A New School Year

We started school three weeks ago when we returned from our vacation.  A couple of weeks of break were welcome, but I like a year-round schedule so we don’t have to spend much time reviewing things and so we can take more breaks during the year when we need them.

The biggest change to our new school lineup from last semester is that we began using Tapestry of Grace.  In case you haven’t heard of it, Tapestry is a program that integrates all sorts of subjects around a four-year cycle of world history, with each cycle including assignments for all 12 grades.  I have prepped the first half of the year so far and I’m absolutely thrilled with it.  There are three key things I love about TOG:

  • It integrates subjects chronologically, because no subject exists in a vacuum.  Tapestry starts at the beginning and shows you how to study the history, literature, writing, art, music, philosophy, government, geography, and Bible/church history as it happened together in each time period.  I took a series of five classes structured this way in college and it was the most transformative educational experience I ever had–and one I have been trying to replicate for my own children.  I’m so happy to have found a way to integrate subjects like this even for younger children.  I can already see how much the kids are learning and it’s exciting to watch them make connections, plus I love being able to look at each week plan and see where we are headed in the next learning stages.
  • It includes what I like best about classical and Charlotte Mason educational ideas.  I appreciate the classical model’s emphasis on chronological history, learning levels, and studying foundational texts, and I also appreciate Charlotte Mason’s emphasis on ideas rather than just facts, using narration and picture study, and learning from living books.  Tapestry of Grace uses all of those aspects and offers great suggestions and topics for discussion and digging deeper.  Have I mentioned yet that I am in love with this program? 🙂
  • It inspires me to use more hands-on activities in our day.  We love to read.  Even though Hannah and Jack are both reading now, we still like to pile on the couch and read out loud for a long time every day.  But I have noticed that Jack especially REALLY loves to do hands-on stuff, like making models and drawing pictures and making books and acting things out.  In addition to extensive age-appropriate book lists, Tapestry also includes fabulous suggestions for art and activities that tie in to each week’s topics, including detailed instructions and pictures which are super helpful to this less-than-crafty mom.  We have done all sorts of activities so far that I would never have thought to do on my own and all of the kids have enjoyed them and learned from them.

If you aren’t familiar with Tapestry of Grace but are interested, you can learn more about it here or in the link in my sidebar.  I am a TOG affiliate, so if you do decide to purchase something from them through my link, I get a small kickback that contributes to funding the books I review on A Spirited Mind.  If you buy something and it asks for the email of the person who referred you, you can enter chgillespie {at} gmail {dot} com.  Thanks!

Other Subjects

Since it’s the beginning of a new school year sort of, I’m including a list of the other curriculum we’re using.

Hannah (6 1/2):

  • Bible: TOG and Awana
  • Reading/Spelling: Hannah is keeping a book log this year of the chapter books she reads.  She’s tearing through books now so I’m always hunting more lists of good books.  Feel free to make suggestions!  For spelling we are using Spelling Plus, and I’m making my own worksheets for her to do her spelling copy work in cursive.  I feel like this kills several birds with one stone.
  • Writing: Hannah is keeping a notebook of People of the Ancient World and adds a page for each major person we study, along with a few sentences about him or her.  She is still working through First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind Book 2 and has a section in her school binder for pages on each part of speech she learns, its definition, and its function.  She does the copy work associated with FLL.
  • History: TOG (main and supplementary book lists for lower and upper grammar levels), Story of the World, activities
  • Literature: TOG book lists, plus read alouds we do as a group including daily poetry, Aesop’s Fables, fairy tales, etc.
  • Science: We’re still working in Apologia Astronomy, reading Pagoo (about ocean life), and reading the Burgess Flower Book for nature study.
  • Art/Music: TOG includes suggestions for picture and art study related to the topics and time periods studied each week, and we’re also incorporating lots of art projects.  Hannah takes piano lessons, and we use a variety of books about music.
  • Latin: This year we’re doing Prima Latina again, but Hannah is doing a lot more copy work associated with it, and also taking the weekly tests.
  • Math: Hannah is still working in Saxon 2, and we’re also reading through the Life of Fred series and doing daily flashcard work.
  • Geography: Each week of Tapestry of Grace comes with Map work so the students (and parents!) can learn the geography associated with the other subjects.  We trace the maps, use them as reference, and color and fill in blank copies each week.

 Jack (5)

  • Bible: TOG and Awana
  • Reading: Jack is reading one reader-type book aloud to me every day and keeping a book log of what he has read.
  • Writing: Jack is keeping a People of the Ancient World notebook too, but he only copies the person’s name and then colors a picture.  He does some copy work.
  • History: TOG and Story of the World
  • Literature: TOG, daily reading of poetry, Aesop, fairy tales, etc.
  • Science: Apologia Astronomy, Pagoo, Burgess Bird Book
  • Art/Music: picture and art study, music books, art projects
  • Latin: Prima Latina, but with less of the copy work
  • Math: Saxon 1 part 2, Life of Fred, daily flashcard work
  • Geography: Map work as above

Sarah (3 1/2)

  • Sarah is along for the ride and listens to all of the TOG reading from the other kids’ history, literature, art, etc, plus our daily read alouds of poetry and Aesop and fairy tales, science, and whatever else.  She also does the art projects and science projects the other kids do.
  • I try to include some purely preschool books every day for Sarah: Mother Goose, great books for little kids (no twaddle) and things like that.  I know I don’t read as many of these to her as I did to the others, but the others didn’t know anything about ancient Mesopotamia or Latin like Sarah does, so maybe it all balances out.
  • I have a box of things Sarah can do while the other kids do schoolwork, but she mostly likes to draw and practice writing her name.  I did get one set of numbers flashcards so she can play the flashcard game too.  This she proudly refers to as “becoming a mathematician” which I guess it is since we all have to start somewhere.

I’m planning to post more this semester on the interesting things we’re doing for school (mostly as my own impetus to actually do those interesting things) so stay tuned.

This post is linked up at the (Not) Back-to-School Blog Hop.  Check out other school-related posts at the link below:
Not Back to School Blog Hop


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  

15 thoughts on “A New School Year

  1. I have never used TOG, but I have heard really good things about it! Looks like you have a well planned year. Praying your year is filled with smiles, giggles and tons of fun learning!

  2. I’m glad to hear your thoughts on Tapestry of Grace. One of our pastor’s wives uses it in her homeschool and I was intrigued when I heard about it. She was the only one I knew who used it, until now. I need to get my hands on it sometime. My son is only 3.5, but I am formulating homeschool thoughts and plans all the time.

    1. Bethany, I have looked at Tapestry several times over the years and was never sure it would really work for us. I think in years past it probably would not have, but it is great this year when Hannah and Jack are on pretty much an elementary school level. I think it was important for us to have a solid preschool foundation of good books and practice with listening and paying attention, and it helps that the kids were already in the groove of writing and reading and math before starting TOG. I’m not sure I would recommend starting it until your oldest is elementary aged, but since that is the stage we’re in now, we’re really loving it. I’ll post more on it as we go, and maybe that will help you too. Let me know if you have any specific questions and maybe I can address them in future posts.

  3. I’m so grateful for all your information on homeschooling. As we get closer, I always think of your blog as one of the resources I’ll go to for a jumping off point in figuring out what we will do. TOG sounds like a fantastic program where real history comes alive and clicks for children. I can only guess how much I myself would learn as history is an incredibly weak spot in my education.

    1. Alicia, it really is amazing how much there is to learn! That’s something I love about homeschooling too. I feel like I have a fairly strong history background, but I’m still learning a ton. For example, this year we’re studying the ancient world, and I also happen to be reading in Genesis for my personal Bible reading. It continues to amaze me how much more I’m getting out of Genesis this time through just because of the learning we have done in the past three weeks! I’m doing some extra reading of my own to give me more background to teach the kids, and I’ll post more on that sometime soon too.

  4. I love the Burgess Animal Book and Burgess Bird Book, but can’t bring myself to shell out the dough for the Burgess Flower Book (as it’s out of print and quite pricey). How did you manage to come upon your copy? I didn’t even realize it existed until you posted about it in an earlier post.

  5. Hi! Just found your blog thru My friend Sheila at A Deliberate Reader! Love all your doing here! (Im a bookworm, but probably don’t read as much as you! I’d love to get better at reviews and post those more often!) I’m homeschooling my oldest in K this year, but now you’ve really got me interested in TOG for the future! I’m a fan of the classical and CM methods too. With a 3 yr old and new baby coming in March maybe TOG would work for us next year instead of piecing things like I am this year.

    1. Hi Sarah, I’m glad you found A Spirited Mind! I think TOG works well with kids of different ages, and I’m also glad we waited to start it until our oldest was in 1st. I had looked at it before, but didn’t think it would work as well with just little ones. I’m glad we took several years mostly focusing on reading aloud and basics, because developing that habit of attention has really served us well with TOG this year. We have a new baby coming in April, so maybe next year I’ll do a bunch of posts on how to do TOG with a baby in tow! 🙂

      1. Congratulations on the new baby coming!! Thanks for the tip on waiting for TOG. Aaron turned 5 last month so by most public school standards he wouldn’t even be kindergarten yet. We are only doing a very relaxed light version of K so I thought about even doing a more official version of K next year. Maybe by his ‘official’ 1st grade year he could have the basics under his belt better… And the baby would be a tad older. (Yes I’d love a series on doing TOG with a baby around!) he’s not super interested in ‘school’ stuff so it keeps me on my toes to make if interesting or to back off the intensity I had planned.

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