Lea Ann Garfias is a parent-teacher in Texas who was homeschooled by her own mother. She is now homeschooling her daughter and three sons. Her boys, she told me, are always excited to study the Middle Ages or the Revolutionary War, or ancient Egypt. Her daughter’s niche is literature. Lea Ann is getting ready to graduate her oldest son, Gian, who gave us an interview to share his perspective about a Tapestry education as a student. This interview is Lea Anne’s parent-teacher perspective on the same education.
First of all, Lea Ann, how long have you been using Tapestry, and how many levels do you use at once?
I’ve been using it for five years. For the last three years I have been teaching three levels simultaneously, and I have liked that even better than teaching one or two levels (though the idea scared me initially), because teaching three levels adds so many layers and my students learn from each other! My rhetoric students even get a lot out of their younger siblings’ picture books.
You mentioned to me that you are finishing up Year 2? How is that going?
Yes, we are almost through with our second round of Year 2—the kids are taking their final exams on Week 35. I like to use your Evaluations for these because it’s nice to have tests that I didn’t write, that are objective. I also thinks the tests help my students because they are more rigorous. I love how the different tests are designed for different learning levels: for instance, the dialectic students do a lot of compare/contrast on their tests, but they also have the categories and trigger words to help them understand what they are supposed to be doing. That’s appropriate for their learning level but wouldn’t be as good for upper grammar or rhetoric students.
Tests really do help us to see what we’ve learned. I’m not going to give you a test, but I would love to grab my chance to ask you what you’ve learned–especially perhaps how your own walk with God and education has grown over the last five years with Tapestry?
I found Tapestry academically challenging and I’ve found that my knowledge of history has grown a lot. Philosophy has also been very interesting and helpful, particularly tied in with history.
I’ve learned two big things: one is that there really is nothing new under the sun, but just that old lies keep being repackaged. The other big thing is that as I’ve studied all these subjects in an integrated way from a biblical perspective, it gives me a really good idea of the moral dilemmas and conflicts with one another, and the challenges that these people faced in various time periods. It showed me that God has helped people for thousands of years to be able to face their difficulties with grace and power and love.
So, it’s been so much of an academic education for me, but also a spiritual education. Every Wednesday morning after we have our discussions, I walk away so encouraged in the Lord and in His faithfulness, to keep serving Him and trying to glorify Him in spite of our circumstances. That’s probably been the very biggest thing for me.
But also academically it’s been so exciting and interesting to see my students making connections and seeing how World War I makes so much more sense in light of studying Year 1, and seeing that ancient and modern history are tied together and understanding the age-old conflicts.
I also see that it’s not really such a long time—all these years as just like a vapor, and you see really how fast things change in light of eternity. It also shows me that there has not been a single time when God has not provided for His people.
I think the most important benefit that I’ve had from studying Tapestry is a sense of gratitude. There is no time in history that I would rather be in than right now. I feel so blessed to find how much knowledge we have at our fingertips, how bright our hopes can be, how much our children can be—I feel that children have never had more opportunities than we have now.
It’s become a joke in our house, because Tapestry has these picture books, some of which have titles like You Wouldn’t Want to be Alive During the Reign of Terror”—everything that we study, we make up a new picture-book title about how good we have it now in this time and place.
That’s amazing! What do you think your students might have learned, especially about God, from doing Tapestry?
Well, I think the discussion scripts have made it very easy to talk to my students about how God acts in the affairs of man. I don’t see how any student could study Tapestry and walk away not believing that God is a personal God who is intimately involved in our everyday lives, and is in control even in the darkest moments.
One thing I greatly appreciate is that Marcia didn’t just shoehorn a “proof text” Bible verse into every discussion question. If she had, my teens would just see right through that. But it isn’t like that; with each question, Marcia is really digging into the motivations and heart issues that these historical people had. Then she asks, “How does the Word of God compare to that, and how does it affect our own lives?”
Gian also learned so much through Tapestry‘s literature program about discerning the themes and the author’s worldview through literary analysis, and then evaluating those worldviews. He would say that he hates literature (he wants to be a math professor), but now he is actively leading our home literature discussions, and I know he now has those tools which I think have really helped him to see the truth behind the words. Those will help him so much for digesting and evaluating the news, or sermons, or worship songs, or conversations with his friends.
Privately, I think Gian might enjoy literary analysis more than he realizes. For instance, he hated The Rape of the Lock, but then when I told him he had to compare it to an epic poem, a whole new layer appeared to him and he began to think it was hilarious!
For guys who are math and science oriented, literature just seems so boring and stupid and emotional. But when you teach them literary analysis, then they start to make sense of it and understand what’s going on and what the techniques are, and why it’s funny or not. Several years ago, Gian had to read Pride and Prejudice and he thought he would hate it. But when I told him it was a satire and he had to analyze it as a satire, then he thought parts of it were funny. It’s like now he’s in on the secret code and understands more about what the author is trying to communicate. We open up these classic books and think it’s boring because we don’t understand it. But then you get the secret code.
I just can’t get over what great life skills those are: when they understand what the author is saying about a certain kind of person, or what is a recurring symbol in a work, when they see these patterns and messages, it so helps them with critical thinking when they look at history or see that certain kinds of people are certain ways… and they start to recognize what goes into the character of a political dictator, or the character of a Christian hero.
In fact, Gian has also been applying literary analysis to discussing the political situation right now. He talks about the character and experiment in living of various candidates, and how that affects other people around them, and what the results might be, and so on.
Actually, my students all went to see a movie that didn’t appeal to me, and then they came home and took me to see it and pointed out all the things that the characters were doing and how the whole movie was about the effects of anarchy and was referencing the Reign of Terror. It was so funny! And they understand so much more about current events and are able to evaluate them biblically. I think that’s one of the things I like best.
Yes. As a former student of Marcia’s, one of things I most appreciated about her was her confidence that God and truth could speak clearly for themselves even from the pages of a very complex story like history. Both Marcia and I have seen some of our students choose to turn away from God, which was extremely painful. But I think we can honestly say that if they chose to do so it was because they wanted to, because they didn’t like who He is and how He works… not because we didn’t show them a faithful picture of Him.
Yes, absolutely. I’ve also taught homeschool students who did then walk away from God, and that was very hard. But like you I’ve come to see how much I need to be a faithful teacher and entrust my students to God. Keeping that kind of faith is really hard for us as parent-teachers. Tapestry really is very unusual in that you can see it was written with a willingness to tackle difficult issues, like terrible decisions that American leaders made, or terrible ways they treated minorities, and I realized that I had never studied these things.
For instance, I think we barely talked about the Trail of Tears when I was being homeschooled, or about the American Christians who argued for slavery and thought it was biblical, or to see Christians throughout history choosing to do things that are wrong and that have scary consequences. I have friends who can’t believe that my students study these things.
But I believe that my students will wind up studying these things in college or beyond, and I’d so much rather debate these things with me right there. No matter what God calls my children to do, I want them to have the tools: the intellect, the logic, the worldviews, the training, to make wise decisions for themselves and to help those around them, whoever they are. I believe we can’t do that unless we give them the opportunity to consider these really difficult books and practice thinking through things in a wise way at home.
It takes a lot of faith to believe that if we allow our children to have their own relationship with God, then that will be okay. We see friends whose children walk away from God and that’s frightening. Yet I’ve come to see that I can’t hold my children too tightly. I think we have to step back and let God woo them.
You are getting ready to publish a book that you’ve written called Rocking Ordinary. You shared with me that it is about the extraordinary influence of what I would describe as the faithful ordinary parent-teacher. How have you seen that kind of extraordinary-in-the-ordinary happen in your life as a Tapestry teacher?
Well, you know when you have these four-year cycles, you have some weeks that your students are always excited to study, and others that they just don’t care about. For instance, Mesopotamia or the Indus Valley are things that just don’t excite my students. But when we are faithful to the day in and day out learning, and the practices of reading, learning, discussing together, and so on, we actually find that we learn some of our most important lessons during the most seemingly “boring” weeks.
We might suppose “I already know enough about this period of history and there’s nothing new for me to learn,” which I think can especially happen for rhetoric level students. But still we found this week, when we were discussing the American Revolution again, that because we were faithful to do it anyway we learned some really new things about how Americans “did war” versus how war was done in the French Revolution.
Also, my students hadn’t considered the American Revolution versus the French Revolution from a biblical perspective in terms of the spiritual fruits of each. Finally, we hadn’t considered how our current political events will also be seen more clearly when we have a chance to view their fruits and understand whether the beliefs and actions being taken now are wise.
That’s been a huge lesson for all of us because we all get tired, and when you are doing an education like this everybody has to be on board and everybody has to do the work. But we do see fruit when we look back.
I’m also looking forward to receiving a new “extraordinary” harvest from my ordinary daily sowing with Tapestry, because my son Gian was signing up for classes at Liberty University and had to do a class in “Biblical Worldview.” Woldviews studies are not his favorite subject, but when he went to look up what that class would be like, he realized it was basically like one of the Tapestry history discussions. So, I think he will be very well prepared for those, and he feels excited and confident that he will be able to do the class.
What a wonderful testimony! Thank you for sharing it with us, Lea Ann!