Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Moving Beyond The Page

Moving Beyond the Page is one of our favorite companies. Naturally, we were thrilled to be chosen to work with them again to review the Language Arts Package - Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

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.

Moving Beyond the Page is 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 15 days.

The Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH unit is geared for kids ages 8-10 at the 4th-5th grade reading level. It uses the book of the same name, written by the author Robert C. O'Brien. 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 8, 6, and 4-year-old. We love to cuddle up on the couch and read together.  

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is about a widowed mother mouse with 4 children. One young mouse, Timothy, becomes very ill right at the beginning of the spring thaw. Since the mice live in a field on a farm in the winter, Mrs. Frisby is left to worry about her son and how she can move him to their summer home, and once there, how she can keep him warm enough not to relapse back to sickness. She follows a surprising path to get help, meeting new animals along the way: a bird, an owl, and eventually, the rats of NIMH. Over time, she learns who the rats really are, why they're willing to help her, and what happened to her husband.

The kids enjoyed the book from the very beginning, but once we got to the part where NIMH is explained and why the rats depend on machines and technology, they begged me to read more each time. I admit, even I found myself wanting to know what happened next in the story. 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.

After the daily reading, there are activities that further the study. Things like journaling, plot flow chart, writing exercises, word study, character development, and discussions kept my kids busy.

Many skills are strengthen in this study:
  • Analyze, compare, and contrast printed and visual information.
  • Apply structural analysis to words.
  • Conduct research on assigned topics using books and technology..
  • Consider a character's point of view.
  • Demonstrate learning and ideas through productions and displays such as reports and murals.
  • Determine the plot, conflict, sequence of events, and resolution of a story.  
  • Draw conclusions, make generalizations, and gather support by referencing the text.
  • Identify and use the correct spelling of homonyms.
  • Use text and personal experiences to verify facts, concepts, and ideas.
  • . . . and many more!

We used the online version of the curriculum ($19.92), but there is also a physical option ($23.98). Both choices include a paperback copy of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I've admitted before that I prefer to have a paper copy in my hands, but I am quite pleased 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 are worksheet that we printed to use to accompany the lessons. I truly enjoyed the convenience of the online curriculum.

After finishing the literature portion each day, we'd move on to the Work, Tools, and Simple Machines 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 this unit, the student learns about the 6 simple machines--pulley, lever, wedge, wheel, inclined plane, and screw--and discovers how they are used in daily life. He will learn how they can be combined to form complex machines and inventions. This study is also best for ages 8-10 at the 4th-5th grade reading level.

Again, there are both online ($57.93) and physical ($61.99) options of the curriculum. Both packages an Exploration and Survival Science Kit, filled with all sorts of goodies needed to create simple machines and put them to use. We used the spiral-bound copy of the curriculum.

My kids loved learning about the simple machines, primarily because there are many hands-on activities included in the study. They are very hands-on, science-loving kids. When they get to do and see, they learn much better. They enjoyed hammering nails, disassembling cars, making screws, constructing pulleys, racing jumping beans, and discussing ancient tools. They now have a better understanding how how tools work, what can be accomplished with them, and where to find them un use all around us.  
Some of the skills included are as follows:
  • Analyze information to construct reasonable explanations from direct and indirect evidence.  
  • Build and use a model to solve a mechanical design problem.
  • Construct simple graphs, tables, maps, and charts using tools, including computers, to organize, examine, and evaluate information.
  • Plan and implement descriptive and simple investigations which include a well-defined question, a testable hypothesis, and proper equipment.
  • Compare how people in different communities adapt to or modify the physical environment to meet their needs.
  • . . . and more

The level of difficulty for these units was perfect for my 8-year-old. Some of the material was fun, and other parts were demanding enough to challenge him. My 6 and 4-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. When the materials was a bit advanced for them, I'd change it to a discussion and complete the work verbally. Not only do they learn with this curriculum, they have fun doing it.

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

Make sure to like Moving Beyond the Page on Facebook to follow along with their latest news.

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

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