Monday, March 30, 2009

Tapestry of Grace DE Review

Buzz, buzz! I’ve long heard buzzing about Tapestry of Grace, but hadn’t had the chance to check it out. I recently got the opportunity to check out one unit of the new digital edition (DE) via the TOS Crew. Did ToG live up to its hype? Well, yes and no. Huh? Read on for my pros and cons.

First, the pros: Tapestry of Grace is a thorough, classical, biblical, literature-based, multi-level, reusable curriculum covering several subjects (history, geography, literature, church history, and even philosophy—for older students). It follows a four-year history cycle in four different levels—lower and upper grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. As you go through it, your children will cover each historical time period three times at different levels over the course of their schooling. What else do you get? A PLETHORA of information each week on the people, events, and time periods being covered (think major encyclopedia articles), a thread covering the main emphasis and general overview for the week, a weekly reading assignment chart divided by levels, student activity pages, and discussion questions (with answers for you!) for older students. ToG provides writing assignments, teacher’s notes, art studies and activities, vocabulary words, timeline suggestions, activity suggestions, and more. You also get access to ToG’s Loom, an online area featuring many extras for additional learning and additional helpful topics. You also get access to their very active forums where you can interact with veteran ToG users, newbies, support tech, and even the author herself on occasion.

We previewed Year 3, Unit 1, Napoleon’s World. Since we haven’t covered that particular era yet, it was interesting to read more about this famous historical person. Unfortunately, our large library (including ILL) did not carry any of the suggested books. We were able to get other books on Napoleon, but weren’t able to complete the literature guide questions. In order for my kids to get the general information, I had them do research on our World Book Encyclopedia CD-ROM, instead of printing off tons of pages from the DE or having them take over my laptop (what would I do then??). I skimmed through some of it, but there was an overwhelming amount of information each week.

Additional resources available for purchase include Map Aids, Evaluations, Pop Quiz, Lap Book packs, and Writing Aids. We used the Map Aids, which had every conceivable type of map for the time period we were studying. The Map Aids were provided to TOG by Knowledge Quest. There were blank maps for students and filled-in maps for moms. While they were a bit tedious to download, they did save me lots of time searching for just the right map for each lesson. The Map Aids are a great resource for making sure you cover geography thoroughly. I like being able to integrate geography with history instead of making it a whole separate subject.

Okay, now for the cons. First of all, although I know many people prefer having the digital format, I found it very difficult to navigate and to get a feel for how the program worked. For each week, there are over sixty pages of information!! Personally, that’s way too much to print or to read online. Also, it was hard to get the whole flow and scope of the program without having it all printed. As I mentioned above, there was a lot of information about each person/event/time period, but I either had to read it to my kids (they’re too old to enjoy that much information being read to them), or print it all out. It takes a MAJOR time commitment from the mom/teacher in order to prepare for each week. It’s difficult to find all of the books in the library. Another drawback is the price, especially considering that it only covers the teacher’s materials and student activity pages. All of the extras (maps, writing aids, review aids, lap books, etc.) are additional—not to mention buying at least some of the main books you’ll need to read throughout the year. Each year plan costs $170 for a year in DE and $225 for a year in the printed format. That’s really not enough of a difference to make me want to buy the DE version. They just rolled out a new option where you can get both the DE and printed versions of the year plan, but I can’t find the price (about $100 more than the DE alone, I think). It would cost at least that much to print it yourself, so it might be worth it to go that route if you like the idea of having the information on your computer, too.

Go check out Tapestry of Grace for yourself. You can download a FREE three-week trial to see how easy the download process is and all the reasons your friends are excited about Tapestry of Grace. You’ll find a lot of FREE helpful information there, too.