Last summer we had the opportunity to review Our Changing Earth and Greek Myths by Moving Beyond the Page. This summer, my rising 9th grader has been working through the Science Package – A Dynamic Planet and Language Arts Package –The House of the Scorpion we were sent to review in an effort to get a head start on his freshman year coursework, even though it is marked as middle school curriculum.
Looking at Middle School Curriculum from Moving Beyond the Page
Moving Beyond the Page delivers what some might best describe as a unit study approach with the complete curriculum containing language arts, social studies, and science units which are done in approximately 3 week periods of time and often fit together nicely. The units are marked by an age range starting with pre-K and going through age 14. The particular ones we received to review fall into the middle school curriculum category which are geared for ages 12 to 14.
You can elect to purchase an entire year’s curriculum based on your student’s age and ability OR you can mix and match to best suit your family’s needs. The company also lists out the standards being addressed by each unit, a feature that can come in handy if you homeschool in a location requiring a fair bit of accountability and documentation.
The House of the Scorpion study uses the modern novel about a boy named Matt who is a clone living in a dystopian world. With 13 lessons, this unit would take 3 or more weeks to complete with several days spent on an initial look at cloning including the composition of a persuasive essay by the student where they take a stand on whether human cloning is good or bad. We received the online version of this package ($23.67 before shipping and handling) which has the manual online, separated by lessons, as well as the paperback copy of the novel and a clear ornament.
Lessons for The House of the Scorpion are:
Revising and Editing
Cast of Characters
Rhetorical and Logical Fallacies
Arguing the Issue
Opium and Aztlán
Wisdom and Love
El Día de los Muertos
Unit Test and Essay Reflections
A Dynamic Planet covers the history of geological change and then moves into the topic of evolution. With 8 lessons and a final project, this unit can easily fill 3 to 4 weeks of time depending upon whether you work on it every day. We received the print version ($55.89 before shipping) of the manual in addition to both books needed to complete the study (The Field Guide to Geology and Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be.)
Lessons for A Dynamic Planet are:
The Dating Game
The First Four Billion Years
The Age of Visible Life
Digging for Clues
Survival of the Fittest
Final Project: Fast Forward
Thoughts on Middle School Curriculum by Moving Beyond the Page
I was REALLY looking forward to this and had my son help pick his top units. However, I was reminded that while the materials may be written so that a self-motivated child can take it and run, this particular child often needs me to be present if he is going to get any work done. That means that the units have taken beyond the 3 weeks I budgeted to complete, especially when writing is involved. This is a personal time management ‘issue’ rather than a curriculum defect.
One feature that my son did enjoy is that the online version of the language arts materials allows him to complete what would normally be done on a worksheet by typing on the computer. Considering how difficult his handwriting can be to decipher, I am happy about this feature as well. He can also mark a particular lesson as complete making it easier for me to see where he is. The only thing is doesn’t do is encourage him to write longer responses to the questions.
While you can go through all assignments using the computer, I found that I still printed some of the pages to hand to my son rather than having my computer tied up while he was working on a lesson. The student pages can be printed from the online version, either as you need them or via a pdf you can download with all of the necessary pages. I highly recommend looking through them to make sure nothing needs to be single sided before sending it to the printer.
The House of the Scorpion as a novel is something my son has enjoyed reading. I can see the other boys reading it later this summer as I plan to do as well. With the growth in technology making cloning more of a reality, I believe everyone should have a basic knowledge of what is involved and consider how society might change if human cloning becomes a reality. While I really liked the inclusion of a persuasive essay in the coursework, my somewhat writing phobic son struggled with this approach. His initial draft failed to address the assignment, even though we had spent time writing out a possible outline.
For The Dynamic Planet, we elected to do review questions orally with me so that the issue of poor handwriting was averted and I could give instant feedback while looking at the suggested answers in the back of the manual. Some of the activities were skipped as we did not have all of the necessary materials and others were modified to accommodate what we did have on hand.
We did find the books chosen for the study to fit perfectly as reading selections that communicated the information in a way a student in their pre-teen years can comprehend. The Evolution book has wonderful illustrations to support the information presented in single page formats, often in the form of a response to a particular question (e.g. Can we ever see evolution happening?)
As far as my thoughts as a home educator, I really like the way Moving Beyond the Page approaches learning. While it can be easy to just hand a child something to read and then quiz him on it, taking the reading further into activities and critical thinking helps to solidify what is being learned in a way the classroom approach of feed and regurgitate can not accomplish. I know that I am not unique in my desire to raise children who have a love of learning and a thirst to dig a bit deeper to better understand a topic. Moving Beyond the Page can help you get there if your children are elementary through middle school. Just recognize how much your child needs you to guide them through the materials (and don’t make my mistake of thinking an almost 14 year old boy can work independently on it!)
A word about A Dynamic Planet ~ I recognize that some Christian homeschoolers hold a young Earth theory and elect to avoid materials that do not align with this belief. The materials used in this study come from an old Earth belief system which is predominant in secular materials. The same goes for the topic of evolution as the second half of the study looks at it with the lens of modern science. As our family does not hold a young Earth view nor object to learning about evolution as a theory, we had no issues with this product. If anything, my husband was impressed with the books selected for the study and neither of us found anything contradictory to our Catholic faith.
How do you approach literature and science studies with your children?
Do your children prefer to just read a textbook and regurgitate information or read shorter selections and dig a bit deeper into the topic?
Don’t just take my word for how we found this online program to be. Visit the Moving Beyond the Page post on the Schoolhouse Review Crew website to see what other homeschooling parents thought about this and other self-paced courses.