Supplement Highlight: Evaluations

Tapestry of Grace offers a wonderful Evaluations packet for those who want to use tests and quizzes with their students.When you use a whole book based program that emphasizes discussion, your kids get a wonderful, rich education. But sometimes it helps them to have a way to show what they have learned. This is where we offer Evaluations for each level. This set of tests, quizzes, and exams are custom designed for each learning level of Tapestry students. These tests help you to see how much content of each lesson your children are absorbing, and can also help solidify the things they have already learned.

At the Grammar levels, the evaluations are cumulative, usually covering a few weeks at a time, where the topics have been focused on the same theme. For instance, the first three weeks of year 1 covers Egypt. So the cumulative quiz asks questions about the Pyramids, Mummies and Pharaoh, all of which were covered in those three weeks.

Evaluations at the grammar levels consist of True\False quizzes, oral quizzes, and for the Upper Grammar students, the occasional short answer questions. For all the quizzes, there are answers keys and grading guides for the teacher.

Tapestry of Grace offers a wonderful Evaluations packet for those who want to use tests and quizzes with their students.

If you want to adapt them for multiple uses, other families have also used the quiz questions to create history sentences for memory work, or they use the questions and answers to have simple copy work for their younger students.

At the Dialectic and Rhetoric Levels, Evaluations are weekly. They include short answer questions and essay questions for your student to answer. In addition to the weekly questions, there is also a review guide for the unit and a unit exam. Not only is History covered, but there is also a unit Literature test, so you can be sure your student is learning the important literature terms.

At the upper levels, we provide you, the teacher, with the tools to figure out how to best determine a grade for your student when you review their short answers or essays.

Evaluations is a fabulous tool to provide you with another way to help your student get all the benefits from the learning tools Tapestry provides!

We have a coupon for 20% off Evaluations through October 31st!

The Buddy System: A Simple Co-op can Help your Homeschool

Buddy systems benefit your homeschool

I absolutely love our co-op. It gives structure and accountability to my school week, keeping me on track. Because of the co-op, we actually do hands-on activities and science experiments! I also receive refreshment and encouragement from being with others who are on the same homeschooling journey. Finally, the older students in my co-op get weekly discussion time and the little ones get a play date!

From all the benefits we receive, you would think I belong to a huge co-op, right? The reality is that my family meets regularly with one other family—and yet we still benefit so much!

Although it is a small co-op, we want to be sure we are well-positioned to reap all the benefits I mentioned previously. So, my friend, Stephanie (the other mom in our co-op) start our co-op planning with a brief discussion during the summer. We talk about what worked and didn’t work the previous year, decide what subjects we want to cover, and what day of the week we want to meet. Since it is just the two of us, I’m pretty sure we discussed it while at the pool together and we may have finalized plans after church.

Because I live near our area’s larger stores and I love doing the planning, I coordinate all the history activities for our two families. Stephanie and I take turns preparing science experiments. In co-op, we give a general overview of the writing assignments, but each parent oversees her children’s writing during the week. When projects are done the kids get to present them to the co-op, which is their favorite part!

My husband, Mike, works from home, so he takes a long lunch break to have a discussion time with our group’s two Dialectic students. The boys love having a guy lead their History discussion … not to mention the coffee and snacks they get to have during discussion time!

Hands-on learning activities that might not happen at home have become one of our biggest priorities for our weekly class time! Both families have kinesthetic learners who need projects to help them learn. Since Stephanie and I want our kids to connect with each time period they study and we know that one of the best ways to help make those connections is through hands-on projects, we only choose projects that we feel are fun enough and unique enough to be truly worthwhile. Simple worksheets or cutting-and-pasting projects have their place, but for our weekly meeting we want the projects to be something we wouldn’t necessarily do at home and that engages the kids in the life of the time period. It doesn’t hurt if the crafts are edible, as these candy “succahs” were!We love doing a co-op together!

During these times, the kids get to show off the things they are learning and present papers to a “class.” They are at the age where they love to talk about what they learned and read the papers they wrote. They also love the feeling of competition, and the camaraderie of working on the same projects as their friends. Even with just our two families, our students benefit from this opportunity!

This all sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? That is partly because I haven’t written about all of our failures. Even coming on the heels of some fantastic weeks, we have had other the weeks where nothing was planned, kids had to miss the meeting last minute so that we only had the littles at co-op, or we were tired and decided that kids playing outside was a good enough activity for the day.

Not only have we had unplanned days, but also there have been some crafts that the kids just did not like, or that did not seem to help them make any history connections. We have had some crafting fails where the instructions we followed did not create the picture seen on Pinterest! But in all of this, even the failures, the benefits of trying activities and having a learning time together has benefited our homeschool.

Although Stephanie and I started our co-op for academic reasons, one of our very favorite parts of this weekly time is our “mom coffee time.” After all the crafts and projects are done, we send the kids off to play in the backyard while Stephanie and I sit, drink coffee, and talk. Having that “mom” time where we encourage one another, share struggles from the past week, and get fresh inspiration for the next week brings such refreshment. Each time, I feel more motivated to continue on in my tasks, especially in homeschooling, knowing that I have another friend beside me who is persevering in the same way.

This co-op “buddy system” has benefited my girls. they have had more focused learning activities and have enjoyed the fun of doing school with friends. But, it has also benefited me just as much to have a friend walking beside me on the journey. I am so grateful we started this co-op together!

For some of you, a truly local group is hard to find! If that is you, here are some creative ways to add that bit of community and schedule accountability to your life:

  1. Consider joining an online co-op. We know of Tapestry users even as far away as New Zealand who are happily participating in some of our online co-ops. If you are interested in this, contact us for contact information.
  2. If you have a co-op that you would like to join, but that is a little too far away, speak to the leaders in that group and see if you might be able to join them every other week, or even one week out of four. We know of families who have found that this is enough to provide some community and help them stay on track!
  3. On an even smaller scale, if you have friends who homeschool, or if you belong to a homeschool support network that can help you to find other homeschoolers in your general region, see if you can set up a few trips or field days throughout the year. For instance, if you live in Illinois and another homeschooling family lives in North Carolina, you might meet in the middle in Kentucky for a special weekend trip to visit a museum!  We have seen these trips go well and help to build community.

Highlighting Supplements: Map Aids

How to use Map Aids to learn geography in a simple wayTeaching Geography intimidated me. I assumed there is some magical formula to make sure kids learned land forms and countries, but since I wasn’t privy to those secrets I was going to ruin my kids’ education.

Then I began to do Tapestry’s Map Aids. I was amazed at how simple it was to include geography as my kids were studying history. And it made so much sense to me that they would learn their geography by seeing where historical events were taking place. I also enjoy that my little one can do a coloring project, but my older students will be doing more in depth studies on the geography of a particular area.

Map Aids comes as a download with a set of student maps, for the student to draw locations and land forms, and a teacher’s map that gives you the answers. If you want more in depth studies, the Student Activity Pages also includes other places to note in their reading and things to look for on an atlas.

In our home, we use Map Aids to keep our geography very simple. After looking at the location that we are learning about on a globe, we pull out the Map Aids student maps and have fun with it.

  • I keep a stock of glitter glue to trace the boundaries of the countries and land forms. An older student could also use it to show the location of capitals or the continents.Using Tapestry's Map Aids, trace a map using glitter glue
  • I make sure we have fun markers to color in countries, rivers or deserts.Using Tapestry's Map Aids, color in the countries to learn their locations
  • Some days we use tracing paper to trace each country or continent. Kids love tracing things!Using Tapestry's Map Aids, the kids love using tracing paper to learn the boundaries of Africa
  • Using a cork board, we use pins to show a place, mark a city, or just outline the country and rivers. The kids love outlining a country and rivers using pins!

Map Aids has made our geography so simple, but has helped our children make great connections as they are studying history. If you want to get a sample of one of our maps, download a world and continents map!

Get a coupon for 20% off Map Aids or Evaluations until October 31st!

5 Ways to Create a Reading Culture in your family

Here are five ways to create a culture of reading and learning in your familyAs parents, we are constantly hearing about how we want to create a culture of reading in our families. Someone talks about the magical time he has reading to his children while snuggled into bed, or the two hours she spend reading to her little one. I think, “I would love to have that culture, but I would fall asleep reading in bed, and there is no way my little one is going to sit still longer than 30 minutes!”

A culture of reading can feel like a vague notion that seems too hard to achieve. But, then I started to realize what everyone truly means when they talk about a culture of reading. A culture of reading means that learning is valued by parents. It also means that we fill our home with learning materials, including lots of wonderful books. If we as parents value learning and provide the materials that make learning possible, then we will be able to create that culture, no matter how well anyone sits still!

Here are some of the things that we done used to incorporate a culture of reading in our home.

Choose Good Books

I interacted with a wonderful mom one convention who wanted to buy Primer because although her daughter was still young, she wanted to use Primer as a book list. She said that since she was going to read aloud anyway, she wanted to be able to have excellent recommendations on hand that would be well-written and beautiful read alouds. I admired that foresight and wished I had thought of that idea when my girls were little! It would have saved me a lot of worry about finding high quality books at the library when they were little, and I may have escaped the hundreds of times I had to read Llama Llama Red Pajama!

Tapestry provides so many wonderful book choices. If you are looking for a simple booklist, we have a curated list for you! These books include many classics and have also introduced our family to some new favorites. We suggest read alouds to go along with your week of study, but I have also heard of many families who take one of the literature selections and use that for a read aloud.

On top of high quality classics that we enjoy as a family, we also have some family favorites. Most will never reach great intellectual heights, but we delight in the humor of Jeeves and Wooster, and the silliness of the comics of Asterix and Obelix. We have giggled at the antics of Bruno and Boots in This Can’t be happening at Macdonald Hall, and enjoyed the adventures of Curious George. All of these books have helped to bring our family together.

Make time to read to yourself

Your kids will imitate what you do. I realized this one day when my daughter asked me to help her find Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen on an audiobook. I love Jane Austen, and Pride and Prejudice is my favorite of her books. I have a habit of reading short parts of favorite books during lunch, and I tend to re-read that book over and over again. I never thought much about it but it made an impression on my daughter. She decided that if I liked it that much then she wanted to listen to it too. When I model reading it not only helps me develop more interests, it also encourages my kids to read books as well.

Read aloud as a family

My husband excels at including reading in our family time. He will pick up a book that he thinks the girls will like and starts to read a chapter aloud. Soon they are immersed in the book and beg for more chapters every night. But, even when they are fascinated by the story, there are still interruptions. So, we set our expectations low and know that we will need to stop reading to answer a question. A common statement is, “Daddy, pause it!” when the four year old needs to make a rapid dash to the bathroom, but doesn’t want to miss any of the story. We also encourage quiet hands-on activities, like coloring or Legos, during this time. Somehow, when the girls are doing something with their hands, they focus on the story better.

Along with our evening chapter books, I have also tried to read picture books regularly to my four year old during the day. I started to do this because one day I realized that I had not been reading to her all the wonderful picture books that I had read to her older sisters, because my older girls now wanted chapter books or I was reading our history books aloud instead. I set up a simple plan where I would lay out three picture books that I wanted to read to my littlest one. It never failed that she would come and start to look at the books by herself, then quickly turn to me and ask me to read them to her. Somehow this little trick worked and I read aloud books at her level much more.

Audiobooks are amazing!

I am not an auditory person. I get distracted by a lot of noise and barely think to put music on in our house. But, my eight year old loves to listen to audiobooks. She has a story constantly running as she colors, does her math, or cleans her room. She delights in listening to books that are still a bit too hard for her to read to herself, and audiobooks keep up with her insatiable appetite for read alouds! We try to find a few at the library when we get books, but has lots of free options as well.

Stop reading boring books

When my oldest daughter first started to read chapter books on her own, she would either reject the book by looking at its front cover, or start it and think she had to finish it even if it bored her. I taught her that she should try books that might not grab her at first, but if the book does not interest her, there is nothing wrong with putting it away and going onto a different book.  As an adult, I don’t force myself to read a boring book “for pleasure” when there are so many other fun options. I want to teach her the delight of finding new favorites. Books you read on your own time should be fun!

I follow the same rule when I pick a book to read aloud to the girls. I try to pick one that I am excited about reading. I will make time for a book that interests me too, rather than one I think I should read because someone added it to a list called, “educated people must read.”

A reading culture has helped our children to love to learn and to see value in reading. It has also encouraged close family relationships. Each child has different academic gifts and passions, but the love of a good story or read-aloud time is strong in all of them. I am confident that by continuing in these five things, we will continue to create a home filled with a love of reading and learning.

If you want to get some wonderful read aloud suggestions, see the books Tapestry recommends here!

Year 1 Read-alouds

Year 2 Read-alouds

Year 3 Read-alouds

Year 4 Read-alouds

Highlighting Supplements: Planning Aids

Planning Aids is such a wonderful convenience product that gives you a daily schedule for your Tapestry of Grace studies.Planning Aids is a wonderful convenience product that helps Grammar-level teachers use Tapestry of Grace. In Tapestry, all the information you need is in the Reading Assignment charts. But, Planning Aids breaks down the Grammar-level assignments into a day-by-day checklist so you don’t have to. It is so convenient!

I love this, and it allows me to assign my Upper Grammar student her daily tasks (without having to write it out for her each week). I simply pull out the 4-day Planning Aids schedule and highlight her assignments. Done! I know I could do it myself, but it saves me so much time!

For my Lower Grammar students, I use it to get a quick overview of everything that I need to do with them for that week. Planning Aids allows me to look at all the assignments quickly. Then, if I need more information, I look at the specific pages in the curriculum.

Here’s another time-saver. On the first page of the materials for each week, Planning Aids lists out what you can easily skip, as well as all of the books that you will need AND the key ingredients that you will need for the suggested hands-on activity for that week. It’s all in one place on one page! The first page of Planning Aids tells you what supplies you need and what you can skip.

Then, Planning Aids gives you four planning options: a standard 5-day-a-week schedule, a 4-day-a-week schedule, a 2 week schedule, and a custom template that you can fill in exactly the way you want! Here are four different schedules to use with Planning Aids.

In case you were wondering, we made a careful decision NOT to make planning aids for the Dialectic and Rhetoric levels. We felt that it is so important for students to grow in independence and in taking ownership of their work. We felt that they should be learning to plan their own days at that level. They have time that you (as busy moms of Grammar-aged kids) don’t. This does not mean that they have to do it all on their own. They will probably need training and oversight from you. But, teaching them the skill of planning their work is worth the oversight time that you will need to invest.

Want to know more? You can download a full week of Planning Aids with the assignments filled in for you at our samples page. If you want to see the layout we use, here is a blank Upper Grammar and Lower Grammar worksheet that you can fill in for yourself!