You are right that this definition changes as various curriculum providers seek to implement classical education for homeschoolers in a Christian expression for post-modern times.

The Grammar Stages

Here is the definition that Tapestry uses for the Grammar stage, which corresponds to the Elementary years.

The Grammar Stage (Typically K-5): This is the stage of "introduction"—the "what is it?" phase. It focuses on fascinating facts and stories. Children's brains excel at memorization at this stage, and they delight to learn, as long as learning involves mostly simple facts and stories with not much abstraction. Simply put, for Elementary aged students, all we’re trying to do is introduce them to the simplest, boldest threads of the tapestry: the most obvious patterns. We are using the framework of history to hold their interest, but our main focus is on mastery of simple skills: reading fluently, writing well, and building strong math skills. If I were to draw a pie representing the academic life of my Grammar Stage child, it would be divided neatly into fourths: reading skills, writing skills and math skills and other enrichment activities.

* Reading skills would include, for K-2, phonics encoding and decoding and for older children (3-5) fluency: lots and lots of practice reading silently and aloud.
* Writing skills would include age-appropriate grammar and punctuation instruction, vocabulary expansion and weekly work in spelling.
* Math would include a daily lesson, usually in a workbook, and daily drills such as Calculadder.
* Other would include, on different days: some simple Science--reading and experiments, history lessons, and arts & crafts. An occasional field trip would round out my children's program.

Where then, you ask, is there room in such a child's day for the Tapestry of Grace curriculum?

* Well, Tapestry presents lots of opportunity to read and be read to!
* It will present a weekly writing assignment that exercises an orderly progression of skills.
* It will present words for vocabulary expansion.
* The reading plan provides stories that give children new thoughts about which to write.
* Tapestry acquaints students with aspects of cultures different from theirs.
* If there are older siblings in the house doing this program, the family is joined in a common pursuit in which young students can join.

* Hands-on activities provide extra learning and fulfill the "art" component of Elementary education.

So, you see, it is not that you must make time for Tapestry in addition to teaching important basic skills, but that Tapestry gives your young students a fun and interesting context in which to practice their basic skills as they learn them.

I say all the above to be able to say this: PLEASE, DON'T DO TOO MUCH! Mastery of the historic events and connections does not belong to this stage, and is not the primary focus of these years! Remember that the Tapestry guide is designed to serve all ages, and that there's much you won't use in these lower grades! And, as I mentioned earlier, though you will only be communicating limited information to your child, you will be learning much yourself, and preparing yourself to impart much more information to your students as they grow older.

There are two "levels" of ability within the Grammar Stage as Tapestry uses this term: I have called them Lower Grammar and Upper Grammar. They divide, roughly into Grades K-3 (those children just learning to read) for Lower Grammar, and Grades 3-5 (those children who are fluent readers and can read independently to learn) for Upper Grammar. (Yes, I know they overlap. Some are advanced; some delayed.)

You will want to read most Tapestry assignments aloud, and explain as you read, to the Lower Grammar children. These are the children who will need the least work in Tapestry of Grace assignments, and the most one-on-on time from you. The beauty of using Tapestry teaching plans and methods is that older children spend lots of time reading to learn in detail, and then discuss their reading with you in relatively short discussion sessions. This means they need not have your full attention all day long, leaving you free to teach the most basic "3 R's" to your Lower Grammar stage students.

For Upper Grammar students, you’ll want to pay close attention to the Threads listed in the first page of each week's Teacher's Notes, and in the Weekly Overview Charts. I suggest you review quizzes ahead while preparing to teach each week and then teach to them!

The assignment charts, Student Activity Pages and Teacher's Notes will guide you in assigning the reading, writing, and hands-on activities, which should consume most of older students' independent work time.

Toward the end of each week, you should re-read the Threads Tapestry of Grace lists and see if your child can express comprehension of the concepts listed, either orally or in writing.
Philosophy of Education: Elementary Years (Grades K-5)

I have come to believe that the primary focus, especially in the early Elementary grades, is character development. No amount of knowledge can make up for deficiencies in character. And you will never have more time to work on your child’s character then you do right now. No matter how old your child is now, I can confidently predict that next year’s demands will be greater than this year’s. Diligence, cheerful obedience, persistence in the face of difficulty, follow-through, and a general delight in a job well done will carry your child far in any career he may choose.

We home school primarily to enable the cultivation these fruits through discipleship, obeying the commands in Deut. 6:6-9: These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. As family life progresses, as more and more children enter the academic years, these character traits become essential to the ability to conduct school itself!

I have seen many mothers anxiously concerned that their children not be shortchanged in academic knowledge as the result of their teaching inadequacies. It is easy to major on the minors here, focusing on what the world esteems, and minimizing on what the Lord esteems. 1 Cor. 8:1b reminds us that ... We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Our primary job as parents and home educators is to give our children more wisdom than knowledge. By obeying Deuteronomy 6, we teach our children the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom.

Majoring on character and, secondarily, strengthening your child’s love for HIStory and science, mathematics and writing will give your child the firmest of foundations for life. 2 Peter 1:5-9 reminds us of the order of our priorities in teaching (especially young) children. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Character development, then, must bracket our teaching of academic knowledge. Character formation is both the foundation for learning and the ultimate purpose for learning. Our child’s knowledge is to be used in the service of our Lord, not merely to get into college or get a job to support a family.

Having firmly placed character development first and last, our academic goals for younger children include cultivation of a love for reading the Word of God first, and secondarily of God’s story (HIStory) and the exploration of God’s creation (physical sciences). Additionally, we want to build a solid understanding of two fundamental skills: writing and mathematics. In History and Science, in the elementary years, we are not working for mastery. We are working to build familiarity with basic concepts in our children AND in ourselves, as teachers. In History, our goal is to help our children recognize the major figures of HIStory and historical events. We want to acquaint them with the tools of historiography as well: familiarity with global features, maps, reference works, and library systems. In science, children should enjoy exploring God’s creation without being burdened by difficult scientific theory. Instead, we want them to get to know the building blocks of science, such as the names of planets, the parts of the body, interesting animals, etc. As with historiography, they should also be introduced to the basics of the scientific method: measurement, controlled experiments, the gathering of data through observation, etc.

The centerpiece of early Elementary education must be a strong Phonics program. After reading skills are well begun, strong writing skills and a strong foundation in mathematics are the other essentials of these crucial years. NOTE WELL: If you are using Tapestry with only elementary students, there is MORE than enough material. Your job is to teach basic, central information, not all possible information. Remember, the goal is to repeat the program at higher levels of understanding. Therefore, be careful to use Tapestry as the "ice cream" in the academic diet, not the meat and potatoes. Otherwise, you and your child may become discouraged. I would rather see you use another program in Grades K-3 than use Tapestry too early, become overwhelmed, and never use it again. The Weekly Overview Charts and Teacher's Notes list major themes/objectives for each week, and you should teach to, and test comprehension of, that grade-appropriate information only.

During the Elementary years, children should have much practice in writing strong sentences and paragraphs. The focus here is not so much formal grammar study as it is good writing skills. Again, we want them to enjoy writing, and to have some knowledge of grammatical terms as useful tools for communication about good writing. Tapestry holds the view that true mastery of formal grammar should come during the middle years, ideally as children are exposed to Latin studies. A study of the Latin language (ideally in Jr. High years) is the easiest and best path to full comprehension of grammatical studies. If grammar is your weak suit, consider using the Easy Grammar series, listed in the Writing Scope & Sequence, as a daily supplement from second grade on. If grammar is your strong suit, you can use the child's weekly writing assignments to teach basic grammatical terms.

In mathematics, Elementary students need first to understand concrete number concepts, and then have an acquaintance with abstract mathematical theories. You will need to supplement Tapestry with your choice of Math curricula.

Tapestry of Grace integrates landmark developments in the history of science and technology as well. In the Elementary years, there is no national norm for the order of Science studies. Lab Science per se is NOT integrated with historical year-plans, but the history of them is! Year 4, especially, is full of somber topics. We lighten this with a significant focus on the history of technological developments (inventions) such as radio, rocket ships, and computers as the year unfolds.

The suggested that families can follow the traditional text book approach to High School science: 9th Grade--General Science, 10th Grade--Biology, 11th Grade--Chemistry, and 12th Grade--Physics. Thus, your younger child can "read along" with older siblings, and you can prepare only one set of lessons for all grades. So, Earth Sciences for younger students dovetail with General Science for High Schoolers. Life Sciences for younger students parallel older siblings’ study of Biology. Younger students study "matter" as older students wrestle with Chemistry. And younger students learn elementary principles of "motion" while older students launch out into High School Physics.

Tapestry of Grace also integrates the history of the Fine Arts, and suggestions for many artistic projects to try and musical selections to listen to. In the High School years, these can result in both a full credit in Art History and one in Fine Arts.

Learning Stages and Appropriate Goals For Them

Dorothy Sayers (a friend of C.S. Lewis's), wrote an essay on education called the
The Lost Tools of Learning in 1947. She explained how our medieval ancestors taught their children, identifying their system of education was well designed for the three different learning stages, through which all children go. Medieval children learned the basics in the "Trivium" (from which we get our word "trivial"). The "basics," in those days, were "grammar" (learning to speak Latin), "dialectic" (learning to debate in Latin), and "rhetoric" (learning to move hearts and minds [perusade] in Latin).

* Sayers argued that children in the elementary grades are especially good at memorizing things, and not ready yet for true analysis. She called this the "grammar" or "parrot" phase, and pointed out that all subjects have a "grammar" or basic vocabulary that young children are amazingly well-suited to learn at young ages.
* As children grow, they lose interest in memorization for its own sake; instead they begin to question everything. What they want to know is how things connect to one another. Sayers called this the "dialectic" or "pert" phase. I call it the "Ohhhhhh!" phase.
* Finally, when children begin turning into young adults, their hearts turn towards the meaning of life. She called this the "rhetoric" or "poet" phase. In this phase, mature people are able, when fully trained, to analyze and synthesize; to break down complex situations or ideas into component parts, and then rearrange them in new combinations that are sometimes better!

The Dialectic Stage (Middle School Years)

Philosophy of Education: Middle Years (Grades 6-9)

Spiritually, the middle years are crucial. It is likely the time when your child makes the decision about whether or not your God is truly his God. Unless your child is manifesting a love for God and His Word, you cannot assume that acquiescence to all church-related family activities is saving faith. Look, in these years, to see your child reach out and grab hold of a living, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Until this is a reality, continue to grab every opportunity to preach the gospel to your adolescent child!

Academically, there are basically two paths for Middle School students: the choice depends on the child, and how far he has come in the Elementary years. One course is to launch immediately into High School level work, and the other is to use these years to solidify skills not completely learned in Elementary years. Most home taught middle-graders are strong readers; Tapestry’s middle school assignments assume a strong reading ability. If the student has not become a strong writer, or if he needs more general knowledge of History and Science topics typically covered in Elementary years, then middle-year students will follow this curriculum as it is written. The suggestions for middle school assignments are given for this type of student. Because Tapestry provides assignments for all grade levels, moms with delayed readers can simply choose assignments in lower levels, or perhaps read aloud particularly challenging material. The books this program recommends at each level will benefit younger children at all reading levels if read aloud. If your child is a slow, or tactile learner, this program has lots of hands-on projects suggested so he can learn and be successfully.

Some students are ready, at age 12, to begin High School level work. Any student who successfully masters High School level work can receive a High School credit for that work. It does not matter how old the student is. If your student is advanced, simply have him do the work listed in the High School assign-ment columns. He can mix and match: High School level in strong subjects, Middle School level in weaker ones, and still get High School credit for High School work.

For many students, some of their subjects will fall into the first category and some into the second. It is not uncommon, for instance, for a 7th Grader to be taking pre-algebra and doing High School level History and Literature. The same student may take 7th Grade to focus on building writing skills that could have been learned in 5th-6th Grade (such as research skills) while learning writing forms (such as essay writing) that belong to older grades. Whatever your student's strengths are, this curriculum will present assignments that he can use. The assignment column "levels" are set at those that I found my children (and the children I've taught this material to in co-op situations) capable of doing. If you guess wrong in the opening reading or writing assignments, it will be easy to switch (up or down) as you go.

Discerning parents must make the choices in this area. Since most students have areas of strengths and weaknesses, it is not surprising that students can work at different levels at the same time. Many parents are unaware that Middle School students can earn High School credits, and that traditional curricula present very little new material during these years. Once you know these facts, you can be released to allow your student to use these years to solidify weaker skills, while allowing him to advance in stronger skills.

* If your Dialectic Stage child will be able to go through a given Year-Plan again, focus on maps and time line work, and broad, major thematic connections during the discussions of his reading.
* If this is his last pass through Year 2, you need to help him, through discussion, make more minor connections between concepts and events as well.

The discussion scripts will guide you through this process if you are new to this material yourself, but be assured that if you are a Biblical Christian, helping your child make thematic connections is delightful. Since Tapestry of Grace is K-Mom, you will learn a lot, but you will not be overwhelmed. Here are some general guidelines for discussing material with students in the dialectic stage:

* Begin to train your student to use analytical tools and methods to organize data and compare concepts or events. (This means study charts. Many will be provided in Student Activity Pages but students should be encouraged to construct their own simple charts in their notebooks whenever charts will best serve them.)
* Constantly ask your student: how does this (event, theme, type) relate to that (event, theme, type)?

Here is an example of a major theme for Dialectic students to latch on to.

A major thread, running all the way through Tapestry of Grace, is the tension between cultures that exalt God (and His Son) and those that exalt man (and his reason).

* The pagan nations that existed for thousands of years before Christ demonstrate that men, though they could have known God's power and attributes and worshipped Him for them (Romans 1:18-32), preferred their own reason and understanding of deity.
* Since the coming of Christ, men have often attempted to use the temporal power of the Church for their own glorification.
* They have also often denied Christ's rightful place as the King of all the Earth, and have sought to rely on human strength, reason (philosophy) and knowledge (science).
* Though many times such self-reliant, man-glorifying individuals sincerely sought the betterment of mankind, the results of human self-reliance always reaches to all aspects of society and government, resulting in oppression, totalitarianism, and death.
* By contrast, the earthly results of seeking first the Kingdom of God are life, peace, personal liberty, and often, prosperity.

Since this theme runs broad and wide through all of the tapestry of time, you can seek to draw attention to it in virtually every discussion you conduct with your dialectic student, and help him make this connection.

To sum up: through reading, writing and discussion, you will help your Dialectic level student begin to understand both obvious and subtle patterns and threads in God's tapestry, at a level appropriate to his age, and help him to form a life-long habit of making connections between facts and themes.

The Rhetoric Stage (high schoolers)

Philosophy of Education: The High School Years

The High School years have been pure joy to me! If you knew me better, you'd know what an Act of God that statement represents!

At first, I must admit that I was terrified and rebellious. I did not want to home school High School. The prospect overwhelmed me. I was not strong in math, and had four younger students as well. But, when I submitted to the Lord’s plan in my life, He graciously led me, step by step, down a wonder-ful path.

I have come to see that parents who give way to fear and decide to put their children in schools purely because of a lack of confidence really miss a special chance to finish the job they started and enjoy the sweet fruit of fellowship with their teens.

Now, I have the privilege to share with you in fulfillment of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

I am certain that if you are in faith that God desires you to home school your High School aged children that He will provide all you need, no matter how inadequate you may feel today. Humility is a great starting place, and this curriculum is a part of His provision!

If you've never read the book Age of Opportunity by Paul Tripp, I highly recommend it! It will effectively equip you to gain vision and courage for the task ahead!

In previous pages of this site, we've been talking about the importance of sanctification and discipleship: saying that building character in our younger children should be our first concern. In High School, very little of the focus on character development truly changes.

By accepting God’s call to home school High School, you agree to shepherd your child across the bridge from child to adult.

Think about it. Your child, all his life, has risen when told to, eaten breakfast, done chores, studied schoolwork, participated in sports, etc. all at the direction of someone else—you, or the coach, or the outside instructor. Traditional schools provide the exact same structure to High Schoolers as they do to Elementary students. Bells and teachers minutely manage the students’ daily lives.

Yet, somehow, magically, in the normal pattern, High School students are supposed to learn "maturity" and "independence" in these years. They are supposed to make crucial decisions about increasingly adult matters. Driving, drinking alcohol, using drugs and tobacco, sex, and choosing a college—and perhaps a mate—all become issues during these years.

And, again in the traditional pattern, most of America’s kids, after having more or less "made it" through a High School which completely controlled daily structure and direction, are then sent on their way to a college, where there is very little structure, and usually, no accountability.

You, as a teacher of a home-schooled High School student, have an outstanding opportunity to do it differently. You can give your child much greater latitude of choice and consequences in his daily life, and help him deal with failures and successes in a godly way. He needs to become an adult. But, he needs to have guidance, wisdom, and the chance to succeed or fail "on his own"—with a safety net.

Let me give you some practical examples of how we start this process.

* Scheduling is where we started with our older children.
* We had a family meeting once a week, and all our older children were given planners. They had to plan their daily schedules themselves, and had to clear all personal dates—like babysitting jobs, friends’ birthday parties, etc.—with the family on Sunday nights.
* Over their first year of High School, we taught them how to plan their own daily lessons from weekly assignments, conduct their own Quiet Times, plan their work/play times, etc.
* After that year, when they failed in any of these areas, they reaped the fruits of their failure. One of our sons blew off math for an entire quarter. When we finally discovered it, he had to do double Algebra 2 assignments for six weeks. He has never blown off math since.
* Other times, our kids have forgotten babysitting dates and had to apologize, and if possible, plan restitution for their failures. Over and over they’ve forgotten to do errands they agreed to for me, their mother. I tried to require restitution for the inconvenience they caused to come out of their days, not mine.

All of these preliminary steps stood them in good stead as they began to have bigger opportunities: computer courses at the community college in their sophomore summer (one of my boys failed to turn in his final exam because of laziness—ouch!) and a driver’s license when turning sixteen. More recently, more computer courses led to an internship at a local computer company. Their good work ethic won them a real job for their senior year. But, in the same week, my son slugged in bed when he should have been up doing chores. This just illustrates that though he’d turn 18 in a few months, he was not an adult. He was still on that bridge between childhood and adulthood, and I’ve found that the bridge is a tricky place. One day, youths are demonstrating wonderful maturity and true Christlikeness. The next day, they’re acting like a two-year-old. Kinda like me? Hmmmm. Maybe they are adults... but maybe they’re just sinful children of God, doing their best—most of the time.

Academically, your focus is to teach High School students to think for themselves in Biblical, orderly ways. The High School years are the golden age of opportunity: your children are finally physically ready to reason and think! They have passed the "parrot" and "pert" stages, and, having passed through puberty, are into the "poet" stage, where they seek to find out who they are, and how they will understand the world around them.

In these years, they need to know more and more of the world’s philosophies, and what the Bible says about them. They need to learn to analyze God’s HIStory so that it can do what it was meant to do: instruct them. Romans 15:4 says "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." And 1 Cor. 10:11 says "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come."

HIStory is a part of His grace in our lives: we can learn from the example and records of others, so as not to repeat their mistakes. They need to learn about worldviews, and why people believe in them, so that they can compassionately evangelize others, understanding the attractions of their beliefs, but showing them the biblically-defined errors of their thoughts, and hopefully leading some to Christ while avoiding dangerous pitfalls themselves.

There are three major tools in teaching High School academics that Tapestry employs: reading, thinking and writing.

Your child should read broadly and much.

Provide as many primary source documents as possible in his reading diet. Most of these are available at the library, but some are available in (admittedly expensive) collections from secular and Christian sources. Increasingly, many expired-copyright books are available for free on-line. This Tapestry of Grace website seeks to find and link as many of these resources as possible. Additionally, where appropriate, we offer CD collections that are arranged in a fashion that makes them easy to use with our Government or Literature tracks. I don’t think you or your child will regret time and money spent pursuing these documents. Slogging through them is tough work sometimes, but there is simply no substitute for reading authors’ thoughts straight from their pens, rather than summaries or discussions of those writings by others.

Along with primary source documents are the literature selections, which we consider core assignments. By way of encouragement, one bright spot in studying HIStory from beginning to end, beginning in the early years of High School and continuing on through, is that there’s precious little primary source material left from the earliest years, and most of it is Scripture! Also, the ideas/philosophies/world views of mankind get more numerous and more complex as the story progresses, but, guess what? There’s nothing new under the sun. If your child begins at the beginning, and learns the major themes of HIStory thoroughly, he will begin to see that, for instance, the "New Age Philosophy" is nothing more or less than ancient pantheism and spirit channeling, watered down and repackaged. Tapestry approaches classics in this manner: we weigh the redemptive value of a book, its effect on the history of civilization, and the corresponding sin/filth contained in the work. Not all of our book choices are pristine (devoid of nudes--in Art books--or curse words--especially in 20th century literature. Though they may contain such evidences of man's fallen nature, they are TRUE in their portrayal of such sins, and REDEMPTIVE in their message, in some way. Classics are classics because they endure. Some classics are just too inappropriate or too narrowly focused for high school students, and so Tapestry lists ARE selective.

By "thinking, we at Tapestry mean discussion. There is no substitute for discussing the great thoughts and movements of the human race from a Biblical perspective. Our Teacher's Notes give thorough questions and answers that guide you in becoming your child's primary shaping force in these crucial years as he forms his worldview.

One of the best possible scenarios is to form a co-op, where your child will be both challenged and encouraged through peer interactions to state his views clearly and defend them accurately. This is not possible for all home schoolers, because of time and distance. But, may I offer a few creative suggestions?

* Use the Internet. Many Tapestry of Grace users are on-line. Parents can and do form "virtual co-ops" by setting up specific times for on-line discussions of each week’s lessons.
* We also host this forum discussion board that is advertisement-free.
* Again using the Internet, consider posting your child’s work on the Gallery pages of the Tapestry site. There’s something about writing to post that differs from writing for mom’s eyes only!

If none of these is an option for you, then YOU can still become your child’s "class" using our Teacher's Notes. Learn along with him, challenge him, stretch him. Discuss, discuss, discuss. And even if you cannot discuss, please know that the reading and writing parts of the Tapestry program far exceed most High Schoolers’ educations; that said, though, "thinking" is so crucial that I urge you to find a way for your teen to interact with others using this program.

As for writing, the only truly "new" skill for High School students will be the development of "on-paper" analytical argumentation (apologetics). The brain doesn’t usually fully develop the capacity for analysis and synthesis until after puberty. Therefore, in High School, much time should be devoted to logical apologetics in the forms of speeches, essays, and newspaper editorial page submissions throughout the High School years. One can start this process in Jr. High with students who mature early.

I couldn't more highly recommend the formal study of the Latin language in either the middle years or in the first two years of High School. This should ideally be followed by a half-semester course of formal logic studies. Other foci might be the solidification of grammatical knowledge, the fine-tuning of general writing organization and skills (my oldest son still has trouble with apostrophes!), and general, steady work on vocabulary expansion pursuant to taking the SAT in his Junior year. Of course, don't forget math and lab sciences!

In summary, the High School years are exciting: all the fruits of your labors (and your child's character) are about to become apparent. Your child will change more in the next four years than at any time since the first four years of his life. You are going to be a major influence in his life, and so I urge you to be diligent!

Galatians 6:9 reminds us "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

And something I always need to keep memorizing, especially as I relate to my teens is this: Eph. 4:29 "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."