Monday, July 1, 2013

Moving Beyond the Page Units (Tuck Everlasting and "Matter")

Moving Beyond the Page takes Literature, Science, and Social Studies books and leads your children to "move beyond the page," leading them to discover more about the given topic. Members of the TOS Review Crew were given the opportunity to choose 2 units of study from an incredibly wide range of ages and topics. We were given the online version of our literature unit, and the physical materials for our science or social studies unit. I opted for the Tuck Everlasting online- Literature Unit and we went for science with the  Matter Unit.

Moving Beyond the Page can be a full curriculum (With a unit from each discipline coordinating with one another) with the addition of Math, or as a "supplement," where you can pick and choose units by interest (This is the way we chose to use the units).

These units are intended for 10-12 year olds, and since my Middlest hadn't read "Tuck Everlasting" yet, and tends to be interested in matter (Thank you, Minecraft... ) I thought these would be a good fit.

Literature~ The online unit consists of lessons that are accessed online that coordinate with the softcover version of "Tuck Everlasting" that I was sent, along with some printable pdf files:
  • Reading and Questions pages ~ For comprehension and discussion. Each grouping of 3 chapters had only 3 or 4 questions, and I'm afraid these did not really draw my Middlest out~ They tended to run towards the "What do you think about .... ?" and "Why or why not?" which often send both of my oldest children into a blank stare. (sigh)
  • Activity Pages ~ These are mostly well thought out pages that deal with a variety of writing and grammar exercises (Similes, metaphors, parts of speech, etc...) as well as the occasional activity related to the story. My only semi-negative here is that the first lesson includes some grammar parts of speech cards ~ there are symbols for each ~ but they didn't "jive" with either of us, so we just didn't use them. 
  • Handy Guide to Writing ~ Very nice, appropriately titled "Handy Guide." Good to print up and keep in a writing notebook for quick reference. 
Other thoughts on the Literature unit. The student is instructed to create a vocabulary booklet in the first lesson. Because this isn't exactly up my 12 yo's alley, I decided to create a blank booklet based on the one in their diagram~ and unless one already has a  program to create booklets, I thought I should share this new tool I found:

The online lessons are set up so that the student can go through them on their own, with the "Parent overview" turned off, or the parent can use them as lesson plans. My only negative with these, is that you have to be somewhere with wifi in order to access them, as they are truly online, and not downloaded. This was a little bit of an issue with the advent of summer time, and doing more schooling outdoors~  made it difficult for us to access the lessons.

The first page of each lesson has an "introduction" which covers the Stuff You Need, Ideas to Think About, Things to Know, the Skills covered, and introductory Discussion questions for the chapters to be read. This was a different way to do literature, as my kids are used to reading and THEN answering questions, not intro questions before reading. My son wasn't that enamored of it, but it was good to change it up a little.

The second page moves into the activities, with directions that walk the student through each activity for the lesson. This page reads a lot like a teacher's guide, so it depends on your student whether they should go through this independently, or whether you want to use it as a teacher manual yourself. There are links to the specific activity pages, or you can find them in the larger pdf file mentioned above.

The final page in each lesson wraps up the lesson with more questions to discuss and things to review.
 Generally speaking, I think the grade descriptions are more correct than the age descriptions for the literature activities~ while the book was appropriate for my 12 year old  current 7th grader, I felt that the grade suggestion of 5th-6th grade was more precise for the activities.

Science~ Matter Unit 
I was pretty impressed with this package, in that it included a spiral bound curriculum, a book that the curriculum used as a "Text," and a materials kit, so that we'd have everything we needed with the exception of a few household items.

There were some experiments that were new to my Middlest, but I have to admit that many of the projects were ones that we had covered in our more eclectic learning over the past few years. However, we both learned a few things, even if we were just reading about experiments he had already done previously. One of our favorite projects was the very first one, where he split water into Hydrogen and Oxygen.

close up of hydrogen and oxygen bubbles forming 
He also had fun discovering a little more about some of the metals... similarities and individual properties.

From an organization perspective, I found the curriculum to be a little chaotic~ it seemed that we were always flipping from one page to another, rather than having things follow immediately. There was also a lot of flipping around the "Fizz, Bubble & Flash" text. I understood why the curriculum was written that way, but I didn't enjoy that aspect.

One other note about organization~ the "Teacher Notes" are the second half of the spiral-bound curriculum book. I would rather have a separate book, so that the answers aren't at the back of the student book, and I can have the ability to be looking at them while my student is going through his worksheets~ just seems a little awkward to me.

Final thoughts~ I really like the way everything is provided, but I'm less impressed with the way it is put together. The organization isn't quite a deal-breaker for me, but it isn't the easiest thing I've ever used. However, I would suggest reading more reviews, as this is the only science unit I saw, and it is possible that other units are more coordinated with the text.
I do think that if you were considering using "Fizz, Bubble & Flash" then this does go much more in-depth, and turn an 8+ kids book into a more scholarly 10-12 year old book.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
As I mentioned above, I hope that you will click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.


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