After my last post showing our projects from our unit celebration, I received several emails asking if I could share a bit about how I fight the desire to do “everything” that Tapestry of Grace plans out. I will give it a shot.
Background: This is our fourth year using TOG…we started with year three, moved to year four, completed year one last year, and we are all the way around to year two to complete the cycle. My boys are now 15 and 13 years old so we started our TOG adventure with the boys in upper grammar/dialectic stages and have progressed so that both of them are falling squarely in the rhetoric stage this year for the first time. We have a decent library system with an inter-library loan system that works as well. I am by nature a 150% gal….I never do things half-way so TOG is a challenge to my natural inclinations.
My best tip is to read the Teaching Objectives at the beginning of each week. Skim through the different subjects and get into your mind what you actually need to cover to get the main ideas for the week. With my rhetoric level kids, I also share the objectives with them on Monday morning.
Literature: I wrote before on this blog sharing my thoughts on cutting literature to a manageable list. I do not feel as if I am wasting my money on the plan if I adjust and cut. Just because a book is in the plan, I do not feel we have to make ourselves crazy reading it if it is too much. I also try to stick to the literature selections only and not add in the literature alternate selections. We pick one or the other. We also do not use the worksheets for literature that are provided from TOG. We do the reading and then there have oral or written narration in the form of a commonplace book. If I were using the TOG plan with lower grammar students, I would do all my literature as read alouds. In the rhetoric stage, we are splitting the literature between assigned reading and free reading. I pick some of the literature to be read and discussed at the weekly Friday meetings. The rest of my list is for the boys to read during their free reading time in the evenings, on the weekend, or over any school breaks.
History: I suggest reading every book in the core history column if possible since I have found these selections to be the meat of the plan. Where I get into trouble and I think other families do too, is when we try to read the core reading and then cram in the in-depth readings every week as well. I also know that some families read the core, the in-depth, and then the textbook suggestion as well. Yikes. No wonder you are overwhelmed. I assign the accountability questions and we discuss them on Friday morning during our meeting time. At that time, we bring up the accountability questions and if they have a decent grasp on them, great. If they struggle, I pull out the teacher’s notes that I have already read over and we learn together.
Arts and Activities: I really like the suggestions that TOG gives for art and activities. One of the reasons we homeschool is to allow our family time to do *fun* stuff as well as the more academic stuff. If my boys were in the lower or upper grammar stages, I would probably take one of the books suggested and use it for the whole unit. Picking one or two projects a unit to complete is better than trying to do something each and every week and making myself crazy. When I am planning from the arts and activities section, I always turn over to the “activities” section on the last planning page as well. Combining these two sections was a revelation to me for some reason. In the rhetoric stage, I am combining both together and it is a perfect mix.
Worldview: We are not using the church history suggestions but for the rhetoric stage we are reading through the Pageant of Philosophy together during our Friday meetings.
The whole Alternate or Extra Resource page: Unless you can’t find a book on the Primary Resources page, do not pick anything from here. In my opinion, this is the page that can overwhelm and overload. Use it sparingly.
People and Timeline: One year we kept these up on our timeline and in our notebook but it was tough. The last two years I have dropped the timeline and I pick one or two people to focus on each week, according to the teaching objectives. This is an area that can be eliminated if you get overwhelmed or don’t enjoy it as a family.
Geography: Our family loves mapwork so this has been a part of every year so far. I went ahead and purchased the Map Aids CD to make my life easier. No more searching for appropriate maps or solutions. 🙂 If we were getting overwhelmed with TOG, I would eliminate geography for the week.
Miscellaneous stuff: A mom emailed me and asked for some help in using TOG with a large family. I think Tapestry of Grace is a perfect plan for a large family. Keeping your eyes on the first page of the planning pages, you can pick and choose for each of your family members. Use your library! Read as much as you can aloud and include any child that is willing to listen. Keep your sessions short and directed. Do a lot of “couch school” for history and literature. Pick a few projects per unit to do with everyone involved if possible. Keep younger children in mind as you pick your projects. Remember that even if a project is “wonderful”, if you don’t have time or energy to complete it, you need to skip it or save it for a rainy day that begs for a hands-on project. If I had a large family and we were using TOG, I wouldn’t even think about completing the lapbooks. Try to have one unit celebration during the year if you are overwhelmed with the thought of trying to have one for each unit. There have been times we just didn’t feel up to pulling something together.
I plan a unit at a time. I check my library for books, order a few new things, plan my art and music, plan a project for our unit celebration, and keep my head focused on the unit objectives. If you are in the grammar stage, you will revisit these topics and time periods again and again. Save some things for those rounds through the cycle. I am eager for next year since we will be going through year three again and I hope to include some projects and books we skipped the first time. It will make it fresh and new for the boys as well as myself.
This post is really long. I guess I had a lot to say. Please remember that this is our family’s experience with Tapestry of Grace. Every family is different but if you don’t tame the desire to do everything offered in TOG, you will not see the beauty of the plan.
I’m sure I missed something so stay tuned for posts in the future about this topic as I learn more how to curb my desire to do everything suggested as well.
Barb-Harmony Art Mom