Friday, June 28, 2013

{Crew Review} Moving Beyond the Page Unit Studies

Over the past month, Luke and Levi and I have had the pleasure of reviewing two unit studies Moving Beyond the Page. This was a company I had not heard of before, and I was curious to see how they worked.
According to their website, Moving Beyond the Page (MBtP):

If this is intriguing to you, I encourage you to delve into their informative website to learn more about their program. Moving Beyond the Page sells complete curriculum designed to show interconnectedness of our world. However, these units can also be used individually for language arts, science, and social studies.  

$29.13 (online guide)
$33.18 (hard copy guide)

$20.92 (online guide)
$24.95 (hard copy guide)
Age 8-10 (reading level 4-5th grade)
Age 7-9 (reading level 3rd to early 4th grade)

Each of these units lasts approximately 10 lessons and conclude in a final project.  The final project helps the students synthesize all the information they learned about in a fun way.  Levi created an island based on information he learned about mapping and geography.  Luke’s project was to create an interview of Ben Franklin or to have a party for his birthday. The assignments definitely integrate creativity into the assimilation process.  {I’ll be honest and say that Luke didn’t get to his final project;  I had to leave for a funeral out of state and we got off track on the final project, but it definitely would have stretched Luke’s creativity and writing skills.}
Since we reviewed two different programs for two different age brackets, I thought I’d discuss each separately.

Product 1: The Land Science unit (click for sample)

This  was for Levi, who loves  learning geography and having another atlas/ geography book in the house.  I’m not sure what it is about maps that enchants him, but I’m not complaining (said this mama who used to poor over the road atlas for fun as a child and adult).

The package included a coil-bound study guide and the book Maps and Mapping. Our study guide was very comprehensive and included:

•General information on how to use a MBtP guide
•List of required books and materials (very well organized list, I might add, with materials needed divided up by each lesson)
•Vocabulary your child will encounter during the unit
•Lesson goals and targeted learning objectives
•Lesson by lesson  guide which includes information about what you and your child will cover, teaching information, and activity directions.

How We Used This Unit:  This unit really went beyond typical geography that we’ve covered before and delved into land use, resources, and farming.  Since we’ve never done typical social studies units, this information was helpful, and we definitely extended our studies by using other books we had lying around as well as the internet.  MBtP says each lesson should take about 30-45 minutes or so, but some days seemed to take a little longer, depending on the number of activities or worksheets that were supposed to be finished. Although there were only 8 lessons, we did take longer to complete this, mostly because we had a bunch of other end-of-the-year stuff going on. But sometimes, the sheer number of worksheets Levi had to do in a lesson made me insert a rest  day in between lessons. 

Whenever I told Levi it was time for geography, he grabbed the MBtP guide, our US road map, a world atlas and the Maps and Mapping book.  All this, just to be sure we had the basic resources we might need!  Although the Maps and Mapping book was not assigned page-by-page in the guide, it is expected that you read this throughout the lessons with your child.  I sort of forgot about this (until Levi just reminded me of it), so I know there there is much more we could’ve gotten out of this reference.

Here’s some pictures of what Levi and I worked on:
Tracking our state’s high and low average monthly temperatures in lesson 8’s topic: “My Environment”

We adapted a rather simple cut and paste activity and made a Natural Resources booklet instead – way more fun!

The final project was to create a travel brochure and draw a map of your ideal island.  After using a worksheet to plan all about  the natural resources, activities, and landforms, Levi made a brochure about his island (you can see a portion of it below) and then he needed to draw a map.  Honestly, when Levi saw another worksheet, he was not excited.  Instead, we added some hands-on to this unit and made a salt dough map (which still needs to be painted):

The creatively named “Levi’s Island” where you can entertain yourself at a lake, two rivers, a volcano, mountain, amusement park and ropes course. And lots of yummy fruit to eat!

My thoughts on The Land unit for ages 7-9: I was a little surprised at the number of worksheets for this unit.  Some days, this didn’t bother Levi, but other times, he really needed an opportunity to jazz up the work and do more than cut-paste-color. I’m not the most creative person in the world, but after home educating all these 10+ years, I have a few tools in my belt to help jazz up an activity, and these tools seemed to do the trick to keep Levi engaged.  Even with some of these adaptations he has collected an impressive mini-notebook of information about geography and natural resources. 

Product 2:  Ben and Me Literature Unit with online guide image

I was ecstatic when Luke practically begged me to review the novel  and literature study Ben and Me from the Language Arts section at MBtP (click for sample).  I was even more ecstatic when Luke had trouble stopping at two chapters a day.

This unit came with the paperback Ben and Me by Robert Lawson, access to an online study guide and a pocket kite kit.    Throughout this unit, students are reading and discussing topics such as fiction/non-fiction, opinion/ fact, the concept of power (as an energy and as a something exerted over people).  

While I’ll speak to the content of the unit itself in a bit, I want to point out the features of the online guide (click here to be taken to MBtP’s online information).

When you activate your unit, you’ll be given a specific time frame in which it can be used – but do not fear, the MBtP people understand life, and if you need more time, just email them and it can be extended (I didn’t need to do this but several other reviewers did, and they had positive comments about their communication with MBtP’s customer service).

Once you have activated your unit, you’ll have access to all the same content as in the hard copy (like I outlined for our The Land unit), but it is all organized for access from any internet connection.  Worksheets can be printed out from the “Get Ready” topic all at once, or they can be printed out lesson by lesson. 
Here is a snip of the contents of introductory material (your students will need the Activity Pages and the Reading and Question Pages):


The next section, called Lessons, is a handy check list of lessons for each unit.  Once you’ve worked through all the material, it is crossed off for you.  All you list makers like this feature, don’t you?!

When you are ready for a lesson, click on it and you’ll be taken to a specific set of pages:  the Intro, Activities, and Conclusion.  

Read through Intro, then move on to Activities, then wrap up your lesson with Conclusion.
When you get to the Activities section, you’ll be passing out directions to your student and engaging in conversations with them.  I think one of the great features of this curriculum is all the great conversations you’ll have with your children.  In the Ben and Me unit, your child’s thinking is going to grow beyond just thinking about the concept of power as electricity to include how people and groups of people exert power over one another.  And, although the material is not written from a Christian perspective, you’ll definitely be able to have great discussions about how these concepts play out from a Biblical perspective.

Some of the language arts concepts covered by this unit include: vocabulary development, fact/ opinion, fiction/ non-fiction, writing sentences with different openers, understanding the genre of historical fiction, and understanding characteristics of literary figures.  A lot of these concepts were new to Luke so we didn’t do all of them, but rather I picked ones so that Luke and I could get the biggest benefit from the study.  There were a lot of activities for this unit, and I found us spending over an hour per lesson on reading activities after Luke had completed his two chapters.  This was a little much for him!

Luke’s reading assignments was generally two chapters per lesson. Sometimes I gave Luke a worksheet I printed from the website to complete and other times we did them all orally. Another option is the ability to let your student type into a text field online; then you can print out the worksheet for their portfolio or literature binder.

The conclusion section wraps up reading an hands-on activities for each lesson:

But let’s be honest, the best part of this unit was making a kite!  Luke, my future Marine, designed a camo kit and had very good luck flying this kite, which was buoyed by air sleeves instead of crossed supports:

My thoughts on Ben and Me unit for ages 8-10: I’m not sure that Luke and I have done much in terms of literature studies since his reading took off this year.  The book itself was very inspiring to Luke, and he enjoyed that it dove-tailed with science as well. {I’ll have to remember to incorporate literature and science for him in the future.} The comprehension materials provided by MBtP were challenging for Luke, in a good way, and I was pleased to see him grow in his ability to take information he had read and apply it to the world.
Final Observations and Notes:
  • I think these are great unit studies, and I would not hesitate to do another one, two or dozen (!) in the future with Luke and Levi. 
  • For our family, the suggested pacing seemed pretty intense most days, especially if I asked the boys do to all their work in writing.  Thankfully as homeschoolers, we can set the pace for our studies and alter assignments to meet our students’ needs.
  • Not being very creative myself, I appreciated that the lessons encouraged my boys to be expressive, artistic and creative with their words.  It stretched all of us – and that is what learning is about.
Reviews with students of all ages had the opportunity try out a wide variety of products from Moving Beyond the PageClick to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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