This seems like a topic that has been covered elsewhere but I had a reader ask me about my thoughts and experiences with Sonlight and Tapestry of Grace. I will try to do my best at representing our family’s experience with both programs. I originally wrote this entry for my Harmony Art Mom blog in the spring of 2009.
First off, I love both approaches to homeschooling. Some of my fondest years of homeschooling were those years that we used Sonlight. The boys were young and eager to read and to be read to and Sonlight’s choices were a perfect fit for our family’s tastes. I really enjoyed having my days all planned out for me and believe it or not….I did not do much tweaking to Sonlight’s well presented plans. (In fact, if you use my Harmony Fine Arts plans, you will see a striking resemblance to Sonlight’s format.)
We used Sonlight’s Core Levels 2, 3, 4, and 6. We also used Levels 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 for science. Somewhere during those years, I found The Well-Trained Mind book and decided that I really liked the idea of a four year cycle of history and I began investigating this idea some more.
We made the decision to switch to a curriculum that followed the four year cycle of history and included the Story of the World books. After much deliberation, we decided on using Tapestry of Grace. We picked up where Core 6 left off and that was with Tapestry of Grace year 3. My boys were in 6th and 7th grades at that time.
There really were two big adjustments coming from Sonlight to Tapestry of Grace.
Choices in Books and a Little More Planning
First of all, the TOG plans are so flexible that you really need to sit down with access to your home library, your local public library, and the internet to coordinate which books you will use to teach each concept. I take each unit’s plans and go through and decide on which books I would like to use to present each week’s concepts. There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to knowing how many books you need to use each week. Within each week, the books are not broken down by pages like in the Sonlight plans. You are given the title of the book and you are left on your own to cover it at a pace that you choose.
With Tapestry of Grace, I would say that it takes two hours of initial planning per unit (nine weeks) to decide on books and to decide on activities. It also takes an additional 45 minutes or so per week to make sure you have the books you need and if your children are older, to go over the schedule with them to put in their planners. I use the library for many of our books so that means a trip to the library at least every three weeks to check out and return books. We would be doing that library trip anyway so I don’t count that into the planning time.
If you are a box checker, TOG will seem overwhelming unless you understand right up front that you will *not* do everything put down in the plans.
The way that TOG can be a huge time saver in a larger family is the ability to offer history, literature, writing, art appreciation, hands-on activities, geography, and more to everyone from one set of plans. You can keep all your children together in all these subjects and choose from the different levels of books as you go along. The subjects are taught topically and you can use your own resources as well if you want to substitute.
The thorough Teacher’s Notes have been a great help to me as the boys have moved up to the rhetoric level. The notes are very well done and the research has been done and gathered for me.
The advantage of Tapestry of Grace over Sonlight is that you are teaching things topically and you can substitute your own books or books from your public library if you want to. The plans are not put down in such a way that if you don’t have access to a certain book that you are stuck for the week. Another advantage to using Tapestry of Grace is the fact that you can move up and down the levels within each week, using what is appropriate for your particular child. One week your child may read the upper grammar level literature and the next you can offer the dialectic level book if you think they would benefit from it instead. The opposite is also true and you can have your rhetoric level student move down and read the dialectic selection some weeks if the load is too heavy and you need to offer something a little lighter. We do that sometimes if the ideas and concepts are new to our boys.
More Meaningful Discussions
The second *huge* difference for us moving from Sonlight to Tapestry of Grace has been the increased expectations as far as the boys’ manner of learning. TOG has helped me to make the boys more independent learners. Many times the Sonlight discussions felt like question and answer time but with TOG we have deeper, more meaningful discussions. I think it is the way the material is not spoon-fed to them. Here is a link to some information on TOG’s website that will explain it better than I can.
Those are my general thoughts about our experiences with both Sonlight and Tapestry of Grace. I would highly recommend going over to Tapestry of Grace’s website and downloading the free complete samples that they offer. You will get a little taste of how the plans are scheduled out and how they differ from Sonlight. Remember there is a learning curve and know that after the first few weeks of using the plans you will be more skilled at knowing how they work together.
Tapestry of Grace-Free Sample
Just so you know, I am not an affiliate for Tapestry of Grace. The thoughts here are my own personal opinions and were drawn from our own experiences. As the years have gone by, our homeschool style has changed quite a bit and I am much better equipped to adapt TOG to our Charlotte Mason/Classical/Project based style of learning. It takes some effort but now that my children are much older, I have the time.
Written by Barb-Harmony Art mom. She also blogs at http://harmonyartmom.blogspot.com and her business is found at http://www.harmonyfinearts.com. I would love for you to join us for the Outdoor Hour Challenges: http://handbookofnaturestudy.blogspot.com.