Monday, November 9, 2009

Can LDS members use Tapestry of Grace?

This summer, I read The Well-Trained Mind by Jesse Wise and Susan Wise Bauer and was very impressed with many of the ideas for teaching literature and history. I especially like the idea of integrating the two subjects. (I have taken classes that integrate different subjects and found them much more interesting and felt like I learned more and made more connections in my mind.) However, I am not much of a reader, and even with this great book, I felt overwhelmed with the idea of teaching through the classics.

Another concern was that I really wanted to find materials that use the Bible as a historical document. Our religion is important in our family, and I want my children to make connections between the doctrine that they learn and the history that they study.

Then I ran across a curriculum called Tapestry of Grace, which is a classical program that integrates history (including the history of science and fine arts), literature, vocabulary, writing, government and church history. It utilizes "living books" rather than textbooks (although sometimes texts are referenced), which you can either buy or get from the library. The Socratic method of teaching is emphasized, providing parents with discussion guides and lesson plans. It is designed to teach to multiple children at different levels at the same time. Consequently, when you buy one year of curriculum, you actually get all four levels. And since there is a four-year rotation, you will use the same curriculum with the same child three times-just at a higher level each time.

What more could I want? This curriculum will get my whole family reading the classics. And if you have never heard of the Socratic method, let me just say that this is a very powerful way to teach. It is the standard teaching method in law schools and involves a teacher leading the student to come to conclusions on his own. If I read a classic book, I may not even know what conclusions were intended or even what the book was really about. For example, one of the few classics I have read is Animal Farm. Because of a great teacher, I know that the book is an analogy of the formation of the Soviet Union. But I would not get that by just reading the book. Tapestry of Grace walks the parent-teacher through these important aspects of the classics and provides questions they may ask their students to lead them to draw their own conclusions.

But, alas, nothing is ideal. Tapestry of Grace, as its name would imply, is a strongly Protestant curriculum. As a Mormon, I have nothing against Protestants. I read their literature, listen to their music, and follow their radio programming. But one thing that I find distasteful is that it very common for Protestants to preach falsehoods about what other churches believe and to purposely engender bad feelings in people against other churches, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is always a major target. (For example, when I joined the Church, a Protestant relative told my mother that we did blood sacrifices, which totally freaked her out. Of course, we do no such thing, as we believe that Jesus Christ was the last and ultimate sacrifice.)

When I asked on an LDS homeschool list, every answer that I received was urging me to avoid it, although no one could say they had ever seen it or researched it in any way. But Tapestry of Grace was an otherwise perfect curriculum. I couldn't just abandon the possibility that this would work for us just because those who created it had some mistaken ideas about my religion. Furthermore, I don't want my children growing up thinking that there is nothing of use in others' beliefs, or that we are too different to work together for common goals. Those who developed Tapestry of Grace clearly had some great ideas about how to teach children while strengthening the family. So I set out to do some research and determine whether Tapestry of Grace could be tailored to my family's needs.

I asked on the Tapestry of Grace website forum, and someone kindly sent me a link to a chapter from a year 3 history book (1800's) for one of the upper levels. As expected, it was full of negative opinions about the LDS Church and its leaders, and omitted some very relevant details that would have given a more balanced look at this period of history. I wondered if this was just a result of misunderstandings of this topic in particular or whether all of the topics would be presented in such a one-sided manner. So I got every book from the library that they recommend for the first week, and I was very impressed with the collection as a whole. My husband and I talked about the subject at length and agreed that based on the quality of what we saw, and the fact that misunderstandings of the Church abound, this was likely an aberration and not representative of the entire curriculum. We also felt that this would be a good opportunity to talk to our children about how history depends on the view of the author and that every author is biased in some way. On the other hand, the part of the history that was based on the Bible, I thought was beautifully done. I loved the thought-provoking questions about the story of Moses intended for the upper levels.

So as of this writing, we are planning to purchase Tapestry of Grace at the beginning of next year so that we will be prepared to start in August with the Ancients. I want to see if I can use the books that we get under this curriculum for vocabulary and copywork (Charlotte Mason style). And when the kids are a little older, we may use it for spelling, as well.


  1. I love TWTM but have had a hard time creating a daily curriculum that works for us. I got Story of the World-Ancients and it just didn't hold their interest. I just looked at TOG and LOVE that they have everything laid out for you. We have been doing lapbook/unit studies and I love that TOG even has lapbook kits to buy. I do have one question though. When you purchase one of the years, does it include all the information for each rotation of that time period?

  2. I feel the same way about TWTM. And yes, TOG does include all three rotations in a one year purchase. And that, I think, is the beauty of it. It is a big investment up front, but you are getting three levels of teaching material covering several subjects. (Plus writing assignments are divided into 12 levels.) Additionally, even within a level, it has way more than you possibly could use, allowing you to pick what is just right for your child/family.

    Did you know you can download a free 3-week sample? In researching the program, I found it really helpful to get all of the books for a week (all levels) from the library. Then I could see which titles were unavailable and how long my library would take to get the others. It also gave me a chance to see what sort of things each level would be expected to do. There is a lot to digest, so if you think you might use it, give yourself a lot of time to check out the samples and familiarize yourself with the program.

  3. Hi Tracy, I am researching curriculums now for our family and am considering TOG and happened upon your blog because I was curious about the LDS perspective as well. I'm just wondering if you're still using TOG and if you're still enjoying it. I really like that I can teach all of my kids at once. Tis coming school year I'll have 4 kids in school, ages 11, 9, 7, and 5. :)

    1. Yes, I am still using TOG and plan to continue indefinitely. Since I have only a LG student, I don't get into the teacher's notes very much. As far as I can tell, the authors have taken great care to be respectful of all religions. There was one book that we used in Year 1 that I felt was disrespectful to those who do not hold to a young earth perspective, but there were alternates that we used quite successfully. Another book that has been hotly debated by many, LDS and non-LDS alike, is one called This Country of Ours, used for D level in Year 3. It contains prejudicial statements about many minority groups. It is available free online, so I was able to read the references to the LDS church before I purchased the curriculum. I am not sure whether I will choose to use this book or not. It is so obviously skewed so as to make it unreliable for anything. But at the same time, it demonstrates the typical thinking of the time, so there is value to it.

      Anyway, in my experience, and as I have followed discussions on this issue, I have not found anything that bothers me enough about TOG to warrant disregarding it as a program. If you want to talk to other LDS folks who are using it, there is a Yahoo Group you can join.

    2. Thank you so much, Tracy!


Latter-day Homeschooling