Monday, February 8, 2010

Struggling with our curriculum right now

We use Tapestry of Grace.  But we've always used the library primarily, and haven't bought all the books that go along with the curriculum.  That worked fine when we lived in a town with a large library system.  We had our local library a few blocks away, and Steve worked by a library that was connected with others in its county.  We requested books from any county library, and Steve could pick them up after work at the one by his office.  It was such a blessing! We could get all the books we needed (for the most part) without using the Inter Library Loan system very much. 

Then we moved here, and we have a smaller library.  Steve no longer can easily access a larger system for us, either.  The librarians are great, but the selection is limited on some of our history topics.  Then, we can only have 3 inter-library loan requests at a time.  Which is fine, because using ILL is also a little uncertain.  Sometimes the book comes in before you're ready for it, and sometimes it comes in after you needed it.  That's just the nature of Inter-Library Loan. 

At first we used Paperback Swap to get a lot of our TOG books, especially for the older kids.  But it hasn't worked as well for us this year.   Many other homeschoolers have discovered it, so the wish list for some of the books has become quite long. 

Usually, I scrounge around my resources and the library's resources trying to find books that can work, even if they aren't the suggested resources.  Except I've already looked at all the World War 2 books at our library.  Some I knew my kids wouldn't read, some we have read ... and I still have several weeks of TOG left on the subject.  I think we're just going to have to skip a bunch of  weeks and move on to the next topic.  And to make matters worse, I really don't feel we covered the war very well at all. 

Next, the establishment of Israel and the Cold War.  But will we find appropriate books on those topics?  Sigh.

I'm frustrated.

This isn't the fault of the curriculum.  It isn't the fault of the library.  It's just that we had a low-cost system that was working well, and now it's not.  We're going to have to invest in buying the books in the future ... or else switch curriculum.  We've bought our Tapestry of Grace year plans used, sticking with the classic TOG that was more readily available on the used market.  We finally acquired all 4 year plans, and thought we were set. 

There really isn't any other curriculum out there that will easily teach all levels of our kids' ages at the same time.  (Well, there are some that can be adapted to work for all ages with effort, and there are some that could probably work, but they seem cost prohibitive.)  That's the reason I use TOG.  It's not because I'm a classical educator, because I'm not.  It's not because I feel strongly about teaching history chronologically, because I don't.  It's because this covers history and literature for all my kids, and it uses real books instead of textbooks.

In addition to not getting the books we need, I haven't been getting weekly time to plan our lessons, either.  I need to fill out assignment charts for each child, so they know what they need to do each day.  That hasn't been happening.   It seems every weekend has been too hectic and Monday morning rolls around with the planning undone.  Then, I have a review to write in the morning, and soon the kids are awake.  So instead, I keep telling them what to do each day.

In other words, we've been floundering a bit in our homeschool.  Something has to change.  I need to be more structured.  We need to set aside money to buy more books to use with TOG.  I need to implement the activities and projects of TOG more, so we have more opportunities for the children to show what they've learned.

I'm continually reminded that I still have a lot to learn in homeschooling.  I haven't yet reached the point that I've got it all figured out.  We overcome one obstacle, and another one arises.  But we just keep pushing on, keep trying new things, keep trusting God to lead us.  I think it's time to get out the rest of my teacher's manuals for Tapestry of Grace Year 4 and pay attention to what books we'll need through the rest of the year.  Think and plan ahead ... and come up with a plan for how we'll handle this problem next year, too.

Just imperfect me,


  1. If you decide to purchase your books, I just wanted to remind you that Sonlight is a great option. I realize that the jump from library to buying books new is huge, but Sonlight has a ton of resources to try to help with that transition:

    -Time payments

    -Advisors to help you select the best Core(s) for you and your family

    -Huge value (some families sell their old Core to buy the next one... since it's mostly books the Cores hold their value really really well)

    -Reusable: Sonlight Cores can be used over and over and with multiple children (chat with a Sonlight Advisor to figure out how that will best apply to your situation)

    I know we don't do a great job of telling you how to combine multiple children. We're working on improving that. But for now, we have Advisors and the Forums to help with that. Tons of wisdom out there!

    If nothing else, check out the Choosing forum: and consider purchasing an IG if you can find the books elsewhere.

    May you find a solution that fits your family's needs!


  2. Michelle @ Delightful LearningFebruary 8, 2010 at 5:35 AM

    I am sorry you are struggling. I have been looking into TOG for the similar reasons you use it. We were Sonlighters (1+2, 3+4) until we hit core 5. Then it became too hard to combine. I really love being able to teach to all of my children and I am liking how TOG has reading suggestions for all levels. We are not classical, either, but I need something planned out for me! I am really praying about what to use this coming year and will be anxious to see how this works out for you. Praying for you!

    Michelle (from the Crew)

  3. That's how I felt last semester. Just barely hanging on, jumping from one thing to another, not getting enough planning done. Maybe you could schedule a "Teacher Work Day" to help you get ahead on some planning? I imagine it would be very difficult/expensive to use TOG without a good library system. I just got finished ordering our books. Maybe you could focus on finding good "spines" to buy to go with TOG, that way you'd at least have that to fall back on the weeks the library resources are less than stellar :)

    BTW, thanks so much for helping me out with the blog cruise. I assume you're getting e-mails because I've seen people posting articles and not one person has sent me a link. (Of course now I feel guilty for asking :( I'm bad about that.)

  4. I must say that I relate. Our TOG studies became a little disjointed for the past year or longer. Honestly, it was just plain challenging to use so many different new curricula plus get all the TOG reading and planning work done, plus get all the books checked out from the library, plus teach one to read, and have two little ones, etc!

    I actually spent at least an hour last night setting up a new week of TOG for today and was still working with it this morning when the kids got up for breakfast.

    One thought I have is, is there any way for you to network with another homeschooling mom using TOG locally? Someone you could swap some books with, who might be using a different year plan (or even a different unit)?

    A spine can also be useful, though many times those are textbooks. I have found the Joy Hakim series to be good at covering American history in a lively manner.

    Or, do you have a liberal Inter-Library Loan program at your local library? Mine does not charge for ILL, plus anything within the county is shipped to my library location within a few days if it is not checked out.

    And, I understand about you not being classical. I myself vacillate between being classical and being Charlotte Mason. I agree about the great books TOG uses to teach history--and the great Christian worldview, too. Two things which I feel are so very, very important that I persist in using TOG despite challenges. ;)

  5. Luke, I have considered switching to Sonlight or some other curriculum for the older kids only. We'd return to FIAR for the youngers, though, simply because we already own it all. Only thing is I swore to Steve that I really wasn't going to keep curriculum hopping when we made this switch. LOL!! He's a steady guy and doesn't like to curriculum hop. I'll need to really be sure of myself and make a strong case before switching again.

    Michelle, thank you for your prayers. We occasionally run into rough spots like this with TOG. We had a similar dearth of resources in WW1, but that wasn't studied for as long as WW2 has been. I don't mind combining weeks and skipping ahead at times, but I am frustrated that I feel I haven't covered this important war as well as I'd like. I could have them read from the teacher's pages, I guess, when all else fails. I've considered switching to Mystery of History for history, or combining them, but she's still writing the 20th century volume, so that doesn't help me yet. LOL!!

    Kristen, I do need to spend some time planning ahead. I've bought each child one spine. We have Story of the World we adapt for the spine for our grammar ages. I bought Complete Idiot's Guide to the 20th Century for my dialectic daughter (she still cries over that title). My oldest has The Century by Peter Jennings. We have that, at least, but they are still somewhat dry. I need to work at the projects side of it more. I'm bad about that.

    Michelle S., there aren't other TOG users in our area, as far as I know. Some Sonlight users, one FIAR user ... but mostly there are lots of Abeka users. Our homeschool group is very small. I've considered using TruthQuest, which also has good literature books and a Christian worldview ... but it doesn't cover literature and would also not work for all ages. I know it still requires finding the books, although there are lots of options and the discussion guide isn't specific to the books.

    Last year, as the Crew was ending, I struggled with whether to continue TOG or not. We decided yes and that we'd try to own more of the books in the future. I just slacked off on acquiring the books in advance, and now I'm struggling with it. LOL! I need to be more organized.

    I also need to talk to my husband about all of this.

    Thank you all for commenting, though.


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