Using Classical Conversations with Tapestry of Grace

A couple of readers asked about how we use Classical Conversations (CC) with Tapestry of Grace (TOG).  Obviously one of the great things about home education is that you can tailor what you do to fit the needs and levels of your children, and the priorities of your family.  But since the question was posed, and since I was googling for similar answers a couple of years ago, I’ll explain my approach.

First off, you should know that people define terms differently.

Some people very devoutly use CC as a curriculum, and define “classical education” as “learn lots of facts in elementary school.”  We aren’t in that camp.  I don’t use CC as a curriculum at all, because it’s not comprehensive enough for what I want to do with my kids’ education, and my definition of classical education leans more toward the Charlotte Mason side, in that I prioritize ideas, careful and in-depth reading, connections, and integration of ideas across subjects.  TOG is a chronological study that links subjects together as they happened in time.  I find that invaluable.  It’s also a literature- and living books-based curriculum, which is another priority for me.  Those things aren’t crucial for everyone, but if they are for you, you should know that you won’t get that from CC without putting in a lot of additional time and effort.

We use CC as enrichment–pegs of knowledge that help us with structure and augment our memory work.

We were in a CC group for two years, and I tutored both years, so I got into the swing of how to present material in an engaging way and help kids to memorize it.  Now that we’re doing CC at home, I use that background to help my own kids learn the material that I think is relevant, which is not all of it.  I’ve seen the history songs help kids put things in context, and we are really using the geography this year.  Skip counting is a huge math help, and the CC Cycle 2 science facts are very useful if you’re willing to augment with other books to go in-depth (I have not found that to be true of all of the science in the other cycles).  Some of the grammar is great, like knowing the eight parts of speech, while other points are not relevant to us right now and I plan to tackle them when we get to them in our grammar studies.

The thing about CC is that you need to put in the effort to link the fact to something.

We have limited memory time, and frankly I think it’s more important to learn poetry and Scripture that will influence the way the kids understand language and appreciate beauty rather than knowing a list of types of pronouns out of context.  I know that there are families who use CC and go in-depth on every subject every week.  I give props to them but I don’t have time to design my own curriculum from scratch, so I like that TOG does it for me.  There are also families who stick to just memorizing the CC facts week by week and trust that later on they will start to apply the facts to ideas.  However, I’ve seen kids make connections and understand sophisticated ideas as three and four year olds, so I don’t see any reason to wait on that, and what we enjoy most about school is reading together and applying what we’ve learned.

So we use CC as a supplement to TOG.

I’ve read of people who use TOG as a supplement to CC, but that seems backwards to me.  TOG is a much more comprehensive and richer resource, so if you use it to supplement CC you’ll be skipping around a lot in history and missing a lot in between.  However, I can see doing that if you’re really committed to a CC community and don’t like doing a lot of reading.

Ultimately, it comes down to YOUR priorities and definitions.

I think it’s worth spending time figuring out what your goals and priorities are and how you’ll define your terms.  They can shift over time (mine do anyway!) but as we go I find that the more clearly I’ve articulated a goal, the better I am at picking a curriculum or approach that will work, and the less time I spend thinking “wow, this is really not working for us for some reason.”  It’s a process, but the adage “if you aim at nothing, you’ll always hit it” really applies in this case.

Please note: I don’t intend this post as a knock on CC at all.  We loved our CC community and know lots of families we respect who use the program.  Like all things, it has its limitations, and it’s an expensive investment so I think it’s worth knowing what you’re getting into and carefully thinking through what you want to get out of it before you commit.  While I don’t know if we will do CC with a group again, I do think we will continue to use the memory work as a supplement in the future.

10 thoughts on “Using Classical Conversations with Tapestry of Grace

  1. Reading this post again…we were recently deciding whether to start CC in the fall for Ezra (he will be 5), but decided to wait a year and do kindergarten at home. After all, it’s just kindergarten and there is a good bit we can do at home to continue what we’ve been doing this year.

    Your post is helpful though because I do want to have a classical approach to homeschooling, and need to do some more study of whether CC (for the cost) is worth adding or if something like TOG would still accomplish the aspects of classical education that I appreciate (and did not have for my own education). I greatly desire being in some sort of group for friendship for my kids and fellowship for myself. There is a local Christian homeschooling group that takes kids in 1st grade, and that would be a sort of enrichment activity.

    We actually attended an open house this morning for CC, and I’m guessing each tutor is going to be different, and each director is going to be different. I can’t recall how long this CC group has been running; perhaps 2-3 years. I didn’t LOVE it. There is one other location I plan to visit in May.

    I’m somewhat disciplined in life, but it will take me some time to become disciplined and in a groove with a more academic homeschool once 1st and 2nd grade arrives. I do think I will have a relaxed and flexible approach to our school days. Do you have any particular advice if I desire a 1) classical education, 2) one event a week for friendship & activity for all of us with other homeschooling families and 3) help in framing and forming a curriculum if we opt not do something like CC.

    1. Alicia, have you looked at Tapestry Primer? It’s a new product designed for JUST the situation you describe. I haven’t looked at it in person, but I downloaded samples and think it looks really great. You can read about it and download free samples on the Tapestry website. (http://www.tapestryofgrace.com/company/products/newproducts.php -not an affiliate link) Primer looks like a great overview if your oldest kids are early elementary and you’re easing into things.

      Honestly, I think CC is a very expensive group if you’re just looking for fellowship. I’d recommend taking this coming year and just making lots of time for playdates and coffee meetups with other women, and then joining the co-op group you mentioned when Ezra is old enough.

      From a classical education perspective, again this comes down to definitions. CC is classical in that it involves memorizing stuff when children are young. But beyond that, it’s not chronological or comprehensive, it’s not detailed or integrated in terms of subjects, and it doesn’t equip families to dive deeply. It just gives some bones (with many major bones excluded entirely). It can be very helpful to have those bones, and many families I respect do create a robust education built on CC, but it takes a lot of work to do that. And again, it’s very expensive for what it is.

      There are several classical curricula that meet more of my definition of a classical education, and you can evaluate those from online research or at a homeschool convention (Veritas, Classical Academic Press, Memoria, Ambleside Online, Simply Charlotte Mason, etc). You can also feel out your own philosophy of education when it comes to classical things by reading books like The Well Trained Mind, Latin-Centered Curriculum, etc. So far I’ve found Tapestry of Grace to be the most flexible and reasonably priced option for meeting the needs of my family, but certainly it’s not the only option or best for every family!

      I hope this helps, and please keep me posted on what you decide and how it goes!

        1. Just want to comment again that I read through this yet again! haha. I really value all you have stored on your blog for homeschooling parents. I’ve been loving more and more of Charlotte Mason as I keep digging into her stuff and reading the companion book. That is closest to the philosophy that clicks with me so far, and I indeed plan to take a close look at TOG this year to see if that might be a good complement for comprehensive learning over the years. Thanks for the recommendation for the TOG primer.

  2. We will be starting our 3rd year with TOG next year (Year 4). We love it. I have 10 and 12 year old boys. I do wish I had more of a structure for memory work, however. I’ve never been part of a CC community. How can I use CC memory materials and techniques to enhance my TOG studies. What are the top CC resources you would recommend to get me started?

    1. Two things I think are helpful in the CC memory work are that certain things are set to songs and some of those things are helpful to memorize. I suppose the main question would be, how do your particular kids like to memorize? Do they like singing? If they aren’t into that, or if they are sort of past the age of liking little ditties, the CC work would be no more helpful to them than any other memory list. Another question would be, what do you WANT them to memorize? I don’t use all of the CC memory work because I don’t find that it’s comprehensive or even always helpful. But I do think it’s helpful to know the states and capitols, the Presidents, skip counting, some of the timeline, and some of the history statements. You could look online for used CDs of the memory work, or perhaps on YouTube. I think CC as an organization frowns on selling used CC components because I rarely see it listed.

      If you’re not that into singing, you might try a more Charlotte Mason approach to memory work, such as is described on the website http://www.simplycharlottemason.com. That’s more of the way we memorize Bible passages, poetry, and Shakespeare.

  3. Thank you so much for this post! My son and I are part of a CC community, but also use Tapestry of Grace as our main history/literature curriculum. I agree CC is very expensive, especially if it’s used as only a supplement; but so far the fellowship and “pegs” of knowledge we have gained have made it worth while.

  4. I will be in a CC community this fall, but I LOVE TOG and was thinking of doing then together, but I am also thinking it’s a bit ambitious. CC is 3 cycles, cycle 3 is this fall and TOG is 4 years, how do I go about syncing them up??

    1. The short answer is that it depends on your goals. Tapestry is a comprehensive, chronological curriculum. CC is not comprehensive or, in many cases, chronological. So I use CC statements as a supplement to Tapestry. When we run across an event or person from a CC statement, we remember that fact like a peg. If you tried to make CC and TOG fit together perfectly, you’d be in for a lot of work, would have to skip a ton of TOG, and skip around in multiple year plans. I have seen some of that on the internet, but I assume those moms burn out quickly. For our family, the goal is chronological, comprehensive study. Other families have different goals, and that is fine! The families I know who successfully use TOG while being part of CC groups don’t even try to synchronize the two, they just view them as two separate things. That might be more conducive to sanity in the long run!

  5. Thank for your explaining the differences! I use TOG and most of my friends do CC (which I hadn’t heard of until a couple of years ago…) I’m really happy with TOG, but they often ask me to join the CC co-op. This really helps me to see that my choice to stick with TOG is best for my family (I like having it all planned out, but with some flexibility.) and that CC is not going to work for us. I definitely lean toward a Charlotte Mason approach, but needed something that would work for 6 kids of all ages. Tapestry is exactly what I need. I feel like I can better explain to my CC friends why TOG works for us after reading this. Thanks!
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