Monday, July 7, 2014

Moving Beyond the Page - A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

I learned, in May, that the Review Crew would have the opportunity to review products by Moving Beyond the Page.

I was really pleased, because I have heard good things about them, and this year might be my last year to consider it, since their products only go K through 8th, and my son was just finishing 8th grade. So you can understand that I was certainly delighted when I was selected to review both the Language Arts Package - Einstein Adds a New Dimension (online program, for ages 12-14) and the Social Studies Package - The Age of Discovery  (in print, for ages 11-13).

The printed materials arrived in one big box. The unit Einstein included a digital teacher's guide and a printed copy of The Story of Science: Einstein Adds a New Dimension (which goes with the Einstein unit, of course),
and then a bunch of books to go with the Age of Discovery Teacher's Guide: DK Geography of the World:

Great Medieval Projects You Can Make Yourself:

The Story of Science: Newton at the Center;

and The World Made New:
The email arrived detailing how to access the online portion of the Language Arts unit, with links to a Getting Started page and a Community Forum and Ideas Page. When you first start out, you can listen to/watch all the videos, read all the introductory information, and still not "get it". That was my situation as I started out.

At first I was a bit panicked that all these materials were to be covered with my student in three weeks, in addition to everything else we were doing! And with the on-line Teacher's Guide and so many books, I got lost several times. I was on the phone with Customer Service more than once, as they held my hand and walked me through it.

"Just follow the Teacher's Guide; it will tell you what book to use when."

"No, you don't read every book completely during the course of the unit."

"You'll be okay. Just get started and take it a day at a time. Call us again if you need to!"

So we got started, and she was right. The materials really are easy to understand and to follow; it's just a little overwhelming at first when they all arrive in the mail. I kept juggling books. Do you know that game books play where the one that you are looking for just hides from you? These books kept taking turns hiding from me; right now it is the Age of Discovery Teacher's Guide that is hiding. Why do books do that? ::sigh:: So right now, even though my first impression was that I like having the Teacher's Guide in print, on-line teacher;s guides don't disappear in your school room. Oh, there it is! Under the Latin Curriculum. Anyway... the on-line materials do expire after 90 days, so that is a reason to prefer the printed Teacher's Guide. There are pros and cons to both print and digital.

Anyway, the digital Teacher's materials for Einstein Adds a New Dimension includes digital materials for "Getting Ready" which include "Reading and Materials" (which tells you that you need the Einstein book, and certain additional materials suggested for activities on different lessons; PDF "Student Activity Pages"; PDF "Reading and Question Pages"; "Handy Guide to Writing and Grammar"; "Summary of Skills"; "How to Use Moving Beyond the Page"; and '"Review Sheets". These materials alone are fantastic, but these are before you even get to the day-by-day lesson plans! The lessons are spread out over 15 days - three weeks!

We really enjoyed learning about Einstein and the science of his time. The lessons intertwined the reading assignments with answering questions, entering new information on our school time line, writing assignments, questions to answer, and additional links to web pages to read or movies to watch. I especially liked learning about Mme Marie Curie. I learned a lot; so did my student. I think his favorite topic was space. He is interested in black holes, nebulae, and that sort of thing. I keep forgetting this is a Language Arts unit -- there is so much Science in it.

As I began the Language Arts unit, I stumbled across a Moving Beyond the Page link with videos laying out the MBTP Language Arts program that are very informative.The unit works its way through expository writing, descriptive writing, process writing, comparison and contrast writing, problem and solution writing, and then teaches the student how to write a research paper. The instruction and graphics are eye-catching and interesting, and the instruction on the process is thorough. This (writing) is an area where I have been remiss with my student, and he was not up to the rigor they expect of a student his age. If you work with Moving Beyond the Page from the beginning, the student learns the writing skills little by little, each year building on the previous on. So if I had used this methodology from an early age I would have had better success with my potential writer. I intend to give my son a break from the material, and then reintroduce it at a slower pace, and help him apply and learn all the various types of essays and writing assignments. The unit also ends with a Unit Test which we were unable to get to -- two weeks of Boy Scout Camp interfered with our schedule significantly.
The Age of Discovery
The Age of Discovery (Social Studies) unit booklet  was in some ways similar to the Language Arts unit, but in print.  I found this booklet to be more of a student workbook than the booklet in Language Arts. In the digital material the student pages are in PDF format, and you can print them off. In the printed booklet, the beginning pages are the student pages, and the back of the book is called Parent Overview (think "answer key").

Two disadvantages of print over digital:
1) when you choose digital, you click on a link and it opens in another page. When you choose the print option, tedious links need to be typed out without errors, or the page won't open.
2) when you choose the digital version, links are accompanied by a button to click if you have any problem with a link. When you choose the print option, an unworking link is just an unworking link, with no easy way (that I know of) to report it. In Lesson 2, one of the links in the printed unit goes to a PBS page, but the link is expired (link to "When Worlds Collide" [included here in case they want to fix their curriculum]).

So, the Age of Discovery Social Studies unit includes a printed version of "How to Use Moving Beyond the Page" (as the digital Language Arts program also contained), and suggestions for vocabulary, spelling and the keeping of a daily journal. The lessons cover explorers, why they traveled, where they came from, how religion influenced their efforts, and how kings and queens were involved in their ability to explore. And that was all in day 1!

Each Lesson begins with a "Getting Started" paragraph. The student is given a list of "Stuff You Need" for the Lesson, ideas to think about, "Things to Know", and then a reading assignment and questions. This is followed by activities that can include timeline and map work, and additional application activities that are presented as Options that the student chooses from. The lesson concludes with a "Wrap Up".

Lessons cover not only the history of the Age of Discovery, but also geography, speech writing, little-known cultures of early North America, skits, debate, and a research project. Subject matter includes Newton, Descartes, Fahrenheit and Hook, Copernicus, Francis Bacon and Galileo. I love this time period. I still have difficulty remembering the information, which information is about which person, etc., but I'm still working on it.

So, what did I think? I was very pleased with both units, both the materials (books) provided and the instruction included for all the various subjects it covers. I wish I had started with Moving Beyond the Page long ago when it comes to my son developing his writing skills.

What did my son think? Well, it is summer, and he has been distracted by many things. At times he was totally engaged, as he generally loves science materials; at other times I could not get him to engage at all or to comply with my wishes that he complete assignments. Is this the fault of the curriculum? No, not at all. It is a very good curriculum.

The digital Language Arts program (Einstein Adds a New Dimension - for ages 12-14) includes a digital guide and a hand's-on copy of the book Einstein Adds a New Dimension. This sells for $39.98.

The Social Studies unit (Age of Discovery unit - for ages 11-13) sells for $98.33.

If you would like to read more reviews about Moving Beyond the Page curriculum, click the  button below.

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