Tag Archives: Great Books

Our Favorite Books Gift List!

Every year, when Christmas comes around we seem to be looking for the perfect gift to delight our children, nieces, nephews or grandchildren.Here are some favorite books that make wonderful Christmas gifts

We have selected some of our favorites that are used in our Tapestry curriculum. But, these books are not only a part of Tapestry’s curriculum, they are also classics that you will treasure reading aloud to your children and grandchildren.

Picture Books to Enjoy:

The 20th Century Children’s Book Treasury has some of the wonderful modern classics that are a delight to read. Wonderful books to give for ChristmasI love having them all in one volume and have given this as a gift to my nieces and nephews!

Ingri and Edgar Parin D’aulaire have written and illustrated some wonderful classics that delight all ages. They combine beautiful illustrations with historical stories that bring history to life in their many books.Wonderful books to give for Christmas These books are used over many of our four year Tapestry cycle and we delight in them every time we come across another one!

James Herriot

We all love James Herriot and his delightful stories about animals. This treasury has gorgeous illustrations and includes so many of his wonderful stories to share with your children. Wonderful books to give for Christmas

Aesop’s Fables:

I love taking the time to simply look at the amazing illustrations in this book. I would get this book only for the artwork, but fables are also delightfully retold!Wonderful books to give for Christmas

David Macaulay

David Macaulay has created some beautiful works of art in his amazing pencil drawings of beautiful buildings.Wonderful books to give for Christmas These books will delight those who love to draw and your child who wants to see how these buildings of history were built.

Kingfisher Atlas:

If there was ever an atlas that you would want to pore over and read each tiny detail, this would be the atlas. It is beautifully illustrated with maps that go from ancient civilizations to modern day countries.

Wonderful books to give for Christmas

It is meant for younger students, so it does not have as many details as your average atlas, but it tells a story through geography that makes it seem alive.

Craft Books:

These historical figures are so much fun to make. They are like more elaborate paper dolls, which will delight both boys and girls!Wonderful books to give for Christmas There are many choices from all time periods of history!

Books for older children:

Homer Price

This book is full of all the delightful adventures of Homer Price. It is lighthearted and funny, bringing many laughs to the child reading it! Wonderful books to give for Christmas

Amazing Leonardo DaVinci Inventions You can Build Yourself: Do you have a crafty young teen who loves to make things? This book provides wonderful ways to try to recreate DaVinci’s inventions!Wonderful books to give for Christmas

Aladdin and Other Tales from the Arabian Nights: This book brings to life the delightful stories from the Arabian Nights and introduces your children to the non-Disney version of Aladdin!Wonderful books to give for Christmas

Some other wonderful classics to choose from:

For more book ideas, check out Bookshelf Central. If you want to see how we fit all these books into a historical timeline, check out our whole book curriculum, Tapestry of Grace.

Here are some wonderful book gift ideas for the children in your life!

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.

Critical Thinking: the Most Important Skill to Teach in High school

Thinking critically matters. We are bombarded daily with ideas that we may or may not believe, and often don’t stop to examine closely. Training our children to think, and in the process, challenging their thought processes can be difficult, but the benefits are enormous.Thinking critically matters. We are bombarded daily with ideas that we may or may not believe, and often don’t stop to examine closely. Training our children to think, and in the process, challenging their thought processes can be difficult, but the benefits are enormous.

Learning to look at the world with a critical eye helps your student to develop what they believe for themselves, and often helps them to not be swayed by the many deceptions they will face as adults. Giving our kids the tools to think carefully will also help them learn empathy for others’ decisions. Tapestry provides all the resources you need to train your child to think deeply about what they read and gives you, the teacher, the tools to that you need to have these discussions.

Most of us care deeply that our children learn not only the academics of a subject, but how to think about things and process decisions logically. I believe that a study of the humanities, done rightly, trains that processing ability, and that following a good decision-making process is just as important as reaching right conclusions, especially since most decisions we make have many right conclusions. The details of our families, our communities and our lives can differentiate what is right for individuals. One decision may be right for one person, but wrong for another. So, rightly determining what is best within a set of valid choices is very important.

How we get to the answer matters. And, the process influences later decisions.

I have seen this exemplified in the medicine vs. herbal medicine debate that has been raging for the past 10 years. (Please note that I am not trying to enter this debate, but I find that how people handle the different viewpoints is telling.) I have seen two types of thinking typified in two friends:

When one friend had children and started looking into whether she wanted to use modern or herbal medicine, she researched the articles, and evaluated the validity of the arguments both for and against modern medicine. She considered the credentials of those writing the articles, but also looked at what she valued for her family and their specific needs. Ultimately, she has chosen not to use modern medicine on a regular basis, but delves deeply into quality nutrition and working with a certified naturopathic doctor as her family’s regular doctor.

When the other friend had children, she also started researching natural medicine. Unfortunately, her research consisted of Internet searches. She tended to latch onto the most inflammatory articles without questioning the credentials of the person writing the article. She began to believe each extreme idea she saw, and her decisions were based more on emotional reactions than reasoned decisions. This has an overall negative effect on her family, for emotions are powerful drivers, and logic cannot always persuade towards rational actions when they are heavily in play.

This difference in these two friends provides an excellent example of why critical thinking matters. They both did research and came to the same decision to not use traditional modern medicine. But, sometimes the end result doesn’t matter all that much. Rather, how you consider a subject matters and when done well enables you to live life wisely.

We want to raise our children to think wisely about the world around them. They should be able to follow logical progressions in their thought processes. They’ll need to evaluate facts and arguments being thrown at them, sifting them for both truth and value to themselves in their unique circumstances. Every generation faces issues that are confusing. We want to help our children make good choices in life by teaching them to think critically about what they hear and read, and employ a biblical worldview when making decisions.

As your children grow, they may well come to different conclusions than you have about some things. But if they have been trained to think well and critically about a topic, you can trust that they will typically come to decisions that are right for them.

This is one of the biggest benefits of a high quality humanities education. As we read the Great Books, we present our children with many different viewpoints to evaluate. We allow them to wrestle with questions that humans have been asking for thousands of years. And, we help them think about them. We ask them hard questions that don’t have easy answers in order to train their minds to think. This training gives them the tools they’ll need to face their own tough questions in the future and to think carefully about what they meet in the world around them.

At younger ages, when you ask your children difficult questions, they will have no idea how to think about something. They eagerly accept what you tell them to believe. They don’t see a grey scale on any decision: it is all black and white.

But as children reach the dialectic and rhetoric levels, they start to question what they believe and why they believe something. They begin to see that sometimes there is no one right answer. Through Socratic discussions, you help them think logically about the issues at hand and to apply a biblical worldview to what they conclude. You also help them look at hard questions in light of their historical context. Those things all help train their minds to think deeply. You are developing their worldview and thinking skills simultaneously, and it’s the process that you’re developing that will help them make good decisions for the rest of their lives.

If you want help to have Socratic, logic-building discussions with your students, check out our teacher training video that teaches you how to do it.

A Delightful Combination

The fabulous combination of Classical Education and Charlotte Mason that makes up Tapestry of Grace.When I first started researching curriculum for my family, I knew I wanted one that both used quality books in the way that Charlotte Mason encourages, and gave us the depth and worldview training that a Classical education promises. I was thrilled to realize that I could get all of that by using Tapestry of Grace! Using this curriculum, I knew that I would be able to give my kids a rich education in the humanities. This made me very excited!

But, I had three young children and a very busy life. Among other things, we had just moved to a new city. I knew that my good planning intentions would quickly fall apart as things began to get busy. So, I added my voice to others who had been asking for a chart that would break Tapestry’s weekly assignments into daily, bite-sized pieces. The danger of making such requests when you are involved in the family business is that you get pulled into the project! I was drafted to help! But, since I love planning and making schedules, I was happy to jump into it.

As I dove into the Planning Aids project and started looking through all the books, I learned some interesting things about the curriculum that I want to share with you.

First, the book selection is amazing! The quality of the books and the fabulous illustrations distracted me! I would catch myself getting caught up in some of the assignments when I was just supposed to be assigning daily readings by page number. As I looked through all the books, I became even more convinced that Tapestry of Grace is amazing! If you are looking for a curriculum that embraces a Charlotte Mason approach for younger students, this is a fabulous choice. Glancing ahead, I saw that Tapestry would grow with my students, providing a high-quality, classical approach to learning at the Dialectic (Jr. High) and Rhetoric (High School) levels. Tapestry gives us all the tools for that, too!

Second, I love the amount of “non-western” history that Tapestry covers in both the book list and the weekly topics. Here I found the kind of integration that I want in my children’s humanities curriculum. I want my children to know that there is more to the world than Europe and North America. Tapestry includes information about Africa, China, India, the Middle East, South America, and Canada, fitting it into appropriate places for Western students. Tapestry of Grace covers subjects, countries and histories all over the world.

Third, I learned that Year 2 (the Fall of Rome through the American Colonial period) is my favorite year of Tapestry! I know I am biased (because it includes my favorite time period in history), but between the amazing books and the wonderful hands on activities that can be integrated with the learning, I decided that if I needed to spread any one Tapestry year over two years, I would pick Year 2.

It’s worth saying again. As I have worked with the curriculum over the past several years, I have been so delighted to see that at the Grammar levels, Tapestry is strongly committed to Charlotte Mason’s principles, while embracing a richly classical approach, as well. Tapestry has delightful living books for you to read aloud.  It encourages discussion and narration rather than worksheets. Yet, in what I think is a perfect blend, Tapestry flows into a more traditionally classical approach as it encourages Socratic discussion and the reading of as many original works as is feasible for the age of the student at the Dialectic and Rhetoric levels. I am so excited for the humanities education that I will be able to give my children using Tapestry of Grace for their homeschool!

If you want to see all the books we use in Tapestry of Grace, check out our sister company, Bookshelf Central! If you want to see firsthand how we integrate all the subjects while keeping your whole family on the same time period, check out our three week sample!

Finding Books in the Library Using the Reading Assignment Charts

library-call-numbersThe Reading Assignment chart is an amazing document. It helps you see at a glance what all your children are reading on their level in a given week. But, not only does it have all the books and assignments listed, we have also filled it with all available library call numbers!Library call numbers

We all know a good library system is an invaluable resource, but finding the right books can take time. With the library call numbers listed, if you are heading to the grocery store and have five minutes to dash into the library, you can head straight to the right shelf and see if they have the book you need to finish this week’s assignments.

At the grammar levels the call numbers help tremendously because those books are easily substituted for another book. If you are looking on the library shelves for a book on ancient Egypt and they don’t have the one Tapestry assigned, you will already be near the right shelves and can grab a similar book to substitute instead!

This means that your next trip to the library can be as fast or as leisurely as you want it to be!

How to Organize Your Tapestry Books

Here is how I organize all my homeschooling books that I use with Tapestry of GraceOne of my favorite things about Tapestry is the whole-book education that delights my children. There are so many wonderful books to read!

But, this also means that I need to organize all the books so I know where to find them. I am sure you can sympathize with how frustrating it is to finally get everyone gathered for history reading only to realize that you can’t find the book. The system I use has helped with that immensely.

We have an odd little room in our basement that divides the guest room from the back office space. It would be an awkward arrangement for most uses, but it fits bookshelves perfectly! I store all the books that are not in the unit we are currently using on those bookshelves. To keep track of which books go where, I label the books and divide them up by year and unit.

To label the books I ordered Avery 0.75 circle labels in red, yellow, green and blue. Then, looking at the books on a shelf, I can easily see which year and level they are.Avery stickers

Unfortunately, the labels don’t stick to the spines of books well, so I put clear packing tape over top of them and now they look nice and professional.Stickers on books

I also made myself a handy cheat sheet so that I wouldn’t forget what the colors meant. The following is the color chart that I use, which I stuck on the wall next to the bookshelves.Sticker chart

Top sticker is year:

Year 1: Red

Year 2: Yellow

Year 3: Green

Year 4: Blue

Bottom sticker is level

Lower Grammar: Red

Upper Grammar: Yellow

Dialectic: Green

Rhetoric: Blue

Then I divide the books up by unit and use binders with the unit number to create a simple break.File dividers

Since I use Tapestry Digital Edition, I print up the Reading assignment chart for each week. Then I highlight each book I have on the chart and make any notes I might need. This helps when I update my DE, so I can get the current books for the new levels my children are on, but I can still remember which books I have for previous levels.


I love all the books I have to use with Tapestry, and it fills me with such joy when I see one of my kids pull a book off the Tapestry shelves, just because it looks interesting to them. But I am so glad for a simple organization system since, inevitably, they forget where the books go when they are done!

Managing Those Living Books

librarianFor many of us, it’s the little things that add up to big decisions. The struggle to keep on top of so many different kinds of details while homeschooling can defeat us! Whether you’re teaching academics to host of kids or just one or two, managing all their resources — from sharpened pencils to history resource books — can be challenging, especially when using book-rich programs like Tapestry. (And with those book lists, there’s also the question of expense.)

If these are some of the reasons you have either hesitated to buy Tapestry or have grown weary when using it (a challenge for many of us in this season of the year when spring has sprung but we are far from done) here’s some great advice from a new Tapestry user! Laura recently posted this great idea on one of our great Yahoo support email loops, and it is reprinted with her kind permission:


This is my first year of doing Tapestry of Grace (love it), but I will say that I hesitated because it did seem overwhelming. I’m homeschooling five kids this year, and I really did need something that wouldn’t be too time-intensive or taxing on me, but the strengths of Tapestry kept drawing me. I just wanted to share what has made Tapestry doable for me, with the hopes that perhaps it can help others as well.

I knew that we could never afford all the books, and I also didn’t want to be consumed with library check-outs, inter-library-loan findings, etc. So, last summer I approached my public school children’s librarian with my laptop and showed her my Tapestry of Grace curricula. She was impressed! I knew that our library assisted public school teachers with gathering curricula for their classes, and I asked her to consider whether she would likewise help me, a homeschool mom.

After checking with her bosses and a little more convincing, the library agreed to “service me” for a small fee. That means that I gave her all my reading lists for the year (unit at a time) for all my kids, and she hunts them down and has each week’s books ready for me each Wednesday at the library for pick-up!

What a huge blessing that has been to me! It really isn’t a lot of work for her, because she sits at her database one day a week (usually three weeks prior to my pick-up date for that lesson), places holds on all my books, and the library takes care of the rest. They do it for the teachers (plus, educators here get longer check-out periods – 6 weeks!), and it has worked out well for both of us.

I have no idea if I’m in an unusual situation and just have a remarkable library system, but I’d venture to guess that a good relationship with a friendly librarian might be worth seeking out if you’re looking for someone to help you. I don’t have the privilege of owning some terrific books, but we have saved a ton of money, which for us right now has been a high priority. (And for some of the really great ones, we just bought in the end.) I still have to do the scheduling each week, but having the books at my fingertips each week has been a tremendous help in the process!! Perhaps your librarian could do the same for you?


Reading Hard Books

I’m reading John Piper’s God’s Passion for His Glory in my quiet times these days. Recently, I read this quote of Mortimer Adler’s thought in his How to Read a Book, which I thought was so good for us homeschooling moms to ponder.

[Adler] makes a passionate case that the books that enlarge our grasp of truth and make us wiser must feel, at first, beyond us. They ‘must make demands on you. They must seem to you to be beyond your capacity.’ If a book is easy and fits nicely into all your language conventions and thought forms, then you probably will not grow much from reading it. It may be entertaining, but not enlarging to your understanding. It’s the hard books that count. raking is easy, but all you get is leaves; digging is hard, but you might find diamonds.

Evangelical Christians, who believe God reveals himself primarily through a book, the Bible, should long to be the most able readers they can be. This means that we should want to become clear, penetrating, accurate, fair-minded thinkers, because all good reading involves asking questions and thinking. this is one reason why the Bible teaches us, ‘Do not be children in your thinking; be babes in evil, but in thinking be mature’ (1 Cor. 14:20 RSV). It’s why Paul said to Timothy, ‘Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything’ (2 Tim. 2:7). God’s gift of understanding is through thinking, not instead of thinking.

I so agreed with the above! It’s a great articulation of the core goal for Tapestry of Grace studies. I have labored for 15 years (can’t believe it’s really been that long!) to make it possible for homeschooling parents who did not grow up challenged by the Great Books (or familiar with them) to nonetheless approach them and gain confidence to require their children to struggle with them and thus grow into mature thinkers. The parents who thus tackle these Great Books later in life have written me over and over to thank me for not only what their students are learning (and how they are blossoming into great thinkers) but also for the added richness in their own minds as parents grow from wrestling these books to the ground. In this I rejoice, and I just wanted to give God the glory for the sweet fruit of reading hard books!

The Problem of Evil

In 2005, Lora posted this question on our forums:

I wanted to know what Marcia’s thoughts (and anyone else who wants to chime in) are on studying the Great Books. I have signed my 14 year old daughter up to take a Great Books course with XXX online tutorial this fall and wanted to correlate it with Tapestry of Grace. Now I am having second thoughts about having her even read the Great Books.

I have read in the book Teaching the Trivium by the Bluedorns that reading the Great Books is not highly recommended because there are so many obscenities in them and that it is better to focus our time reading edifying literature and especially the Bible. Then I read an article in the Veritas Press catalog about the reason they use the Great Books. They said they use them as a sort of boot camp to train children to be able to see evil in comparison to biblical truth and be discerning Christians. Also, that if you shelter young adults from the evil things of this world they will be naive when it comes to temptations, etc. Another opinion from a respected source is that if we shelter our children from the truth then we have failed in teaching them to be “wise as serpents,” and that we may comfort ourselves in assuming that we have kept our children innocent only to find out that they are completely vulnerable to the enemy, naively innocent, and lacking in discernment.

So…I just don’t know what to do now. I noticed there are not many classics listed as readings in Tapestry, especially in comparison to the XXX Great Books list. Should I let her take this course or is it not wise to have her reading these books even with christian guidance and discussion?

What is your opinion Marcia and others?

Blessings to all,
Lora D


As you’ll see in my response, reprinted below, this is a perennial question that has recently reemerged on our Forum. I thought that bringing back my answer (which I still like, amazingly) might help some of you who are encountering some of the harder truths of the story of mankind in this, the doldrums of winter.  Here’s what I wrote back to Lora in 2005, and it still holds true today!


This is a question that I’ve heard discussed in various forms, and with relation to various educational paradigms, since I started homeschooling. You have summarized well the underlying quandary: should parents raise children who are innocent of the knowledge of evil, or children who understand evil, and seek to keep themselves from it?

Said another way, one view is that we should view our children as young plants in a greenhouse, who cannot withstand the cruel weather of winter, and must be protected, artificially even, from harm or blight. We should, therefore, shield our children from the knowledge of evil. Our goal is to engender in them such a love of what is good by constant communion with it that they are rightly horrified by evil when they do encounter it, and will most likely flee from it when they encounter it, as in 2 Tim. 2:22 (ESV) “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Another verse that might describe their hearts would be Paul’s sentiment expressed in 2 Cor. 11:2-3 (ESV) “I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

The other view, as you’ve said, argues that children will need to become acquainted with the evils of the world at a more tender age than we could wish so that they will have more options as adults than just flight. This view says that evil is resident in all human hearts, and our children will have to deal with it all their lives, beginning with their hearts, encountering the sinful hearts of family members, and finally dealing wisely, bravely, and biblically with extreme evil in the world. Because of this reality, we should seek an education that acquaints our children with evil as an abhorrence to God, defining it in as many ways as possible for our children, but certainly without asking them to experience its force too soon. Parents on this end of the spectrum would point to Romans 12:9 (ESV) “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good,” and Acts 17:11 (ESV) “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so,” or Matthew 10:16 (ESV) “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” or finally, Psalm 127:5 (ESV)

Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Perhaps the crux of the matter is best seen by dividing the term “evil” into “knowledge of evil” and “experience of evil.” Neither of these two camps would espouse purposefully exposing children to active evil in the hopes of teaching them to deal with it. (To be sure, there are proponents of this idea, but I’m saying that neither of the views I’m outlining above would suggest this course.)

The question lies more in when, and how, to introduce children to the *knowledge* of evil. Do we seek to strongly establish their faith by shielding them from all possible knowledge of evil (or opposing/tempting) views or practices? Or do we carefully teach our children, through literature, history, philosophy, and the arts that mankind is evil, and that all evil is abhorrent to God, and must be to the true Christian as well? Do we primarily teach them to run from all evil, or to understand it so well that they have an answer to it, and a fearlessness of it, because evil neither surprises nor entices them, since they have met it, understood it from a biblical perspective, and rejected it before meeting it in experiential ways in the world?

I do not pretend to have the answer to this age-old quandary, but I can share how we have chosen to walk with our children, and which of these views underlies our choices for the TOG reading list.

We have taken the second view. We believe that the gospel, the Spirit, and the Word combined are active and protective in the lives of our children. We seek to acquaint our children with the evils that men do at appropriate, yet young, stages of their lives, in the hopes that they will both understand the evil and (as David did with Goliath — 1 Sam. 17:48) run to meet and defeat it, secure in their certain knowledge of God’s superior power over evil, and with strong faith in His sovereignty and love for them.

The TOG book list reflects our views. It is not truly a Great Books curriculum, yet it contains many books on that list. We have attempted to carefully mine the works of Western Civilization for representations of TRUTH — good and bad — that will aid us in teaching our children about God, mankind, and the culture which we hope they will affect for good. Some of our choices involve “tough” subjects: Les Miserables and Crime and Punishment have sympathetic characters who sin grievously (prostitution and murder); such books as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and All Quiet on the Western Front detail the brutality of man against man; 1984 and Farenheit 451 give compelling examples of mankind’s hopeless state apart from God, and are bleak and depressing. However, there is real TRUTH in all these works. They do not paint good as evil, and evil as good. Often, they are the voices of a perplexed humanity adding to the Great Conversation their pain, but also their lack of understanding. They don’t know about the nature of the fallen world (and the fallen nature) in which they find themselves. They portray for us their view of the human condition, and we at Tapestry, through our helps, seek to help you to bring a biblical perspective to these voices and the views they espouse so that your children may be equipped to encounter similar situations with Christian charity, biblical hope, and compassionate, informed evangelism. We also make sure to offer a much lighter treatment of “heavy” subjects, especially in Year 4, in the lower levels. There, our focus is on the advances of mankind during those troubled years: the space race, radio plays, and inventions are key foci.

Sorry this got a bit long. I’ll hop down off my soap box now, but you’ve hit on one of my favorite topics. Let me just say, in closing, that my children now range from 14 to 24. They all have (by God’s grace alone) a vibrant, unshrinking faith in God and confidence in His ability to guide, protect, and love them, come what may. The fruit of this alternative has been sweet. However, I am sure that others who have chosen the other path in FAITH have experienced sweet fruit as well. Whenever we seek to honor God, we win, because in the end, He empowers those who wholly trust in Him. It’s never our feeble efforts, or wise theories, that raise God-filled children: God Himself fills them as He wills with His Spirit, and we do well to seek Him daily for *that* provision, and rest in Him which ever path we choose.

Update for 1/12: The last paragraph above, by God’s grace alone, is as true today as it was when I penned it almost seven years ago. My kids are now 21-31 years of age; four of them are married, all but one have graduated college unscathed by the worldliness they encountered there, and my “baby” Marjorie will graduate in May, God willing. We have 3 going on 5 grandchildren, and it is pure joy to see strong, vibrant faith in Jesus Christ going forward to the next generation. This is not of us, or solely because of our choices. It is all of grace. But, God works through our choices. They were the right ones for our family, and I feel that our experience must stand as some kind of an answer to the fears of many parents who look at the problems surrounding the introduction of evil to the hearts of our young children. May God lead you to the right answers for your children. Be assured that God loves you and them everlastingly, and will lead you on the right path as you look to Him!