Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Moving Beyond the Page

Over the past few years, I've heard the name Moving Beyond the Page as part of discussions on homeschool curriculum, but didn't know much about them myself. What I heard was enough to make me very curious, and recently I got a chance to get better acquainted with the company's resources when we were able to review two of their unit studies. We received the Language Arts Package - The Hobbit and the Science Package - Weather and Climate
Moving Beyond the Page Review
Moving Beyond the Page offers complete literature-based homeschool curriculum written by education professional who also have personal experience as homeschoolers. What a great combination! The studies encourage critical and creative thinking, and support different learning styles by combining written work with lots of hands-on activities. The units can be purchased and used separately, or can be purchased as a whole curriculum approach. The units are designed to be integrated so that students can see the connections between science, social studies, and language arts. For example, when using the integrated curriculum for ages 11-13, the Language Arts study on The Little Prince would accompany the Science study on the solar system and the Social Studies study on The Age of Discovery. The units are available as downloads or as physical books.

We chose to use packages from two different age groups, so the two units did not tie directly to each other. I allowed Kennady to choose from the available titles, and she found quite a few that appealed to her, making the decision a challenge! The Language Arts package was probably the easiest decision, because she has wanted to read J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit for herself for quite some time.  She also chose the Science package Weather and Climate because she will be studying meteorology in science in the upcoming school year.
We received Language Arts Package - The Hobbit as an online guide. The package includes the online guide and download materials, and the physical book, The Hobbit.  The online guide has all the instructions for completing each lesson in the unit, and it is all laid out day by day - which chapter(s) to read in the book, the questions to answer, and activities and how to complete them. The guide has a parental overview option, which is rather like a Teacher Key. It has some helps for guiding discussion with the student and what concepts they should get from the lesson, and the answers to the comprehension questions. There are 13 lessons, designed to be completed at a one-a-day pace, plus a Final Project that should take about three days, so the unit should take approximately three weeks to complete.
For the Science Package - Weather and Climate  we received the physical package, which includes a coil-bound study book, the DK Eyewitness book Weather by Brian Cosgrove, and the Weather and Climate Science Kit containing almost all the manipulatives and supplies needed to complete the hands-on activities. Other than some general school supplies like pencils and a stapler, all I had to supply was: a couple pieces of poster board or light cardboard, food coloring, salt, and an empty coffee can. Seriously, I think that's it. Oh, wait - and a three strands of hair, but I made Kennady supply that since she has so much of it! Like the online guide we used for the Language Arts package, the physical guide gives clear instructions for what to do each day, and the pages for recording activities are all bound into the book. When complete, it is a great record of the study, showing results from experiments as well as containing the student's notes and research. There is a "How to Use Moving Beyond the Page" section at the beginning of the book, giving the parent plenty of information about how to use the study and how much time per day you can expect it to take. The Parent Overview pages are at the back of the book, and these contain the answers to the comprehension questions and descriptions of what the student should be able to accomplish and understand by doing the activities, experiments, and research sections. There is a Materials List at the beginning of the book listing everything needed for each lesson, and then at the beginning of each lesson there is a reminder of the "Stuff You Need" for that particular lesson. There are 10 lessons total, and a Final Project. Only one of the lessons is designed to be done over two days, and the Final Project is planned for three days, so you can expect this entire unit to take about two weeks to complete.
How did we use it? Since the two units we chose are not directly related to each other, and since when we first received them, Kennady was still working on science but was finished her other subjects for the summer, we decided to do the Language Arts unit first, and then start the Science unit a little later on. Besides, Kennady was eager to dive into The Hobbit!

Language Arts Package - The Hobbit
Once I activated our online guide to the Language Arts study, I bookmarked that page, and Kennady could check in herself to get her instructions for each lesson, or I could relay the instructions to her. We downloaded the pdf files with the comprehension questions for each lesson, and the printable activity pages, and I printed almost all of it immediately and we put them in a notebook. There were some activity pages I wasn't sure we would do - the ones that focused on grammar concepts - so I waited and printed those as needed. (And I wound up choosing to do most of them after all!) Each day's lesson has an Introduction that reminds the student of the "Stuff You Need" for that day (perhaps a newspaper or art supplies or something else that is suggested for the activities), the "Ideas to Think About" and "Things to Know" as they are reading the assigned chapters in the book, and the Comprehension Questions for the day's reading. 
main page for the online guide
the sections in grey are the Parent Overview notes and answer key.
As she worked her way through the book, Kennady filled in a summary of the Events of the Journey by chapter, and traced the journey on a map of Middle Earth. I printed the map onto parchment-type paper so that the completed map would be a bit of a keepsake. Kennady particularly enjoyed this activity, and doodled and drew all kinds of additional artwork to decorate the bulletin board in her room. Her very favorite activity was writing messages in an Anglo-Saxon Rune code.


The grammar concepts that were taught in the activities used sentences from the book in order to demonstrate concepts like using coordinating conjunctions to combine independent clauses and correcting sentence fragments or run-on sentences. Literary concepts such as foreshadowing, figurative language, and the features of myths and epic tales (the quest, the hero's tasks, etc.) are discussed as they appear in the story. There are brief writing assignments all the way through, and then a larger final project that includes a Response to Literature essay. The teaching materials for the final project are especially good, in my opinion, detailing in an easy-to-understand format the elements the essay should include, and guiding the student in planning and outlining their paper. I also like that the activities include teaching editing symbols and abbreviations - it is so much easier to proof-read your own work and mark the changes and improvements it needs using a few symbols rather than scribbling notes in the margins about the problems that need to be addressed!

Kennady loved reading The Hobbit, and enjoyed almost all of the activities. I didn't really expect her to love the practice in recognizing and fixing sentence fragments and run-on sentences, but the assignments were quickly completed without any fuss, so that says something! She isn't finished her Response to Literature essay for the final project yet, but I am willing to give her some leeway on that since it's the very first such essay she's had to write in her school career. 
Science Package - Weather and Climate
Kennady has already decided to study Meteorology in the upcoming school year, so this unit was a great introduction to a subject we'll get into even more starting in September! The lesson book laid out each day's lesson clearly, so once again Kennady could work mostly on her own. Each lesson begins with a "Getting Started" page introducing the subject, a list of "Stuff You Need", reminders of "Ideas to Think About" and "Things to Know" for the day. Each lesson starts with some assigned reading from the Brian Cosgrove "Weather" book, and some comprehension questions about the reading. Then there are hands-on activities, two or three each lesson (except Lesson 9, which has five!), and sometimes there are a couple of suggested options to complete an activity. For example, in the first lesson about air pressure, one of the activities is about visualizing the concept, and there are two suggested options - either cut out and match the illustrations provided to the concepts on the worksheet, or create your own illustrations to explain the concepts. Throughout the unit, the student keeps a Weather Journal on the pages provided in the book, recording temperature, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, humidity, clouds, and precipitation. As each concept is taught in the unit, the student is instructed to record that information from that point on in the journal. 
finding the dewpoint - this was a surprsingly huge hit!
"Wow! Look at the thermometer! It's really dropping!"
Building and trying out the anemometer.
The activities include: building an anemometer; making a cloud chart; finding dew point; researching severe weather; demonstrating weather fronts; and reading weather maps. We had trouble making the human hair hygrometer (which measures humidity, in case you're not up on all your "ometers") and making the human-powered lightbulb work with static electricity in a demonstration of how lightning occurs. Those were real disappointments - even Landon got into the static electricity game - but summer in Maryland is just too humid to begin with, even when we had the a/c on in the house! We couldn't generate any static electricity no matter how long we shuffled on the carpet with our socks on. So that was one activity that I finally halted and said we would try again when the weather cooled off and the air was dryer. I guess even the "failed" experiment yielded some great learning opportunity, because Kennady wanted to know why it wouldn't work. Keeping her Weather Journal updated, checking conditions and forecasts every day, and using the anemometer (that's an "ometer" that measures wind speed) were activities that were very well-received. Not surprisingly, she enjoyed the hands-on activities more than the assigned reading and the comprehension questions. The Weather book does have a lot of "stuff" going on on every page, so I think that she had trouble keeping her focus.
What effect does temperature have on air pressure?
I took the 14 days estimated time to complete this package far too literally, considering we were working during what is essentially our summer break! The suggested time spent each day would be about an hour, but that depends somewhat on the amount of reading assigned, how fast the student reads, and the type of activities for the day. Some days the assignment fit easily within the hour time frame, and other days it took quite a bit longer. Putting together the anemometer, for example, was rather time-consuming. Some activities, such as calculating windchill factor couldn't be done during warm weather anyway, so we will revisit those types of things later in the year. Still, I think that under "regular" schoolday conditions, three weeks or a few days more (5 school days per week) should be enough time to complete the course.

What we liked best: 
  • clear step-by-step layout for each lesson
  • hands-on activities for science every lesson, not just once in awhile
  • I loved that practically everything was included in the weather kit!
  • more than one activity, and often more than one option for completing an activity, given for each lesson. That left it open-ended enough for us to skip a section on a grammar concept that I thought was too easy for Kennady, or to choose the most appealing from a couple of ideas for a science project.
  • student could work independently for the majority of the study.
What I need to mention:
  • we had no problems at all with the online guide for The Hobbit, but I definitely prefer the physical lesson guide!
  • the book by Brian Cosgrove contains some references to billions of years in the section on "climate change" that annoyed me, but at least the discussion of so-called global warming stayed within the realm of "some people believe".
Our bottom line: Both of these studies were so enjoyable and easy to use that it's kind of too bad that Kennady is nearing the top end of the age group that Moving Beyond the Page serves. All the guesswork of integrated unit studies and literature-based lesson planning had been done for me, and all I needed to do was allow my student to enjoy reading great literature and exploring a science topic she was interested in. Moving Beyond the Page earns top marks from this homeschool family!
Moving Beyond the Page Review
Would you and your student like to Move Beyond the Page? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website:
See all the Individual Units, sorted by age group.

Pricing: Language Arts Package - The Hobbit is available as a complete physical package for $25.98, or as an online package (online lesson guide and physical copy of The Hobbit) for $21.92. Science Package - Weather and Climate is available as a complete physical package for $50.28 or as a package with the guide online for $46.22.

Recommended Ages: Moving Beyond the Page has units available for students from ages 4-14. The Hobbit is for ages 11-13. Weather and Climate is for ages 10-12.

You can follow Moving Beyond the Page on Facebook.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other Crew member reviews. Crew members reviewed a wide selection of products for different ages from Moving Beyond the Page so be sure to check those out as well!
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Jenn H. said...

Incredible quality review!

April said...

Great review, Kym! We have enjoyed this vendor very much as well!

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