Jul 9, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Moving Beyond the Page

We love books. And we love hands on projects. If you put those two together, you have a winner in my house! So we were thrilled to be asked to review two units from Moving Beyond the Page. We chose Language Arts Package - Holes  and Science Package - Rocks and Minerals both of which are intended for children ages 8 to 10.

For Holes, we received the Online version, which means we received a physical book in the mail and access to the guide online. The book is ours to keep, but the online access expires three months after you activate it. In other words, if I purchase an online guide in March, but don't activate it until September, it will not expire until December.

The guide is divided into three sections.

Getting Ready, which has:

  • a how to use page, complete with video. This explains in great detail the overall structure of the curriculum as well as the format of the lessons and finishes up with a description of a typical day.
  • a list of needed materials, divided by lesson. These materials were all either items that we already had (glue, flour, a mixing bowl, etc.) or were easily obtained (jarred peaches). 
  • a summary of skills your child will learn in this course. This is an extensive list and is sorted into Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies categories. 
  • a review sheet of the facts and definitions the child is expected to master in the course.
  • a quick PDF download of all the needed student pages (you print these)
  • a quick PDF download of the reading assignments and questions

The Lessons:

There is one lesson for each chapter of the book, plus a final project for a total of fourteen lessons. Each lesson has three parts.
the Introduction, which contains:
all the facts and definitions and the skills taught in that particular lesson, 
the materials needed, 
and questions and information to get your child engaged in the lesson

Activities which tells you how and when to present the projects and worksheets

the Conclusion, which is usually just a paragraph explaining how to wrap up the lesson. 

Spelling and Vocabulary:

a schedule, a list and worksheets for integrating spelling into the program
a list of the unit's vocabulary words and their definitions

Although Holes and Rocks and Minerals  are intended to be worked on concurrently, I just had Kaytie (11) and Nate (10) work on Holes while everyone did Rocks and Minerals. I started out by asking them to read the first four chapters of the book, Holes, as per the reading assignment section. However, by the time I finally wrested the book from their hands, they had both pretty much finished reading the entire thing. So we tossed the schedule and just worked through the activities in the lessons. There are three or four or sometimes more activities for each lesson, so we were able to pick and choose the ones we liked the best. Sometimes we did all of them, sometimes we just picked a couple to try. I like curriculum that offers more than we need, even though I am always fighting the temptation to do it all!

Not only are there a lot of activities, but there is a wide variety to choose from. Kaytie and Nate did a mapping exercise, made spiced peaches, researched and reported on the desert biome, came up with an invention, filled out a worksheet on irony, corrected fragmented and run-on sentences, played an adverb game, cut and sorted events in the story, and created their own correctional camp. And we only did a small portion of the available activities.

For Rocks and Minerals we received a physical guide, a physical book called Geology Rocks: 50 Hands-On Activities To Explore the Earth and two kits, Minerals, Crystals, and Fossils Science Kit and Dig A Dino T-Rex.

The guide is a sturdy, soft cover, spiral bound book of about 77 pages. It starts with a short explanation of how the program works (much the same as the online program's explanation) describes what the student will be doing/learning and then gives you a reading list and a materials list divided by lesson. Next is a vocabulary list with definitions. Then a review sheet divided by lesson and finally the lessons themselves. The lessons are set up basically the same as the online guide, with Getting Started, Activities, and Wrapping Up sections. The Activity Sheets are right in the book, and are NOT reproducible. If you want to use this product with more than one child, you have to share or buy a guide for each student. Since my kids are not strong writers anyway, we got around this by just having Mommy do all the writing for everyone.

Rocks and Minerals pulled together readings and activities from Geology Rocks and the two kits. So as we worked our way through the guide, we learned about the Periodic Table of the Elements, birthstones, the minerals in our food, the different types of rocks and how they are formed, about crystals and geodes, volcanoes and earthquakes, fossils and paleontologists. Again, there were so many activities offered in each lesson that we were able to pick and choose what we wanted to do. There were some super fun ones that I deliberately left out because they will work so well with our history studies next fall. I love products that are so full that you get plenty of use out of them! It makes me feel as though I definitely am getting my money's worth.

Some of the activities we did were: testing rocks, excavating a dinosaur, looking for various minerals in the foods we eat and products we use (this led to a very productive discussion on sodium and how easy it is to get too much since it is simply everywhere), mining cookies, making an edible model of the earth (we tweaked this, because we didn't have the exact supplies necessary but the kids were too excited to wait), looking up Greek and Roman myths about earthquakes and volcanoes, collecting and examining rocks, and much more.

I liked the fact that the guides are pretty much open and go. The supplies are simple enough that I could open the book, send the kids to gather the supply list and within moments we were ready to start. I did have to print sheets from the online guide, and I did have to purchase few things but that was easy enough to do all at once and then it was done.

As you can tell, there is a lot to a Moving Beyond the Page unit. We thoroughly enjoyed using both of these and heartily wish we could afford to purchase more. From the moment I unpacked the box until we completed the guides, the kids were excited, interested and completely engaged in the learning. This product gets a definite recommendation from us, but here are the kids' opinions in their words:

Kaytie: I liked the book Holes a lot. Partially because it had two different storylines. It was easy to read. I liked the activities because they helped me understand the book a little bit better. The make your own invention one was my favorite!
I liked Rocks and Minerals because of the experiments! They used easy to understand terminology. My favorite experiment was the cookie one, even though it was hard and I broke three toothpicks trying to do it. 

Nate: I liked Holes because it had several plots. I liked the activities that helped me explore the book to further depths. I liked sorting the parts of the story and talking about the problem, climax and solution of the story. 
Rocks and Minerals was interesting. I got to do some pretty exciting stuff. I got to excavate a dinosaur and the mineral tests were fun. Mining for cookies was silly (in a good way, of course). There was nothing I didn't like about these guides!

Daniel: I liked the experiments. My favorite experiment was when we mined through a cookie with toothpicks. I learned that rocks come from the earth and are all different.

Abbie: I liked learning about minerals and rocks. There's some crazy stuff in my cereal! I liked checking to see if the rocks were magnetic. 

You can buy Moving Beyond the Page by unit, or a whole year's worth at a time. It is sorted by age level as well as by subject. Although, as we have learned, the age levels are a little fluid since my eleven-year-old and seven-year-old both did great with the 8 to 10 level.

Holes costs $19.92 for the online version.
Rocks and Minerals costs $64.89 for the physical version.

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