Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A TOS Review: Moving Beyond the Page

I adore unit studies. They float my boat. They have been especially effective for my busy, hands on learner. I seem to see life in Unit Studies. That might be a personal problem (which has nothing to do with this review). Moving on.
Last year I was privileged to review two Moving Beyond the Page products. When it came time for another review I poured over the selections. Moving Beyond the Page does a marvelous job with everything they produce.

Moving Beyond the Page specializes in Language Arts, Science and Social Studies Units.
For this review I received a Language Arts and a Science Unit.

This digital download is available for $16.99 and uses as its accompanying text “Best Shorts” by Avi. I did not receive a physical copy of “Best Shorts” as it is out of print. There are links available for some of the stories. I will explain more in a minute. This study is intended for ages 10-12.

I received the physical product for this review. It includes the Our Changing Earth Curriculum Guide, Investigating Rocks by William Hurd and Our Changing Earth Science Kit. The entire package costs $51.36 and is for ages 10-12.

How it Works

Moving Beyond the Page uses a variety of methods to teach a lesson. There is a fun mixture of manipulatives, workbook activities, experiments and more. The Units are intended to take 3 weeks, but can certainly be adapted to your family. I like them because they don’t drag on for an eternity.

There are sooo many units available it can almost be overwhelming. I chose Units that were suggested to be studied together. The site has a helpful page that can assist the parent with those placement choices. I found this reflection posted on the Moving Beyond Page blog to interesting. How literature is chosen for the curriculum is discussed.

I will review our Packages one at a time.

When studying all of my options for this review, Josiah asked me if we could read Number the Stars again. There was a catch, however. It is the Language Arts review we did last year. I was pleased he remembered it, but I assured him that it wasn’t going to happen. 

I was intrigued by the Short Stories package. Mostly, because I felt that it would be a good fit for Josiah. I suspected that it would be a fun summer study.

As I mentioned, Short Stories uses “Best Shorts” by Avi as the story text. I didn’t realize when I made the selection that it would so hard to come by. Moving Beyond the Page gives several links for the stories online, but the primary link from Google books had stopped publishing the whole book online. I did send off an email to the nice folks at Moving Beyond the Page and asked the forum if anyone had any suggestions. They informed me that this was a Unit that they were reworking just a bit. They also suggested to that I try and find the stories individually online.

I also received a helpful responses from the forum giving me the same advice. Another issue was my local library. Would you believe that my local library doesn’t have the book? I live in a city of just under 200,000 folks. You would think that somebody would have heard of Avi. Sorry for the snark. I will do my best to be civil:<) I was able to order the book through the state wide lending system (called Mobius) and I think it came from somewhere near the St. Louis area.


I am telling you my story of woe only to warn you. You probably will need to locate your own copy of “Best Shorts.” It is a book worth having. It is just might be hard to track down.

The stories in the book itself are gems. Short Stories doesn’t require the student to read all 24 (or so) of them. Here are the chosen selections.

Rogue Wave
Scout’s Honor
The Dog of Pompeii
Rip Van Winkle
Zlateh the Goat
Women in Short Stories

The final lesson allows the student to choose one of the other stories in the book and creative activities around that story. There is also a Final Project. It involves writing a short story of their own.

Here is a screen shot of the Online Table of Contents. You can see that Josiah has completed all but the final two lessons. The site marks them out for you when  you complete each lesson. How handy! Unfortunately, we had to send the book back to St. Louis. All of the printables are easily accessed on the Table of Contents page or your student can find them with each lesson.

There isn’t an online story available for one of the stories in Women in Short Stories. Zlateh the Goat has a video link provided, but the rest of the stories have an online link that you can read.

The Unit itself provides all manner of Language Arts skill building. The components of a short story are analyzed and discussed. Josiah learned about run-on sentences (a nasty little habit I have on occasion). He learned about Irony, point of view, and sentence fragments. All these valuable skills within the context of these delightful stories. 

I think my favorite short story had to be Scout’s Honor written by Avi himself. It was a hoot. Josiah liked Rogue Wave and of course, Rip Van Winkle has always been a favorite. 

It was, however, The Dog of Pompeii was the star of the show. This probably had something to do with the large volcano he constructed. The story didn’t end the way he wanted it to. He spent days talking about alternate endings.

Science Package – Our Changing Earth came with a box of goodies. It was like Christmas for a budding geologist. I will admit that I pulled a fast one. Josiah happens to be a budding meteorologist. I knew that his heart’s desire was to review the Weather and Changing Climate package, but I just could stomach another conversation about the formation of a super cell thunderstorm. I felt like it was time for Josiah to branch out into other areas of science. I knew he would have a good time investigating changes in our earth like the rock cycle, earthquakes and volcanoes.  

You can't tell because of my outrageously bright pic, but they have even labeled each little kit according to Lesson and Activity.

I absolutely loved the Hands-On aspect of this unit. It was right up our ally. The masterpiece, however, the crowning jewel was Josiah’s volcano. I loved it because constructing a volcano was also assigned in Short Stories (The Dog of Pompeii). 

This unusually shaped birthday cake is indeed Josiah's Volcano. It is sadly not a real birthday cake. There is an action figure in the background (from Indiana Jones and The Crystal Skull) ready to take on the volcano is need be. Every volcano needs an audience. 

Every lesson includes a reading assignment from Investigating Rocks  (the accompanying book). There is also a list of things to know along with a variety of experiments and worksheets to complete.

I like that the worksheets aren’t typical “multiple choice” worksheets. Most often there is a “hands on” aspect to the assignment. Many of them involve a science experiment or observation. 

The unit works through these concepts.

The Rock Cycle
Inside the Earth
Volcanoes and Igenous Rocks
Earthquakes and Moving Plates
Metamorphic and Sedimentary Rocks

For the Final Project the student is given 4 options for Presenting the Rock Cycle. He or she can choose to do a Computer Slide Show, A Visual Presentation with Visuals, An Art Series or a Puppet Show.

Josiah is presently working on a Computer Slide Show. We have been working on Power Point Skills so this is a good opportunity for him to practice.

In this slide he is showing how a volcano can change the landscape of the Earth. 

He isn't quite done with this one. Gotta love those fonts!

There are not only convenient templates for each project, but rubrics as well.

The back of the curriculum book contains the final test which is a mixture of short answer and multiple choice. There is also a parent overview.

Here are a few thoughts.
I love the way Moving Beyond the Page is organized. I don’t have to think very hard. Which is difficult most days (thinking). I love that the activities are varied and creative. There are enough easy ones to manage and a few hard ones to challenge.
Because Josiah is dyslexic I always worry that the reading material is going to be overwhelming. I did assist him through much of it. That being said I feel like the online material in particular was easy for him to manage. I like how the lessons aren’t just on one page. It is easy to move about. As Josiah becomes more of an independent learner it is important for him to feel like he can grasp what is being asked of him.
I have very few textbooks I am all that thrilled with. I love that Moving Beyond the Page uses real literature to teach. I think one of the reasons I had such a hard time deciding which one to ask for review was that there are so many wonderful choices.
The flexibility of Moving Beyond the Page is appealing.  Often the student is provided with a few options for activities with each lesson. This is important for those of us who tend to school by the seat of our pants.
If I had any complaints this time around it’s that I do wish I could have had an easier way to obtain “Best Shorts.” I don’t have the time or funds to hunt down a copy right now. There are a few stories in there that we would have loved to have read.
Overall, I think that we enjoyed the Science Package more. I personally loved reading all the Short Stories. Our Changing Earth, however, provided more hands on experiences. I would have liked to see more of those with Short Stories. It could also be that I liked having the physical copy of the curriculum. I appreciate the ease of an online curriculum, but I still like holding stuff in my own little hands.
You can check out more reviews of other Moving Beyond the Page products. I am fairly certain there will be something on the list that will catch your eye. 

Click to read Crew Reviews

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