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April 13, 2010

Using TOG Secularly

I get many, many questions about using Tapestry of Grace in a secular manner.

TOG is extremely protective of copyright, so I will use sample material that they make available. Click on the link to find samples from Year 3. This is a three-week sample that focuses on the early British colonies in America.

The sample begins with Week 20. The topic is "Early New World Colonies and Eastern Europe." Here is the reading list for that week. Take a look at it.

The left-hand page shows the most important readings, history core and in-depth, and literature. None of the texts listed are religious in focus, with the possible exception of "The Age of Religious Wars," a rhetoric-level in-depth history text. Further down the page, under the "Worldview" heading, you will find several age-appropriate religiously-oriented texts. However, all you have to do is skip this section.

Now take a look at the right-hand page. It lists alternate texts, which you may use if you 1) don't care for the primary texts, or 2) want additional reading on those topics.

As you can see, there are several books to choose from at each level, and in each category. You can customize to your heart's delight.

The Student Activity Pages are keyed to the primary recommended books. However, a little creativity can fix that. Most of the SAPs in the curriculum focus on literature; TOG provides pdfs of blank response sheets that can be used with any history topic or text.

Here you can find samples of the Student Activity Pages for Week 20. Scroll down until you find the page with the Dialectic level history questions. Read the "Thinking Questions."

Yes, some of those questions have religious content. We either skip them, or we run with them. It's important to understand why Galileo's telescope threatened the Catholic Church! The answers we find are always interesting, and spark great discussions.

You might argue that by doing so we are not using TOG secularly. It is not my goal to strip all religious references and ideas out of our learning. My kids live in a world full of religion - they ought to understand it, and have at least some familiarity with the ideas of the great religions. We don't find that doing so threatens our beliefs.

And, religious questions such as the ones in the sample do not pop up every week.

TOG does not preach. They give you a good deal of choice in the readings, thoughtful questions to ponder, and yes, some questions about the Bible, or how events or people should be looked at through the lens of the Bible. These are never woven into the readings or the content of the program, and so they are easy to skip, modify, or discuss, as you wish.

We find it very easy to work with.

Year 1, however, is different. Year 1, ancient history, is explicitly Bible history. Many weeks use the Bible as the only reading for history. This will not suit our purposes, and it is not easy to modify; and so we will not be using Year 1 for ancient history. We have used the second half of Year 2, all of Year 3, and are about to start Year 4, and have been pleased so far.

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