Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Moving Beyond the Page

Moving Beyond the Page is a complete and comprehensive secular homeschool curriculum that is very hands-on. They offer material that intertwines and works together so you can use their products to have all of your subjects in sync. For the purpose of my review I was given products from both Language Arts and Science.

Language Arts Package - The Family Under the Bridge - This came with an online curriculum guide and the physical copies of the books Punctuation Celebration and The Family Under the Bridge.

Science Package - Dirt and Plants - This came with the physical curriculum guide and the physical copies of the books Dirt: Jump into Science and Experiments with Plants.

I will start by telling you about the The Family Under the Bridge. The book was really great to read together. It is an endearing story about the experiences of a family in France that ends up homeless and the relationship they build with another man who is living under the bridge.

The curriculum guide has lessons for each chapter as well as a pre-reading lesson and a final project. There is a list of reading and materials, a summary of skills, how to use the guide, review sheet, student activity pages, and question pages.

The questions come in both a printable format and as an interactive PDF. We preferred to answer the questions on the computer rather than on a printable page. This allowed my daughter to type in the answers on the computer rather than having to write it all out. With her special needs it is sometimes easier that way. The only problem with doing that is you open it from within the teacher's guide which already has the answers so you have to be sure to close out of that before the student uses them. At first I didn't do that and I caught Gess trying to look at the answers once!

There are only about five to eight questions for each chapter but they are really good and get the child thinking. They not only have to answer what happened, but really think about why. For instance there is a question about why you think the mother says she is not "really" a tramp, the term used in the book for homeless people. It also asks why Notre Dame, which is a famous church, might be serving a meal for the homeless on Christmas Eve. These are good questions to consider.

While the questions got you thinking about the story the activities helped you to really get engaged in it. We learned about the economic cycle, France, Gypsies, fashion, punctuation, churches, charity, poems, and culture.  Sometimes the activities were printable worksheets. Other times you had to look information up elsewhere. There were activities to create books, houses, and other items. Gess and her daddy built the most beautiful house out of legos. For some reason I didn't manage to get a photo of it.

The punctuation activities used both worksheets and the Punctuation Celebration book that you received.

It was full of colorful artwork and poems that described what each type of punctuation was for. For instance the quotation marks poem says:

"Quotation Marks"
Quotation marks come two by two.
Use two before, two when you're through.
Enclosed are words said by another, 
Like, "Clean this messy room!" yelled Mother.
"Fourscore and seven years ago..."
Who said those words?
I'll be you know!

I really liked that even though this is a secular program they used the work of the church and the holiday of Christmas to teach about what churches do and what the holiday is about. There are suggested activities for what to do if your family goes to a church or synagogue and what to study if you do not. Both encourage learning how churches try to help the community. This part was easy for us to do as our church is involved with our local homeless shelter and Gess has been there many times helping me deliver supplies.

I felt this study was really well done. The questions and activities were thoughtful and Gess walked away from it knowing so much more than if she had just read the story and answered a few questions. She even has a better understanding of how economics work which makes her stop and think a little more whenever she spends money.

Of course her favorite was the science study because that is her favorite subject and since there were lots of hands-on activities and experiments, she had a blast. We chose Dirt and Plants because she has really been into planting things. Once I caught her pulling dandelions out of the ground and trying to plant them in a flower pot. While that didn't work out for her, this study really helped to teach her why. 

The physical guide has all the information you need to teach the lesson including a list of materials you need and the vocabulary words you will be learning. The required books were included in the package. They were a really nice addition to the study. Each unit begins by listing the Big Idea, Facts and Definitions, Skills, and Materials needed for the teacher. Then it gives a small introduction. From there it jumps into the activities that the student is to do. These range from answering questions to doing experiments.

The worksheets will often have fill in the blank questions or ones that require cutting and gluing the answers into place. They give these a fun feel to them and Gess never seemed to treat this as work.

The experiments and hands-on activities were both fun and informative. The first one she did was from the book Dirt.

At the end of the book it gives you an activity to do and the curriculum guide recommends dong this or other activities. Here Gess had to grow grass in a bottle.

Later the guide had her planting 4 of the same plants and altering the amount of light and water each one received. We decided to focus only on the light and maybe do the amount of water another time.  We planted 4 flowers and placed them in four different areas that got varying degrees of light.  We had to move her outdoor plant from a cup to a pot because we had so much rain it was drowning in that little cup.

At the end of two weeks we could see that those with light grew much better than those with little or no light.

Gess really loved the new vocabulary words she learned such as herbaceous and deciduous. Now as we pass trees on the street she will start talking about them.  With her speech sometimes being hard to understand one time it took us awhile to realize she was trying to tell us that a certain tree was deciduous. That really confused her grandmother but when we figured it out, it really impressed me. It let me know she was retaining the information she learned! The hands-on activities play a key role in that.  We did so many other projects and experiments I just didn't have the time or ability to put them all on here!

My only problem with the science unit was that I didn't feel like the guide gave enough information or explanation about the topic. They would give a brief explanation and then have you read the supplemental books with it but since one book was about experiments it didn't explain the concept as well as I would have liked. I wished that the curriculum guide would start by fully explaining the concept and have the other books and activities supplement rather than teach it. It would have made it a little easier to both teach and to learn.

These are just two of many units that Moving Beyond the Page offers to its families. They are made to work in unison with each other so you will find suggestions for which literature unit to use with the various science and social studies. We didn't follow those suggestions and simply chose units that interested us.

Each unit is only supposed to take about 3 to 4 weeks, but we usually stretch it out a bit longer since my daughter has special needs. We took about 6 weeks to complete them.  As you can see, if you use this for your entire homeschool curriculum it could start to become a bit costly but it will cover everything you need, though you do have to purchase your math separately. I think they make a nice supplement which is what we use them for. Now that Gess is getting older having literature guides is helpful to me so I may use more of those in the future.

The Language Arts Package - The Family Under the Bridge - is for ages 7-9 and comes with a curriculum guide and the physical copies of the books Punctuation Celebration and The Family Under the Bridge.

The online curriculum guide package sells for $25.91
The physical curriculum guide package sells for $29.97

The Science Package - Dirt and Plants - is for ages 8-10 and comes with a curriculum guide and the physical copies of the books Dirt: Jump into Science and Experiments with Plants.

The online curriculum guide package sells for $26.83
The physical curriculum guide package sells for $30.89

Last year we studied Tornado for literature and The Land for science. They were also lots of fun.

To learn more about their other units in language arts, science, and social studies visit their website where you will find all the titles they have to offer. I am sure there will be something here that your family will love. They also have a great Sample Center where you can see samples of both the physical and online versions of the lessons. And as always, be sure to check out the other Schoolhouse Reviews by clicking on the banner below.

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