July 7, 2014

Moving Beyond the Page: Language Arts and Science (Curriculum Review)

I am a firm believer of taking knowledge being learned in school and crossing it them into other subjects--especially literature. When I discovered that I had the opportunity to review products from Moving Beyond The Page, a company that designs their curriculum to do this very thing, I was very excited. I chose to review the Language Arts Package --Tornado with its coordinating Science Package--Amazing Weather.
moving beyond the page curriculum review

What or Who is Moving Beyond the Page?

Moving Beyond the Page is a company that provides complete homeschool curriculum. They center their curriculum around literature which they then expand to bridge into other subjects through unit studies. Unlike the traditional or classical approach to learning, Moving Beyond the Page encourages creative thinking, supports varying learning styles, and provides projects that are interesting and challenging for the student. The company prides itself on curriculum that is NOT boring. 

Moving Beyond the Page offers curriculum covering the age range of 4-14...or roughly from Kindergarten through Middle School. The curriculum can be purchased as complete homeschool sets or as individual units. The individual sets are for ages 7-14--separated into six different levels of skill.

There are 6-10 units within each grade level for Science, 10-12 units within each grade level for Language Arts and 5-10 units within each level for Social Studies.

Each unit is available as a physical package or an online package. The online package has the curriculum (teachers guide and student workbook) online for easy access (reading materials are still physical). 

I was asked to review two of the Individual Units--one from the Language Arts sets and one either  from Science or Social Studies. Because each of the Language Arts units has an optional coordinating Science or Social Studies unit that can be done with it, I decided to pick coordinating units. 

I chose both my units from the age 7-9 level, as after looking at samples this was where I thought my son would do the best. Here is a link where you can look at samples from each of the levels in the curriculum: http://www.movingbeyondthepage.com/curriculum/samples.aspx

We picked Language Arts Package--Tornado and it's coordinating Science Package--Amazing Weather. We were given the physical/online version of the Language Arts package ($20.91) and the physical version of the Science package ($36.97).

Included in the Language Arts Package --Tornado (online):

*Curriculum (Online)--this includes the teachers guide and student worksheets
*Literature (physical): Tornado by Betsy Byars and How the Turtle Got It's Shell by Justine Fontas

Included in the Science Package--Amazing Weather (physical):
 *Curriculum (physical)--this is the teachers guide and student activity sheets
*Literature (physical): On the Same Day In March by Marilyn Singer and Weather by Lorrie Mack
*Manipulatives: Boiling Point Thermometer

There are some other minor materials that will be needed to complete the curriculum, but they are listed in each of the teacher's guide.

How Did We Use The Product?

We were eager to get our hands on this product. When I received the shipping confirmation via email, I was also given a link to the online portion of the Language Arts. As I waited to receive the physical portions of the curriculum, I decided to check it out.

When I clicked on the link I had to register using my email address and then I set up a password. Once this was done, I was taken to my accounts online curriculum page.
I discovered the curriculum well marked and easy to find. I clicked on the link and it took me to the details of the curriculum. I am going to share some screen shots (with notes) of what you can expect to find.
This page is so very easy to navigate
As you can see, everything is very easy to figure out and the links are clearly labeled. At the very top under the "Getting Ready" you can find (and print) a list of all the materials needed, the complete student activity pages, reading comprehension questions, list of skills to be obtained, review of the subjects covered, and a link to a page that explains the best way to use the program.
(click this and any other photo to enlarge)
The first link that I clicked was on using the program. It was full of great information, but I found the most useful to be in the description of a "typical day". I was surprised at how much time was going to be needed for the Language Arts and Science curriculum. I usually only end up spending 45-60 minutes max on Language Arts and about 30 minutes on Science in a given day...so an approximated 2 1/2 to 3 hrs was much more time than our normal schedule, so I immediately made a note to clear out more time for the program during our review.
I was happy to find this materials list so that I could make sure I had everything I was going to need. These materials were all easily found--something I greatly appreciated.

The lesson links are to be done in order--and once they are finished, they get crossed out. As you could see above, there are notes if the lesson is supposed to take more than one day. Here is an example of what you could find within one of the lessons:
 The lesson begins with some information for you the teacher. What's going to be taught, what vocabulary words will be learned, what materials will be needed. The blue box at the top is very handy--it's a place where other users of the curriculum can share ideas they have done to expand on what is taught.
When you click "Activities" (or the next button at the bottom) you see what now is to be completed. It always starts with reading. The student is to read the appropriate chapter from the book and then complete comprehension questions. These questions can be filled out by hand (simply click the pencil icon to print) or they can be filled in on computer and printed out (click the keyboard icon). This is a great way to find a method that works best for your child.
The next activity for each lesson is a Journal Entry---the student is encouraged to write a chapter summary paragraph in a notebook and then illustrate it. Once this is complete the rest of the activities are listed. Though you are able to print out in advance all the activity pages, you could also just wait and print them out as needed--for they are all linked up in each lesson.

Once all the activities are completed (which may take 1 to 2 days) there is a conclusion. Sometimes the conclusion is just oral discussion and sometimes it's a final activity like an art project. This varies with the lessons. At the bottom of the page on the Conclusion tab is a button "lesson completed"--clicking this marks a line through the lesson on the lesson list (refer to the photo I shared above) showing it's completion.

The online portion contains everything you need for the Language Arts unit except the reading materials. I received these along with the Science curriculum we chose.
The Science curriculum came as physical curriculum--the curriculum a nice spiral bound book. (I love spiral bound material for homeschooling, don't you?) I flipped through the manual to get an idea of how the lessons were arranged and noticed that they were also very easy to follow.

These lessons also have notes on whether the lesson is for 1-2 days. This is very helpful for planning purposes. Like the Language Arts program, this curriculum also gives in advance a list of all the materials that will be used for the lesson.

One thing I didn't realize was that the activity pages for the Science curriculum are IN this same book; thus combining the teacher manual and student activity book into one. The coordinating student activity pages are located after each lesson.
Copying of the pages is against copyright; therefore, I was very happy to find that I could order the student pages to come separately (which I did) for just $4.99. I am not a fan of sharing my manual with my student, so this was a must-have for me since I could not copy the pages in my curriculum.

All of the pages you will see in my review relating to the Science curriculum are from the additional student pages that I purchased.

As I compared each of the curriculum, I discovered that the Language Arts (which I will call LA from here on out) contained nine lessons and a final project, while the Science contained eight lessons and a final project. I decided to start them the same week and see how it went. According to Moving Beyond the Page, each of the curriculum is supposed to be completed within 3 weeks. I knew that with our review period being longer than that, I wanted to allow us some extra time--especially since we do not usually allot the recommended 2 1/2 to 3 hrs for the LA and Science in our schedule.

We ended up allowing 1-2 days for each of the single day lessons. This depended on the number of activities in each lesson for LA and Science as well as how challenging the activities were. Sometimes we were able to get the LA and Science done in one day as designated--but it really did depend on how Little Britches responded to the activities and work. The lessons that were to be finished over two days, usually went three.

Little Britches always chose to do the LA first, because he really enjoyed reading the story. For both curriculum I followed the provided teachers manuals as they were set up as it flowed very well and was a style I preferred. Because the LA was an online curriculum, I sometimes chose to copy and paste the lesson into Microsoft Word, so that I didn't have to be on my computer or Kindle all the time.

As I went on, I discovered it was just easier to have it open on my Kindle, which became my preference. I had pre-printed all the activity pages, so there was no need to print anything from the lessons as I went.

We typically spent 40-50 minutes on each subject per day--making our combined lessons around 2 hours in length. This was even WITH our stretching out each lesson to go more days if needed.

Here are photos from our lessons:

Language Arts
Reading Tornado

Working on his first tornado activity (Lesson 1)

Art Exploration (Lesson 5)

Best Pet Award (Lesson 6)
Reading Comprehension Questions
 We found that it worked the best when I asked him the questions and he orally gave me the answer to write down.

Plot Diagram (Lesson 9)

Making New Book Cover for Tornado (Final Project Tic Tac Toe)
Learning About Earth with Apples (Lesson 1)

Make a Weather Vane to Record Wind (Lesson 3)

Making a Barometer (Lesson 3)

Reading about types of Precipitation (Lesson 4)

Learning how to read rain gauges (Lesson 4)

Tornado In a Bottle (Lesson 5)

Weather in Our World (Lesson 6)

Habitats and Weather (Lesson 8)

Animal Habitats (Lesson 8)

And for the final project, he had to do a series of Weather reports--we videoed him giving one of them!

We completed both curriculum including the final reports over the course of about 5-6 weeks. We used the curriculum 4-5 days a week during this time.

What Are Our Thoughts on This Product?

*Little Britches
Little Britches says he really really liked the book Tornado. He didn't like having to do so much writing "I was writing my fingers off!", but liked being able to draw a lot of pictures. He says that after doing weather in science too he is "weathered out" and doesn't want to learn about weather ANY MORE! His favorite thing to do in science was to make the tornado, the barometer and weather vane--but was really upset that daddy threw them away.

(I was NOT happy myself....but daddy thought we were done with them much to my dismay and chucked them when we were gone. GRRR.)

Oh and he really liked doing the weather report--but not all the writing part. Just the saying it part.

*My thoughts
I was very impressed by the depth of each of these units. These truly are complete Science and Language Arts programs. I want to touch on them as separate units to address what my thoughts were on each.

Language Arts was honestly my favorite of the two. I believe that it really was a great program to take a piece of literature and then expand on it. I loved having the reading comprehension questions and chapter summary journal. I think these were the MOST helpful of any part because they were areas we had not had experience with in our current curriculum. Little Britches had to THINK to do the activities and though he was less than excited about this (LOL!) I saw great improvement over the course of the review. I loved that the Language Arts dove into Science and Social Studies connections as we explored the environment of the story setting as well as took a look into other cultures with our short myth study with turtles. We learned about plots and how to diagram one--something that will be useful from here on out with our literature studies. Little Britches REALLY excelled in the writing and is much more confident with paragraphs thanks to using the hamburger and fish bone diagrams included in the program. I will be continuing to use these worksheets in the future because he responded so well.

The recommended use for the Tornado unit is to be a 3 week period and though I chose to stretch it out, we easily could have completed it in 3 weeks doing it 5 days a week. I believe the activities were very balanced in their number and difficulty. Because of the optional spelling and vocabulary that is available with the curriculum (we didn't use this aspect in our short review) I truly believe that this unit is easily a complete Language Arts curriculum.

The Science curriculum was a bit more tricky for us. We found that each lesson was MUCH too long to do within the time period allotted, as each one had substantial reading as well as multiple activities of which some very time intensive or just more challenging. There was also a continuous group of activities that was to be done over several days ON TOP of anything assigned for just that day. When it came to experiments, there were usually more than one to do--each time consuming with activities to go with them. Though most of the lessons were to be completed all in one day, I found that we could not do this and we easily stretched it into two days. Sometimes we STILL didn't get it all done, at which point I decided to not complete a few of the activities. The two day activities easily took 2-3 days to complete.

The quality of the lessons, however, were excellent. I believe that they are very detailed and thorough. Little Britches learned a lot about weather--something to be said for a boy who eats, sleeps and breathes the Weather channel. He enjoyed the readings from the Weather book and was easily able to answer the comprehension questions. I enjoyed the assignment of additional reading of the literature book On the Same Day in March and the geography lessons that went with it.

The recommended completion time for the Science unit was three weeks, but I do not think this is very viable unless you can devote about 1 1/2 to 2 hours a day just for science. My child loves Science but he could not keep up with the pace and grew tired of doing some of the assignments because many were writing intensive. I think that the Science curriculum would be better as a 4-5 week program and if I used it again I would be using it as such.

Besides the minor cons I mentioned above, my only other real con was that the student pages were part of the teacher manual and that copying was not allowed by copyright. I do not like sharing my manual, especially if the pages are going to be written on. I am very thankful that there was the option to purchase the additional student pages, otherwise I would have given this a much lower recommendation. After using the online version for the Language Arts, I think that I would choose to go that route for the Science as well because I could just print out the pages I needed without having to buy the separate activity pages.

I chose to review coordinating units, but I think every unit easily stands alone--and in our case with the focus on weather, though it was definitely in depth, it was almost overkill! LOL!

As my regular readers know, I do not enjoy teaching science, but this program was very straight forward and didn't ask me to to do much more beyond what was in the teachers manual. The supplies for the experiments were things we had on hand, thus it wasn't a big deal to prep for them. I did enjoy this science program from the TEACHING side very much.

Would I Recommend Moving Beyond the Page?

I would definitely recommend Moving Beyond the Page and the individual units we reviewed. I am impressed by their thoroughness and how they truly do "move beyond the page" in the studies. I loved how the Language Arts units are able to be coordinated to Science or Social Studies unit. I think they are actually ABOVE grade level in what they teach and my son was able to rise up to meet the demands of the curriculum beyond my expectations. I believe that the pricing for the individual units is very reasonable---especially if you choose to go the online curriculum route.

I think these units are ideal for families with children close in age--for they can be adapted to fit each child. The units we completed had an age range of 7-9 or approximately 2nd and 3rd graders. I strongly believe the intensity of the work was much more at a 3rd or 4th grade level and, though could be adapted for a younger student, I would be cautious to use it for a "typical" 7 year old doing 1st or early 2nd grade level work. This is a writing/reading intensive curriculum which might not work for those still struggling in those areas.

I would also recommend this program to anyone with public school students needing to assist their child in reading comprehension. I believe that the Language Arts program is excellent for this--and with just a 3 week unit, it could easily be used during the summer months to catch up the student to the next grade level.

I will be considering purchasing more of the individual units in the future because these worked so well for our family.

Want to Know More About Moving Beyond the Page?

We reviewed Moving Beyond the Page and their individual units:
*Language Arts Package--Tornado (Online package retail $20.91)
*Science Package--Amazing Weather (Physical package retail $36.97)

There were many more packages reviewed by my fellow crew members--including ones for the middle school aged children. Make sure you click below to read their review!

Click to read Crew Reviews

You can stay connected with Moving Beyond the Page news by *liking* their Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/movingbeyondthepage
Crew Disclaimer
Thank you so much for stopping by to check out my review! I hope that it will help you in your decisions for future curriculum! I have another review going LIVE tomorrow--this one is an elementary writing curriculum WriteShop! Make sure you check in tomorrow for more details!
 photo namegraphic2_zps8625728e.png


Jen Altman said...

Great review! We used this on last year for review and enjoyed it. Your review is an inspiration, makes mine look lame, haha. Thanks for stopping by!

Lisa M. (aka. Lisa @ Farm Fresh) said...

Awh, thank you!

Bethany said...

Love the pictures and what a great overview of how to use the program!

Lisa M. (aka. Lisa @ Farm Fresh) said...

Thank you!

Kim said...

Thanks for such a thorough review! We used MBtP 5-7 a few years ago and am considering going back to it and looking at 7-9 for my 3rd grader. He struggles with writing, so it is good to know there is a lot, but that some elements really helped your son become more confident, mine could definitely benefit from a boost. I am considering LA and possible addition of SS, but similar concern that it may become overkill with both units. Thanks again for such a thorough and honest look at the unit, helps me with my decision to give it a try!