For several years, I used a different chronological program because the new cost of Tapestry of Grace resources was overwhelming and intimidating to me. After trying to make that other program more like Tapestry of Grace, my husband and I finally decided to simply purchase Tapestry. Now that I have gone through a whole year plan, I have many more ideas about how to make Tapestry fit our budget well. I have found that it is very easy to use Tapestry without spending a lot of extra money on books, especially at the grammar levels.
One thing that I have found helpful is to read the book summaries on Bookshelf Central. In those paragraphs, there is a lot of helpful information about which books are particularly easy to substitute and which books can be combined for multiple levels. Although one may not be teaching an Upper Grammar or Dialectic student right now, it can be helpful to purchase some of those titles, at times, instead of a Lower Grammar title since the former be utilized again later. (For example, Bookshelf Central may note that the Upper Grammar Arts/Activities resource will work well for both Lower Grammar and Dialectic or when a Dialectic or Rhetoric Worldview title might serve well as a read-aloud for lower levels instead of purchasing Lower and Upper Grammar-level titles.)
From what I have seen and read, the newer Year Plans of Tapestry include more titles than the older, Classic version because some families didn't want to re-read titles that they'd read three years prior. If this isn't a problem for you, you might wish to purchase and utilize some of the upper level resources for use at a lower level as noted by Bookshelf Central. Personally, re-reading books isn't a problem for us because, as you mature, you understand and appreciate different things. I liken it to watching favorite movies again and again. There are also so many wonderful suggestions in the Arts/Activities resources that we couldn't possibly do them all; it is quite refreshing to know that we don't have to do it all this time and that we can save certain projects for next time. (Though you can still go back to these projects even if you purchase the other resources. ;)
Okay, so I have written all those paragraphs and pretty much simply established that Bookshelf Central has helped me immensely in saving money by simplifying. Here are a couple of additional thoughts...
Decide what you want to prioritize.
- How important is it to you to complete all of the literature worksheets at this level? Many of the questions on these worksheets tend to be resource specific (unless specified otherwise by Bookshelf Central), so you'll want to have these resources available if you aren't comfortable adapting the questions and want to utilize all of the worksheets. At the Lower Grammar level, I'm comfortable with not doing all of these, doing many aloud, and adapting "on the fly", so I don't feel like I have to have all of these titles, but this varies by family.
After looking at the write-ups on Bookshelf Central, you should have a good idea of what can be easily substituted. Most of the history titles are easy to substitute with similar resources from the library. Many libraries have a limited supply of Worldview titles, so if the Church History/Worldview component is important to you, you will likely need to invest in those resources or purchase something similar so substitute. Again, we simplify here by using some resources for multiple levels. However, this category is probably the highest priority for our family, so I make sure that each level has something to read on the given topic. The Little Lights biographies by Catherine Mackenzie are wonderful, and we read them again and again. My four-year-old is particularly fond of carrying them around, and they are very sturdy. I highly recommend all of the series! We also love the History Lives series by Brandon and Mindy Withrow and use those as a read-aloud at all levels (though I think only one of them is a scheduled read-aloud and another is used at the Dialectic level). Again, this depends on your unique family. Do your young kids love read-alouds, or do they have a short attention span? (I have one child that dislikes read-alouds, so I don't do as many of these with her.)
Once you've figured out how you can substitute and what is important to you, you'll probably have a list of books that you do want to secure. Inter-library loan can be helpful if you are organized and if your library doesn't charge a fee for that service (ours charges $3 per book to cover shipping which isn't very helpful when I can pick something up used for $4 but can be more helpful for high priced resources). Don't be afraid to make a list and ask your library to order resources when they don't have any on a specific topic. (If they already have a dozen books on the topic, it is less likely that they'll order your unique title, so that's something you'll want to take into consideration before making a request. They are also less likely to order niche topics such as many worldview titles. However, there are many things that they will consider ordering, so don't be afraid to ask.) Finally, there are many wonderful sites for used resources: HomeschoolClassifieds.com, Vegsource, eBay, PaperBackSwap, and Bookmooch. I've also gotten a lot of resources used off of more mainstream sites like Amazon and Abebooks.
Consider your time and your resources and prayerfully go from there. Tapestry can fit into many budgets. It has provided a great framework for us. I substitute more at the Lower Grammar level, but I'm also purchasing resources for Upper Grammar and Dialectic students simultaneously, so you may find that you don't have to substitute as much as I do if you are only purchasing for one level at a time.
If you have found this information helpful, you may also wish to read my post on Planning and Organizing Books. You can also read more about this subject on the "Tapestry of Grace" Blog: Homeschooling in Hard Times: Money and Books.
Many blessings on your homeschool journey!
*If you've found this post helpful, please consider using my Advisor code (elizabethhankins) when purchasing Tapestry of Grace year plans.