- Reviewed on Friday, March 27, 2015
- Grades Used: K-10
- Dates used: 2014-present
Although this program bills itself as a mostly complete curriculum, the focus is strongly on History and Literature. So let me address those first.
Wow! As far as I'm concerned, this is about as complete and thorough a history program as I've ever seen. Each of the 4 historical eras of history (Ancient World, Medieval, Pre-Modern, and Modern) are thoroughly delved into in a rotating pattern (So you can go through each era once per year, then after 4 years start over with a much more in-depth coverage as your child ages). The youngest child (i.e. Kindergarten level) may find the information a bit over his/her head, but just a cursory understanding is expected at that level anyway, so it's not a problem. And the highest grades (High school Rhetoric level) would be challenging for even a college aged child. However, since when a person gets the teacher/student guide packet, all grade levels for that particular historical era are included, it's easy to move your child around between the difficulty levels as needed without feeling like you are wasting money.
The history is a 'living book' approach, so it is expected that a parent either buys or finds at the library a TON of books each year. This can be expensive or not, depending on your library. In younger years, substitutions can be easily made (for example, in 1st grade if you student is learning about, say, Ancient Egypt, any library picture book on the subject would be good enough, especially if you glance at the week summary and make sure your book(s) address things like the Nile River or Mummies as appropriate.) Later years are much more difficult to make substitutions, unless you give your child the discussion/thinking questions and have your child research the answers on their own. Still very do-able, but much more difficult without the particular books recommended by the program.
The history, like almost every other history, focuses mostly on Western civilization, but not exclusively, and not blindly (it is perhaps optimistic about the motives behind 'heroes', but it doesn't shy away from books that describe a person's faults either). As an example, the American Civil War is pretty white-washed for the youngest years, but by the Rhetoric stage, a child is learning that the situation wasn't solely about slavery and that both sides of the conflict had legitimate grievances. As far as non-Western countries go, the program spends at least several weeks per year on *something* that's outside of that group - whether that means a week on Ancient China or a week on the South American nations pre-colonization or what-have-you. Personally, I feel that the focus of the history is pretty understandable since most of the people who will be using the program have had their current lives and the lives of most of their ancestors effected by the events described (as opposed to, say, focusing months on the various Empires of China which are probably less relevant). A parent can, of course, always supplement, but I find the History so meaty already that I don't feel the need.
Interwoven with the history are several other 'side subjects'. For example, geography. This program does an excellent job of encouraging students to know historical geography (for example, the extent of various historical empires or the path of various explorers), so if you want your child to know more than state capitals, this works out well.
Bible & Church history are also interwoven in the History. It is sometimes a separate subject (for example, in the pre-modern historical era, there is a large focus on biographies of missionaries, but these books are listed as on a different section from the purely history reading and as such can be seen as a completely different subject. However, in the Ancient World history, the Bible itself is often the historical reading). I find this approach a bit difficult simply because I'd like the program to stick to one method or the other, not a mixture of both integration and separation, but that's just a minor quibble. On the other hand, I am very pleased with the strong pro-Christian view (they try to remain non-denominational and neutral in church-dividing topics. As an example, on reading the Creation Story in Genesis, they encourage a child to read the Bible story, but don't promote a specific view of what that story means, leaving it up to the parent to decide how to explain what they believe about it. For older ages, they might have questions which take into account differences - like requiring a child to pick a side and argue for or against it - but that's about it.
The Literature is also an amazing part of this program. There is a phenomenal sampling of classic literature (from 'Winnie the Pooh' in the lowest grades to Homer and Shakespeare in the oldest). There are both books that a child is expected to read (with increasing difficulty over the years) as well as books that a parent is encouraged to read aloud to the child. Almost all the literature is suggested at a historically relevant time period. So the Narnia book 'Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe' is placed during the Modern Era, while Sherlock Holmes is assigned during the Pre-modern Era. As far as I can tell, the books themselves are wonderful for teaching a child about good writing and vocabulary, as well as fleshing out a child's understanding of the time-period in which it was written or takes place.
Now onto some things which I think are less than stellar about Tapestry of Grace.
First, and most importantly, I find the Language Arts in general very lacking. The program provides a very simple outline of suggested writing topics (i.e. Write a paragraph! or Write a newspaper article!) and those short sentences are about it as far as direction goes. There are no examples, no greater detail in direction, no grammar instruction, minimal grading suggestions...and that's just not enough to teach a kid to write well. So while the Literature is great, and the literature analysis is pretty good (especially with higher grades), any other Language Arts instruction should be found elsewhere.
Art is a subject that I'm of two minds on. I think the Art that this program suggests for lower levels is pretty good, although I'd label it more as 'craft time' than actual Art. A child would not come out of this program having learned something like 'how to draw using perspective' or 'how to paint using watercolors vs. oils', I don't think. Instead, there are project ideas like "use tin foil and card board circles to make your own currency''. A fun project, and a kid would probably really enjoy it, but it's a craft project, not a formal art lesson. For higher grades, I find the art is actually even less desirable. The program encourages a student to read about art, not do it. So there's a book on architecture, another one on famous paintings, etc., but you don't actually do any art yourself. This makes me kind of go...eh, not bad art history, but it's not ART. I'll go with Artistic Pursuits instead, or piano lessons or something.
Pretty much everything I've not listed above is not part of the program (so math, science, etc.) and you are expected to get somewhere else. I don't have a problem with that (not too many living-book-based programs include math anyway).
Overall, I'm pretty happy with this program. I've used it at the earliest levels and at a late Middle School/Early High School level and liked it. This program is relatively parent-intensive (the parent is expected to know the subject matter enough to be able to discuss it with their child in weekly meetings). The material is, in my opinion, pretty easy to use with multiple grade levels, since everyone is studying the same time-period, just with greater or lesser depth. I'd recommend it to a parent who wants a strong emphasis on history and wants to use living books, rather than textbooks to dive into it and who likes the idea of several other subjects being tied to history.
- Reviewed on Saturday, July 13, 2013
- Grades Used: 2,4, & 6th
- Dates used: 2012-present
We used TOG for the first time this past school year. I had done a fair amount of research on which curriculum to choose and I was satisfied with how this program was laid out. We had used SOTW previously and I didn't like how I had to spend a lot of time for prep to find supplemental spines to back up the chapter for the week. I thought that this program offered the best of both worlds, organization and spines already done, which would save me valuable time.
I do agree that the supplemental spines that you might purchase from Bookshelf Central can get pricey. We were in the process of moving and I wanted to not have to worry about them for the first unit. It wound up being expensive. For the next three units, I managed to find practically all of them through the library.
It is a time intensive program. We did a lot of the extra readings and did a few of the books on CD while driving in the car. We spend about one hour a day on this program. We did the lapbooks, which I loved, but the kids didn't. We did the map aids too. Sometimes, I felt that pulling out the world map was just as good as using the map aids.
I do like how one unit focused on art, another unit focused on Ben Franklin and experiments, another unit had a supplemental book where did baked something from colonial America. All of this helped me to switch up the lessons from time to time.
I heavily supplement with videos from the library and Liberty's Kids series with this year.
This program gave us a lot to talk about each week and provided us a very good foundation in history. I did not read all of the teacher's notes after the first unit. We read the books as a family and discussed after. I did have upper grammar and dialectic going at the same time, at one point, and I could not keep up with the reading. My dialectic was having a tough time comprehending the books and understanding the points they were trying to get across, so I dropped her down to upper grammar. With both of these age groups going on, I was having a hard time reading all of the books to discuss with both groups. Therefore, I dropped her down to upper grammar. I think for this year I am going to make her read one of the extra literature books for dialectic. To be honest, if you don't discuss what has been read right after you read it, it seemed to get lost on all of my students.
We will use this program again this year.