TOG: Using Just the Book List?

I have been participating in an on-going email discussion with a mom who is interested in TOG but can’t decide if buying the plans are worth the money if you can work from the book list shared on the Tapestry of Grace website. I thought about it for exactly three seconds before I replied. Here is what I wrote her to answer her question.

Dear Friend,

I can’t imagine trying to recreate my own schedule without the plans from TOG. TOG is so much more than a schedule of books.

Planning: I just got done planning for the week with my boys and we used the first page of the notes (General Information page) to introduce our topics for the week. The books weave the topics into their reading. They are able to tie the main ideas into their reading both in literature and history. This helps with their narrations and writing assignments. If you want to use the student pages from TOG, they are all there waiting for you to pick and choose how to use them with your family. I sometimes assign the accountability questions to be discussed at our Friday meetings. This saves me from having to read every book they read. The Teacher’s notes are so thorough that I have not had to keep up with their reading but we still have great Socratic discussions on Fridays because I can read the summaries and World Book accounts that are included in TOG.

Writing: TOG also includes great writing suggestions which I use without the Writing Aids CD but instead use them as jumping off points and suggestions for the boys to use as written narrations each week.

Living Book Experience: In the Rhetoric level, I have thoroughly enjoyed the Pageant of Philosophy information which is hard to explain until you have it in your hands. Basically, it is a play built around a character named Simplicio that meets different real people from history and the TOG pages share the discussion that Simplicio and the historical character have. Much of what the historical characters say in these plays are direct quotes from their own writings. We read it as a reader’s theater on Friday’s as part of our meeting. These sorts of insights into various historical characters have given us a sort of “living book” experience.

Buffet of choices: Also, the TOG plans include activities, vocabulary, geography assignments, art and music appreciation suggestions, timeline information, and suggestions for unit celebration activities. I am sure you could use the book list and make your own plans but that would take a lot more energy than I am willing to put into it. Besides, I could never recreate the experience of the weekly discussions without the Teacher’s Notes.

I know that many families using CM just let their children read and narrate and they never participate in a discussion. For our family, those discussions are the highlight of our week.

Vary our approach week by week: I also am the kind of person that likes to pick and choose what we do each week since my boys learn in different ways. Some weeks we read, narrate, and discuss. Some weeks we make maps from the geography assignments instead of written narration. Some weeks we focus on literature and the boys recite a passage from their reading. Sometimes I like to jump down to the Dialectic level and read a book. We are doing that this week and reading an additional book from the lower level just for fun.

Anyway, a very long email to say that would not have been the same experience without the plans on paper right in front of me. The books would be dry bones by themselves.


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