grade. You know your child is moving to this level when they begin to ask a lot of “Why?” questions. They seem to do this when they are very young then they grow out of it–when they start puberty it all comes back! If your child is 6th or even 7th grade and puberty is still down the road it would be ok to leave them at the UG level. This level moves from learning facts (UG) to connecting the dots and starting to see why things happened and how one event affects others. Although the author of Tapestry recommends only the 1st year of high school at this level you could easily stay here two years (9th & 10th grade.) I think this level is superior to any history class I received throughout all of my high school years! In my relaxed approach–I would even consider leaving a high school student here for there entire high school. But of course, you have to decide what is best for your family.

Rhetoric: Ninth to 12th grade students fall here in the high school level labeled Rhetoric. As a mom, I would love to have the time to do the reading here and learn all that I didn’t in school! The reading here can be intense at times. If you have a teenager that is very active in other activities you will want to take that into account when deciding what you will require of them at this level. If your high school student is able to do 80%+ of the work at this level I would write Advanced World History or list as an Honors class or something to that effect on their transcript. I do think it is totally acceptable to mix the assignments from the Dialectic and Rhetoric levels for your high school student. The first year your student moves up from Dialectic to Rhetoric you would for sure want to do this so as to not totally overwhelm your child! If your child really likes to read, no problem. But what if they are a reluctant reader? I would suggest keeping them at the Dialectic level but try to delve deep into the philosophy and worldview that is in the Rhetoric discussion outline with them each week so they are not missing out on this.

If you were looking at just the grade levels you will notice some overlap. That is because each child is unique and the typical grade levels can mean very different things depending on the child. This is why I tried to explain the different learning levels so that you can place your child accordingly.

One last thing–suppose you have so many children you don’t know what to do???
Only work with two levels! Keep your high school kids in one level together-whether that’s Dialectic or Rhetoric-pick one. And everyone else is in the Upper Grammar. That will simplify your life! Besides–you can’t spend all day every day doing just history!

on to Part Three

June 13, 2008 at 10:06 am Leave a comment

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Psalm 78:4

We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.