O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Psalms 43:3

And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. D&C 88:118

The kids

The kids

Monday, June 24, 2013

Moving Beyond the Page- Schoolhouse Review

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Moving Beyond the Page is a publisher of integrated homeschool curricula for ages 5-13 (with units for as young as 4 and as old as 14 coming soon). Their curriculum integrates a literature unit with a corresponding science and social studies unit. Moving Beyond the Page offers both full year packages as well as individual units. I was recently able to choose an online version of a literature unit as well as a physical copy of a science or social studies unit to review. Tiger helped me choose. We chose The Hobbit and received online access to the curriculum guide and a physical copy of the book. This package retails for $21.92. We also chose Light and the Eye and received a physical copy of the guide as well as a textbook to go with the guide. This package retails for $25.98. Both are intended for ages 11-13 or approximately grades 6-8. No other manipulatives or materials were included with these books. photo

hobbitThe Hobbit unit contains a lesson plan, reading comprehension questions, and activities from charting Bilbo’s journey on a map to building a mythical creature from clay, to practicing editing and grammar skills with worksheets, a culminating written response to the novel and unit test. The online guide contains all the materials of a physical guide and is accessed through a portal on the Moving Beyond the Page website. Parts are downloadable like the activity pages and reading question pages. There is also a downloadable guide to writing and grammar.  The rest of the guide like the directions, explanations, and lesson plan requires logging onto the website to reference. This means that it is not as portable as the physical guides. One nice feature of the online guide is a parent control button. This is toggled on and off so parents can easily see the correct answers for the lesson questions. As long as a student doesn’t know the online login password, he cannot turn on the answers himself. Each online guide is accessible for 3 months following activation. This means that if it is purchased in February but not activated until September, the student will have access to the guide until December. Since each unit is intended to take 19 days to complete, this should be sufficient.

Each day Tiger would log in and click on the next lesson in the list. He would read through the instructions and follow them. The reading comprehension questions always have an option to do them on paper or type them right into the program and print. After reading the selection and doing the comprehension questions, which I had printed, he would click the next button to access the activities. After completing the activities, Tiger would click a button saying “Lesson Completed.” This would strike through that lesson on the lesson menu  page. After the first day, it became apparent that I needed to go through and print out all the activities and reading questions ahead of time. We bound them into a notebook (the yellow book pictured above). Some of the activities in the literature portion required editing sentences. I typed the incorrect sentences out in a document and then printed them out as well with space for Tiger to rewrite because most of the editing pages were not included in the printed activities section.

 photoAs soon as he chose his unit study, Tiger was impatiently checking the mail. He had already read The Hobbit and couldn’t wait to begin again. The first few lessons were exciting to him because he got to research Tolkien’s life, play a vocabulary game, begin drawing a map, and write a message in runes. Once he got through the first couple of lessons, his enthusiasm began to wane.  He did not enjoy the grammar worksheets and didn’t really understand all of the directions given in the guide for some of the activities like listing out foreshadowing and flashbacks in the book.

light and eyeThe Light and Eye is an introductory exploration into light and how the eye perceives it. Like the literature guide, this unit included daily lesson plans reading comprehension questions, activities including a final project, and a unit test. The last several pages of the guide is the parent overview. This can be torn out as it contains all the answers to questions in the unit. The activities contained in The Light and the Eye were mostly experiments which corresponded to the reading. Like the online guide, there is a method to charting progress. This is done through little check boxes next to each activity or set of questions. All of the questions are embedded in the unit text and all the activity pages follow the entire lesson. At first this confused Tiger and he just didn’t do the activity because he didn’t know there was a page to do the activity on. Because this is a science unit, it requires extra materials. The materials needed for the Light and Eye unit are for the most part readily available in your home. There are two items I was not able to obtain. These were a model eye with snap together parts and a book which goes with the model of the eye. They don’t come with the unit as a manipulative, but are available if you purchase the entire semester science kit. If you do not purchase the entire semester science kit, then you will not be able to complete two days of lessons.

Tiger really loves science. He enjoyed some of the activities more than others. He would have liked to see the book move a little faster. He thought that the text spent too long on the same concept. One of the experiments he has attempted multiple times prior to this unit without success and once again attempted it to no avail. He wrote in his book, “This is a LOST CAUSE TO ME!!” under observations.

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If I were purchasing this curriculum and deciding between online access guide or physical guide, I would definitely go for the physical guides and pay the extra couple of dollars. Being tethered to the computer in order to complete each lesson of the literature study was annoying for Tiger as well as myself. It would have been nice to load the lesson plans on Tiger’s Kindle but this was not possible. While I found aspects of both guide editions to be a bit awkward in layout, I found the coil-bound guide to be more user-friendly than the online version.

I really wanted to like these units, but they just didn’t work for my family. For us, the literature portion had a few too many worksheets aimed at covering all the language arts objectives rather than really diving into the novel. I also found the comprehension questions did not elicit much thought from Tiger. They were treated like an obstacle to get around quickly- busywork.  I did like the way the final project, a written response to the novel, was explained to the student though. It was broken up into several days with bite-sized chunks to work on. I think this literature study would work for a more structured homeschool family where students are used to completing worksheets in order to achieve learning objectives.

In terms of the Light and the Eye, I liked some of the experiments but, as mentioned above, I was really disappointed that 2 days lessons were missing due to not having the manipulatives necessary. In other stand-alone units Moving Beyond the Page includes manipulatives needed for the unit. I can see not including basics like mirrors and clay, which can be picked up locally, but to not include the model that is specifically mentioned in the text and is not available locally or online, was a bit frustrating to me. For Tiger, this was really disappointing and squashed a bit of his enthusiasm for the unit.

Many other families reviewed Moving Beyond the Page and had different experiences. Be sure to check out their reviews.

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