Showing posts with label History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label History. Show all posts

Monday, November 15, 2010

TOS Review Crew: The Corps of Re-Discovery

Oooh, this is a fun one!  Head over to the TOS Crew Review ditty written by me, to find out what my fellow mates had to say about the item they received to review.  This company is perfect for those handicraft needs, history tie-ins and so forth.  I have my mini-review posted in the product description (I was the head First Mate) so you can see exactly what I am talking about.  Just wanted to do a little FYI here.

In a hurry? 
 Then head to the Corps of Re-Discovery homepage to take a look-see for yourself.

They seem to have their homepage as under construction. Will update when they do.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

TOS Crew Review: History Odyssey: Early Modern Level 1 by Pandia Press

History-my favorite subject.  Ah yes-I love it.  I look forward to any or all opportunities to explore several ways to help teach it.  So I was totally geeked to be able to test out Pandia Press' History Odyssey series.  It was like Christmas around here, when the packaged arrived.  Now before I go on any further-even though history is my "thang", I had never heard of Pandia Press [how sad is that? But I am glad I can share their info with you] prior to seeing it on our list of vendors.  So of course, I had to go over and check out their site-you know-do some initial investigative work.  I saw that it reflected the Classical Education method best, and was intrigued.  I have said this many a times before, I am a Charlotte Mason devotee-but like to branch out and use other methods and styles to create a personalized education plan for my children.  I actually do use some of the Classical concepts-and hope that even if you are not a Classical kind of family-that you do not let that stop you from keeping this product in mind.


Now back to the History Odyssey series. I was given the Early Modern level 1 to explore.  It is written for the 3rd through 6th grade students [which is on the higher age side, for level 1 studies, since it serves a bridge to the next level], but it could serve as a drive-by intro of these subjects for older kids too. I liken it to "getting their feet wet", before diving into a more in-depth history course.  I am saying that because I had my 15 year old teen join us for these lessons-and she enjoyed them just as much as the boy did (in fact, she served as my assistant reader during the study).

I decided to pick and choose some of the lessons to get an overall feel of this program-mainly due to the time constraints, but also because we're studying a tad different era for our history lessons right now.  I was looking to see how involved this is, how easy it was to find the recommended literature to accompany it and so forth.  The program does require a few "backbone" books for this to be properly executed.  I actually had some of them (one that I did not have, was the A Child's History of the World-which I had sold a few years ago-as I frankly was not impressed with it, but it is listed as optional, so no biggie there) and thankfully, I was able to borrow the Susan Wise Bauer's History of the World, Vol. 3, from my friend.

We started with the World lesson (1), then moved along to the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions lesson (6).  I was able to find maybe all but 2 or 3 of the listed books for both of these.  That was encouraging, as nothing is more annoying that getting a program with such obscure books listed, that the lesson is pretty much a flop due to not having those extra resources.   This appears (to me anyhow) to be a lighter coverage than what you find in Susan Wise-Bauer's curriculum...which is good for those not looking to spend so much time in the details and "thick of it".  One could easily move through this level (1) in one semester's time (by not getting so in depth, or not doing as many activities) or stretch it out for the year (as suggested on the web).  Each lesson is laid out in a very organized fashion, there are no "surprises" as you can see right in front of you what you are to be reading, and from what source.  Then you add the additional literature as you wish.  There are also sprinkles of coloring pages you may copy off for your those busy bees who tend to need to move, or simply enjoy it-can color whilst you read.  I even see some recipes too-which is a fun way to truly experience history/world culture. What I especially like, is that she has infused the concepts of Charlotte Mason in this-the notebooking and hands-on activities.  On top of that, there are maps to accompany lessons.  I am a big fan of that option, because it helps to give the student a visual of where in the world this took place.

         Buddy's map of Australia and New Zealand, and their Didgeridoo 
(that low-sounding musical instrument the Aborigines use)

I let my daughter choose the next couple lessons-and well, we struck out a bit on the extra books.  I was unable to find a lot of them for the Australia and New Zealand  (17) and the China lessons (18).  I have access to a very big library system, so this was a concern.  If one lives in a little town, with a not so good library system-then what? This points out the need to then search the subject, to find replacement books-but remember even getting just 2 or 3 of the additional books will suffice nicely.  So please be aware of that.  Another option would be to purchase as many of  the books you feel you'll use (which is a huge investment-so search your library system and ask friends first) via a large book seller-esp. if you know you will be revisiting the level in the future (for additional children). Now, there are also lessons that utilize the Evan-Moor History Pockets [love those], and although she doesn't suggest them for all the areas-you could add on things such as that, or come up with many other "tag alongs" to make it a bit beefier.  I frankly, liked that we could sit and read, do some notebooking and coloring/map work in less than 30-40 mins.,  and call it a day.  If I were using this solely as my only history curricula-then I would definitely add in more goodies, as I didn't find it to be as comprehensive in nature (at least this level), compared to what we usually use.

I do believe that this is a great option for those who like the 4 year cycle of teaching history in eras [IE: Classical approach], or who need a bit more laid back way to cover several areas of history in a short amount of time.  I liked it enough to want to continue to add in some of the lessons to our regular lessons.  And I am looking forward to reading my TOS mates' reviews on the teen levels, since I am "running out of time" and I want my daughter to have some Ancient history, under her belt before she graduates-and the level 3 Ancients may just "cut the mustard" for us.  I am excited that I can download a sample lesson to see if this will meet our needs...something you can do with all of Pandia's History Odyssey series.

You can find a listing of the resources, and sample lessons on the site-but I thought I would share the links for the Modern History Level 1 here:
Table of Contents
Book List
Sample Lesson

So stop by the Pandia Press website and take a look around-and they even offer science curriculum too!

some work on the teacher's part because you have to search out the books and  have pages copied/ready to go, along with gathering of the activity materials

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Pandia Press Homepage
you can purchase the eBook versions directly from Pandia Press or buy the printed version from a distributer. ($28.99 for the eBook I reviewed, others may vary-not all are available in this format)

I found that Rainbow Resource had the best price and most of the series, but you will need to go thru the sources page to find those companies that carry the ones you need.

$24.95 (at Rainbow)

Don't forget to read what my TOS mates had to say about this, and many other fine homeschool products, on our TOS Review Crew Homepage.

***Pandia Press provided me with a free copy of the History Odyssey: Early Modern (level 1) guide, to use and test out with my family.  I have provided an honest opinion of this product, and did not receive financial compensation in exchange for my review.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

TOS Crew Review: Olde World Style United States and World Maps Combo Pak by Home School in the Woods

Home School in the Woods, my oh my!  Amy Pak does it again!  I am trying to contain myself I love  the stuff she creates.  Because I use mostly Charlotte Mason methods, I really try to keep the learning more hands-on,  with as many lapbooking/notebooking activities as I can squeeze in, and jazz it up by weaving  maps into our history and geography studies [sometimes Science and other subjects], on a daily/weekly basis.  Well, that in of itself is a problem-because finding good quality maps that are not bordering on total  "cheese fest" or "lame-O" in details has proven to be quite the challenge.  I like my stuff to be professional looking as possible, and the Olde World Style Maps fit the bill to a "T".  

What a delight it was to open the downloads to find not only one set of maps, but two!  The Combo pack includes the World and the United States collection. But that is not all-there are also extra maps and tons of Notebooking pages which coordinate with the main maps.

The Olde World Style World Map set covers from the simple Continents and Oceans, to the more complex maps covering the ancient worlds such as the Chinese Dynasties, Viking World, Africa, Mesopotamia, 
Greece/Rome,  Egypt, and Israel to Paul's Missionary travels, and the Twelve Tribes of Canaan.  There are also some of the more well-known countries of today's world mapped for your students to study too.

Plus, one has the choice of printing off the maps with or without the labels, or ones that have no titles, so you can custom design the map label to the student's needs. On top of those, there are about 40 Notebooking pages to compliment these great maps.  Whoah Nellie!  You can even print off colored flags of the countries which can be added to the student's study on a particular country, used to create a poster or any other type of visual.  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Now before you ponder what can be done with these-take a peek at what I made using several of the included maps and pages.

A center custom designed to provide an extra practice on the areas to be studied. I have a whole post on my World Geography Center on my workbox blog.  I even took snippets of the pages to create some focus activities, and sections for the main board.  When we are done with our world studies, we will move on to the United States map set to create a whole new version to highlight each of the 50 states!  I also have the kids putting together a mini-binder of the countries and such that we will cover this year.  One could easily turn these into parts for a lapbook as well [which just may happen now that I mentioned that].

Alrighty then, so that covers the World...but what if you need to do an in depth study of the States? Ah yes, Amy has you covered quite nicely there too.  I am amazed at how much is the Olde World Style United States Maps collection!  We won't be covering the states until January of next year, but I am already planning out what I can do with this stuff.  Each state has a very nice map (again with the label/no label, and outline form) so that the student can color it, label all the necessary info, etc.  We plan on creating a huge notebook [Amy thought of that too-she has covers available for the binders, and even the spine labels] to place these in-along with some of the Notebooking pages and the flags, as well.  Of course, that isn't all that is there-I noticed there were maps for the Civil War era.  So since we are up to our necks in that study, I couldn't be more happy to see them.

Example of the Union/Confederate map, that my daughter worked on for her U.S. binder.

There are more relating to the Civil War, and there are oodles of others covering the early settlement of America, to it's growth from the 1800s to the 1950s, Native American tribes, and the political/physical maps of the US too.  My son will be learning about the Colonies in a few short weeks, so I will print off those maps for him to color and label, to place in his History Notebook-again, a nice visual for him to refer to throughout the study.  I  have to say,  I am 100% sure that I will be utilizing these fantastic maps over and over, throughout the years.  

If you are thinking that this all sounds rather familiar, then you are probably a regular reader of my blog.  I also reviewed the New Testament Hands On Activity Pak (which we loved) take a moment to read that too. In fact, I am planning on purchasing her Civil War Time Traveler kit, as my son is totally into that study (thanks to having his big Sissy learning about it) and longs to do something geared for his age. I am telling you-if you enjoy nice, quality and well thought out products to help you teach in a more hands-on and Charlotte Mason methody way-then this is the place to focus your attention.

I gave this a world icon-even though there are plenty of Bible related maps in here-simply because the majority are benign. But there is definitely a Christian undertone-which is a very good thing!

very minimal assistance is needed with these maps-mainly for the younger children

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Home School in the Woods Homepage

Combo Pak :$28.95 for download
$29.95 for CD  (plus S & H)

Or purchase individual map sets:

World Maps: $18.95
US Maps: $18.95

Don't forget to check out what my TOS mates have to say about this, and many other fine homeschool products over on our TOS Review Crew Homepage.

***Home School in the Woods provided me with a free download of the Olde World Style United States and World Maps Pak, to use, test, create various visual aids, and enjoy to the utmost with my family. I have provided my opinion on the product, and did not receive financial compensation for this review. And my exuberance over the goodies Amy creates is simply because-they are just that good!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

TOS Crew Review: American Heritage Education Foundation-American's Heritage CD Rom

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

Thomas Jefferson

If ever there were a time in our history, where that very thought [the ignorant and free part] is our country's unspoken mantra, it would be now.  Due to  the decline of the majority of our nation's schools lack of  focus, and desire to truly teach the up and coming citizens of this country, about the very foundation in which is was built; and the general overall lack of knowledge about the very creeds that made this country unique and free-we are now waist deep in several generations where this ignorance has opened the door to our freedom's ultimate demise.

This lack of knowledge can be thwarted [albeit  with consistency and through perseverance] by using programs designed to adequately inform our future generations,  with the utilization of actual documents, and correct historical knowledge.  When citizens [such as you and I] and grass roots efforts through those at The American Heritage Education Foundation, we may be able to save this nation from losing what thousands of American citizens have fought and died for-since our humble beginnings.  It truly is imperative that we (parents) teach our children good citizenship and how to preserve our rights as Americans.  One way to go about this, is to use the free America's Heritage CD Rom, provided by AHEF.

The CD contains all levels-so basically-grades 1-12.  Broken down into the three sections, (and also with an Elementary Spanish guide) you can pull up the necessary lessons for your particular grade levels.  This was originally a project that was written for the Houston Independent School District, but is easily adaptable for all, including the homeschooling family.  Each guide contains several activities which tie into the lessons.  To better aid the instructor,  each unit has a listing covering its purpose, objective, theme, time allotment, needed materials, focus, listing of activities, the assessment criteria and concepts. For a complete list, visit the site for the :
Elementary School Lessons
Middle School Lessons
High School Lessons.
Please note, you do not need to order the CD if you have the capability to download, as these are available right from the site, in PDF form.

In my opinion, I would say this is not a complete program, but it is a great supplement or mini-theme series [the high school level will need less additons if you do all of the noted lessons] with which you can build a unit study on our heritage quite nicely.  Some of the elementary activity pages would look nice on a notebook or lapbook page too.  By adding in good literature [age appropriate] that discuss the topic at hand, you could build a really in-depth Citizen/Heritage Study.  If time is of the essence, then what is contained in the CD should suffice.  I found that some of the activities were a bit too much for my second grader-or simply were difficult to do because it was originally designed for several students to work on together.  If I had a bundle of kiddies, I could have pulled it off-but not with one at that age.  I do recognize though, that in the future I can pull them when needed, to add to our studies-so it is a nice reference to have available.  I plan on doing a unit on the foundation of our nation with my high school daughter next year, and so again-these materials will add a nice touch to emphasis the study. Outside of a couple activities that struck me as silly (the Preamble signing activity-I am not dissing Sign Language here-just that it is kind of corny to us and felt a bit like they were trying to hard to come up with an activity for the Middle and High School levels-this may have been a better one for the Elementary level only) , and a few fuzzy or less-than professional graphics [because there are so many resources available on line for free; or as a part of a subscription  to a company that specializes in teacher resources, this isn't a big deal-but I wanted to point that out]- I really liked the majority of what is included, and can recommend it to anyone who is looking for additional ideas and activities to enhance their children's knowledge of our country's unique and freedom giving laws, and the need for preserving it.

the material does discuss our Christian heritage, but it doesn't scream it-so I gave the product a globe-it is useful for anyone who wishes to gain a better knowledge of this country's beginning regardless of their religious affiliation

for the Elementary-High School Levels you will need to be involved with discussion and leading some activities

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The American Heritage Education Foundation Homepage
Free CD available upon request (a $150 value) or you can download them from their site.
or printed guide: $19.50 per level

You can also donate to help continue their mission. See the order page for more details.

Be sure to visit our TOS Review Crew Homepage to read more reviews on this, and many other fine homeschool products.

**The American Heritage Education Foundation provided me with a free CD Rom titled, American's Heritage, in order to test and use it with my family, so I could write this review.

Friday, October 9, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Amazing Bible History Timeline

Where does one start with a review such as this? I have decided to switch this one up a bit from my normal layout and style, due to some issues that I feel surpass the review of the item in of itself.

Be assured that I try my best to research any product that uses the Bible as its foundation. I want to be sure I understand where the company is coming from. I want to see what documentation they use to reference and create their product with. That is not always an easy task. Thankfully, most will boldly list their Statement of Faith, so that after reading it-I can decide if it aligns ours. I strongly believe this is an extremely personal, God-given right to which every individual is given. So, please do not misunderstand this review as my stating that one particular religion is better than the next. I am not. This review is penned out of our experience with this product and reflects the views of our family-and ours only. I have my own personal beliefs on such matters, but this is not the time nor the place with which to discuss them. I am simply stating what we discovered and how we feel it does or does not fit our family.

That said, I will introduce the product and discuss what the intention of this item is.  I will then note a few things about it that I found did not mesh with our faith, and then leave it at that.  So let's start with the upside of things.  This is a huge, Biblical historical timeline.  It is designed to try to cover most of the world's history from the beginning to present day.  It is laid out in a fashion with with the notations are squeezed into a large square, so that it can fit on your wall or table.  The intention was to try to show how certain people lived during the same time frame of other "famous" people.  How world history is actually intertwined and interconnected-not separate happenings that occurred somewhere "along the same time period".  This is a one look version of your typical linear timelines.  Not a bad concept actually.  It is nice to glance down, follow a line of history and see (by simply raising or lowering your eyes) what else was "going on" then.  It is coated on the print side with varnish-to make it more durable and yet not be hard to ship or roll/store.  It is brightly colored with 4 colors, and "fairly" easy to follow along.  The chart itself has a disclaimer that  states that they understand that it is hard to pinpoint the exact date of certain events; due to things simply not being recorded way back then, or because some dates conflict with other various sources. It is the nature of the beast.  This is one area that most scholars will agree on-you simply cannot state the exact date and time for some events.  I am fine with that, and am pleased they admit that for all to be made aware of.

That is the good stuff.  Now comes the parts that were hard to use, or simply do not mesh with our personal belief or religious training.  We found (at times) the color choices were a bit much -somehow it made our eyes bug out, and the print in some areas was hard to read.  We also felt like we were craning our necks more than we care to.  We are also a family that prefers to have our history all nice and neatly laid out in a pull-out linear timeline design.  I personally do not do good with circle charts, such as this.  I did cross referenced a lot of the early Biblical information, and it was close to or at the same time frame as the notable resources state.  That was encouraging.  Then, as I made my way through the chart, I started to see some things that didn't line up with our religious teachings.   Then I noticed that there seemed to be a gaps in histories of some nations and cultures; while there was a heavier concentration on others. Now, I do realize that if this chart had every detail from all of the major historical events, since the beginning of time, that it would need to be the size of the Indian Ocean. So yes, I get that they had to tone it down a bit-but I kept thinking things were missing. Then I saw a few familiar names, and I knew.  The folks behind the Amazing Bible History Timeline appear to be Mormon, and that is their prerogative, but the absence of notation regarding it was a bit annoying.

What really bothered me-was that the company was not upfront and open about where they were coming from.  I felt a bit mislead and that really left a bad taste in my mouth.  I would have appreciated knowing right from the start what I had before me-and that would have at least given me the ability to approach it with foreknowledge of the company's faith.

With a wee bit of research (because remember, I want to know what they used for their references-and believe you me-I checked out the major ones here)this is the site I found which is also theirs too-
LDS Amazing Bible History Timeline homepage
Here is their background page on their LDS site-now notice the the sources they use.
Background Page
So, there you are-this Bible Timeline has a Mormon bias to it.  If you are a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints-this can be a great resource for you and your has several references to materials that should be familiar to you.  In fact, I am giving my chart to my friend who is Mormon-and she will absolutely love it!

It comes down to how something fits your beliefs and tastes.  We are not members of the LDS church, and so this Amazing Bible History Timeline is not something we will use. I prefer our timelines from sources that agree with our theology, and so we will stick to the ones that do. I cannot be more blunt or plain about it.  It is not a good fit for our family at all.  As for you dear readers, you will have to do your research and make a decision on whether or not the ABHT is a good fit for you- based on your family's religious preference.

I am noting one ring here because for some families it can be a nice addition to their study material

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Amazing Bible History Timeline Homepage
Non-LDS link

$29.97 for Bible Chart (includes free download of Interactive Maps of the Holy Land, a the Digital Timeline)

Comes with a 60 Day money back guarantee. See details on their website. 

To see what my TOS mates had to say about this and many other great homeschooling products, head to our TOS Review Crew Homepage for more reviews.

**Bible Charts and Maps, LLC, provided me with a free Amazing Bible History Timeline in order to test and use it with my family, so that I could write this review.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Bright Ideas Press-All American History, Volume II

I am all about history!  I love it, search out books on various past happenings, and spend a good majority of my homeschool budget on products that discuss and cover historical information.  So, when I had the opportunity to check out Bright Ideas Press, I had a tough decision ahead of me.  Did I want to test drive their Geography curricula?  Well, actually-yes I did.  Did I want something from their Mystery of History Series? Well, because we had just wrapped up a lot of those eras in time; and I knew a lot of my fellow review mates would request those, I looked around to see what else they had to offer.  I realized that I actually needed something different (other than the programs that are squished in my bookcases) for my teenage daughter's American history program. I love learning through reading several good books on the subject;  and so did my oldest two.  We simply enjoy devouring book after book as a way to input and remember such things, but my third child tends to not like it so much. She actually prefers more of a textbook (and that is all right by me) approach to learning. So we decided to also put in for the All American History, Volume 2 set. That is what we received, and I couldn't be more pleased!

The All American History, Vol. 2 set continues where the first volume left off.  Starting right around the beginning of the Civil War, the student meanders through time right up to the 21st Century.  By reading the required text, the student will then work on pages that correlate to the lesson, which are found in the Student Activity book.  The Teacher Guide not only has the exact same information as the Student Activity book, it has the answers and several (several!) additional ideas to select from.  Those extra activities, and book lists (we usually selected at least 2 per unit) will add the necessary input to truly give the student a nice rounded approach to learning the material.  I also created a binder for my daughter to put her pages in (from the activity book-as they tear out easily because they are perforated), to keep all the information in a very nice  "scrapbook" about this study.  We will be adding in the timeline, additional pictures, and projects as we go through it this year. Additionally, we are fortunate enough to have a really nice video series about the Civil War, which highlights a lot of what she is reading in regard to the major events. The beauty of this particular program is that one can easily add or delete additional material; depending on the time constraints and interest of the student. That certainly is worth noting-because not all programs have such flexibility.

The units themselves are not overly packed with twaddle-that unnecessary chatter that detracts from the main points of the discussion.  It is also clear and concise, so the student can easily follow along, then do the worksheet without much difficulty. For those children who do not enjoy reading through lengthy novels, and thick books to gain this knowledge-the All American History series is a very nice alternative.  They still get opportunities to read books (just not so many) while the majority of the important (backbone) material is presented in an orderly, progressive manner. The student(s) will learn about the following:

Volume II has 32 weekly lessons-three sections per unit-in which  the student explores:
  • the atmosphere in which the event occurred
  • the event itself
  • the impact this event had on the future of America
The Units Covered in the Volume are:
  • The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • The Gilded Age
  • Two World Wars and A Great Depression
  • The Cold War and Beyond

If you have yet to cover the very beginnings of our country up to the Civil War, I suggest you start with Volume I.  You can add more advanced material to beef it up to your child's abilities (since it was originally written for 5-8 grade students); or just work your child through it at a faster pace-in case you are behind in meeting your own, or your state's requirements for graduation. I see no problem with high school students being able to process the material and information more easily-so this could be condensed (Vol. I) into a semester's worth of material, if need be.  I do suggest that you work through Volume II for at least 2 semesters-since it covers relevant, and not too distant historical information.

My daughter loves this program, it is exactly what she wanted to have for her history studies.  She is able to retain (big plus!) and follow through the material without losing interest.  I personally prefer a bit more of the literature method as my main backbone for learning history, but that is my personal preference. Obviously she enjoys a different approach, and I do firmly believe we found it (she gave this an 8 out of 10) with the Bright Ideas Press, All American History Volume II program. Oh, and because I do not have to wage WWIII to get her to do her work, it gets a 10 out of 10 from me!

Not too much prep for the most lessons

yet, initially at the beginning of the units, you will need to gather materials and additional supplies, which you can accomplished fairly quickly. You will also need to direct some discussion periods, and offer assistance when needed-hence both icons for this product

The student will be able to work through most of the material on their own

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Birght Ideas Press Homepage

All American History I and II information
Suggested age range:  6th-12th grade
$68.00 for the TE, Student Activity Book, and Student Reader Package (best deal)
or purchase separately
$44.95 Student Reader (HB)
$16.95 SAB
$18.95 TE with answer key

The TOS Store also sells Bright Ideas Press materials, check it out!

Don't forget to see what my TOS mates have to say about this and many other great homeschooling products! Head over to our TOS Crew Homepage for more information.

**Bright Ideas Press provided we with the free copy of The All American History II Package [Student/TE WKBK/Student Text] book in order to test and use it with my family, so I could write this review.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Tapestry of Grace- Year 1, Unit 1


There are many methods to be found in the homeschool realm; and often many of us will hop the fence to dip our toes into the pool of ideas, most often used in the neighboring styles. I admit to this shameless activity throughout the years I have been teaching my own. Some I have truly found beneficial to our lessons, so we have kept them-while others were quickly pitched due to them just not meshing with us. We have decided that we learn best using the Charlotte Mason philosophy for teaching and learning, so we tend to pick curriculum and materials that naturally lend themselves to it. A counterpart to the CM method, is the Classical Education approach. Usually they can co-exist nicely together, up to a point. So, when I heard we'd be receiving a Tapestry of Grace product to review, I was quite intrigued. I had heard about this TOG thing for some time, in different circles of homeschoolers, and always wondered what it was all about. I had heard it was unit study (which it is) designed to teach the subjects covered in it, to several children (or just one) who are on different learning/skills levels. That sounded very interesting, but I wondered how I would like unit studies thing, due to being painfully (I have tried a few and wasn't exactly impressed) aware of the downside of them (a lot of collecting of things, organizing and such for mom to do ahead of time)- so I tend to steer clear of them. So I knew this review would be a true test to our prejudice against such things.

Tapestry of Grace was designed by a homeschooling mother with several children who was looking for something that would streamline her teaching and time. Not finding anything, she came up with her own unit study program (I love it when folks do that) and the rest they say-is history. Out of the choices, we decided to pick the unit concentrating on Creation, Egypt, Moses and the Hebrew nation (Year 1, Unit 1). I actually zeroed in on that era because I had several of the suggested books for the study already on my shelf. Now normally, a body would choose their section (or you can purchase the whole year with all 4 units in it), spend time during the "off season" (I highly recommend doing this as this is a huge study that you need to have a good grasp on) reading through all the information packed in the pages, and have the said books bought (at least the core ones) or pre-searched at the library; so that when it came time to unleashing the study on the students-one had a good grasp of it. Under the circumstances though, I had to jump in head first and get moving on it. That led to much confusion on my part, because it was rather overwhelming at times. TOG has admitted that many first-time users encounter a mighty TOG FOG which should dissipate within the first four weeks of use. I couldn't afford that amount of time-so I really pushed myself to get it figured out sooner. After I broke through that wall, I had a pretty good idea of where they were going with the study.

Each Unit is broken down into 9 weeks, subdivided into the four areas of Classical Education: Lower Grammar, Upper Grammar, Dialect, and Rhetoric. The theory with the C.E. method is that you cycle the learning every four years. Therefore, your first grader will come back to that time period again, a few years down the road. This continues until they have graduated from high school. Certainly it is an interesting idea, but I have yet to really grab a hold of this part of the C.E. thinking. I prefer to mix things up a bit; and being that I love history-I like to see more of a potpourri mixture. I find that some areas are not necessarily covered as thoroughly as I prefer, and others are covered a bit more heavily (Roman and Greek) than I want to spend time on. So that causes some friction with me and the program, being that it is styled after the C.E. approach.

I actually have 2 students still in my care, who are at different levels. Due to not wanting to switch my Dialect-aged daughter mid-year on her history studies (and because we have covered this era with her just 10 months ago) I decided to forgo having her partake. Instead, I focused on my youngest child who worked through the lower grammar studies. I have made a point of going through the upper level material, to be able to understand what they are striving to teach the older grades-in addition to focusing on the younger levels.

The Salt Dough Map of Egypt my son and I made

The Tapestry of Grace unit study is laid out in a fairly logical timeline, divided into the four groups-so that you can see which level has what to do. Using good literature, reading books (this is very Charlotte Masonish), worksheets, Q & A time, activities (such as art projects, map work, reports, plays and more), Bible reading (always top priority) and discussion, the students are enveloped by all their activities to learn the subject in an in depth manner. This can be a fantastic way to infuse the knowledge if you have many children and want to keep everyone on the same page, if you will. You still have different levels for the reading material, so that will cause a bit of a switch up; but by having the older students do their work mostly on their own-you free yourself up to work with the littles. For the average homeschooling family (as well as for us) buying every book listed simply isn't economically feasible, so using the local library and its inter loan program is a must. Fortunately, we have a great system here, so I found almost every book listed for the Lower Grammar (and most of the others too) level. Each week had a variety of books to go through, and for the most part, I found them to be sufficient in covering the subjects. I actually added a few (some from the suggested additional books list) others to tie in, and so we had a pretty good introduction to the subject. For the older children, the reading list suggests books which go into more detail, and I thought the suggestions were quite sufficient.

Here is where this mammoth program and I leave each other to head down different, dusty, history trails. Perhaps if I had this way back when I started homeschooling, I would be a bit more partial to it, but alas-that is not so. I also have 2 children with skill levels which are at complete polar opposites of eachother-so it really isn't much help. And as I stated before, I like a switch up between the children-keeps my brain from becoming numb. I also like my teens to have some say in what they are learning in history-so it may not always be what the younger one is studying. And I have shelves (yes shelves) loaded with a couple programs and the books required for them; which have already woven themselves into my heart, are easier to use, and are written in an easy format with which to follow-without and confusion. I just didn't catch the "love" for TOG...I simply didn't. I "get" the overall goal of TOG, the basic idea behind it; and I also understand the basics of a Classical Education. Truly, it is an interesting method, and great for some; but it is simply not our "cup of tea". Additionally, I wondered if not being able to locate some of the books (for the discussions in the upper levels) would almost null and void a major part of the learning. Or if swapping out the majority of the books suggested, due to simply not finding them, would water it down, or leave the instructor spending even more time trying to make it work. I also was not that impressed with the lower levels-some weeks were pelted with a lot to read, others almost nothing. I prefer to have a steady flow of books to avoid the "roller coaster" effect in our studies. And furthermore, I was disappointed with the lack of notes, or information in regard to the Lower Grammar and some Upper Grammar reading selections. At times, we simply read the book...and that was it. I felt like it left me a little flat. To add to mix, my kids are just not into a lot of the suggested activities (dress up and plays for example), so we ran dry on ideas rather quickly.

We were given the new Digital Edition download to review-and because it is on the computer screen, not in my hand, that very well may have contributed to the lack luster response. Being that this is a whole new area for Tapestry, it is still in the "gotta to fix that" stage. I actually had no problem downloading the Lock Lizard program, or getting into it. The problem arrived when I couldn't find the download, as at the time-there was no desktop icon added when uploading it. I simply couldn't find it-I had to search it out every time. The updated version now adds the icon automatically, eliminating that frustration. Thankfully, they have set up an entire page to help explain the newest edition to their line-up to ease your concerns. TOG also realizes some customers simply prefer the printed version-so you can purchase that instead of the DE, if you like. I actually would suggest it, especially if you struggle with 'puter screen fatigue. Perhaps when my youngest ages a bit, I will dive back into this whirlpool to see if I change my mind about it-but for now, our TOG unit will simply remain as a back burner program for us.

or depending on the level of each child

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Now please do not misunderstand me here-this can be an awesome program but you have to know what you are getting into. There is a lot, and I mean a lot of teacher prep, book searching, and expense due to the suggested activities, needed literature, and additional components (which you have to buy, like the writing program, the quizzes and so forth) required to complete the program to cover all the areas (doesn't include math or science or electives) in depth. If you have a large family, then you can justify it by splitting the cost out per child, then figure in the rotation theory (so it gets used again)-in order to come up with a figure that won't make you cringe. If you have one or two children, and will not revisit it again-then perhaps you want to look for something else.

Adding to the above knowledge, consider that you really have to love teaching the Unit Study way. There is no getting around this-as it is a colossal program, which will take a lot of time to figure out, collect items and carry through with. Fortunately, TOG offers many avenues to assist the user. They have what is called the Loom, and there one can find more activities, recipes, helpful ideas, and so forth. There are several TOG Yahoo Groups expressly for sharing ideas, and helping fellow TOGers as they navigate this program. Tapestry stands by their products, and are willing to offer up help as needed. Plus, they graciously offer a 3 week trial of either Year 1 or Year 2, to sample. This is highly recommended, so that you can see just how well it will flow with your family.


Lastly, they are trying to phase out their print versions of the guides. I personally am in favor of printed material for such large programs, so please take this under advisement. You will need to print everything (they suggest a company where you can get it printed for approx. $30-but that is over and above the price to purchase the eVersion they are now selling) if you want to fully utilize all components and there is A LOT to print.

Please visit their site and spend time going through it-as it is the only way for you to see all that it encompasses.

Tapestry of Grace Digital Edition Homepage
DE version-$45 each unit (4 per year) for the first 3 year's worth of units-Year 4 is still in the works
For those who like the printed version they sell a kit which includes both the print and DE version-prices vary
Lampstand Press Store where you can find many of the products they use-including the Units, lapbook,maps, writing aids, quizzes and more- to enhance the studies

Please do not forget to check out the other reviews by my fellow mates, as they may have a different Yr/Unit and a different opinion...head to The TOS Crew Homepage for more details.

**Tapestry of Grace provided me with the free copy of The Year 1, Unit 1 eVersion Guide, in order to test and use it with my family, so I could write this review.