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All of history—secular and divine—can be seen as a complex fabric in which nothing is solitary: every person and event is woven together and interrelated. Tapestry of Grace uses this analogy to present a complete history-based curriculum for all grades. The scope of world history is covered in four consecutive year-long programs that can be recycled for the same students at different levels. Everything is consciously related to a biblical worldview, without ignoring secular cultural contributions and ideas. Unlike Sonlight or My Father's World, Tapestry of Grace doesn't focus on missions, but Christianity is still central to the course.
How Do These Work?
Scott and Marcia Somerville wrote the Tapestry of Grace series for their own family, but it spread. The curriculum is based on a four-year cycle of world history study that progresses linearly from Creation to current events. While you can use Tapestry once through the cycle (for high school, for instance), it is very teacher-intensive, making multiple-cycle use a time saver. Don't worry about covering the same information over and over—the program is adaptable for a number of age groups.
For each level there are a number of units covering eras within the overall period studied. The first two periods cover extensive epochs (the ancient world, and the Middle Ages through the 18th century), while the third year covers the 19th century, and the fourth year covers the 20th. Extensive weekly lesson plans appear in the 3-ring binder teacher manuals. Daily lessons aren't scripted, but that shouldn't be a problem due to the amount of material. Like most comprehensive curricula, this one is very teacher-intensive, much more than some others (notably Sonlight and My Father's World).
Every year-long course includes 36 weeks of study, each with its own extensive lesson plan. Parents begin by reviewing the student goals for the week (there are often several). An overview of the week's reading assignments follows, then age-appropriate writing assignments. The next segment is often the longest and outlines in detail the student activities, which include comprehension and discussion questions. Following this are extensive teacher's notes, a preview of the next week's plan, and supplemental information. Some of the weekly plans run upwards of 50 pages, making this quite a bit of material for the parent to sift through, especially if this is your first time using the program.
Some of the pages in the teacher's manuals require writing, but if you want to use this over multiple years or with more than one student you'll have to make copies; some people also slide each page in a plastic cover that you can write on and wipe off. Since Tapestry is based on the classical trivium, age levels are grouped according to upper and lower grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric stages. Each one is color-coded within the lesson plans, with a separate color for information that pertains to all levels, making quick reference that much easier. If the sheer volume of each week's plan is too daunting initially, remember that all level work is included side-by-side, so you don't actually need to read everything.
A variety of books are listed for students to read, and reading assignments are part of the lesson plans. The focus is on the humanities (parents will have to find and schedule their own math and science) with special attention to history, literature,Bible study and worldview. Relating everything students learn to a Christian understanding is an essential element of the course. While the authors are Protestant, they respect other traditions and there are even alternate Catholic and Orthodox reading lists for families from those traditions available on the Tapestry website. This respect for and willingness to investigate different and even opposing viewpoints is a welcome feature of the Tapestry of Grace curriculum as a whole.
Our Honest Opinion:
If you can manage to navigate the extensive material in the teacher's manuals, Tapestry of Grace is an excellent comprehensive curriculum. The fact that it is so comprehensive and yet doesn't work math or science into the program is somewhat disconcerting, but also understandable given the worldview emphasis.
What is even more disconcerting is simply the amount of information to be filtered by the parent—this will pretty much rule your life if you decide to use it, especially for the first year or two. Once you've got a handle on how the teacher's guides work and you've put them to use for awhile planning and executing lessons should be much easier. Using this in a co-op situation seems ideal, since it could take some of the pressure off individual parents' shoulders and become a community effort.
That said, the Somervilles have created an excellent curriculum on the classical model. The fact that you can recycle the lesson plans while introducing new material every four years borders on genius. Most education after fifth grade is mostly just reinforcement anyway, so working that into the program eliminates a lot of potential confusion. Speaking of confusion, if you haven't homeschooled before this probably isn't the best choice as it can easily lead to burnout, even among veterans (though the authors claim the revised versions are rookie-friendly). If you're willing to put in the effort and you want a comprehensive, Bible-centered curriculum, this is a great choice.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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