Thursday, June 27, 2013

Moving Beyond the Page - Review of "Light and the Eye" and "The Hobbit" Units

For the past few weeks, Arlene and I have been reviewing two individual units from Moving Beyond the Page (MBTP). The two units we received for review were both from their 'Ages 11-13 level.' (Basically 6th-8th grades.) The Science unit is titled "Light and the Eye." The Literature unit is "The Hobbit."

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Moving Beyond the Page's tagline reads "How your children want to learn." I was curious as to how these Unit studies would fare in our household. I know Arlene has read The Hobbit more than once, but would she enjoy digging deeper? The answer ... yes! Would she enjoy learning about light & eyes...sometimes. Keep reading to find out more details!

We were given access to The Hobbit as an online unit ($12.93). We received a printed copy of the book in the mail ($8.99). Before Arlene began, I logged into MBTP's website, printed off the pages she would need, and looked through the unit. I wanted to know what to expect her to be working on each day. Each unit is designed to be completed in 19 days. The online units have an availability of 3 months. That means, once you start them, you have access for 90 days. You don't have to access them when you buy them, so, if you've set aside your budgeted money for next fall, you can purchase them now, and just wait until you're ready to use them. (If a life emergency happens, contact Customer Service for an extension!) 

MBTP has a whole year's worth of curriculum at each age level. The whole-year package covers Literature, Science, and Social Studies. I was curious to see how well the units stand alone. The Full-Year package is cost-prohibitive for most families we know, so I wanted to see if the individual units were a good value. 

Back to The Hobbit. I showed Arlene how to login to our account, so she could read the "Intro, Activities, and Conclusion" parts for each lesson. Since I was working mornings outside of the home while she was doing this unit, I needed to see if it was too difficult for her to understand on her own. My husband can help her with a lot of things, but not Grammar. Would she understand what was being taught and be able to answer the questions and do the written exercises? Arlene did fairly well with doing this unit on her own. She read each section in the book (usually a chapter) then filled out her 'Reading and Questions' sheet and did her activities. Most afternoons I would get a verbal short report about what she did that day. 

Since we had 3-hole punched her sheets and put them in a binder, it was fairly easy to tell if she had completed her assignments. With the online version of the curriculum, there is an option for the student to type their answers to the Reading and Questions into the form online instead of hand-writing them. Since we were having some pesky computer issues, I had her handwrite all the answers. If you live overseas, I can see how the online version would be helpful (saving on shipping/ customs fees) but we prefer the printed guides. Part of this is because the girls use my computer, so their available time online each day is  limited. Keep this in mind if you're considering having more than one student at a time doing units with online guides.

Arlene actually ended up drawing pictures for almost every chapter, to help her remember what she had read...and because she loves to draw. She also made some cool mythical creatures. (The fairy's arm fell off during baking, we'll have to get out the super glue!)

If you already owned a copy of The Hobbit , or could borrow it from the Library, you could purchase the printed guide for only $16.99. I think that is a reasonable cost for teaching your student not only about the storyline, but about the author, run-on sentences, independent clauses and so much more. Besides the things I've already talked about, we both enjoyed the printed page with "Anglo-Saxon Runes" and the "Handy Guide to Writing and Grammar."

The Science unit we received, "Light and the Eye" ($23.94) was a bit more challenging. Some of the experiments were difficult for Arlene to do by herself. All but one of them we figured out how to do together. There is an option of purchasing the science kit for each semester that might have made some of the experiment easier to complete. However, truthfully, I think some of them just need more detailed instructions, and/or better illustrations since most of the materials used can be found around your house. 

The only one we could not get to work at all was the 'camera obscura' one. Thankfully, Arlene's older sister has used one at her position at our local living history museum, so she explained to us how it was supposed to work.

We liked how this unit came with a printed spiral-bound guide, so Arlene could easily take it all over the house with her while she read from the "Light and Color" book, or conducted her experiments. 

I think the favorite activity of both of us was when Arlene made her own kaleidoscope. The "Light and Color" book is a good balance of specific information, quality photos, and being written at the level of the students.

I can see the value in purchasing a few units to use, especially if there is a particular science topic you wish to study. I was impressed by the fact that for the most part, my 12 year old could use the curriculum by herself. Since we are trying to transition to her working independently as much as possible, this was a good fit. If you are wanting to use MBTP, but cost is an issue, consider how many of the books you can borrow from your local library, and think about the online guides as a viable option.


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