Tag Archives: Primer

Supplement Highlight: Big Story Game

The Big Story Game is a wonderful card game that reviews history in a fun, colorful way!

The Big Story Game is a wonderful card game that reviews history in a fun, colorful way!We developed the Big Story Game for the Primer student to add some additional fun to their history studies. But it is a wonderful card game that any child might delight in!

The Big Story Game is a set of cards that covers famous people from history that the kids learn about in Tapestry Primer or over the four years of Tapestry. These cards provide a fun, memorable way to review history and bring the whole family together in their studies.The Big Story Game is a wonderful card game that reviews history in a fun, colorful way!

There are instructions for four different ways to play games with the cards to help solidify the things they are learning. In one game, the student can line all their cards up in chronological order. This helps solidify in your child’s mind the order of historical people. Another option is to play a game where the players have to pair the cards with the other cards that are in the same era. There are some fun options that can be as easy or as hard as your kids need.The Big Story Game is a wonderful card game that reviews history in a fun, colorful way!

The illustrations on these cards are beautiful and my kids enjoy just looking through them and even my youngest loves holding up a card and asking me who someone is. I love how this kind of game promotes learning even out of school time!The Big Story Game is a wonderful card game that reviews history in a fun, colorful way!

If you are looking for a game for your children for Christmas, this is a fun one.Buy it here!

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.


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!


Michelle and the Guidebook

GuidebookLet us introduce you to one of our friends: a homeschooling mom named Michelle. Michelle has four children ranging from nine months to eight years old. She is only a few years into her homeschooling journey and she can feel overwhelmed by the steep learning curve of how to homeschool and care for her little ones. She values history deeply, but–despite a private school education and a degree in computer science–she has long felt “history illiterate.”

Michelle and her husband Bill both feel that history is important and that it teaches us how to interpret our own times in light of God’s works throughout time, giving hope and faith for the hard things as we see them fitted into His story. But for Michelle and Bill, history was not something they had studied much themselves or knew where to start learning about it.

Last fall, as we started writing the material for Tapestry Primer, we asked Michelle and Bill if they would be interested in teaching themselves history by reading the Tapestry Primer Guidebook. Our Guidebook is designed primarily to explain the highlights of Western Civilization history to a parent-teacher in an easy conversational style. It is meant to teach the homeschool parents as they then teach their children through our Primer program. Michelle and Bill were delighted to take us up on this offer, and so began a four-month journey for Michelle. She homeschooled her children out of a non-Tapestry curriculum by day, but by night she and Bill learned history for themselves out of the working draft of Primer Guidebook.

During these months, Christy Somerville sat down with Michelle once a week in her home to talk about what she was learning and how homeschooling was going. While Christy was meeting with her, Michelle was working her way through ancient history in the first four mini-units (out of twelve) in the Guidebook. Below are some of Michelle’s comments that Christy gleaned to share with others who might struggle with learning history:

I really love the way the Guidebook draft presents the Bible. This presentation is fresh, tied into history, and takes Scripture very seriously.  It makes me think about the Old Testament in a way that I never did when in Sunday school or private Christian school–in a relational kind of way, as I see how these people struggled with God. The Guidebook draft approach is interesting, even game-changing for me. I’m learning more about God through it. I think it is because of its style of presentation that I would choose to use the Tapestry curriculum, even though ancient history has often seemed boring to me before now.

I’m realizing that I didn’t have a big enough picture of history to know what I needed or didn’t need to know. There was one Big Story Overview, towards the end of Mini-Unit 4, that really gave me that big picture. I had waded through enough history in the Guidebook by then that it meant a lot to me. Summaries of summaries like that are great!  I also love the practical examples, like when Guidebook invites me to ask my kids to imagine looking out the window through Moses’ eyes. The conversational style of the Guidebook is also huge for me. I enjoy it so much more than reading a textbook.

At the end of the experiment, Michelle said that the Guidebook approach is interesting, and even has become game-changing for her. She is learning more about God through it, and shared that the reading material was so interesting that it made her want to use the full  Tapestry program because ancient history no longer seems boring to her. Michelle realized that she hadn’t had a big enough picture of history to know what she needed or didn’t need to know. The Guidebook gave her a place to start.

As more families choose homeschooling, we are seeing more people who value history, but have no idea how to teach it to their own children. Some had a dry history education themselves and simply find it boring or irrelevant. We hope that through the Primer Guidebook parents will come to enjoy how history weaves together and will pass that joy of learning on to their children.

Interview with the Primer Authors

I know we are all eagerly awaiting Tapestry Primer, which is now in those finicky last stages of production. I thought that an interview with the authors, Mike and Jessica Somerville, might give us all something to read while while we wait. At the right, there’s a picture of Mike and Jess on the day they were engaged. Now, they are homeschooling parents of three of my granddaughters. Enjoy!


Jessica, I wrote in my book introductions that you and Mike asked me to write Love the Journey. What’s your favorite chapter in it, or your favorite point that I make?

Jessica: At the very beginning, when I read the very roughest draft of Love the Journey just as I was starting my first school year, it helped me focus our home school on what we cared about. We live in an area where people are very driven to succeed in education and career. I often felt the pressure to put my six-year-old in every class and extracurricular activity I could find, to make sure she was well-educated. The book helped me develop conviction for the subjects and classes which I chose to do based on the values that my husband and I shared for our family, rather than constantly chasing the latest craze in homeschooling.

In light of that comment about how Love the Journey helped you understand your own values and goals for homeschooling, I want to ask: as second-generation homeschoolers, what makes you want to continue the journey with your own children? Mike and Jessica, why do YOU homeschool?

Mike: As second-generation homeschoolers, we certainly have a different set of challenges than our parents did. Our parents faced a struggle for legitimacy and relevance. Driven by their faith, they set out in the grand spirit of the pioneers for wide open spaces, trusting God and their skills to thrive in new lands. As second-generation homeschoolers, we walk a much more well-worn path. We are not forging into the unknown, and we are not as isolated as we once were.

At the same time, our options have continued to erode. The alternative to homeschooling was once a relatively safe (if secular) system that had done a good job of educating our grandparents and an okay job of educating our parents.  But we now face a public school system that is too often characterized by failure and danger.  A generation ago (1987), teachers had 15 years of experience, on average. Now, according to a 2012 study, a typical teacher has 1-2 years of experience.  We felt, and have found, that we are as capable of educating our young children as any other teacher.

We have the ability and the motivation to give our own children an excellent start.  Also, as people who value the principles of classical liberal arts education, the opportunity to teach our children HOW to think instead of WHAT to think is very compelling. Finally, through homeschooling we will unapologetically provide our children with a Biblical worldview, and we look forward to teaching them the grand story of history without leaving out the most important person — the Author.

Jessica: I homeschool for a variety of reasons. I love the education I received as a homeschooled kid. School was about learning, not about a grade or a test. I want my kids to love to learn and be excited about using their minds.  I also want to be able to give them a biblical worldview as they learn, and have opportunities to help them build their characters as they face challenges in academics. I feel that I can do that best by having them at home with me, learning and living together. I also want to homeschool because it allows me to teach my girls at the pace they need, and allow them to go as fast or slow as is appropriate to each of them.  Finally, I just love having them home with me and being able to spend the day together, rather than sending them to school and not being able to see them all day long.  Evenings together aren’t enough!

What inspired you, as a couple, to write the Primer program?
Mike: As we looked at Tapestry of Grace, we loved the story-driven approach, but found it a bit overwhelming to extract pieces that we could use with three children who were all six years old or under. Our oldest, N—, was a six-year-old first-grader.  With a four-year-old who desperately wanted to do everything she saw big sister doing, and an even-younger toddler in diapers, AND with the basic task of learning how to run the daily schedule of a homeschool, we felt that we needed a transition program.  If Tapestry of Grace is an educational superhighway for the journey of lifelong learning, we found ourselves wanting a way to ramp up to highway speeds.

Then, as we started writing Primer, we discovered that there were some opportunities and advantages in teaching through the whole story of man at an accelerated pace for the first year of homeschool. Honestly, we found that gaps and holes in our own education (Tapestry wasn’t being developed until I had almost finished high school, so I didn’t get to do it then) were being filled in as we went along.  We think we’ve gained a better foundation for the future, when we begin Tapestry of Grace for real.

Jessica: I wanted a program that covered a wide sweep of history, to give N— a feel for how the history of the world progresses. I wanted to use whole books rather than a textbook, and I wanted it to be fun and full of stories rather than just dates and facts.  Neither Mike nor I ever felt pressured to use Tapestry just because Mike’s family wrote it: every option was on the table.  Yet, when I finished my research in available curricula, Tapestry of Grace came closest to what I wanted.

There was still a problem, however: I saw that even Tapestry would be a bit complicated to use with only a first grader (with my 4 year old and 2 year old tagging along).  So I asked my husband if we could pull the best lower grammar level elements from Tapestry of Grace so I could use it with even younger children than those for whom it was originally written. I am actually using the resulting Primer program this year, but it is so good and has so much content that I am going to repeat it again next year as well.
What are your favorite elements of Primer?
Mike: As Dad, I love the activities. On the weekends it gives me a fun project that I can do with the kids. I use it as a springboard for the “Saturday Science” class that I do with the girls. One of our more memorable sessions involved recreating the Galileo Tower Drop experiment. We filmed the drop and replayed the tape to see the two objects hit at about the same time.
Jessica: I love that all three of my little kids can do Primer at their own level, even the two who are too young for full Tapestry. I love that Primer is story driven. I love that you learn history and geography together, so that my girls are learning about history in the context of the lands in which those people lived.  I love that all the books we have are books I would want in my library, regardless of what history I was doing.  I know I will come back to them as spine books.
What have been some of your favorite moments with your children so far in using Primer?  Which mini-unit have your children loved most so far, and why?
Mike: My favorite moment was when we were building an extremely crude model pyramid out of Legos(TM), and six-year-old N— says, “Daddy!  Don’t forget to put the tomb robbers in, since they almost always had them!”  As we’ve gone along, N—‘s favorite period of history has become the Medieval period, since it has PRINCESSES!  They love learning about knights and castles and princesses, especially since this resonates with other stories that they know and love. The cool thing is that they are able to look back on the story and remember some of the key points of interest that we have visited along the way. We’ll see how she feels when she studies the American Revolution and realizes that her American Girl doll (Caroline) fits in that time period.  Since they are really “mini-units” and only take 3 weeks each, I’m not sure that the kids really know that they are moving from one to another.
Jessica: One of my favorite moments was the time when we took the girls to the zoo after the ancient history portion. I told N—that all these animals ancestor’s were on Noah’s ark. She started looking at each animal and excitedly declaring, that was on Noah’s ark! It’s hard for me to say which mini-unit I think they will like best overall, since we’re only halfway through. They love the ones the most that I take the time to do all the extra craft projects and hands-on learning.
What elements in Tapestry of Grace influenced the way you designed Primer, which you look forward to enjoying when you do the full Tapestry program later on?

MikeTapestry of Grace is integrated learning.  It presumes an organic, multidimensional approach to education, which involves learning the story of the lives of people and civilizations from multiple points of view (history, geography, etc.).  Yet, in Tapestry there is always an awareness that history is written by one Author named God.  One of our goals is for our students to grow in wisdom and stature. We see their development as a journey of organic, interconnected growth.  This stands in contrast to a mechanical view of education, which would put subjects in little boxes and treat them as parts that can be separated from one another.

As we put Primer together, we wanted to make sure that this was not lost. We wanted to make sure that this was an integrated and story-driven approach to history.  Add to that the fact that children LOVE stories and learn them easily, and it seemed like this was a graceful way to give our students an understanding of the world that they live in.  It’s also a delightful way to teach! Rather than have the need to plan and juggle half a dozen different topics, teachers can learn one story and look at it through the multidimensional lenses of history, worldview/literature, geography, and arts/activities!  Even though our children may be a bit young for those “Ooooohhhh!” moments, we ourselves have made a number of connections as adults.

Jessica: I love Tapestry’s integrated, history-driven approach that puts history, literature and geography all together.  To me, understanding how those three fit together turns the humanities into something that makes so much more sense. I love that as a teacher I get to learn along with my children, and there are many fun parts I am learning that I never knew before.