Friday, April 17, 2009

Tapestry of Grace, Redesigned Digital Edition

Our family has been using Tapestry of Grace for 3 years already.  We have been using the classic version, because we have always been just a step ahead of the redesign project (until our baby break and TOS Crew curriculum review break this year).

I was excited to get a chance to use the redesigned digital edition for the TOS Homeschool Crew.  We chose the same unit we had been studying in the classic plan (Year 3, Unit 2) so we could just continue our studies.  We also received the Year 3 Map Aids to complement our history studies.

Tapestry of Grace is a huge curriculum, and the new digital edition adds an additional element to this review.  I've divided my review into subsections to help you find the information you're seeking.

What is Tapestry of Grace?

Tapestry of Grace was created by Marcia Somerville when she was on the verge of giving up homeschooling.  She was struggling to teach multiple ages of children with many levels of curriculum.  Since her husband was a lawyer for HSLDA, quitting wasn't a possibility.  So, she set out to design a method that would make teaching her children more manageable, and would unify their studies.

Tapestry of Grace is a multi-subject curriculum designed for all ages to use at once.  Kindergartners - 12th graders (K-Mom, actually) study the same period of history, using age appropriate books and lessons.  There is only one year plan required for all those ages.  It is a literature-based study, using history as its foundation.  Though some of the books used in Tapestry of Grace are secular, the teacher's manual and discussion questions are written to promote a Biblical worldview.

Tapestry of Grace is divided into four different year plans, each covering a different period of history.  The lesson plans cover the following subjects:  history, church history, geography, literature, fine arts, government, philosophy,  and writing.   (Tapestry of Grace doesn't include phonics, science, math, grammar, spelling, or foreign languages.)  There are four units in each year plan, and they can be bought by unit, or the entire year plan.

The year plan includes notes for the teacher to summarize what the children will be learning through their reading that week, book suggestions for all ages, discussion questions, writing assignments, ideas for hands-on activities, and worksheets that are designed to work with the recommended books.  There are more books and activities in Tapestry than a family can truly cover; every week you select what books and activities you want to cover from the "buffet of suggestions".  Tapestry does not include the books themselves, which will need to be found at the library, used stores, or ordered new online.

The Tapestry of Grace website is also a treasure trove of helpful information, with links and resources, the Loom, and helpful discussion forums for Tapestry users.   Lampstand Press (Tapestry of Grace publishers) recently created this wonderful Map of the Humanities which shows how Tapestry of Grace weaves the time periods and subjects together.  It's a roadmap for your family's education.

So tell me about the Redesign!

The redesign not only reorganized the layout of the teacher's manual, but also reorganized the order that some of the subjects are studied, so we didn't have an exact transition from classic to redesign.  Some of the subjects were ones we had already covered in classic, but we tried to use different books to review them.  The redesign also updated the books to replace out of print books that were used with the classic version.

I like the new layout of the Redesign, although it seems to have doubled the number of pages in each week's lesson plan.  There are more worksheets with the Redesign, and the teacher's notes include answers to those worksheets (which were not included in the classic plan).

I'd heard that the Redesign was much easier to use and understand, and I can see now that it's true.  For instance, after using Tapestry of Grace for 2.5 years, I didn't even realize there were alternate reading selections in the Classic plan.  That's because 2 different pages separate them from the recommended reading selections in the Classic year plan.  However, in the redesigned year plan, the two lists are back-to-back.

How do you like the Digital Edition?

The Digital Edition (DE) was a necessary change for Tapestry of Grace, in order to remain a viable company.  I understand their reasons for making the switch, although I prefer print curricula over digital curricula.

I found the LockLizard software easy to download and use.  I did have problems with my multi-function printer, at first.  LockLizard doesn't like SOME multi-function printers.  I contacted customer service at Lampstand Press, however, and they told me what to do to fix the problem.  I received a quick reply from them, and the solution for my printer was a simple and quick fix.

I didn't have any problems using LockLizard and the Digital Edition, other than that it is harder to wade through 65 pages of a weekly lesson plan at the computer.  It makes flipping between pages more difficult.  With a book, I can put my fingers in different sections and easily flip back and forth.  My other complaint (which is true of any digital curriculum for me) is that because I don't have a laptop, I can't take the curriculum to my couch, with me to the library, or when I run errands.  I'm accustomed to taking my unit notebook with me to the library when I'm looking for our books.

Tapestry of Grace realizes that some people really prefer the printed year plans, so you can pay extra to have both the DE and a printed plan.  It is an additional expense, but I think it will help Tapestry newcomers to have a printed copy in hand.

Of course, with the digital edition, you have more room for the literature and history books since you won't have notebooks full of lesson plans taking up room on your shelf.  The digital edition also makes it easier to print student sheets for your children, and reduces the need for a separate lesson plan sheet.

I am disappointed that the switch to a digital format means the curriculum can NOT be resold.  It moved from being completely reusable and resalable to being a consumable product, for one family only.  We have often bought used curricula to save money, and have often sold curricula we were finished with.

What are the Map Aids  you received?

I have wanted to buy the Map Aids for the past several years.  I was thrilled to have a chance to review them.  In the past, I've scoured the internet trying to find blank line maps to use with our schooling.  While I could usually find some of a state, country, or continent ... I couldn't find them with historical data entered.  I couldn't find a blank line map to go along with wars, changing boundaries, migrations of people, etc.  This is where the Map Aids excel.  They provide those maps for your historical and geographical studies, all in one place.

So what does this all cost?

The digital edition redesigned year plans are available by year, or by unit.

  • DE Unit, $45.00

  • DE Full Year Plan, $170.00

  • DE Full Year Plan with Printed Copy, $280.00

  • Printed Year Plan (available in occasional group orders, but I don't know if this will continue) $225.00

There are also Bonus Bundles that include additional support products with the full year plan:

  • DE Bonus Bundle, $250.00

  • Bonus Bundle 2008, Print version -- there are some still available for Year 1 $295.00, and Year 2 preorder for $270.00.

The Map Aids CD's are available for $24.95.

Where can I find more information?
Start here to understand what Tapestry of Grace is and how it works.  You can even download two different 3 week samples here:

If you have questions about the Digital Edition, TOG has put together this helpful page:

You can view Tapestry of Grace year plans, units, and supplemental teaching aids at Lampstand Press Bookshelf:

You can view the literature and history book bundles at Bookshelf Central:

Now tell us what you really think, April!

I really love Tapestry of Grace, but I realize it is not for everyone.  It most greatly benefits those with multiple children in a wide age range.   I agree with Marcia Somerville's recommendation to switch to Tapestry Of Grace when your OLDEST child is entering 5th grade.  When asked, I do tell parents of young children that I feel they'd be better off waiting until their children are older before switching to Tapestry.  Its strength is in the upper levels and the fact that it unifies the family in its studies.

In our family we use it in a relaxed way, relying heavily on the library system, and substituting books when we can't find the recommended book.  Usually this works fairly well, but occasionally we can not find books for a certain subject or era at all.  For instance, there were no books for children on Queen Victoria or the Victorian era in our library.  If I work far enough in advance, I can often get books via Inter-Library Loan, but it requires more organization.  It is possible to use Tapestry of Grace without buying all the books, but definitely less convenient.

Next year, our oldest will be entering high school and the rhetoric level of Tapestry of Grace.  At that time, we will need to stick to the recommended books much more closely, so we can make full use of the discussion questions.

There are several benefits for me in using Tapestry of Grace:

  • Family unity -- I love that all my children are studying the same thing

  • Ease of planning -- No more juggling several different curriculum

  • Literature based studies rather than textbooks

  • Biblical worldview of history

  • Older children work independently -- I was having a hard time leading 2 or 3 age-based unit studies

  • I only have to buy 4 year plans -- after that I can spend my money on BOOKS!

  • I can move a child up or down a level, as needed, without having to buy multiple levels of curriculum

  • I can do the bare minimum of reading assignments with the children during busy and stressful times, and add in additional reading, the activities, and writing assignments when we are able to focus more ... and know that their education is moving along just fine

Tapestry of Grace works well for us!  We use it more relaxed than others do, and we adapt it to fit our needs.  At times I've felt that the reading assignments for the younger children in our Classic plan were dry, but the Redesign has sought to remedy that.

I definitely recommend Tapestry of Grace for larger families, families with varying ages of students, and those desiring a history-based literature study for the whole family!

Click the banner at the top to read more reviews on this product by other Homeschool Crew members.

Trusting in Him,

1 comment:

  1. Hey April,

    I was eager to see your review after all the discussion on the boards. It's one of the best I've how you broke it into more manageable pieces...this was a huge one to write about. :)




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