Do You Struggle with Finding the Right History Curriculum for Your Homeschool?
Do you struggle with finding the right history curriculum for your homeschool? Looking for pre-made lesson plans that are flexible, literature-based, yet incorporate hands-on learning AND cover a range of grades? Look no further than Tapestry of Grace!
Tapestry of Grace is a K-12 comprehensive curriculum that includes history, literature, grammar, writing, Biblical worldview and church history, geography, philosophy, and government. Over the course of 4 years, students cycle through the history of the world, which has been divided into 4 main eras, or “years” — the Creation and Ancient Civilizations (Year 1); the Middle Ages through the American Revolution (Year 2); American and World History during the 1800’s (Year 3); and the 1900’s through Current Events (Year 4). Each year contains 36 weeks of lessons which are divided into four large units.
Following a Classical approach, the lessons are divided into 4 general learning levels:
- Lower Grammar: grades K-3, or a non-fluent reader
- Upper Grammar: grades 3-6, or independent readers
- Dialectic: grades 6-9, or students who read to learn and enjoy learning to debate
- Rhetoric: grades 9-12, or students who enjoy analyzing and synthesizing ideas and arguments
Over the course of a homeschooler’s K-12 education, the student will study each era of history three times, each time diving deeper into understanding and analysis of the events. For instance, if you have a first grader and you are using Year 1 this year, the first grader will be using the Lower Grammar lessons. Year 1 will be repeated in fifth grade, but the instruction will be at the Upper Grammar level. The same topics will be studied once more in ninth grade, but the Dialectic or Rhetoric level will be used (depending upon the student’s development).
Each unit consists of an introduction to the unit, each week’s plans, guidelines for discussions, background information, and answers. At first, this seems like it would only be a few pages long per lesson, but in actuality it is an enormous amount of information. For the one unit that we focused on for this review, over 700 pages of lesson plans and instructional pages with background information were included. Similarly, this is the case for the other three units in Year 2. The intent is to not use all of this information, but to use it as a guide for the levels of learning that you are teaching with your children.
What does a typical week look like?
This is up to you and your family, as this curriculum can be as comprehensive or subject-specific as you would like!
Each week, you’ll find a comprehensive outline for the week and resources needed to teach the topics for the week. The first page you’ll see each week is the overview for the threads for each subject — history, writing, literature, geography, fine arts and activities, Biblical worldview and church history, government, and philosophy. It also outlines the week’s goals to be completed according to the learning levels. This is followed by detailed lists for reading assignments for all subjects, alternate or further reading materials, specific learning objectives, student activities, and finally the Teacher’s Notes.
The Teacher’s Notes are the heftiest portion of each week, containing all of the background information for the names, places, and significant dates studied during the week. Discussion outline questions are also included within this portion of the material.
Each week’s lesson guide ends with a section entitled “At a Glance,” where you can preview what you will be teaching the next week as well as any significant notes that you need to be aware of. You’ll also find supplemental instruction for additional art and literature studies to go along with this week’s core content.
If you strive to have everything entirely planned out for you, you will truly appreciate the Planning Aids! It tells you what needs to be taught versus what is optional, lists supplies needed for the activities, and suggests break-downs of the instruction into “bite-size” lessons to be completed over 4, 5, 8, or 10 days. Plus, there’s a blank planning page to write in your own plans (including space for math and science, which are not a part of Tapestry of Grace). The Planning Aids are available for Lower and Upper Grammar learning levels at an affordable $12.50 per level, per year. It is truly worth every single dime!
How is Tapestry of Grace different?
- All of your students can study the same history topics at the same time. Regardless of the levels of your children, they are all studying the same topics at the same time. Likewise, they will be completing similar projects, especially for the End of Unit Celebration!
- You only have to purchase a year once. This means you only have to purchase four years of curriculum, rather than repeatedly purchasing curriculum year after year after year! (Only the new books from one level to the next will need to be purchased.) Plus, since the curriculum covers multiple subjects (history, geography, language arts, literature, government), you are saving your wallet even more!
- It is reusable for all of your children, regardless of whether you have one or ten! Once you have purchased a year, you do not need to purchase it again for subsequent years. Simply follow the lesson plans for the level your child is now in. This is extremely important to me, as I have an only child. Typically after we finish a curriculum, we no longer have a use for it and must sell it. Not the case with Tapestry of Grace! We will simply move up to the next learning level. For us, that means moving from the Upper Grammar level to the Dialectic level.
- You receive updates on the curriculum — for FREE! Tapestry of Grace realizes that books go out of print. Since their curriculum is literature-based, they strive to keep their own curriculum updated with books that are currently in print. In order to see which books have been replaced and to download the updated lessons plans, just head over to the Book Updates page on their site.
- You adjust the curriculum to the needs of YOUR family and children. Tapestry of Grace gives you everything you need to teach all of these subjects, but it doesn’t mean you have to do it all! Just pick and choose the pieces that you have time to complete or are interested in. Prefer a literature approach to learning? Then primarily focus on the literature aspects of the curriculum. Have a child that needs hands-on activities to learn? Nearly every lesson contains at least two or three activities, sometimes even more, for the kinesthetic learners! It’s all about meeting the needs of your family!
- Support is amazing! Any time I had a question about a curriculum or was just feeling overwhelmed, I spoke with a Tapestry of Grace representative, who walked me through the process. There is also a Tapestry of Grace Facebook group, as well as numerous co-ops that use it. To find a local co-op, simply contact TOG, and they can help you get in touch with your local group.
How did we use the curriculum?
A few months ago, we began Unit 1 of Year 2. This unit is divided into 10 weeks, and covered the following topics:
Week 1: Twilight of the Western Roman Empire
Week 2: Byzantine Empire and the Eastern Orthodox Church
Week 3: Byzantine Empire and the Rise of Islam
Week 4: The Making of Medieval Europe: Charlemagne
Week 5: Developments During the Viking Age
Week 6: Medieval Life: Feudalism
Week 7: The High Middle Ages
Week 8: The Mongols, Marco Polo, and the Far East
Week 9: The Reshaping of Medieval Europe
Week 10: Early Lights of the Reformation
For this review, we fully embraced the curriculum and used almost all of its components. Here are a few pictures from our studies…
- We created a salt map of Europe. This map became quite handy when we were discussing geography and wanted a concrete way of pointing out locations.
- We built a tower that illustrated the divisions of the feudal system.
- To illustrate how the feudal system works, we built a chart showing how the serfs did all of the work, yet the king ended up with all of the resources.
- While discussing the origins of Islam, we talked about geometric art and created our own geometric art designs.
- After studying about monasteries and families’ coats of arms, we decided to combine the two to create a stained glass coat of arms. The resulting artwork is now proudly displayed in my son’s bedroom window.
- We played Medieval games. Our favorite was Nine Man’s Morris. After exploring this, Aikman decided to create his own version of Nine Man’s Morris, and then we discussed how this affected strategy within the game. Other games included Nim, Gota, and Shut the Box.
- While studying about the Church during the Middle Ages, we studied about manuscripts. Aikman created his own illuminations for his name.
- While studying about Marco Polo, we made a compass.
These are just a few of the activities we did, not including the literature studies, vocabulary and historical topics discussed, and so much more! One of our favorite moments was the end of unit celebration, where we had a medieval feast, complete with costumes! Sadly, we had such a great time, I forgot to take pictures of the event.
Our Thoughts About Tapestry of Grace
We have had such a wonderful time studying the Middle Ages for the past few months. The lesson plans are very thorough, and I am very appreciative that the lessons are flexible. Since my son’s reading ability is between the Lower and Upper Grammar stages, we did a mix of the two levels. He is also a hands-on learner, so we completed a majority of the hands-on lessons to break up the reading assignments. We did enjoy the literature component, which was a great way to reinforce what we had been learning.
Beginning Tapestry of Grace is quite overwhelming. Just the sheer number of pages for a single lesson can be daunting! That’s why we started simple, choosing to start with just history and hands-on activities. Then we slowly added in additional pieces each day and week… vocabulary, literature, digging deeper into the historical characters, Biblical worldview and Church history, the Arts, and finally geography and government.
Since we received the digital edition of Year 2, I did not print off all 700 pages for Unit 1. Instead, I only printed off the pages that were relevant to us. This included the overview of the threads for the week, Reading Assignments and booklists, Weekly Overview, Student Activities, and select pages from the Teacher’s Notes.
To help me quickly identify what books and activities we would complete for the week, I highlighted the books that we would use each week. Then, I found those books and printed any activity pages that were needed for the week. Then I consulted the Planning Aids to determine the recommended way to divide up the lessons. I then tweaked these to fit our schedule for the week.
We are continuing to use Tapestry of Grace for the remainder of this year. We are moving into Unit 3, which focuses on the Age of Exploration and early American history. In our next review, we will be sharing how we used different components of the curriculum, including the Map Aids, Writing Aids, and the Lapbooking components.
One aspect of this curriculum that I did not get to experience firsthand was the Socratic discussions for the Dialectic and Rhetoric learning levels (typically middle and high school students). Tapestry of Grace entirely outlines what the discussion questions should be and walks you through how to host these types of discussions with your children so that they are synthesizing and applying their knowledge of history to better understand the how and why of the events that occurred. I am truly looking forward to using this method with my son in a few years!
Suggestions for Improvement
All in all, we love this curriculum. I truly cannot say much that I would change about it! My biggest criticism is that it is necessary to borrow or purchase a LOT of books! For example, Unit 1 consisted of 34 different books, and quite a few them were only used for a week. Instead of purchasing the “one week” books, we typically borrowed them from the library or found other quality books along the same topic. I purchased all books that were used for multiple weeks. These were often some of our favorite books, and I see why these were chosen by Tapestry of Grace as a part of their core content!
I also wish that Tapestry of Grace had a printable list of books used by unit, as well as the alternative list of books. Tapestry does not recommend using the books found on the alternative list, but many times these were more readily available and could be found at a cheaper price compared to the primary list. For example, I was not aware that Tapestry was correlated with the Story of the World series until I found it on the alternative list of books.
How to Purchase Tapestry of Grace
Tapestry of Grace is available in print and digital editions. You can purchase a complete year for $309 for the print edition, $189 for the digital edition, and $349 for the print and digital editions combined. You can also purchase individual units for $87 for the print edition; $49 for the digital edition, and $92.50 for a copy of the print and digital editions together. Tapestry of Grace can also be purchased for a co-op. Please contact TOG about co-op inquiries.
In addition to the curriculum, you will also need access to the specific literature used for the lessons. To find the primary books used for the level you are purchasing, visit Bookshelf Central.
Want to see if this curriculum is a good fit for your family? Check out the FREE 3-week samples for Primer, Year 1 (Egypt), and Year 2 (Sail to the New World).
Facebook Party and Giveaway!
On Wednesday, March 2, at 8:00 p.m. eastern will be a Tapestry of Grace and Hip Homeschool Moms Facebook party! If you’d like to find out more about TOG and have a chance to win some giveaways too, be sure to join us! Click here to find the link to the party.
I was given a complementary copy of Tapestry of Grace’s Digital Edition for Year 2 in exchange for an honest review of the curriculum. The opinions expressed are my honest opinions of this product.