Choosing Tapestry Books and Other Components

Tapestry of Grace has so many books for each year!  It seems daunting to try to read them all!  So, how do you decide which ones to schedule?  Should you buy them or use your library?

Here’s what I did for our Lower Grammar study of Year 1.

How to Choose:
When I plan my TOG books, I make sure we have one history core selection for each week.  Some books are used multiple weeks in this category.

I also always choose the literature selection as some of these books have become my children’s favorite books to read.

If the topic seems like it will be interesting to one of my kids or I think they will want more detailed information, I also look at the history in depth section. 

TOG also suggests read aloud selections that are used in multiple levels.  I’ve found these either too long or too indepth for the ages of my crew.  So, if I think we might want to read more about the topic, I choose a book from the Upper Grammar level and use it as a read aloud instead.

I make sure we have the arts and activity book selections on hand as I need all the help I can get with activity ideas and instructions.  

I read reviews for the worldview selection on Amazon before deciding if this book will interest my crew or prove too challenging.  In Year 1, most of the readings were stories from a children’s Bible.  I have several different versions of children’s Bibles, and we would often read the same story out of each version to compare. 

I found that Year 1 did not have quite enough book selections for us, as we love to read at our house.  So, as I planned ahead, I looked at weeks that only had a few choices.  If I didn’t feel there would be enough reading (or if there was no literature selection) I looked to the alternate resources page.  If I could find a copy of one of those books still in print, I would often order it to have extra reading.  I also checked Amazon by searching for the books already being used for the week and seeing what else Amazon suggested.  I found a few extra resources that way.  I also checked the Upper Grammar selections to see if I thought any would be a good substitute.
Later years of TOG seem to have more book choices, so I don’t think I will need to add in as many extra books for the later years.  But, if a topic interests us enough, I might have to go searching again.
I will say that we read every suggested book for Year 1 and I did not feel it was too much for us in the Lower Grammar level.

Buy or borrow:
Have you ever totaled up a year’s worth of one level of TOG books?  It can get expensive quickly-even if you buy used!
Before I purchased Tapestry, I looked over the reading list and checked that list against my library’s catalog.  It did not look good.
So, I checked the price tag of my list on Amazon. Not cheap.

I decided that I would need to purchase the books that I was planning to use for my year plan.  Thankfully, my hubby supports my book buying habit, and with some extra giftcards and holiday money, I was able to slowly purchase my TOG books, buying many of them used.
I knew I would not be able to find most of them in my library and I like that I don’t have to put in the extra effort to plan ahead and reserve my needed titles.  My kids also enjoyed reading several of the books over and over and over.  It was a blessing to have them in our own library for them to enjoy.

It is true that you can substitute some titles with similar books, especially in the lower levels.  If you do this, the worksheets might be more difficult to complete, but the information will be comparable.  I decided not to substitute books, even if my library had a similar title.  I think beauty of Tapestry is in the book selections.  These books are chosen because they are age appropriate for each level and they do not contain information that would go against my Biblical beliefs.  These are books that I will not find offensive or have to edit as I read.  And if there is anything questionable in a book selection, Tapestry gives you ample warning in the Teacher Notes.

The reason I chose Tapestry was that it aligned with our beliefs and the book choices were carefully made to support a study of a Biblical history and Christ-centered worldview.  It eliminates the hours searching for titles that would contain historical information and support my worldview at the same time.  And for those books that have questionable themes in the upper levels, Tapestry provides discussion outlines to work through the topics with your student.  For these reasons, I choose not to substitute titles although I might supplement with a few extra resources.

But if your library does offer many of the Tapestry titles, borrowing the books can also be a good option.  You would need to print the booklist, arranged by week, and reserve the books in advance to make sure they were ready when you need them.  It takes some coordinating, but can be done.

I still believe it is worthwhile to purchase a few books though.  I recommend purchasing books that are used more than three weeks.  I also recommend purchasing any activity books so that those are always available as you plan activities and purchase supplies. 

At our house, we consider Tapestry, along with the book selections, an investment.  We will have 4 children reading the books and using the program and we enjoy having a home library of excellent literature.

And if you’re planning your Tapestry year or making book selections, I suggest only working one unit at a time.  As you complete each unit you will have a better idea of how many books you are reading each week.  This allows you to adjust your book selection for later units.  Also, you might find that your children would enjoy a few more challenging book selections, so by planning one unit at a time, you can choose a few books from an upper level for the next unit.  It is possible to use books from one level as your core reading, while adding in a few books from the next level as read alouds or extras.

Which components:
Tapestry offers several components alongside the year plans.  These are Map Aids, Writing Aids, Lapbooks, Evaluations, Student Activity Packs, Pop Quiz, and Government Studies for Rhetoric Students.

I purchased the Map Aids and was glad I did.  Having maps specific to the era in which we were studying was beneficial.  However, I noticed that my kids sometimes struggled with the maps.  Some of the maps are magnified and only contain one of two countries that are being covered that week.  It was difficult for my kids to see the big picture as they often lost sight of the location we were studying.  They could see the Jordan River in Israel but they did not remember the location of Israel in relation to the rest of the world.
So, for the ages of my children, I realized that they first needed an understanding of the placement of the major countries before they learned details about these countries.  I recommend having a world map or globe handy at all times.
Next year I plan to spend more time learning the location of each country before we look at the magnified maps.  I’ll blog later about how we’re learning the placement of countries and continents.

I did not purchase Writing Aids after reading through it at a convention.  Writing Aids lists genres of writing with an excellent checklist of what should be included.  This resource looked like a helpful tool for evaluating a student’s written work to check for necessary components.  I did not feel I would be using it with the ages of my children until they are closer to the dialectic level.  I also did not see myself using the TOG writing program as a way to teach writing.  I would prefer a more systematic method of teaching writing.  I do think I will use Writing Aids to evaluate their writing in later years.

I had purchased the Lapbooks but we stopped using them midway through our year.  The books are well organized and easy to print.  However, they require lots of writing and it was too much for Curly.  I do plan to use them when she’s able to write sentences more independently.  If I choose to use a lapbook at this level, I will search for lapbooks that have more cut-and-paste components. 

Evaluations are a way to gauge a student’s learning.  If I had to present end-of-the-year records to a school authority per state law, I would purchase these evaluations and use them as a tool for our portfolio. Although, I wish the Lower Grammar level had more discussion questions in the Teacher Notes.  I might purchase the Evaluations in a few years and use them as discussions guides for my grammar level students.

Student Activity Packs are the printed version of the activity pages.  I do lots of printing and my hubby is sweet enough to purchase extra cartridges so I print off my own copies of the activity pages.  I only have one student who uses them, and we only use them occasionally.  If I had multiple students using the pages, I might consider buying some packs to save on my own printing costs.

The Pop Quiz is a neat audio resource which provides a summary of each week’s information.  If my hubby had a longer commute I would try to sneak it into his car.  I would use it myself if my kids were older and more self-directed in their studies.  I think I will purchase a set of these once Curly is working in the Dialectic Level (or maybe Upper Grammar Level) so that our whole family can enjoy discussions together.  If all my kids were older, this would be a resource that I would also want for myself so that I had a good overview of each weekly topic.

Government documents are for the Rhetoric students and as soon as we reach that level, I plan to add this to our studies for highschool credit.

Tapestry can be overwhelming due to the choices, but this very flexibility is what drew me to Tapestry.

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