Monday, July 7, 2014

Moving Beyond the Page Review

We are so happy to review homeschooling products from Moving Beyond the Page! We thoroughly searched their catalog before making our choices and were amazed with what we received! We chose the Language Arts Package - Morning Girl and the Social Studies Package - Native Americans. The Native American package came with a physical copy of the curriculum, and two books on the subject. The Morning Girl package came with four books (including Morning Girl) and an online workbook (which is printable).

These were both Individual Units offered by Moving Beyond the Page and their curriculum groups include Language ArtsScience and Social Studies. These units can be used with any child age 7-14, but they also have learning materials for children as young as 4. In addition to these subjects, they also offer reading and math curriculum (they are different brands). Their curriculums are literature-based and do not use text books. This means that they choose the best books to be used with their curriculums that create a creative and more interesting learning experience.

Please note that both of my children are not in the recommended age range for these products. My preschooler and kindergartner were, however, able to utilize almost all of the materials we were provided. For the most part we used the materials for oral lessons, in which I read to them and asked them the questions and then worked with them on the activity pages. Bean was able to write a few words here and there with my guidance, but she preferred to draw her answers or answer and explain out loud.

My initial reaction when we opened the package was that I was blown away! I have been really looking forward to our first month-long unit study, as we have been working on mainly one-week unit studies on and off during the year. I wanted our first month-long unit study to focus on Native Americans, a study which has always been a passion of mine. So after the package was opened, my kids sat down with the books to look through them, while I flipped through the curriculum. I was so impressed! This is exactly the kind of curriculum I want to use with my children!

I honestly did not know what to expect, as this is the first social studies curriculum that we have had the pleasure of reviewing and using, but I am so glad that I went with my instinct to choose this one. And despite the fact that my children weren't able to use all the activity pages, as most of it involves writing, we were still able to use it as a guide as we learned about Native Americans! There are recipes, crafts, and other activities that will be equally rewarding to learn from, as well.

This curriculum (both the social studies and literature) will only last a few weeks, so if you are looking for a full year's worth, definitely check out their full year curriculum packages! They are wonderful! I have looked through their catalog many times and love how much they put into them! This company has so many options to choose from and their packages are completely customizable, so you can either choose their pre-set package, or pick and choose what you want. This is helpful, if for example, you already own some of the literature books and do not wish to own a second copy. You will also have the option to purchase a physical copy or online copy, manipulatives (if there are any), consumable resources (printables and other materials).

We used both of these curriculums as the core of our unit study. We used the social studies package to guide the lessons and the literature to supplement, which we usually read and worked on before starting our activities. I specifically chose the Morning Girl literature package, because it told the story from the viewpoint of two Taino children. The story also teaches about voice and point of view, which I felt would be helpful to incorporate into our unit study. We also purchased many other books (on culture, history, and myths, mainly) and created several of our own activities to supplement this curriculum, including tracing worksheets for writing practice, arts and crafts projects, small world play and sensory bin play. I also made tipis, colonial houses and moccasins out of felt.

Felt Tipi

Felt Moccasins

Salt Dough Beads

Price: $27.97 (physical), $23.91 (online)

The Native Americans social studies individual unit is recommended for children ages 8-10 and can be used with the literature unit The Sign of the Beaver. This curriculum is best used with children who are at a 4th-5th grade reading level, is able to comprehend chapter books and able to write an organized paragraph. The curriculum is broken into 7 lesson and a final project and each are supposed to last 2 or 3 days. However, since we are using this curriculum for a unit study with younger children, we decided to block each lesson into a couple of days to a week, depending on how quickly they worked through the material. We have completed everything covered in the curriculum, but we are enjoying a few additional weeks of learning time to read, play and explore. 

Two books come with this curriculum and they are The Very First Americans by Cara Ashrose and If You Lived with the Cherokee by Peter Roop and Connie Roop. Both of these books were perfect choices for this curriculum, however I would definitely suggest picking up additional copies of the If You Lived With... series, which includes the Sioux, Iroquois, Hopi, and the Northwest Coast tribes, to further your understanding of the different tribes living in America. The Very First Americans was a great way to introduce the subject and explored the different regions of America and added a brief description of some of the many tribes. 

For each area (southeast, southwest, plains, northeast, northwest) we learned about the habitat, climate, animals that lived there, plants that grew there and what kind of houses, tools and weapons were used, in addition to learning about specific tribes. Bean usually took the lead on this and chose the name of the tribe she wanted to learn about based on a description I told her. For example: "The Comanche were exceptional horsemen and were able to ride horses by guiding them with their knees so their hands were free to hunt buffalo using bows and arrows. Buffalo hunting was dangerous." Munchkin preferred to just listen to the stories while I read them or talked about them while he played with the Safari Ltd. Powhatan Indians TOOB, which I had available in a themed sensory bin during each lesson. We are quite aware that this TOOB does not do justice for every single tribe, as they are all so unique in their own ways, however they were a fantastic addition to this unit study and they allowed Munchkin to participate in the lessons. 

IdeaShare for the Interdependence concept: Native Americans

Price: $36.97 (physical), $32.91 (online)

The Morning Girl literature unit is intended for children ages 7-9 and can be used by itself or with the science and social study unit Changes in My Environment. Children in this age range should be able to comprehend chapter books at a 3rd-4th grade reading level, can respond to questions about the chapter with comprehensive answers, and can write 3-4 sentences on a specific topic. We chose this book to incorporate into our unit study because of its interesting writing style that explores point of view. There are two characters that this story focuses on, Morning Girl and her brother, Star Boy. Ironically, these characters share a few similar characteristic traits to my little ones, who picked up on it right away. While we read, they sat on either side of me and listened intently. Every other chapter was devoted to Morning Girl and then Star Boy, so after each chapter we went over who was the speaker, what happened, what did the sibling say or do, etc. We focused on the siblings, their parents, their environment, and how the world around them changed. There were two other books, apart from Morning Girl, that came with this literature unit: Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne and Encounter by Jane Yolen and David Shannon. Voices in the Park was extremely interesting for my children and this book was ideal for teaching them about points of view, as it tells a short story about an afternoon spent at the park from the points of view of two parents and two children. We read it several times while we worked on Morning Girl and it is currently on their "favorite books" shelf. Encounter is a story about a Taino boy who was intuitive of Columbus and his group of explorer's true motives and tried desperately to warn his family and tribe, who all brushed him off as being just a child. He managed to escape slavery, however, his people did not fare so well. We really enjoy Jane Yolen's books because she does not sugar coat her stories and this is certainly a tragic tale.

IdeaShare for the Change concept: Morning Girl.

In the above picture are various artifacts that the Native Americans made and used. You're supposed to write in what the use of the object is and what materials are used to make it. We decided to make several of them out of materials we had available at home. We made a bow and arrow out of sticks, sinew, feathers and stone arrowheads (we had some available, but we also tried to make some). We practiced making woven baskets out of paper and then made our designs out of felt (we used our woven felt basket design, in symbolic colors). We used clay and play dough (separately) to make statues, totems and bowls. We used paper mache, popsicle sticks, wooden skewers, sticks and pieces of bark, felt and other materials to make different types of houses (one or more to represent each different region). And the kids used the mortar and pestle I own to grind up their own herbs and use them in cooking and to make herb tea. They were all hands-on activities that they really enjoyed and loved learning about different techniques and designs. We also watched a few videos (online and on Netflix) of "How It's Made" Native American crafts, such as turquoise jewelry and leather drums. 

The canoe craft was by far Munchkin's favorite! Ultimately we had to make it out of felt after several of his paper canoes inevitably became too worn to be played with anymore.

We did not have any issues with our products, however I wish some of the items listed on the website had pictures to go along with them (for instance, so I can see what the laminated time-line looks like that is recommended for the Native Americans curriculum). One feature of the website that I loved was the IdeaShare corner! Here, people who used the curriculums can share their ideas for additional activities or resources that they used! I thought that that was a particularly useful and unique feature, although I was sad to see that not many people utilize it. I also loved that they explain the curriculums in-depth in their overview videos for the full-year curriculums. And because everything is fully customizable for physical and online curriculums, you can pick and choose what you want, or just go with the full-year package, which opens up many doors for homeschooling families who tailor their choices.

We love that Moving Beyond the Page covers curriculum for children in preschool to middle school, and hope that they someday have curriculum for high school students too!  We love their complete homeschool curriculums and really look forward to using more of them in the future! We are already going over our options and debating if we should go with individual units or the full-year curriculum. We would really love to go with the full-year curriculum, but because we are on a budget, we may have to settle for individual units.

I would definitely suggest Moving Beyond the Page's curriculum to any homeschooling family that is looking for creative and interesting lessons. Because they are literature based, no one is sitting around trying to work through a textbook. The books are a great addition to this curriculum and you can easily pick up the books at a library if you do not wish to purchase them. The activities, crafts, projects and cooking recipes really bring the learning to life and definitely make this curriculum hands-on.

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