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Tapestry of Grace Year 1: Base Package for Year 1, and Unit 1 (The Books of Moses)
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Tapestry of Grace Year 1: Base Package for Year 1, and Unit 1 (The Books of Moses)

Printer Friendly Version

Publisher: Lampstand Press
Author: Scott Somerville
Marcia Somerville

List Price: $70

Ages: All Ages

Reviewed By: Jean Hall

 
Tapestry: A kind of woven hanging of wool and silk, often enriched with gold and silver, representing figures of men, animals, landscapes, etc. (Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language)

I don't have to define "grace" for you; as a matter of fact, there are many shades of meaning and more than one can apply here, though of course the grace of God is foremost.

Basically this is a plan of study encompassing the traditional "school years" (K-12), solidly based in a Christian worldview and attitude towards history (the story of God at work through the centuries to accomplish His purposes), and organized according to the principles and stages of Classical Education - grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. (Tapestry of Grace divides the grammar stage still further, into "lower grammar" and "upper grammar" to reflect non-readers versus readers.) Four major subjects are encompassed, all organized under the main topic of History, presented in chronological order:

- History and Geography (not just what would be studied in the secular setting, but also Church history, the history of missions and "unreached people groups")
- Fine Arts (including history of the arts)
- English (including writing and literature; not including phonics or formal grammar)
- Science (history of science; does not include high school lab sciences such as Chemistry, Biology, and Physics)

This is similar to other comprehensive integrated literature- or history-based curriculum (course of study) packages: You would use this package as a basis for your educational efforts, adding phonics, mathematics, grammar, foreign language, and high school science. What sets Tapestry of Grace apart from the others I've seen is its scope: covering levels from kindergarten through high school.

I suppose the closest I can come to describing Tapestry of Grace to someone who has never seen it is to say that you could probably come up with the same sort of thing if you started with The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer (which also has a four-year cycle for studying history); integrated Bible history; added books and resources that your own family has used and enjoyed; worked out weekly lesson plans for four different learning levels incorporating reading, hands-on activities and crafts, vocabulary, writing, map-work, and discussion; worked out extensive teacher's notes for each week... and more.

The Base Package, which is different for each year, could take the place of one or more "how-to" homeschooling books, including a philosophy of education as worked out by the author (both in general and broken out by learning level), a discussion of history from the viewpoint of the sovereignty and Providence of God, and practical helps (scheduling, goal-setting, grading, preparation, expectations, using the curriculum with young children, multi-level teaching, using with high-school age students - including how to assign high-school credits, general notes on content - more specific notes are included in each unit). If I sound breathless... I am! There is such a wealth of material here; it is difficult to do it justice in the scope of a review.

The Base Package for Year 1 also contains a resource list of nearly thirty pages: "History, Literature, and Enrichment Books and Software," with library call numbers and suggestions for keeping your costs down. Remember that this list covers an entire year of resources, four units, and not just Unit 1: The Books of Moses. Added to the resource list is a multi-page chart comparing cultures studied during the first three units.

One of the real "gems" in the Base Package for Year One is the section on teaching writing. While basing the writing plan around Write Source handbooks and Easy Grammar, the extensive teacher's notes contain a wealth of information on teaching writing, including games, exercises and explanations of terms and techniques, from the simplest concepts (word banks and dictation) to more advanced concepts (allegory, poetry, various types of essays, and note taking, for example). Not only writing is covered, but speech-making as well. The general notes are followed by a unit-by-unit (remember that the Base Package covers four units) week-by-week, level-by-level breakdown of concepts covered and skills to be learned and practiced, including suggested writing assignments and worksheet supplements to these assignments.

Now that we've looked at the background, undergirding, supplementary material, let us look at a single unit from the Tapestry of Grace curriculum.

Unit 1: The Books of Moses

The introductory pages of Unit 1 begin by defining the dominant thread for the first four units of Tapestry of Grace: a survey of the Word of God. Unit 1 is intended to last nine weeks (one quarter of a thirty-six week school year), and covers the Pentateuch or Books of Moses. Suggestions for covering the material are offered, depending partly upon the emphasis you'll choose and on the age of your student(s). It would be an excellent idea to read this material before jumping in and teaching!

Goals are defined by learning level, for the year as a whole and Unit 1 in particular. A Biblical approach to teaching mythology is presented. The overall introduction is rounded out with tips for using the teacher's notes and discussion scripts, making the most effective use of student discussion questions, creating lap books, and planning an end-of-unit celebration.

The rest of the unit is organized week-by-week, in several color-coded sections.

The introductory pages are notes for the teacher, comprising "core assignments" (a checklist or quick summary of what each learning-level is to accomplish), expanded notes organized by subject area (for example: Historical, Geographical, Literary, Law and Government, Fine Arts/Hands-on, Writing, Church History and Worldview), background information, points - broken down by learning-level - to emphasize in discussion, answers to worksheets, exercises, and discussion. Many of the exercises and discussions are scripted, leading you through the process with emphasis where the author feels it is important. "Scripts" can be very helpful for a parent teaching several levels, or who has not had the time to read all the material.

Next come the lesson plans for the week: several pages of charts, broken down by subject and learning-level. Each week is labeled for a quick overview of what will be studied, e.g. "Curtain Rises on Egypt, Gift of the Nile" and "The Wilderness: The Tabernacle and the Law." The "Reading Assignment Chart" covers readings in History (Overview), History (In-Depth), Literature, Fine Arts, and Worldview. In many cases, several books are listed to give you a choice in the matter, and library call-numbers enable you to substitute from your local library if you cannot obtain the specific books listed. The "Weekly Overview Chart" has a check-list of major themes studied that week, the people studied, suggestions for group activities, vocabulary words to learn/spell/define, timeline dates to make note of, hands-on projects (these are individual in nature, and different from the group activities), geography (terms, map-work, discussion and related topics for further study), and questions for literature discussion.

Student activity pages follow. These "flesh out" the bare-bones notations in the week's chart, including recipes and directions, worksheets, checklists, and questions. I really like the way these notes are directed to the student! Another plus is that the first week's student activities include getting organized for the rest of the year: workspace, notebook(s), maps and time lines. Activities are organized by learning-level and easily located as they are marked with symbols.

Some weeks' notes contain supplementary materials, including:
- Why Study History? (A Scriptural Basis for the Study of History)
- Understanding Mythology Biblically
- "Pageant of Philosophy" - several scripts, where a character named "Simplicio" speaks with such characters as an Egyptian priest, Job, Abraham, and Moses

Though overwhelming at first glance, this curriculum is carefully organized, from the charts and checklists to the overall color-coding. The author repeatedly emphasizes that there is much material here to choose from, and that there is no need to try to "do it all." As a matter of fact, she has several suggestions for going through the material, depending upon your situation and student(s). Younger students might spend two weeks on each week's worth of material. A family might plan to go through the material twice or even three times over the years, in more depth each time. A mother whose children are all in the grammar stage might do the high-school level readings for extra "background" and thus have a good grounding for the next "go-round" when her students are older.

The package looks at first to be "expensive" in terms of homeschool curriculum, especially when you look at it from the viewpoint of lesson plans, and adding to it the cost of the books you will likely have to buy to use the program. However, doing some calculating and comparing with a few other well-thought-of homeschool programs, the cost seems comparable or even a little less, considering that you have an entire year of history and literature curriculum for all grade levels for about $150, and that the curriculum may be used two-to-three times per student, depending on how early you start. Remember, too, the extensive teacher's notes and student notes, including worksheets and answer keys - even answers to discussion questions, and the scripted discussion for those parents who are educating themselves while teaching their children. (I, for one, have learned more in a decade of homeschooling than I did in years of school and college and graduate school...) It helps to have a large and diverse library nearby. I think the program would likely be too expensive if we had to buy all the resources needed.

The website is an amazing resource in itself. There are sample pages to download, to get a taste of the program, a discussion forum, suggestions for using the program, a co-op connection page (a resource for finding or starting a co-op in your area), and lots of links.

If you like the look of the sample pages, but are not sure you want to order an entire year of material at once, you can order the Base Package and one unit for $70.

As all I have seen is the Base Package for Year One, and Unit 1: The Books of Moses (as I said, nine weeks of material), I can only share my opinion of these. However, assuming the same quality and amount of effort, study, and dedication has been invested in following material, Tapestry of Grace looks like an excellent resource.

One note from our using this product: Our younger children are used to oral narration. They have no problem with "telling back" what they've read, or what they've heard aloud. They balked, however, at the worksheets in the Tapestry book for Early and Upper Grammar students. While they narrate the same information with ease, showing their grasp of the material, filling in a worksheet was a daunting idea. I will probably continue to work orally for the most part, until they are older, perhaps easing into written narration or "filling out reports" after age ten, as some writers using Charlotte Mason's methods advise.

This is an amazing package, though I'm not sure I'd recommend it for a rank beginner unless perhaps you are in a co-op. I've been homeschooling a number of years, have employed a number of different methods, and even I was overwhelmed at first by the sheer volume of information presented. Still, a beginner who takes the time to read through the Base Package and who looks carefully at the week plans with all their accompanying notes, if not too ambitious and determined to read every book and do every activity, might well find that the first steps have been taken along a fascinating and rewarding path.
More Information
Available From: Lampstand Press
Address: P.O. Box 5798, Rockville, MD 20855
Phone: 800.705.7487
Website: www.tapestryofgrace.com
Email: Nathan@TapestryOfGrace.com
Other Notes:
 

Add Your Own Review

 
Jean Hall
Jean Hall, a Christian home educator with three daughters, enjoys writing stories and music. Her family's interests include reading together, art, gardening, volkswalking and pets: two cats and a Giant Schnauzer.
Copyright © 2005 Eclectic Homeschool Association
 

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