Category Archives: Encouraging Stories

Stories and encouragement for the homeschooling journey from families who use Tapestry of Grace

One Family’s Story: using a curriculum as flexible as your homeschool

Read how one family homeschools while doing competitive sports!I first “met” the Caffey family on Instagram, where Jacquelin posts pictures of their homeschool day, as well as all the competitive gymnastic meets they attend. I was intrigued by how they homeschooled using a whole book curriculum like Tapestry of Grace, while keeping up with all their competitive sports. So I asked Jacquelin if she would mind sharing with me how they shape their homeschool to fit their family. I love how their story shows how they make homeschooling work for them!

Tell me about your family. How old are your kids?

Hi! We are a NAVY family of eight currently residing in the Hampton Roads area of VA. My husband and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage in July and we have six kids, 5 daughters and a little boy, 19, 16, 14, 10, 7, and 2. We are an active sports family who loves watching and cheering for our favorite football teams the SF 49ers and Denver Broncos. Our children are also actively involved in sports as child athletes. Currently we have two competitive gymnasts competing at levels 3 and 9 (Junior Olympic levels go to Level 10), a daughter who plays Varsity softball and runs track, and a daughter who is a Pop Warner cheerleader. Our son is busy trying to keep up with his sisters but he loves to run and play baseball and ride his bike.Meet a family who blends a wonderful academic curriculum with competitive sports!

Why did you start homeschooling?

We started homeschooling eight years ago when we made the move to Virginia. After seeing the price of private schools in the area and the state of the local public schools we knew that it was time to bring our three oldest girls home. My oldest was just going into 7th grade and we didn’t want to throw her to the wolves so to speak by putting her into the local public school. She is our first homeschool graduate and currently attends Liberty University.

How long have you been using Tapestry of Grace?

I have been using Tapestry of Grace with my younger three daughters for the past year and a half. I tried valiantly to switch the whole family years ago when my oldest was entering 9th grade but we all got immediately overwhelmed because I was trying to do too much. As we homeschooled, the other history program we used was too literature rich for my current 8th grader so we slowly made the transition back to Tapestry with great success now.

Why did you choose Tapestry?

I really needed to be on one history time period instead of 4 different time periods. My sanity couldn’t take it anymore and I was getting burned out. Tapestry was a God send for me at the time because I was really down on myself because history was not being done. Now, I know how to better pick and choose what works for each child plus we still get the quality literature I was looking for in a history program.

My favorite subject is the History Core followed by the Arts/Activities. My children learn and retain so much more when we have fun activities to complete. Plus I like to get crafty with them.

The literature selections are also fantastic! I enjoy the buffet now that I know how to make it work for our family. I especially like that I can glance ahead and make the program work for us during our busy travel months for gymnastics. My older daughter competes Level 9 gymnastics. She trains 28 hours a week, 5 days a week. We are able to plan her readings around that schedule. As long as I do my part ahead of time, we can still do history on the go as we travel.

I love how they have made homeschooling work for their families and goals. They have found a way to both encourage their children’s gifts while ensuring that they are getting a great academic education. If you want to know more about how Tapestry can work for your family, check out a sample here.

Tapestry is with Michelle in South Africa

An encouraging story about a mom who homeschools in South AfricaThis interview is part of a series called Tapestry is Everywhere!”, in which we learn from Tapestry users who are applying the curriculum in surprising ways or places. In this article we’ll meet Michelle, a homeschooling mom and Tapestry user who lives in South Africa!

Michelle, how long have you lived in South Africa?

We’ve been here almost eighteen years.  My husband is a pastor and involved in training other pastors and missionaries as well. When my husband left for university, his father decided he didn’t want to follow the American dream and wanted to use his gifts for the Gospel.  So he moved the family to Kenya and my husband spent his summers there.  He gained a vision from that and when he graduated from seminary he (and I) went to teach other pastors in South Africa.  Now he primarily pastors a church and also trains others on the side.  All five of our children have been born here, including a child whom we adopted.  When I was in college I was studying Christian education, hoping either to homeschool my own children on the mission field or to educate other children.

What made Tapestry stand out?

I had been trying to put together my own stuff for a long time, and then another missionary friend shared her TOG file with me.  At first I almost felt sick because it seemed so overwhelming, but then I saw that actually it had put together for me EVERYTHING that I needed in an integrated way that would shape their thinking and equip them for life.  The only thing that made me nervous at that point was that my mentors with similar educational philosophies in America hadn’t told me about it yet.  So I wrote to them and they said, “Oh, we started doing that a year ago and forgot to tell you!” I forgave them for that, but they had to take me book shopping as an apology when I got back to the states.

Speaking of that, what do you do for books?

 We are almost the only American family in our group.  Sometimes somebody coming to visit can put some in a suitcase, or sometimes we do orders, but then the postal service goes on strike… so it’s a huge commitment for these ladies to do it.  But there’s just nothing else like it in the world and also Tapestry has granted us many scholarships.  One of our ladies was just in tears when she received her scholarship.

How big is your co-op?

For many years it was a small group… just a few families.  When my oldest son got to be old enough that I really wanted to have discussion peers for him, we began to hope that the group could expand.  We prayed for five families and the Lord gave us five families.  The next year we prayed for ten families and the Lord gave us eleven families.  Now we have eighteen families.

What things did you like about Tapestry that made it a good fit for your co-op?

It’s because all our students are able to do the same topics in the same weeks across all their different ages and learning levels.  We just had one family join our group that was using another program with their children who have some special needs.  Their children are way below grade level.  But Tapestry is so flexible that they were able to just slot in with our Upper Grammar children without feeling in any way inferior, and we can tailor the learning levels for the learning level and ability of each child.

How do you address the challenge of including African history in a US-based curriculum?

When moms ask me why they should do a curriculum that involves so much US history, I explain that we are studying the superpowers that have shaped the world, and so just as we study ancient Egypt or Greece or Rome or Persia, so also we study modern superpowers like America.  As they see how these different empires or nations function and influence the rest of the world, they will be better able to consider how these superpowers affect their own country.  We also do take time in the weeks that cover Africa to do more with Africa.  We had one of the grandfathers come in during the week when we were studying the Anglo-Boer war and had him show us his artifacts from that.  We also replaced an entire American history unit with African history.

Is homeschooling growing in South Africa?

Yes, it’s definitely on the rise.  For many years we only had a couple of families in our co-op.  Now, homeschooling is getting bigger.  If you use the government system where you don’t have to pay fees, there will be at least 50 students in a class with very few resources.  Otherwise you have to send them to a private school with very high fees.  So, people are looking for a middle option and looking abroad quite widely.  Some do online options, some do other things, etc.

How do you make homeschooling work with such a big co-op, especially when you mentioned that you sometimes need to drop everything and help friends out in the bush?

Well, my older three children are independent.  My youngest three, including the one who is still learning to read, take up more of my time of course.

I think Tapestry actually saves me a lot of time, because I know that so much will be covered on co-op day.  For instance, we decided to do a D writing class as well, so it’s pretty much 6-9th in that class and it was hard for me to find the time to do writing assignments with my students, but because I teach that class I put a lot of effort into it.  However, other teachers cover other subjects, so I don’t have to do nearly as much of that.  On Thursdays I know that great parent-teachers who are gifted will do hands-on activities and maps and lap books and so on.

Has there been anything fun or weird or interesting that comes up in studying Tapestry as South Africans that wouldn’t necessarily come up in America?

Well, at dinner a little while ago with our co-op friends who are from Zambia and the Congo, we were discussing American politics and they were asking what we thought.  Socialism came up as a topic and they were asking us “What is that?”  Most of the liberation movements in South Africa were led by socialists, so they think socialism is good… and so do the people here of European descent who also have a more socialist background with free health care, etc.  So then one of my older sons jumped in and began to explain all about Socialism and Stalin and Mao and helping African adults to understand the dangers of the socialistic worldview.  At the end of that evening, my friend said, “We are homeschooling our children because we want them to have this; we want them to understand culture and vote well, etc.  But how are we going to reach the rest of the children in this country so that they understand and so that they can vote well?  That really challenged me to think beyond my own small family and group, so actually of late I have begun to think about trying to start a good Christian school for our area.

Is there anything you’d like to ask as a prayer request?

I’d like to ask for prayers that families in South Africa can keep homeschooling their children.  So far it is still legal, but the government is not supportive and we don’t know how long this privilege will last.  Also, we ask for prayer to persevere as the moms face some things that I think moms in America may soon be facing.  One wife has a husband who has been out of work for a year because he won’t pay bribes.  Another husband is in similar trouble because he wouldn’t tell a lie.  People are having to stand firm for their principles, with real financial costs, and they need prayer.  Finally, I’d ask that we be able to find a way to bless more families in this country with Christian education, because right now there is a very small minority who can.  When I was doing a women’s conference recently in an African township, I don’t think any of those women were able to stay home with their children.  They all had to work, because our liberal constitution makes it easier for women to get work than for men to get work, and so they wind up bearing the burden of being breadwinners.

Tapestry is with Sue in Singapore

Tapestry in Singapore

     This interview is part of a series called “Tapestry is Everywhere!”, in which we learn from Tapestry users who are applying the curriculum in surprising ways or places. In this article we’ll meet Sue, a parent-teacher who will be homeschooling her two young children with Tapestry’s Primer this year in Singapore!

Sue, I understand that you are a homeschooling native of Singapore?

Yes, I am.  My husband is a trainer and consultant and we have two children (ages 6 and 4) whom we homeschool in Singapore.

Tell me about your homeschooled children? 

My older son is six, so he’s primarily the one whom I am homeschooling. He has been responding very well to the approach of drilling memory work at the Grammar stage. However, I have also realized that I sometimes also need to give him the context of the facts that he memorizes to help him understand them better. Stories help with this because my children take to them easily.

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Why did you decide to use Primer as a complimentary supplement to Classical Conversations? 

My son has been challenged to learn how to do his memory work in the Classical Conversations community, which is wonderful! The Classical Conversations model then encourages parents like myself to model what is done at community day and finds ways to teach our children at home. This also includes finding materials that will extend our students’ understanding of the facts that they memorize through our community and help them to remember the grammar better. I thought that Primer’s story-driven and multi-sensory materials would give excellent context and help my students lock information into their long-term memory.

I know you’ve been using our Primer sample for a few weeks now. Has it helped your students with their memory work, the way you hoped it would?

I really think so, yes! The activities and the geography, as well as read aloud time and coloring sheets—in fact the whole multi-sensory approach—brings to life the information my student is memorizing, and connects the pieces together for him as well. It’s all here, and my children are able to grasp it. For instance, my oldest son had memorized the fact that the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers exist before in our community group, but now I think he understands Mesopotamia as the land between the rivers, and about its culture and history.

What are some of the highlights of Primer for you as a Christian educator?

We have greatly enjoyed starting back at the beginning with the Bible.  Even though we’ve done it so many times, I feel that it came alive much more this time because it is so much more in-depth.  We see so much more how these are real historical people, and also seeing how God weaves together the strands of history.  We also loved the activities, doing Noah’s ark and building a ziggurat.  Those helped my students to visualize and interact with biblical history.

Has the Guidebook been helpful?

The Guidebook has really helped me to prepare, but more than that it has been a spiritual exercise for me and personally enriching.  Starting with geography has really helped as well—I know where things are happening in history. Also, instead of going through so many sources to look for what I need, I have everything and know that my materials are accurate and reliable.

What are some of the things that you’ve learned spiritually?

I think that going back over these early weeks on Egypt and early Mesopotamia and the Exodus reminds me of the whole idea that we as sinful men tend to worship the created rather than the Creator, and that our hearts are so prone to wander.  I am newly aware of the irony that we were created in God’s image and yet we choose to worship the things that we create.  Also the magnified view of self—the human idea that we can reach God.  That was brought to light when we were trying to build a tower of Babel and trying to make it as tall as possible.  We did that activity and I just realized that we can never reach God.

What does your husband think of Primer?

My husband is a former history teacher and he has been really happy with Primer.  He does the Bible story at night with our children and is involved in some of the activities.  I think he is looking forward to what we will learn as our children get further into history.

It is wonderful to see how Tapestry products are being used as a supplement to various other classical programs, and how it has benefited Sue and her children in Singapore!

 

Tapestry is with Rachel in New Zealand

New Zealand

This interview is part of a series called Tapestry is Everywhere!”, in which we learn from Tapestry users who are applying the curriculum in surprising ways or places. In this article we’ll meet Rachel, a parent-teacher homeschooling with Tapestry in New Zealand!

Tell me, Rachel: why and where are you in New Zealand?

Born and bred here! My family immigrated here from the UK many years ago; I’m a fifth generation native of New Zealand. I live in Auckland, which is the biggest city.

What’s one of your favorite things about New Zealand?

I love that it’s a green country, which is stereotypical because of Lord of the Rings, but it’s true.  You’re never far from the beach.  It is winter right now, but my children can still spend most of their time out of doors.  You’re never far from the beach, and even with 1.5 million people Auckland is a pretty green city.

What is winter like there?

It’s a temperate climate, but winter is pretty wet.  We have rain, but not snow in Auckland. The volcanic plateau in the middle of the North Island (a la ‘Mt. Doom’) gets snow and has ski fields, four hour’s drive from Auckland.

Rachel and her family

How does homeschooling look in New Zealand?  Is it hard to homeschool there?

No, it’s pretty easy, but we do have to submit an approximately ten-page paper of intention that outlines basically how you intend to homeshool, when your student is in first grade.  We also receive an allowance from the government to homeschool, so expense is not as much of an issue.  The allowance doesn’t cover everything, but it does help.  Our school year is a little different, though: it goes from February to December.  So our summer holidays literally start a week before Christmas.  We have a forty-week school year.

So, I have to ask, why is a native of New Zealand doing an American curriculum?

New Zealand is a small country and homeschooling is comparatively new to us: coming into its second generation.  We have very little in terms of “made in New Zealand” curriculum available to us.  Since I began homeschooling fifteen years ago, I source most of my curriculum from the United States.

That makes sense!  Why did you choose Tapestry?

I’ve always wanted a literature-rich history-based curriculum, and given that I have ten children I wanted them all to be doing the same thing.  I can take everybody through the same historical period together.  The other thing I really liked is that Tapestry’s focus is not so American-centric: it has a more international focus than other curricula I have seen.  We picked it up with Year 2 Unit 2 four years ago, because that’s where we happened to be in our history studies. Now we’ve done almost the whole rotation. (I’m about to be able to join the Four Year Club!) I’ve only had to make a few adaptations, for instance in Year 4.

Have you needed to adapt Tapestry to include New Zealand history?

Yes, somewhat in Years 3 and 4. The treaty between the the UK and the Maori people was in 1840, so the bulk of our written history is more recent.  But just as Shakespeare is important for general knowledge, so American history is important for general knowledge. But when we get to Year 4 the depth of detail about American presidents, for example, becomes a little boring from a New Zealand point of view.  That’s where we drop some of the American details and do more New Zealand stuff.

Do you homeschool with other people, or join a virtual group, or with ten children do you have enough to make your own “school”?

I have other homeschoolers whom I can connect with in Aukland, even some who are using TOG.  We get together for play dates and science co-op, but not for TOG co-op.  We’re on different years and different learning levels.  Also, my oldest is fifteen and only beginning to do Rhetoric, so peer discussion hasn’t been as important.

How hard do you find it is to get the books for Tapestry?

I get most of my books from our library system here in New Zealand.  In Year 4 the books were more geared towards America so we had fewer books in the library and had to order them.  We use bookdepository.com, which is much less expensive than some other options, especially for international shipping costs.

What are some things that you love about Tapestry

I really love the way you bring the biblical worldviews in, and how you really bring out the Gospel and God’s plan in Christ in Year 1.  I didn’t come to Tapestry for that, particularly, but it’s now the reason why I wouldn’t go anywhere else.  When we finished Ancient History just a little while ago, for instance, and learnt how Alexander the Great and then the Roman roads and the Pax Romana were arranged by God to make it possible for the Gospel to expand.  That’s a whole new way of looking at history, for me.  I also really love the hands-on activities, and some of the unit celebrations we have done.

Rachel’s life with Tapestry in New Zealand helped to show me a few things as I conducted her interview.  First, I noticed that like Jillane, Joelle, and Alesha, she loves Tapestry of Grace because although it is an American curriculum, it teaches much more than the history and literature of America.  Second, I saw that like these other ladies who use Tapestry outside the United States, Rachel’s top reason for choosing Tapestry is that it brings a deep and rich biblical perspective to world history and literature, with America as one part of that. I felt humbled and awed to realize that Tapestry is part of something much bigger than I had supposed.

Tapestry is with Jillane and Joelle in Canada

Tapestry in Canada Final

This interview is part of a series called Tapestry is Everywhere!”, in which we learn from Tapestry users who are applying the curriculum in surprising ways or places. In this article we’ll meet Jillane and Joelle, who are parent-teachers homeschooling with Tapestry in Canada!

Where in Canada do you live, ladies, and what is your background?

Joelle: I’m an immigrant to Canada from Martinique, which is a small French island in the Caribbean. I live towards the eastern coast of Canada, right at the border of Toronto and Mississauga.

Jillane: I live in west-central Canada, and I’m a native Canadian. I am also a former public school teacher.

What’s one quirky thing about Canadian culture that you really enjoy and would love to share with your American neighbors?

Joelle: Beaver tail! We eat beaver tails in eastern Canada. It’s not actually a beaver’s tail; it’s a pastry shaped like a beaver’s tail. You might eat it with apple cinnamon topping or with a Nutella topping–that’s very popular right now. We even have beaver tail stands in town.

Jillane: I’ve definitely heard of beaver tails here in western Canada. I was thinking of maple syrup because it is of course a very Canadian thing. Our flag has a maple leaf on it, obviously. David’s Tea is a newer Canadian thing: it’s a specialty tea place based in Toronto and is the largest in the country. I hear they’ve even opened one in the United States! We’re also a nation of immigrants and have a very multicultural culture.

What is the strangest cultural or historical thing you’ve ever heard about America—something that just made you go “huh…”

Joelle: Most states in America seem to have higher speed limits: they go faster than we do here on the Canadian highways.

Jillane: All the southern traditions and dishes seem strange to me… much as an igloo might be strange to southerners! Though I’m always surprised at how many Americans seem to think we Canadians live in igloos, and most of us wouldn’t even know how to build one.

Joelle, I know you love to read theology. Who would be your biggest theological hero?

I do read a lot of theology and love theology. Somebody like Luther would be a hero of mine. His strength and personality and willingness to fight for what he thought needed to be said are inspiring to me.

Jillane, who would be your biggest Canadian historical hero?

Jillane: I’m having trouble picking one because of all the ones we’ve read about! For instance, today I was reading about Joe Boyle and how he was involved in the dredging up in the Klondike, and I didn’t even know about him! I don’t think many Canadians would. So I’m always discovering new Canadian heroes hidden between the leaves of our history.

 What is your biggest reason for using Tapestry?

Joelle: The main reason for me is the Christian worldview. The history is very full and it’s clear that the lead author (Marcia Somerville) has a strong background in history, as well as a strong Christian worldview. I also love that it’s not just American history, but world history and geography.

Jillane: My main reason is the worldview too, and also the classical approach where we can all talk around the table about the same material.

 How much Canadian history do you include as you go through Tapestry?

Joelle: I haven’t tried to add to add in a lot of Canadian history. My oldest student is in the dialectic level. Next year I will begin to try to add in Canadian history for my students.

Jillane: I really didn’t want to let go of any of American or World history. Fortunately, Canadian history doesn’t really pick up much until the middle of Year 2 or in Year 3. I began by including books on Canadian history where appropriate. For instance, the Klondike Gold Rush was a big thing in Canada as well. So I might include a Canadian book and then have my students work along at a project related to Canadian history that would tie in to what they were studying in Tapestry. Then, my third step has been to try to include the occasional tie-in question when we are doing discussion scripts at the dialectic and rhetoric levels.

Jillane, you’ve shared with me before that actually the American Civil War had a big effect on Canada. What was that effect?

The Civil War had a big effect on Canadian history because it was one of the primary reasons that pushed independent colonies (under Britain) to unite. This is what birthed Canada under the British North American Act. When we consider how different each of the colonies were, it is nothing short of God’s hand and perhaps the push of the Civil War that brought unity to Canada in such a short time frame. In fact, 2017 is Canada’s 150th year Celebration of Confederation (the union of the colonies into what is now Canada)! As such, our country will be hosting events to celebrate and I was hoping to inspire home schoolers to teach/learn about that time period prior to July 1, 2017.

If there were one or two things that you would love to see happen in the community of Canadian Tapestry users, what would they be?

Joelle: I’d love to find a way for the printed versions of curricula (not just Tapestry but any American curriculum) to be a little less expensive in Canada. The shipping costs are hard for us, so it’s a good thing there are digital versions available. I’d also love to see Canadian Tapestry users get connected to each other, maybe to know about things like Virtual co-ops. I’d want them to know that those are available as a way for people who live far apart to get connected.

Jillane: I agree with Joelle: books are really expensive to ship to Canada. Besides that, I would love for Canadians to get to learn about how American and Canadian histories are tied together. I didn’t learn that as a child, but it’s been so exciting for me to see that and make the connections with Tapestry. It makes me want other Canadians to see how our history ties in with world history and American history. Tapestry explains so well that God is sovereign and has control over all history, but I want us to see how we are part of that.

Do you have any specific dreams about how you’d like to serve other homeschoolers?

Joelle: I would love to be available for people to give ideas on how to adapt the curriculum to fit their particular needs or limitations, whether budget wise, or homeschooling style or whatever. I have started a Facebook group for Canadian Tapestry users and I would love to see more of us get connected. If you are in Canada and interested, I hope you will consider joining my group!

Jillane: I have developed some specifically “Canadian” threads for my children because I want them to know our history just as well as American and world history. We have a lot of Canadian books and I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how that fits in. It’s been a lot of work for me to develop and I don’t necessarily just want to throw that out there, but I would love to find a way to share it that makes sense.

It was exciting to interview Jillane and Joelle about their experiences with Tapestry in Canada, because as we talked it became clear that Tapestry of Grace is not just a curriculum about American history, but is actually a curriculum that brings a biblical perspective to the complex tapestry of world history. We will see this idea unfold further as the series continues: stay tuned!

Tapestry is with Alesha in West Africa

Final West Africa 2

This interview is part of a series called Tapestry is Everywhere!”, in which we learn from Tapestry users who are applying the curriculum in surprising ways or places. In this article we’ll meet Alesha, a homeschooling mother and Tapestry user who lives in West Africa!

Why are you in West Africa, Alesha? 

We are missionaries with Pioneer Bible Translators.  We work with a people group called the Kono who don’t yet have a Bible in their own language, or indeed anything written in their language until recently.

Is there any one interesting thing about the Kono culture that you’d like to share with us?

One thing that’s interesting is how everybody eats very communally.  They mostly eat rice with some kind of sauce on top.  It’s much more communal than we have in the West.  For big events they will cook a huge amount of rice, like a laundry basket of rice, and bring it out and everybody eats from the same dish.  I love food, so that’s a big thing for me.  It’s a rule that you have to eat with your right hand.  It reminds me of the Last Supper with everybody eating out of one dish, literally sharing the same meal.  Of course it’s easy for us to worry about germs, etc., but it’s a big honor for them when we join them.  They just did a meal like that recently at our church.

I have to ask, why do you use Tapestry in Africa?

We started using it when we still lived in the States (we’ve only been in Africa for two years), and we decided to keep it because it was working well; we liked the curriculum.P1010656

Why did you picked Tapestry in the first place?

 

I’ve been using it for six years.  One year we didn’t homeschool because we were doing language training in France, and one year we used another program, but mostly we’ve used Tapestry.  Two other families and ourselves had students in second and third grade, and we decided we wanted to do Tapestry. We wanted something that combined chronological history with activities, and we really liked how the writing program fit into the history studies. My oldest is now a freshman in high school and we’re all still using Tapestry.

What have been some of the challenges of homeschooling with Tapestry in Africa?

I think the biggest challenge has been not having a library nearby, which means it’s hard to do any homeschooling program (not just Tapestry).  But the internet really helps and I really love how thorough Tapestry’s booklists are.  That means that if I follow the booklists and plan in advance to buy all the books on the list, we will have a good variety of options and everything we might need to complete the assignments.

I can easily see how the internet would be important.  Do you have good internet?

Yes we do, and we are even joining a virtual co-op this year (the Shema co-op).  I’m going to put my three oldest daughters (one rhetoric student and two dialectic students) into it, and I’m really grateful that we have the option to do that so that my daughters can have peer discussions!

Have you had any interesting culture clash experiences, being homeschoolers in Africa?

Well, we have kind of a French education system here, and my rhetoric level daughter’s peers in the church choir can’t really wrap their minds around how she does school on her own.  They are used to doing rote memorization based on what their teacher tells them, so they can’t understand it.  In one conversation that my daughter Kaelyn was having with the girls from choir, one of them said they figured that Kaelyn could do her school by herself because she must only do one subject, not lots of subjects like they do here at the national schools. I thought that was funny.  And they were surprised that she doesn’t get “spanked” at school by her teacher.  Apparently they do!

Are you glad, as you enter the high school years, that you’ve been using Tapestry for six years?  Do you feel that your older daughters are enjoying their education and learning to be thinking people?

Yes, I do.  We just finished up speech writing as an exercise and I asked them to do their best even though there wouldn’t necessarily be an audience.  I was impressed with how willing they were to work hard, and I see them being more independent, meeting deadlines, etc., as they get older.  I would attribute that in part to being a missionary—having to be flexible because we travel a lot and have to do school at strange times… but also I think they work hard and are independent because of being homeschooled from the beginning.

Has TOG been a source of encouragement and continuing education for you as you are sort of “on your own” in another country?

Yes, definitely.  I keep learning and it’s been a way for me to be challenged, and to keep on learning more about home even when I’m far away. We’ve never actually done Year 1 but we are going to do it this year and I’m really looking forward to it because of the opportunity to focus on building a biblical worldview.  The village here has actually shown me a lot about what it must have been like to live in biblical times.

Do you have any prayer requests for us?

An ongoing prayer request that we have for our kids is finding the balance between helping them to stay connected with people and things back home, and yet learning about the culture and people here. Because of my children’s ages and the way the culture is here, we don’t feel comfortable just letting them go off on their own, and homeschooling does take a lot of time, so you do have to find time to help them get together with others.  Also, pray for them to continue to develop good relationships with each other in their sibling group.

For myself, I would ask you to pray for much the same things as I ask for my children.  Homeschooling takes a lot of time and preparation, and I want to do that, but I also want to be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading to consistently be willing to reach out to new people as He brings them into my life.

We are grateful to Alesha for taking a few minutes to talk with us about how Tapestry supports a missionary family while they are serving Christ. We invite you to join us in praying for her!

Introducing the “Tapestry is Everywhere!” Series

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Every so often we hear stories from Tapestry users in exotic places like Africa or New Zealand. Sometimes we also learn of users here in America who combine Tapestry with other programs, such as a Schole group that uses Tapestry’s history and literature. Sometimes we speak with families who are both far away and using Tapestry with another program–like Sue, a Classical Conversations Director on the other side of the world who plans to use Tapestry Primer this fall as an aid to her children’s memory work!

These stories tickle our fancy because they show us again how Tapestry can be applied in places or ways that we wouldn’t have thought to try, both at home and abroad. Therefore, this series of interviews is dedicated to our friends who use Tapestry… well, everywhere!

Graduating My Oldest: A Parent-Teacher Perspective

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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!

Tapestry Graduates: A Journey to Value the Classics

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Seventeen-year-old Gian Garfias is about to become a graduate of Tapestry, which his family has used for the last five years. He has already been accepted to the college of his choice.

Gian gave me some of his time so that I could ask questions about his experiences as a Tapestry high school student. Although he assured me that he isn’t deeply interested in any subject except math (and maybe a little science), it was remarkable to hear how much he has learned from the humanities! This is his interview.

Will you tell me a little bit about yourself, Gian?

I’m seventeen and I live in Texas, a little way from Dallas. I want to do mathematics. I’m going to Liberty University and then eventually I want to get a doctorate and become a math professor.

Cool! Do you have a favorite area of mathematics, or a favorite mathematician who inspires you?

My favorite area of math is algebra, and my favorite historical figure is Isaac Newton because he helped to invent calculus, and also because his ideas were foundational to physics.

I know you’re really into math, but do you like geography or history?

Geography isn’t something I’ve noticed much, but I do think it’s interesting to see how often Europe changes, and it also helps me to understand why throughout history people are warring over various parts of Europe. Usually it’s because the person is invading used to own that land awhile ago, and it helps to explain some of the wars.

I like history okay. I think this year (Year 2) may have been my favorite, because we go from the fall of the Roman Empire all the way up to the French Revolution, and it’s so interesting to see how so many ideas developed in these short, controlled bursts. For the last few weeks we’ve been comparing and contrasting the American and French Revolutions, and it’s crazy to see how those two wound up so very differently, even though they started out with the same principles. America was working from biblical principles, but France abandoned God and then got more and more bloody and wound up as a military dictatorship.

What do you mean by ideas developing in “these short, controlled bursts”?

“It seems like knowledge is like a rock skimming across a lake. Whenever it touches down, you get a new burst.  There’s a burst of discoveries in the 1600’s, and then in the 1800’s your machines get way more complex… you get to airplanes in a century!

That’s a neat observation, and so is your thought about the two Revolutions. I know that you are thinking about going into the field of mathematics, where traditionally there is a lot of atheism. Have you learned much about God by studying history?

Yes, as a matter of fact I have developed some convictions about God through studying history.

At the end of the Reformation, Deism started coming about, with the idea that God created everything but then stepped back and let things run on. So that caused me to wonder whether Deism was a reasonable theory and worth considering.

But when I look back through the rest of history that I’ve learned, I just don’t see how you could come to the conclusion that God wasn’t involved. Take the American Revolution for instance: they almost failed to fight the British like five different times.  Besides that, when they did go to fight, the American colonies were taking on what was the most powerful nation in the world at the time. I can’t prove it mathematically or scientifically, because you can’t prove anything about stuff like that, but I became convinced that we are affected by God’s grace and the way He leads us through history. Otherwise we human beings would have killed ourselves several times, and I’m not even talking about the Cold War.

For a guy who says he’s only into math, you have a lot of great observations about history! What do you think about worldviews?

I don’t really think about worldviews that much, but it is interesting to see how fixated everybody was on God when the church had national power, but then during the Reformation people starting asking, “Hey, what if this isn’t real?” And then there were two branches of the Renaissance and one was more humanist and the other was more focused on God. It’s crazy to see how, no matter what you’re studying in Tapestry, people keep winding up saying, “hey, everybody, we need to get back to God and to what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Yes, it is funny how people keep winding up having to deal with God sooner or later. How about literature? Do you like it?

I don’t consider myself very good at literature, and I don’t like it. But there was one book that I really loved. When I was in a class at the Lampstand Learning Center, I did a PowerPoint presentation in Year 4 on The Chosen, and I think it’s my favorite book that I’ve read. It’s about this friendship between these two guys, and you get a taste of the Jewish culture at the time and I found it really intriguing and making the presentation for it.

I took three years of literature online with the Lampstand Learning Center, and then this year started doing it with my family. Now that I’m doing it at home, I’m realizing how much I learned not only about how literature works, but also about what the authors are saying. My sister is in her freshman year and she knows a lot more about literature than I do and likes it a lot better, but I’m able to spot literary devices and what the author is trying to portray in each of his works, and it’s easier for me to get the homework done, and then she’s like “how did you figure that out!?”

Whenever I talk to other Tapestry graduates, we reminisce about how much we enjoyed doing integrated studies: looking at once time period from the perspective of four or five different subjects. Any thoughts about that?

Integrated studies have definitely been great for me. I especially noticed that during my freshman through junior years. I can see things from both “government” and “civilian” perspectives in a way, because I’m reading history (which is written sort of from the government’s perspective) and literature (which is written more from the ordinary person’s perspective) for that time. So it really gives me more of a feel for what everybody is thinking.

So, even though you wouldn’t have chosen it, are you glad you studied the humanities?

Yes, I am. Studying the humanities has been unexpectedly good for me. It has helped me appreciate the arts more, even though I’m not an artistic person. It has developed the non-math side of me, and it has helped me to see some things about God that I might not have noticed otherwise. I think the humanities have also sharpened mind in ways that will help me notice worldviews.

For example now I use my literature skills to analyze songs and other books and stuff, and I find that most amazing. My mom always says that I should be careful what I listen to because people express worldviews through music. I always kind of pushed that aside, but last summer I was listening to something and I suddenly realized, “Wait! Meaning through form!”—and then I saw how those song lyrics were actually being used to show the songwriter’s beliefs. So maybe I am learning to think about worldviews more.

Is there anything you’d like to say about your mother and her involvement in your education?

As a teenager, of course you always think your parents are unfair or don’t understand what’s going on. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that everything wrong with me is my fault, and everything that’s gone right for me has to do with my parents’ influence.

My mom isn’t a very math or science oriented person, but even though that’s the case, she’s gone out of her way to make sure I had the best she could offer in terms of learning those things because I love them. Then she made sure that I had help with writing and literature and history.

I haven’t ever really liked school, except math and science. But my mother did a lot of things to try to make it enjoyable, and as I took the SAT’s and other tests, it became clear to me that she prepared me really well. It never really dawned on me how much time she invested in my education until now. I’m grateful.

Tapestry Graduates: The Journey of an Aspiring Policewoman

 

journey-of-aspiring-policewomanUnlike many young people who are graduating this spring, Caty Payne isn’t going to a four-year college. She plans to finish the associates degree that she has already begun at her local community college, then go on to Police Academy.

Since Caty is also the daughter of Sheri Payne, a Tapestry Advisor and long-time teacher for Lampstand Learning Center, I was deeply interested to learn what sort of impact the last nine years of Tapestry education might have had on an aspiring policewoman. Caty kindly answered my questions and gave me a window into her world.

12745784_10153977444583140_7262335587357133101_n First of all, Caty, why law enforcement?

I think it was something that God has been pushing me to do; I have a high sense of justice and always wanting to protect everyone around me, whether I know them or not.  I also feel like a lot of people are ministering to the homeless, or people in other countries, but in terms of the criminals in our own country no one is paying much attention to them, and I think God wants me to use my gifts in that area, not only to do justice but also to show His kindness to them.

 Did you have a favorite subject or a favorite time period in Tapestry?

It would probably be between Literature and History.  One of my favorite periods was the beginning of America and also the 1900’s.  I was really intrigued by the Colonial Era and the 1900’s.

Did you have a favorite historical figure or anybody who was particularly inspiring?

I really loved Abraham Lincoln, because I felt like he and I have the same sense of justice, like he couldn’t stand slavery and did his best.  He thought of other people, but not just a certain group of people.  He didn’t think of himself, and he was very eloquent (which I am not) and he got a lot done.

Do you feel like your literature studies and practice in thinking about personalities in stories might help you when you’re dealing with other people in the world of law and criminals?  For instance, did reading Les Miserables help you think about being in law enforcement like Javert, and about dealing with criminals like Valjean or like Thenardier?

Growing up, I was very reserved and it was difficult because I kept all my thoughts and feelings to myself, so when I was alone I would either listen to music or read books.  That was my release and my comfort zone.  I loved it.  I got lost in those worlds and those personalities.  I’m a thinker, but I’m not very eloquent because I don’t talk a lot.  But I think about every possible little thing.  I imagine how future conversations might go in my head.  So yes, I’ve imagined talking to criminals like the Thenardiers and definitely thinking that I don’t want to be like Javert.  So I try to think about how to correct people in a good way, and thinking that through.  It’s hard for me to tell people what to do.

What was hardest for you in your Tapestry studies, or what did you feel like you didn’t do as well?

Probably Government, actually, because it was really hard for me to understand (and I didn’t enjoy it as much because of that).  There were too many big words when I was younger, and it was hard to really get it until the teacher explained it in class.

How would you respond to somebody who asked you whether your classical education is going to be useful in your chosen field of law enforcement?
Some things you grow up learning that are good to learn even if you’re not going into a field where those things are necessary.  These things shape your mind and who you are.  You learn from the thoughts and actions of others, and I think God uses that.  There’s a reason why God made history books and I think we learn from history, either to be like the people we see in it, or not to imitate them.  I think these things help you as a person, whether you ever use them vocationally.
     When you’re a kid, you’re just told to read a book, so you read it.  There are all these things running through your mind and it’s like you’re trying to get prepared for adulthood whether or not you know it. I found I could relate to a lot of the people in my history and literature readings—those characters were doing things I could imagine myself doing in the future.  It really helped me to work through what I might do or not do, and why, especially in areas of right and wrong.  I think those experiments helped shape who I am, because in a way these characters could make decisions for me and I could see how those decisions turned out.  So, I think it helps children to study these things even if they aren’t obviously or directly related.
     I remember reading some cases (in the Government track) where I just realized “Oh, I’ve never thought about it that way,” or I gained more knowledge.  I think that some of that helped me want to become a police officer, because when you see all these cases for different laws, in reacting to them and seeing how strongly I felt about them, I realized how much I really care about justice. It’s funny that government studies were hardest for me, but in a way they did the most to help me understand what I want to be.
Is there anything you’d like to say about your mother?

My mom is superwoman. I know a lot of people say that about their mom, but my mom is truly inspirational. She juggled homeschooling three kids with my dad being gone all of the time due to being in the military. She taught us with every intention of bringing us up for God’s glory. She is an amazing woman.

Talking to Caty reminded me of something I had forgotten: sometimes the hardest parts of our education are the ones that teach us most. She also demonstrated for me all over again that we need more in our lives than just the things that directly apply to our chosen vocations. We need the stories of history and literature that teach us who God is, and how to be human.

It was a pleasure to talk to a young woman who is eager to see God’s justice enacted here on Earth, but at the same time wants to spend her working days reaching out to those who are in danger of prison.