Sunday, June 30, 2013

TOS Review: Moving Beyond the Page

Not too long ago, Josiah made a passing comment about wanting to read a certain book that has been on our bookshelf for ages. Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry, is an inspiring story set in Nazi occupied Denmark during WWII. You can imagine my delight when just a few days later I got word that I was going to have a chance to review a Literature Unit on Number the Stars by Moving Beyond the Page along with a the WWI and WWII Social Studies Package. What perfect timing. 

I love Unit Studies. And more than Unit Studies I love Literature Rich Unit Studies. There is something so personal and effective about teaching with books. Books make the whole word come to life. It is important to me that our learning experiences are meaningful. I think Moving Beyond the Page made that possible for us.  If you are homeschooling a boy, take a look at this article in the Reflections section of the website. 

What I Received (keep in mind that each product is available for purchase separately from of the package)


Curriculum – WWI & WWII by Kathryn Walbert, Ph.D.
All That Jazz - A History of US Book 9 by Joy Hakim
Where Poppies Grow by Linda Granfield 

Online Curriculum – Number the Stars by
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (physical book)

How It Works and How We Used It

Moving Beyond the Page is a full, literature rich curriculum. It is also designed to stretch our kiddos reach his or her full potential. There are no textbooks.  Instead, students are given hands-on learning opportunities and are encouraged to become lifelong learners (Amen and Amen!) You are able to purchase curriculum for entire year at a time (minus the Math) or you can use one unit at a time at your leisure.  This guide discusses choosing the right age level for your child. At the moment, Moving Beyond the Page offers curriculum for ages 7-13 with ages to come.  

The students studying in the Ages 10-12 bracket cover 4 concepts within a year.  They are divided into Social Studies, Science, and Language Art Units. Each concept is expected to take 9 weeks of instruction and each Unit can be accomplished in 19 days. These are the concepts covered. 

  1. Environment and Cycles
  2. Force and Power 
  3. Change
  4. Systems and Interaction

Both of Josiah’s Units fell in the Force and Power Concept.  Of course, if you chose to piecemeal your curriculum one Unit at a time Moving Beyond the Page makes that possible as well.
These are the prerequisites required for the Units in the Ages 10-12 bracket directly from the website.

  •     Able to read and comprehend novels at a late 6th or 7th grade reading level
  •     Able to write multiple paragraphs on a topic
  •     Familiar with the five paragraph essay
  •     Usually used by children in the fifth or sixth grade.

This link will take you to the Getting Started Page. From there you can view each age bracket separately. There is a lot of information found here. 

Because I reviewed two different Units, I will talk about each one separately. 

Did I mention that there are no textbooks? Instead, the student gathers information from a variety of sources, one of them being All That Jazz - A History of US Book 9 by Joy Hakim (which is available for purchase on the Moving Beyond the Page website). Another book used is Where Poppies Grow: A World War I Companion by Linda Granfield. I didn’t own either of these (they came in the Package), but check to see what might be lurking on your bookshelf that might be used in one of the Curriculum packages. I’ve found a few other books on my shelf that can be used with other units. 

I am more of an eclectic homeschooler. Therefore, I love being able to use what floats my boat (or Josiah’s) at the time. Moving Beyond the Page allowed us the flexibility to do that. Within the WWI and WII Package there are 9 lessons, plus a final project. Honestly, there was no way Josiah could complete the unit in 19 days. We had a little thing called “vacation” happen. Also, this curriculum is challenging. It is not simply a read and “fill-in-the-blanks” kind of program.  Facts are important to know, but how have the facts impacted history or our day-to-day lives? I don’t want Josiah to learn facts just too simply regurgitate them back out. 

The Curriculum itself comes in a spiral bound book. It contains instructions on how to use Moving Beyond the Page, a required list of books and materials, a vocabulary list, Student pages, Parent overview, and more.  I felt that it was very easy to navigate and gave Josiah a clear outline of what was expected. 

My first impression of this Unit was “Wow!” I loved it. It really challenged both Josiah and me to think critically about the impact of war.  

You can check out this sample of this particular unit and how it works here. Please keep in mind that the link will take you to the online sample. I received a physical book. 

I’ll give you just a little example what Josiah learned in Lesson 5: Mobilizing for War. In this lesson, we learned what happened initially after the attack on Pearl Harbor and all the different ways Americans got ready for the war to come. 

We read, A Date Which Will Live in Infamy, the speech given by President Roosevelt to congress on December 8, 1941. We were also able to go to a website and listen to a recorded expert of the President’s speech from the National Archives.   

Some of the questions Josiah had to answer included; “Does President Roosevelt seem certain that the correct course of action is to go to war? Does he seem certain about the outcome of the war? If you heard this speech on the radio, what might be thinking and feeling?”

Here is Josiah’s answer.
President Roosevelt was sure that America needed to go to war. If I would have heard this speech I would probably be a little excited, but also scared. Maybe someone I know would have to go to war.
No fill-in-the-blank questions here!

We learned about persuasion and how posters were used to drum up support for the War Effort. We discussed rationing and how it affected families during wartime. 

Here is a picture from one of the Lessons Activities. Josiah was required to make tally marks for every time he consumed something using one of these projects. 

It might look like we’re doing well (no sugar!). I’m just glad he didn’t have to keep track during our vacation week. I guarantee you it would be a whole different story.

Josiah also learned about Victory Gardens during the Life Application portion of the lesson.  We are a bit acquainted with gardens. We have always had one or had access to my Dad’s beautiful garden. Josiah settled down with Papa’s seed catalogues and made a Victory Garden poster. 
He had to think about what he would plant for family and friends to eat if we had to rely solely on our garden for fresh fruits and veggies. 

He enjoyed that part of it. I have to say that it was like pulling teeth to get him to decorate his poster. We had to cover up where he wrote ‘Jaws’ and ‘I’m diving in’ in black letters. I should know better than to make the boy decorate on a beautiful day. We had to have cousin Maddy come and show us the fine art of “decorating.” 

By the way, the gentleman in the picture is actually a picture of Josiah’s Great Grandpa Michel just after the World War II era. I liked being able to add some of our personal story to the whole thing. 

I really loved this entire Social Studies package. For one, I think it allowed for some deep thinking. It also created plenty of hands-on experiences for Josiah. Which is a great thing in my book!

I have to say that if you haven’t had your kids read Number the Stars I encourage you to do so. The subject matter is a little heavy. If you have read my blog at all, you know that Josiah is dyslexic. Which seems that the Age Bracket we chose to study might be a bit challenging. However, just because Josiah might struggle with reading doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of dealing with some more complex subject matters. This required more participation on my part, but that’s what we do.

In addition to reading the book together, I also checked out an audio version from the library. We did some great listening in the car. 

I received the online version of the Number the Stars Unit. When you purchase an online curriculum package (also available in a physical copy) you are given a 3 month access to the curriculum. We navigated through the study by using a Table of Contents. There were PDFs available for downloading of the student activity sheets and a variety of other materials. 

Under the Getting Ready Section, I was able to download:
  • Student Activity Pages
  • Reading and Questions
  • Summary of Skills
  • And more.
You can view a sample here.

The student is able to log into the website, read that particular lesson, and complete the activities. Some lessons will take longer than others. There might be other sites to visit or activity sheets to print off.  There are spelling lists and vocabulary words to learn. A suggested schedule is available. A journal is also required for the Unit.

As the student goes through the lesson, he is instructed to move on. At the end of the lesson, the title text fades away and a line is drawn through it. That was good motivation for my visual/hands-on guy. He liked having “proof” of his accomplishments.

Speaking of “proof,” there were quite a number of proofing reading exercises. Obviously, Josiah moved through those a bit more slowly. We did enjoy a lot of interesting discussion.

Some of the activities directly tied in with things Josiah learned in the World Wars Unit. For example, in Lesson 3, “The Button Shop,” the assignment was to view war propaganda posters from both sides. Our conversation was quite interesting. I was afraid he might not be able to interpret the intent of the posters.  that they might be too far above his head. In one poster, Hitler is standing in front of a bright shining light, carrying a Nazi flag. Josiah’s interpretation? It looks like Hitler wanted to be the king of the world!  

I appreciated how both the World War Unit and the Number the Stars Unit worked together. It made our school day most interesting.

If I had my druthers, I would choose to purchase the Physical Curriculum as opposed to the online version. I didn’t hate it, but comparatively I prefer to have all the material in my own little hands.

Here are a few final thoughts.
  • In own little homeschool world, I like curriculum that provide Josiah many hands-on experiences as well as allow him to express himself creatively. I want him to think and to learn. I want him to be challenged.  Moving Beyond the Page did all of those things.
  • I love, love all the Unit Study possibilities. There are so many great choices. I am looking forward to picking out our next study.
  • Don’t be afraid to adapt the curriculum to your particular needs. Remember, this is a guide. The Navajo Code Talkers section is far too interesting to rush through it …Josiah found it fascinating. Because of his particular needs, I adapted to what suited us. I didn’t feel like it compromised the depth of the study at all.
  • I wouldn’t just focus on the Social Studies and Science units. I would add a Language Arts Unit into the mix every time.  Literature just enhances everything else. I found several Units (including in other age brackets) that I am excited to try.
  • Even if you are buckled down to a more traditional curriculum or program, Moving Beyond the Page is a great option for filler studies or even summer school (yes…we school in the summer). Spend some time on the website. They have wonderful tutorials, videos, etc. to explain their approach and why it works.
The Crew reviewed dozens of Moving Beyond the Page Packages. I’m sure you will come across one that catches your fancy. 


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