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.


Sonlight Review

History did not start with Columbus. The western hemisphere is not the only one on the planet. Missionaries from past centuries have present-day applications. Use the Sonlight Core 5 Eastern Hemisphere curriculum to unlock the mysteries of the Eastern Hemisphere and to instill a life-long interest in missions in your children.

Sonlight’s literature-based approach uses real books to inspire your children’s imaginations. Expect the textbooks to get dusty! Conversations replace worksheets and prepare your child for the dialectic discussions you’ll have in a few years. Sonlight is “the way you wish you’d been taught.” Adventure and excitement await you in your explorations of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Over sixty books are included (divided into history/geography, read-aloud, and reader categories). The books include classics such as The Hobbit and Around the World in Eighty Days, biographies of great missionaries such as Hudson Taylor and Mary Slessor, and books to capture your child’s interest in the Eastern Hemisphere such as Ships, Sailors, and the Sea and Teresa of Calcutta. My kids had dibs on half the books before I finished putting together the Instructor’s Guide!

If you’re into notebooking, you will love the complete portfolio your child will make using the Eastern Hemisphere Student Exploration Pages (answer key included). The 2008 World Book Deluxe Encyclopedia (for the computer) is its recommended resource. My daughter did not enjoy researching the different questions and had a hard time finding some of the answers, but that could be because she doesn’t enjoy research in general. The Exploration Pages are a wonderful tool to explore the geography, cultures, religions, background, leaders, and more of the major countries in the Eastern Hemisphere. You can do as much or as little of them as you wish.

One of the best features of the Sonlight Core 5 program is that the lesson plans are already done—a real timesaver. It will take you several days to read through the information and to figure out how the program works, but it is worth it. Another feature I appreciated was the ability to choose between a four-day and a five-day schedule (you do have to choose for the whole year, not one week at a time). The extremely comprehensive Instructor’s Guide advises you through every step in the process from setting up your three-inch binder (a bit intimidating at first) to knowing which questions to ask when (and the answers!). Far more material is included than most people would use in a year, but think of it as an all-you-can-eat buffet: choose what fits best with your family and leave the rest.

Sonlight’s Web site offers newsletters, articles, and e-mails to help you teach more effectively. They also offer an exclusive forum designed to make available 24-hour contact with fellow parents and experts. If you purchase the complete Core curriculum (Instructor’s Guide, all the books and other resources—about $650), you will get ten percent off of all your purchases for a whole year, and enjoy other exclusive benefits. Not sure it’s for you? Sonlight offers a 100% money-back guarantee—for eighteen weeks! Sonlight is a complete curriculum experience. We especially enjoyed studying the Middle Eastern country where a family member is currently serving the Lord.


The Little Man in the Map Review

The Little Man in the Map, by E. Andrew Martonyi, illus. by Ed Olson, Schoolside Press

“Geography that’s fun to learn and easy to remember!” Really? Yes, really! The Little Man in the Map uses cute rhyming stories with coordinating pictures to help kids remember the placement of the states.

WOW!!!!!! My kids knew basically where some of the states are (such as the one in which we live and the ones in which the grandparents live), but certainly not the location of every state. When I first saw The Little Man in the Map, I thought it would be too immature for my kids (ages 10 and 13) since it’s written in a cartoon style. My 10 year old snatched it right out of my hands, then returned twenty minutes later with the location of every state memorized! It even passed my 13 year old’s “coolness” test. Wait! There’s more! Schoolside Press’s Web site offers 2 FREE coloring pages to download. They also offer a large (38 x 22 in.), colorful wall map for $21.95 to reinforce the state names and go along with the book.

If you are teaching United States geography, go straight to the Schoolside Press Web site to purchase The Little Man in the Map! It is worth every penny of the $19.95 you’ll spend.