Monday, June 24, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: Moving Beyond the Page

Because I have a daughter with special needs I have yet to try a full curriculum package.  There is just so much I have to adapt and modify that I find it easier to choose each subject separately.  However, when I had the chance to review Moving Beyond the Page for the Schoolhouse Review Crew I was anxious to give it a try because it is not like your average curriculum.

Moving Beyond the Page does exactly what it's title says, it teaches students by moving beyond the page of the text.  This complete homeschooling curriculum has the best of all worlds when it comes to learning styles.  Its unit studies connect subjects like language arts, science and social studies together, offers project-based instruction for hands on learning, and teaches critical and creative thinking skills.  While they currently have products for ages 5-13 for the purpose of our review we were given the following two units from the 7 to 9 year old level. 

Tornado online language arts unit which also included a physical copy of the books Tornado and How the Turtle Got It's Shell

The Land science unit which also included the book Maps and Mapping

Generally the curriculum works so that the language arts unit corresponds to the science and social studies unit you are doing at the same time. That did not exactly work for us but it was not much of a problem and the lessons still went smoothly.

Each unit should only take 2 to 3 weeks.  I found that a bit intense for us due to my daughter's special needs.  Even though Gess is a little old for this unit it seemed to fit her perfect academically.  Each lesson had quite a bit to it and it does take a good amount of time each day but Gess didn't seem to mind.  In fact one Sunday afternoon I found her trying to do a lesson all on her own! 

So I helped get her started on her next mapping project for The Land.

Now let me tell you about each of the individual units.

Our language arts unit Tornado was about one of Gess' favorite novels.  My readers are well aware by now that my Gess wants to be a meteorologist when she grows up because she is fascinated by the weather and specifically tornadoes.  Well the story Tornado is about a family on a farm who are taking shelter from a tornado and to pass the time the farm hand tells them stories about his dog which was named Tornado. 

There were 14 days of activities for Tornado.  The table of contents specifies how many days each individual lesson will take.  There is also a corresponding vocabulary list and spelling activities that are words not necessarily related to the unit.  The introduction to each lesson gives the outline of what your child should learn and do as well as the materials you will need.  After the student has read the appropriate chapter they answer questions about it.  I loved how this was done right here on the computer.  From the teacher's page you can open up the question sheet and the child types in their answers.  While you can't save the answers in the system, once they are done you can print it off to keep.

The activities often use worksheets which are related to the topic.  Unlike most worksheet activities I felt these were visually appealing, interesting, and sometimes even hands on.  Gess had just learned about writing paragraphs and still struggles with content. Their Hamburger Paragraph Organizer really seemed to help.  The first time she did it she just wrote one word in each section so I helped her take those words and put them into sentences to make a paragraph.  Keep in mind that this is an area she really struggles with because of her special needs.  I think it was a pretty good effort for a first paragraph!  It is about her pet fish.

It read like this:

My pet is a fish.  He is swimming.  He is floating.  He is breathing.  A fish is a good pet.

Many of the worksheets included some hands on aspect to it.  You could cut out and match the vocabulary words and definitions together and play a game they call Think Tac Toe.  I thought the plot diagram was a really great way to help the child learn not only the sequence of events but where they fell into the actual plot from the problem to the climax to the final resolution.

You also keep a journal through the course of your study and there is a craft project, card game and other fun activities that truly do take you beyond the page.

Our science unit was The Land.  This was actually a really fun unit for both of us.  It starts out teaching the child about where they live from their galaxy, planet, continent, country, state, region, town, neighborhood, street, address right down to the very room they are sitting in. This helps them realize where they are physically located in the universe.  After that they study map reading, natural resources, conservation, the environment of the U.S, farming in the U.S and then their own environment which studies the seasons and temperatures.  In the last lesson they get to make their own island.

Gess had a lot of fun with all the lessons.  The conservation study was good because we just finally ended a severe drought where we live so she was familiar with the idea that conservation is important.  Gess also enjoyed mapping.  As I mentioned above I found her trying to do some of that on her own.  The book Maps and Mapping was a nice addition.  It was very beautifully illustrated, the font was nice and large and the activities were helpful.

The unit on farming and where our food comes from was the most enjoyable I think, probably because it had some really neat projects.  First we focused on where milk comes from.  Here Gess had to draw some products that come from milk.

Then we made our own butter!  The directions were in the book.  It was fairly simple.  The only problem I had was finding heavy cream.  All I could find was heavy whipping cream which worked but it wasn't as solid as I think it would have been otherwise.  This was more like whipped butter.

The funnest part was visiting an actual dairy farm and seeing how it all worked.  Since this study Gess loves to talk about "milk products" and the very next time she made herself a bowl of cereal and poured in the milk she asked me, "does this come from a cow?"  Of course I answered yes.  It sure is more exciting to eat food once you see where it comes from!

There were many more great activities and projects to do in this book. This was just from one chapter in the book and even in that chapter there was so much more to learn and do. We were really pleased with the unit.

Moving Beyond the Page is definitely an entire curriculum that covers all the subjects.  They have a typical day sample plan that shows it will take close to 5 hours to complete all the subject material.  They say the minimum requirements are:

- Approximately 3 hours on science, social studies, and language arts lessons.
- 1 hour on a math curriculum of your choice.  (They do have 3 products they recommend that can purchased from their website.)
- 15-20 minutes reviewing vocabulary and spelling words.
- 30 minutes of physical activity - anything from playing at the park, jumping rope, to organized sports.

They also have suggestions to extend the day for further study.  The units really will take that long, lasting about an hour for each subject.  We only did the two units and we spent about an hour on each one, sometimes even more if needed.  Of course some of the activities were really fun and didn't seem like work, so that certainly helped!

I do want to note that while Moving Beyond the Page is a secular curriculum, as a Christian I did not find any objectionable or controversial content in either of the books that I reviewed.  There were no references as to when or how the earth was created or anything like that. They will eventually get into the age of the earth but not until 6th or 7th grade. You can find more information about how they handle these types of topics on their Secular Homeschool Curriculum page.

From a special needs perspective Moving Beyond the Page is very compatible and adaptable, at least to our specific needs.  Since it offers so many hands on projects, it really helps enhance the learning.  They also offer two options for many of the worksheets, one more advanced than another so you can choose the best one for your student.  However, if you were to use this as an entire curriculum package the pace would be pretty intense unless you skipped some activities.  As a supplement though it would be a great resource.  I can see us using these occasionally to supplement what we are doing.  I love unit studies for that purpose and these are definitely ones that Gess both learns from and enjoys.

You can purchase these products by visiting the Moving Beyond the Page website.

Tornado sells for $24.97 for the physical package and $20.91 for the online version which is the one I received for my review. Once you activate the program you have 95 days to complete it.  After that you lose access to it unless you request more time.  Since most units take less than 20 days it is plenty of time to complete the unit, but I do think you should know that you don't get to download or keep it indefinitely.

The Land sells for $24.98 for the physical package which is the one I reviewed or $20.92 for the online version.

They have many other options for purchase as well.  You can buy an entire full year of everything, a full year by subject or simply buy individual units.  There are many other units and grade levels available.  Our Schoolhouse Review Crew received a very large variety of products so you will want to be sure to check out the other reviews by clicking on the image below. 


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