Monday, July 1, 2013

Moving Beyond the Page

Everyone's homeschooling style is different. Being a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we are blessed with many products and incorporate different types of curriculum into our day. In that sense, our homeschool could be considered eclectic. Overall though, the area of study that is close to my heart is literature-based. I believe it's important to both read and study quality literature to get a thorough education. Another type of learning that I have come to love is unit studies. Taking one topic and immersing ourselves in it has proved very rewarding and engaging.

We recently were able to review Moving Beyond the Page. Let me tell you right now, I love it! It's a literature-rich curriculum based on unit studies. They offer topics for preschool through middle school and leave no gaps in education as they meet state and national standards at each level. The units integrates science, social studies, and language arts through critical and creative thinking, projects, and concepts. The offer full-year curriculum and individual subjects. Each unit can be used independently, but is designed to be used concurrently with the other subjects. They can be completed in about 19 days. We chose Poppy for our literature study and Lifecycles for our science.    

The Poppy unit is geared for kids ages 7-9 at the 3rd-4th grade reading level. It uses the book of the same name, written by the author Avi. We had never heard of the book or the author before starting this unit, but we are so glad to be introduced to them. The material is written for the student to read the book himself, but I used it instead as a family-read-aloud with my 7, 5, and 3-year-old. We love to cuddle up on the couch and read together. Poppy is a book that we enjoyed from the very beginning. It's about a deer mouse who questions the cycle of power and stands up to a great horned owl. The book follows her journey as she deals with loss, meets a new friend, and finds courage. The study divides the book to be read 2 chapters a day, but we easily could have sat and read the entire thing in a day or two. Each day at the end of the second chapter, my kids would beg me to read more.

After the daily reading, there are activities that further the study. Things like journaling, map reading, crafts, word study, character development, and discussions kept my kids busy.

 Many skills are strengthen in this study:
  • Analyze characters' actions and the consequences. 
  • Ask and answer relevant questions.
  • Develop vocabulary by listening to and discussing both familiar and conceptually challenging selections.
  • Identify synonyms and antonyms of words.
  • Increase oral and written vocabulary by listening, discussing, and composing texts when responding to literature that is read and heard.
  • Use correct punctuation in own writing.
  • Use structural cues such as prefixes and suffixes to recognize words.
  • Examine food chains in nature.
  • Evaluate rules and laws and appropriate consequences for noncompliance.
  • . . . and many more!     
We used the online version of the curriculum ($25.91), but there is also a physical option ($29.97). Both choices include a paperback copy of Poppy and an owl pellet. I've admitted before that I prefer to have a paper copy in my hands, but I was quite please with the digital curriculum. Each day, I would pull up the study on the iPad before we'd start reading. It was very easy to follow and easy to understand. It would also keep track of the portions we had accomplished. There were also worksheets that we printed to use. I'm not sure if I should say this because I know my electronic husband will tease me for finally agreeing with him, but I truly enjoyed the convenience of the online curriculum.


A real highlight was definitely dissecting the owl pellet. We learned that owl swallow their prey whole and then regurgitate the feathers, fur, and bones that could not be digested. The thought it was disgusting at first, but quickly got over the gross factor and enjoyed searching for the bones. 

We have enjoyed this study so much that we have gotten the next book in the Poppy series from the library. We are also surprising the kids with their very own Poppy pet mouse this week!

After finishing the literature portion each day, we'd move on to the Lifecycle study. The science program is designed to encourage the love of learning through a hands-on inquiry-based approach. Instead of focusing on one subject for the year, they approach science in a spiraling matter and cover many aspects each year at an age-appropriate level.

In the Lifecycles unit, the student examines the life cycles of plants, insects, and animals. He will learn the role that each plays in the life cycle of others. This study is also best for ages 7-9 at the 3rd-4th grade reading level.

Again, there are both online ($41.86) and physical ($45.92) options of the curriculum. Both packages include 2 paperback books (What is a Life Cycle? and Who Eats What?) and a butterfly house kit. We used the spiral-bound copy of the curriculum.

My kids enjoyed learning about the stages in the life cycles of various things. There are many hands-on activities included in the study. They were busy drawing the cycles of grasshoppers, assembling puzzles of chickens, gluing salmon cycle wheels, labeling mealworms, identifying characteristics of living things, and creating pasta butterfly life cycles.

Some of the skills included are as follows:
  • Evaluate rules and laws and appropriate consequences for noncompliance.Classify and sequence organisms, objects, and events based on properties and patterns. 
  • Conduct simple investigations.
  • Identify the interdependence of plants and animals.
  • Observe and recognize that living things need food, air, and space to grow. 
  • Understand the interdependence of plants and animals.
  •  . . . and more.
We loved reading the books together and learning about the lifecycles. We chose not to order the larvae at this time, but we are looking forward to using the butterfly house in the future.  They especially liked the end of the study when they got to create their very own species of animal. One had an acid shell, while another possessed a poisonous sword-like tongue!  

The level of difficulty for these units was perfect for my 7-year-old. Some of the material was fun, and other parts were demanding enough to challenge him. My 5 and 3-year-old were able to participate in quite a lot of the activities, as well. I didn't have them do the most difficult writing assignments, but they did just about everything else with my help.  The each had a two-pocket folder to contain their worksheets and projects. They enjoy flipping through all they've done and discussing what they've learned.

Moving Beyond the Page has been a joy to use. It is thorough, challenging, and engaging. We will be ordering other units for sure!

Many of the other unit studies were chosen by my Crew members. Make sure to check out some of their reviews.

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