Warp & Weft

Click Here for a Warp & Weft Project Explanation!

In an effort towards stabilizing the booklist and also improving our Grammar and Dialectic levels, we are starting to construct our own spine history texts in audio, digital, and (eventually) print formats. We call this the “Warp & Weft Project.”  Having said as much, and knowing how the Tapestry community loves extensive booklists, I want to make a few caveats up front. First, we still love rich, living book, multi-perspective education!  We have no intention of writing “one history book to rule them all” and turning Tapestry into a curriculum that can only be done as a textbook-based program.  At the same time, the past twenty years have shown us a few things:

  1. Lack of a stable overview history text can be terribly frustrating for teachers, students, and curriculum designers alike.
  2. We hate recommending otherwise-inferior books simply because there is no other history overview text available. 
  3. Especially at the Grammar levels, we cannot easily give you history discussion materials because the books we rely on keep going out of print.
  4. It can be hard to find digital versions of children’s illustrated history books.
  5. For some of our customers on a tight budget, with tight storage space, serving as overseas missionaries, or working in a large group (school or co-op) context, spine books would simply be a godsend.
  6. At the Dialectic level, there is an especial need for a stable “basic” text that provides the facts for discussion. Spine history books at this level tend to be disappointing, or to go out of print on a regular basis. Both problems that also lead to some “mismatches” between the discussion scripts and the readings at this level.

Having experienced these problems consistently over the past twenty years, we felt it was time to at least attempt the writing of our own spine texts. (Keep reading to find out how we plan to integrate these with our current 2,000+ library of living books!)

From the very beginning of this project, we were inspired by looms, which are set up with a “warp” and “weft” of vertical and horizontal threads.  In many cases, the picture of the tapestry is woven into the fabric itself.  However, some famous tapestries (such as Bayeux Tapestry) are actually stitched onto a sturdy foundational cloth formed by the threads of the warp and weft.  We decided that although we don’t want to lose our colorful, vivid, living books, our rich perspective books, and our classical books, we do want to offer a sturdy foundational cloth that teachers and students alike can use to understand the basic information of a given period’s history, church history, philosophy, literature, government, art, and music, before moving on to select from our buffet of living or classical books that add vividness and perspective, like rich colored threads in an embroidered tapestry.  

We call the Grammar level spine books “Weft,” and we are thinking right now that they will eventually be available in both digital and print, and in audio.  You can already listen to our Weft History Audio samples (see below), and we are working to produce more of these History overviews every day!  The Weft Audio is designed for both Lower Grammar and Upper Grammar students, but we intend to produce age-appropriate overview readers for Upper Grammar students as well. We are working on Weft spine texts in History, Literature (which will be like our Shorter Works Anthologies, only for Grammar students), and Science. We are considering the idea of a Grammar-level version of Poetics (or perhaps simply short audio lessons to help guide students in beginning literary studies). We are also considering Mathematics.

After months of design meetings, we have actually begun to write.  We set painfully high standards, desiring that the Warp and Weft should combine our best and most precise scholarship with primary sources and “fresh” historical details, provide every bit of information called for in discussion scripts, and be written with a marvelous sense of fun!  To that end, we have invented two characters for the Weft–Ted the Thread and Nelly the Needle–to help guide our younger students through the Tapestry.

At the Dialectic and Rhetoric levels, we refer to this spine text project as the “Warp” (or “the Warp Drive” for our Star Trek fans, of whom there are many in the Somerville family).  We are sure we want the Warp to be mostly digital or web-based so that we can continuously improve, update, and hyperlink to other resources, and so that students can use it as a sort of customized Tapestry encyclopedia for research as they write papers and prepare presentations.  As with the Weft, we want our Warp to be rich in the basic information and overview features that will orient upper-level students as they prepare to read all our living and classical books.  The Warp will also include summaries of multiple perspectives on various topics, and (where possible) links to primary-source documents (e.g. Ben Franklin’s Autobiography on Project Gutenberg), curated pictures and videos, etc.  We will also incorporate Book II and Appendix B of Poetics into the Warp.   

Beginning with the 2023 edition, we plan that the Warp and Weft will replace World Book articles and half of Poetics (the Literary Toolbox will cover the remaining half for both Dialectic and Rhetoric students) as information resources for both students and parents. This measure will considerably lighten your “printing load” for the curriculum, as you will be able to access web-based background information from a trusted source (the Warp) any time on any device, but will not have to print out all that information.

At these Dialectic and Rhetoric levels, the Warp will operate much as Poetics has done for Rhetoric Literature students: teachers and students alike will share the same resource book, but teachers will have the articles from the book summarized in their discussion scripts in case they lack time to read those articles. Thus, for those who prefer not to visit a website for background material, we are revising our Dialectic and Rhetoric History scripts to make sure they incorporate a boiled-down version of the “who, what, where, when, and how” information provided in the Warp articles. One result will be that the 2023 edition of Integrated Tapestry and Tapestry Spools will no longer offer World Book articles. (If you have questions or concerns about this, please contact us! In all our design processes, we give much weight to your comments and concerns.)   

What will these new Warp and Weft resources cost you? That is yet-to-be-determined, but it is our avowed policy to keep prices as low as we reasonably can given costs of development. (It is really hard to do even a small curriculum development project for less than $5K, and the average is more like $20K-$50K. This is not an average project: it is a big project.) We think, however, that we will be able to actually save you money with the Warp and Weft project. How? By lowering the cost of your booklist.

Let’s say, just as an example, that a set of Weft History books for your year cost $60. Let’s say that you would normally have spent about $200 on Grammar books per year. Well, now you have “spine” books (or audios) that will definitely cover all the needed information, and you have $140 left to buy whichever living books you think will most capture your students’ interest without having to worry about what information is included. Or, if money is tight, you can use the spines alone and visit the library, supporting links pages, or both, to keep your book costs as low as possible while also feeling confident that you have everything you need included in one set of volumes. If you are teaching a Grammar co-op class, this also means that you can read from/listen to, or assign readings from (for older students) the same spine, and then let students share more thoughts from whichever living books they are also reading in their homes.

Or, pretend you don’t especially like our Weft—something about the audio or written style bothers you. (We promise not to be offended, but we do hope you’ll let us know how we could improve it!) In that case, you can skip the Weft and instead choose from our wide range of living books (our booklist tool will let you search all 2,000+ of them). The answers to history discussion questions for Grammar students will be included in your Teacher’s Notes for sure, so even if you don’t use our audios or texts, you will know the answers and can explain them to your student in cases where his reading doesn’t match. Or, you can ignore our questions and answers and simply enjoy the History books you have chosen! It’s up to you!

Now let’s consider the Warp. At the levels of Dialectic and Rhetoric, we have many rich books that seldom go out of print and are (we feel) important for students to read. Therefore, at these levels the Warp will probably be even more supplemental to the living and classical books already populating student’s reading assignments, just as Poetics provides a reference spine that in no way replaces The Odyssey, the Bible, or The Great Gatsby for Rhetoric Literature students. So, say that a Warp subscription for your student for a year costs $25. Let’s say that the Warp readings replace about five basic books per year (each costing at least $10) that you would otherwise have to purchase, and saves you about 300 pages of printing across the year. Well! Now you’re $25 ahead at least! That’s how we hope it will go.

Who will write all this?  Nathaniel Somerville, oldest son of Scott and Marcia Somerville, is our lead History author and managing editor for this project.  In addition to his homeschool training as a pioneer of Marcia Somerville’s curriculum, Nathan has a degree in history from Hillsdale College, a six-year-old son, a tremendous talent for humorous narrative, and a gift of wisdom.  Now forty years old, he also has the experiences of life, God, and suffering, that we feel are indispensable to a history project like this.  It is hard to find a writer of Nate’s caliber who will commit to a big, complex, multi-year writing project, so we are exceedingly grateful to God for him!  

Christina Somerville will contribute articles on Literature to the Warp, and Dr. Edward Somerville will contribute articles on Science. We are also soliciting articles on Philosophy, Economics, Music, Art, etc. from qualified parties.

There can be no question that this is a massive undertaking, but fortunately, we have some guidelines. We will use materials from the Pop Quiz, the Primer Guidebook, and of course the Teacher’s Notes in Tapestry of Grace, to help direct our topics, scope, sequence, etc.  The goal is that when we are through, you will never again have to wonder where to find the basic places, ideas, events, dates, people, etc., upon which and through whom God has woven His tapestry of grace.  To that end, we covet both your feedback and your prayers.

This is our extremely tentative production schedule for the Warp and Weft:

  • Summer of 2021: Begin to release Weft Audio (History) for all four years.
  • Early Spring of 2022: Begin to sell subscriptions to the Warp for Literature.
  • Summer of 2022: Release the first (digital) versions of Weft Science readers.
  • Winter of 2022-2023: Release digital Weft History and Literature Readers for all four years.
  • Winter of 2022-2023: Begin to add History articles to the Warp subscription.

A final, important note: we welcome contributions to this project! If you are interested in writing Warp articles on any of our subjects, either as a volunteer or as a way of earning curriculum through our Work Study Program, please contact us! We will consider your qualifications, ask for a writing sample, and see if there is a way to make you one of our contributors. 

Weft History Audio Samples