Monday, June 27, 2011

Tapestry of Grace: Part One - The Convention

What do you get when you take one terrific curriculum. . . . . . . 

Two encouraging, energetic booth hostesses. . . . . .

A steady stream of curious, sometimes overwhelmed, always receptive homeschool moms. . . .

 And a crazy cast of supporting characters????

 (Well, the first thing you get is laryngitis.  But I digress. . . . . . )

You get three days of fun, exhaustion, and rewarding times at 
the CHEF of Alabama Homeschool Convention!!!

My longtime friends know that I have an - ahem - weakness for homeschool conventions.  Soft spot, yeah, let's call it a soft spot, that's the ticket!  I've attended them for about 14 years off and on (more on than off) and worked at them a few times as well.


When I heard that the folks at Tapestry were looking for folks to host a booth at their local convention, how could I refuse?  It really is a joy to meet other moms on the same journey, to really listen to them, and offer encouragement.  I was thrilled to have the chance!

Let's examine the ingredients one-by-one, shall we?

(OK, I know, I know. . . these are the same pictures!  Sorry. . . . I was too busy talking to moms to get more than a handful of good shots!)

Ingredient #1: The Curriculum

We had on display everything you would use in one week's worth of Tapestry.

What more can I say?  Well, I guess I could give you my "elevator speech":

"Tapestry of Grace is a humanities-based curriculum that enables me to teach my kids on many different levels, using the same topics. It's a combination of Classical Education and Unit Studies, using real literature to make history come alive.   Would you like to learn more?" 

I gave a variation of that speech about - oh - a few dozen times over two days.  Tapestry of Grace has been a huge blessing in our lives . . . and I was so glad to share about it.  My next blog post, I'm actually intending to do a thorough overview of it, but for now, you'll just have to settle for my convention stories!

Ingredient #2:  Two Booth Hostesses

Here we are - The Dream Team!!  (Ha, only kidding!  Sort of. . . .)  Actually, we were a really good team.  I didn't actually know that Tamieka was coming until the morning of the set-up day (Wednesday), but boy-oh-boy (!) am I glad she was my partner!  Her kids are 8, 7, and 3, and she brought them home from school to use Tapestry last year.  She was full of great ideas and tips, and could really related to the younger moms (which does NOT imply that I'm an older mom, thankyouverymuch) who visited our booth in droves.  We had a ball. . . . . .  and I made a new friend!

Ingredient #3:  Homeschool Moms
 They came alone and in twos, homeschool moms in all ages and stages.  On Thursday, we had LOTS of moms whose oldest child wasn't even 7 yet.  It was so neat to meet all of them, and talk with them, hear their needs, their struggles, what they're looking for.  One of the blessings of being a booth hostess is that we were under no sales quota, or pitch, or anything.  Tamieka and I were simply free to share information and minister as the Lord led.

And minister we did!  I think I'm safe in saying that Tamieka's favorite moms were the ones with younger kids - she took great joy in showing them the simple yet effective way that she uses Tapestry, and how it can look when all your children are in the lower levels of the program.  My favorite moms were the ones with the large age spread in their families - you know, those of us who have emotional exhaustion from teenagers, combined with physical exhaustion from preschoolers!  I loved being able to say, "You know, you can meet the academic needs of your high schoolers AND still have fun and enjoy learning with your little ones!"

Even better:  when I watched the information video that Marcia Somerville (Tapestry's author) put together for us hostesses, she really stressed that we were there to minister.  That really freed me to steer moms in another direction - which, I must say, I occasionally did. (I also joked with the dads that we were the safest booth in the convention, since we couldn't take any of their money!)  Time and time again, we had moms of younger kids come and just ask for general homeschool advice, which was when I broke out, "The Cookie Speech".

Interlude:  The Cookie Speech
 (intended audience: moms with Kindergarten and younger students)

Bake cookies with them.  Take them to parks, museums, and the library.
Love them.  Read to them.  Love your husband.  Let them play.
Enjoy them.  They're only young once.

Not that I would have taken that advice when Kathryn was five. . . but hey!  I can only hope some of these moms have more sense than I did. . . . . . 

Ingredient #4:  Crazy Cast of Supporting Characters
From L to R:  Nikki and David Caywood, Dana Caywood
 Does it get any better than to have the staff of Bookshelf Central next door!!!!!????  Seriously, they were wonderful.  For the uninitiated, Dana Caywood has been instrumental in the writing of many parts of Tapestry of Grace, and her company (Bookshelf Central) carries all the books needed for Tapestry's curriculum.  Their web interface is outstanding, the books are beautiful. . . .and they are such fun!  The running joke was that I knew everyone at the convention (which was only about 75% true).  Oh, and did I mention that they're having 10% off in July???  Bliss!!!  (Editor's Correction:  Thanks to handy-dandy David, I am reminded they have sale promotions All. The. Time, not just in July!  Be still my beating heart!  Thanks, David!!  Go read his comment for more details.  Better yet, visit their website!)

Note to the folks at the office:  if at all possible, put the Bookshelf people next to the Tapestry booth.  It was SO easy to just send moms next door to look at what books they might use with Tapestry!

Epitaph:  The Banner Support Stand
Here we see Tamieka with our beleaguered banner stand.  I think I used an entire roll of duct tape trying to get that thing to stand. . . . . and by about 2 p.m. on Friday, it had quit. It was pining for the fjords, pushing up the daisies. . . . It was an ex-banner stand.  You get the picture.

But it did hold the really cool Map of the Humanities. . . . . once.  For a limited time.

In Conclusion:

A big shout-out to Juli at Lampstand Press (Tapestry's actual company) - she really made the convention an easy undertaking (well, except for the blinkety-blink blank banner. . .but I'm not bitter.  Really.)  Tamieka and I had everything we needed for a successful booth, and we got lots of positive feedback.

It was a wonderful experience, and Tamieka and I already agreed that we want to work together next year!  A hearty thanks to Marcia, Juli, Dana, and all the good folks at Lampstand for supporting local homeschool conventions and making it all possible!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Looking for Latin? Latin for Children Review

I have somewhat of a checkered history with Latin programs.

My eldest was the guinea pig (aren't ALL eldest children our homeschool guinea pigs?  It's amazing they aren't scarred for life.  Or maybe they are!).  I'd get a wild hair, based on some homeschool book or article or friend or something, that I should teach my elementary student Latin, and away we'd go.

Oddly enough, it seemed that every time I started a new Latin program, I'd find I was expecting a new baby.  Not sure what's up with that, but it really happened!  Which then meant I was exhausted, and - well - Latin was the first thing to go in my schedule.

That was BEFORE Latin For Children.

Latin for Children, published by Classical Academic Press, is a three-year course designed for students in the grammar stage - roughly grades 3-6.   The course consists of a set of DVDs containing all the instruction, a CD with the Latin chants, a student text, activity book, and an optional History Reader (aka translation practice!).  

First, my disclaimer:  although I own all three levels of LFC, the nice folks at CAP sent me the updated videos for this review.  (And have been MORE than patient as I've put this on the back burner for a very, very long time.)

Second, my other disclaimer:  LFC is written for the upper-elementary student, and I do know people who've used it very successfully with those students.  For our family, however, LFC is our middle school Latin course, a precursor to high school foreign language study.  As such, I've found that my students - for the most part - have been able to work through the material with only the DVD, and haven't needed as much instruction from ye olde (and getting older!) mother.  (Note:  CAP does sell a course called Latin Alive, that is geared for the middle or high school student.  One of my friends uses it with her son for his high school foreign language requirement - she has been very, very pleased with it.)

For our family, Latin for Children is a great way to study Latin.  The pace is not overwhelming, and the DVDs are enjoyable and very clear.  I will say, however, that my kids all like the older versions better!  They prefer watching the dad (Christopher Perrin, in this case) teaching his own kids, rather than having him directly address them. 

The student books provide very clear instruction, with worksheets to practice the new content, derivative practice, memory practice, and a quiz for every chapter.  Each book has about 32 chapters, making them a nice length to complete in one academic year.  I also can't recommend the History Readers highly enough.  The practice in translation is invaluable;  one of my children really struggled at first, but the reader was very motivating, and by the end of the book that student was successfully translating - with very good accuracy - on their own.

After three years of teaching LFC to two students, I have a suspicion that - were we ever to have dinner with the Perrin family - we'd all be cracking up.  There are several jokes and references that cause me to suspect we have the same sense of (warped) humor!

Which may be why LFC appeals to my wacky bunch.  The Activity Books are laced with humorous asides, and the puzzles and games and clues to decode (using Latin, of course!) are high-interest methods of practice.  (One of my children would like to make SURE you all know that she has had it with crossword puzzles, however!)  My girls also love HeadventureLand - the free (did I mention, free??) online practice resource. 

Two notes for teachers:  first, there is a lot - a LOT - of vocabulary to learn.  I've been a little neglectful in vocab review (and I can't even blame pregnancy), and boy does it show about half-way through the book.  So do yourself - and your child - a favor, and review, review, REVIEW.   Second, CAP does not provide a set of "lesson plans" per se for LFC.  There is a suggested teaching order, which works just fine for us, but you may need to tweak a bit in order to find a rhythm that works well for your family.

Latin for Children has been a super resource for the three years of Latin study my children take in middle school.  My oldest son finished all 3 levels; middle daughter is finished with Level A, and next daughter is begging (begging, I tell you!) to start LFC in 5th grade rather than 6th.  We'll see. 

If you're looking for an engaging, thorough, easy-to-use Latin program - that will have your kids smiling and laughing their way through vocabulary and declensions (and not through gritted teeth, mind you) - Latin for Children is worth a serious look.