Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Review: Moving Beyond the Page

Moving Beyond the Page is a literature based curriculum that encourages critical & creative thinking.  There are units for Science, Social Studies, and Literature, for ages 5-13.  For this review, I received the literature unit Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMHalong with the coordinating science unit  Work, Tools, and Simple Machines.  Both of these units are geared towards 8-10 year olds, and I used them with Jacob, my 10 year old.

The guides are available in either hardcopy or online version.  I received a hardcopy guide for Work, Tools, and Simple Machines (along with the Science in a Nutshell: Work: Plane and Simple kit)  , while the guide for Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was the online version (and I received a hardcopy of the book).  You can see a sample of the online guide for Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH here.  After the purchase of an online guide, you can activate it whenever you'd like (they don't ever expire).  Once you activate it, you have 3 months to use it, though you may contact Moving Beyond the Page if you need to extend the use.  Prices vary from unit to unit, but for reference the cost for the Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH package is $19.92, while the Work, Tools, and Simple Machines package is $61.99.  You also have the option of purchasing complete packages instead of individual units.  While the units I received are meant to complement each other, you can mix and match the different units to suit the interests of your child.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH  is made up of 13 lessons, plus a final project.  Each lesson is expected to take a day, though the final project is at least a two day project.

The online guide is very simple to use.  It contains all of the activity and question pages that are needed, and they are easy to access and print out.  Each lessons follows a general pattern.  The lesson begins with a "Getting Started" section which provides the general point of the lesson to the teacher through "Questions to Explore", "Facts and Definitions", "Skills", and "Needed Materials".  Then an introductory question or thought is provided to help get your child thinking about the book in a critical way.  Following this question are comprehension and critical thinking questions based on that day's reading.  These can either be answered orally, you can type the answers into the online guide and print, or the worksheets can be printed and your child can write the answers down.  It's actually suggested that you do a combination of oral and written answers; we chose to answer all the questions orally.  

There are activities following the questions.  The student keeps a plot flowchart for each chapter of the book, and I found this to be a very useful activity for picking out the important parts of each chapter.  Some of the additional activities are worksheets that reinforce language arts skills (such as homonyms and  irregular plurals), while other worksheets require creative and/or critical thinking (such as designing a maze or coming up with acronyms for sets of letters).  Still other activities are hands on.  One such example involves running a skien of yarn throughout your house, and then blindfolding the child and have them find their way by holding on to the yarn; another involves giving your child a specific set of items and having them invent something. There are usually 2-3 activities per lesson, and some activities present an easier and harder option, allowing you some flexibility depending on your child's skill level.

After the activities, the lesson wraps up with discussion based on the story, as well as the skills practiced that day.  The final two day project presents two options:  writing a final chapter for the book or designing a book float, so two very different options are presented.

The hardcopy guide for Work, Tools, and Simple Machines is also easy to use.  Instead of printable worksheets, there are non-reproducible worksheets in the guide.  There are 7 lessons and a final project in this unit, though all but one of the lessons require 2 days to complete.  The lessons are:
  • Work
  • The Six Simple Machines
  • The Inclined Plane
  • The Screw and the Wedge
  • Lever, Pulley, and Wheel and Axle
  • Tools and Machines Make Work Easier
  • Tools and Machines Over Time

The lessons are laid out in a similar fashion to those in the literature unit.  Lessons are introduced to the teacher with "Big Ideas", "Facts and Definitions", "Skills", "Materials", and an "Introduction" to present the ideas of the lesson to your child.

Following the introduction are the activities.  There are worksheets (often there are 2 options for differing skill levels), along with a lot of hands on activities.  The worksheet activities has the student drawing machines, identifying simple machines in the home, and cutting out and sorting many different things into what kind of simple machine they are.  Many of the needed supplies for the hands on activities are included in the Science in a Nutshell kit, but some need to be gathered (magazines, tape, cardboard, clay, beans, and  more).  There is a materials list provided at the beginning of the guide, and I would suggest gathering the supplies before you start.  The final project is a presentation that will have your student tie all that they've learned together through the creation of a poster and demonstration of the various types of simple machines, including how they work and how they've changed over time.

Jacob really enjoyed reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and the activities and questions did cause him to think more critically about the book.  He also really enjoyed learning all about the simple machines.  It was fun to approach the book and science topic together, and I liked the way they complimented each other. The literature unit took us 30-45 minutes a day, while the science unit usually took longer, about 45-75 minutes.  There is a lot of discussion involved, so it was pretty teacher intensive.  Both types of guides were easy to use, though I probably slightly preferred the hardcopy version (I tend to get distracted on the computer).  However, I liked being able to print out the activity sheets from the online guide to give them to Jacob, instead of having him work on the sheets in the guide I was using.  Really, you can't go wrong with either option.

If you're looking for a challenging and fun option for your homeschool, check out Moving Beyond the Page.  In addition to being a great full year program, the individual units are also a great option to keep your child learning and engaged throughout the summer months.

For more reviews of Moving Beyond the Page, visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


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