Moving Beyond the Page: Homeschool Unit Studies {Review}

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Moving Beyond the Page explores concepts in ways that appeal to all sorts of learners-- especially those that are naturally gifted, creative, and thrive with hands-on learning.  It is a complete homeschool curriculum that follows a unique strategy for challenging and stimulating your child's learning abilities.  Moving Beyond the Page:
  • Meets National and State Standards
  • Appeals to different learning styles
  • Project-Based Instruction
  • Encourages Critical and Creative Thinking
We had the opportunity to review two individual units.  Each unit can stand alone, but do coordinate with another unit to maximize learning.  We chose to work through coordinating units about the Rain Forest, geared towards students ages 7-9.  I used this unit with my almost 7 year old son knowing my son loves learning about different animals, but little did I understand that the rain forest is much more than animals!  It is a very complex study.  One that in hindsight would be better suited for ages 9 and up.  We received:
Science Package -- The Rain forest
$30.98
Includes: Spiral-bound Physical Science Guide, and books: The Shaman's Apprentice by Lynne Cherry and Welcome to the Green House by Jane Yolen

Language Arts Package -- One Day in the Tropical Rain Forest
$17.92
Includes: Online Language Arts Guide and book, One Day in the Tropical Rain Forest by Jean Craighead George
For a summary of skills for our units, click here.  
Both of these individual units are also a part of Moving Beyond the Page's 7-9 Year Old Curriculum Package.  Within the school year, the curriculum covers four main concepts.  Each concept is made up of 3 individual units.  Each unit contains about 10 lessons and a final project.  Our units are part of Concept 4: Relationships.
Upon receiving our Science Guide and books necessary for the unit, I set to work reading through the physical and online guides to get a "big" picture of how our days over the next several weeks should be spent.  Within the full curriculum, each unit should take about 3 weeks to complete.  Working on our Science and Language Arts Units daily, we did complete them in 3 weeks-- however, there were a few writing intensive projects that were skipped as they were just too involved for my 6 year old son.

Moving Beyond the Page suggests spending 2-3 hours a day just on these units alone.  You can imagine I was a bit shocked and had to do a "double-take" and read and re-read that section to wrap my head around it!  We spend a max of 2 hours on school with math and several other subjects, so I was a bit nervous to see how this would all turn out.  Having worked through the unit now,  I do understand why they suggest so much time--our units involved a lot of Internet searching and were writing intensive.

One Day in the Tropical Rain Forest (Language Arts)
The flexibility of the online guide was nice, but I much prefer having a hard copy in my hand.  I went through the online Language Arts guide and printed out the lesson introductions and activity pages. The Unit Introduction included:
  • Questions to Explore
  • Facts & Definitions
  • Skills
  • Materials Needed
  • Brief Lesson Introduction
  • Comprehension Questions
When you log in to the the online guide, everything you need is conveniently laid out for you.  Moving Beyond the Page includes "Getting Ready" resources such as Student Activity Pages and Reading Comprehension Questions.  Spelling and vocabulary words are also included to make this a complete Language Arts program-- however, we did not take advantage of either list.

Along with reading a chapter from One Day in the Tropical Rain Forest each day, the Language Arts Unit included 3 daily activities.  Activities for Day One included finding Venezuela on a map, illustrating different types of relationships, and making a rain stick.  Some other LA activities included:

  • Daily Charting of Rain forest animals
  • Nouns & adjectives
  • Paragraph Writing
  • Writing a Poem
  • Dramatizing a Scene
  • Final Project: Field Guide or Documentary
Important to note is that you are almost "renting" the online unit, as you will only have access to the online guide for 90 days once activated.  If using with other children in the future, you can "reactivate" the unit at a small fee.  If using the guide with more than one child, the online guide may be more cost effective as you are able to copy the activity sheets for more than one child.
Going into this review, I knew my son was younger than the recommended ages and planned on doing most of the written work orally.  However, we ran into issues with the persuasive writing and plot diagramming assignments.  Both activities were not developmentally appropriate for my son.  Throughout this unit, many of the student activity pages had two options one "easier" and the other more advanced-- and we always chose the "easier" option.  However, some activities like Plot Diagramming didn't have any sort of guide, and it wold have been helpful for me!

Overall, he enjoyed the hands-on activities and completing his final project where he pretended to be an Ornithologist and created a documentary on four different types of birds.   However, many writing activities in between were often over his head.  I think a lot of this was due to the focus on Rain Forest relationships-- and while some relationships were easy to understand, others were not.  Nor is this something he can experience first-hand, which I think would have really helped him understand this ecosystem.  In the end, I think I ended up doing more of it-- writing, explaining, and talking.

The Rain Forest (Science Unit)
The Science Guide came spiral bound, but I had the binding cut off and placed everything in a large binder.  It seemed to work well for the most part.  This also helped keep the guide and activity pages separate; before cutting the binding, the activity pages were after each lessons directions so I would have had to tear out the pages and/or share the guide with my son.

The Science guide consisted of 5 Lessons that lasted 2 days each and a Final Project.  I appreciated having this guide all printed for me, however I wish the Day 1 and Day 2's lessons were on a separate pieces of paper.

Over the course the science unit, we covered plants, animals, people and preserving the rain forest.  The lessons included:

  • Mapping the rain forests
  • Making a Bromeliad
  • Enjoying some rain forest recipes
  • Rain forest food chain
  • Interview with a rain forest animal
  • Rain forest Tribes, Human Relationships with Plants, etc...
Unlike the online guide, the physical guide cannot be copied-- even amongst other students in the household.  Moving Beyond the Page has a very strict copyright in place and  if using the physical guide with other children, you can purchase an additional set of activity pages through their website.
Again we did many of the written activities orally and skipped some altogether such as human relationships with plants where my son was to draw a picture of the plant, describe its uses, then "prescribe" the appropriate plant for different scenarios.  We also briefly touched on deforestation and the "great debate."  Although presented in a un-biased way, I felt these issues were inappropriate for my son's age and interest.

And, in the end it was the hands-on projects that won my son over!  He also loved his final project and chose to make a Rain forest Diorama.  This was also the perfect excuse reason to head to the craft store!
Overall, I enjoyed the literature based feel of the program.  Just proves that there is definitely more to books than simply words on a page!  The unit studies offer many different activities for all types of learners; I think learners that thrive on discussions and critical thinking might really enjoy this unit.  However, being that my son was a bit younger than the recommended age and now knowing the complexity of issues this unit tackled, I am a bit hesitant to purchase any of the other units in the near future-- although, several of them look very interesting for when he is closer to the end of the age range, or even older than the suggested ages.

Moving Beyond the Page is a very creative approach to learning, and I am glad we had the opportunity to use it in our homeschool!  Many other units were used by other Crew Members, click the banner below to read more.
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