Learning about Cycles with Moving Beyond the Page {A Review}

Last year we reviewed two units from Moving Beyond the Page and really enjoyed them, so when the opportunity to give two new units a try, we were excited. This time around we used the Language Arts Package-Charlotte’s Web and the coordinating Science Package-The Water Cycle.

Our Charlotte’s Web package was a mixture of an online component and a physical book. The teacher’s guide and all student pages are accessed via the Online section of the Moving Beyond the Page website while the literature book was sent to us via mail(this package retails for $20.92).

If you purchase a mixed package like this that contains an online and a physical component, you will receive directions on how to register and access the lessons. Once you’ve completed this process, you will sign in and find an “Available Units” section under your account. This is where you will be able to pull up all of the lesson plans that you need to complete the unit. Charlotte’s Web is designed to be used over the course of twelve days and has seven lessons plus a final project to complete after you finish the book.

Lessons are broken down into sections which will have an introduction, facts and definitions pertaining to the day’s reading, activities that correspond to the literature selection, comprehension questions and a conclusion.

  • The introduction provides a basic outline of the goals and objectives of the lesson. You will be given a short list of questions to help you guide discussion and dig deeper into the text, the skills that will be taught, and a materials list for any crafts or projects that you will be doing.
  • The facts and definitions list is where you will find your student’s vocabulary words or explanations for words they may not know.
  • The activities section is the meat of the lesson. This where all of the learning takes place. These activities vary throughout the unit but can contain things like character timelines, worksheets, drawing, and more. Links to PDF files of any student worksheets needed during a lesson are available with the instructions for the corresponding activity.
  • Comprehension questions are helpful in gauging how much of the reading your child understood so that you can discuss areas of the story they missed or are unsure about from their initial listening session.
  • Finally, the conclusion gives brief ideas on what and how to review concepts from the lesson with your child and often suggestions for enrichment activities.
Learning about adverbs after reading about Charlotte describing Wilbur

Another feature of the online guide is IdeaShare which allows users to leave extra ideas for activities, resources, and more for anyone else who is using the unit to access. It’s a great way to see how other families have used the curriculum or leave your own notes for others to benefit from during their own studies.

I love the book Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. It’s a classic, moving story about friendship and serving others that I’ve been looking forward to one day sharing with my children. I was very excited to not only share this book with them, but to also have an aid in really exploring it in an academic sense. The overarching theme that Moving Beyond the Page focused on was life cycles, weather cycles, and growth and change of the characters over time.

Each lesson required reading three chapters of the book. This was fine for my eight year old, but it was a little too long for my six year old son.  He enjoyed the story, but reading three chapters in one sitting sometimes proved difficult for him. The recommended age for both of the units we reviewed was 7-9, so I wasn’t terribly surprised at this and adjusted accordingly. I allowed him to move about, color, or otherwise quietly occupy himself during the readings and I also utilized an audio version of the book at times. He didn’t participate in any of the seat work, but mostly listened in to the readings and did the crafts.

A spider’s life cycle and a web with all our family member’s names listed

This unit provides grammar lessons on adverbs and adjectives, sentence structure and proper punctuation, and on how to construct a paragraph. It also introduces some basic science themes such as the life cycles of various farm animals and weather patterns through seasons.

We had some good discussions about how farms operate, how friends treat one another, where our food originates, and many other topics. I appreciated how this study expanded a book into more than just a story.

Some of the activities included:

  • constructing our own web from pipe cleaners
  • making lists of our daily schedule
  • creating and drawing a picture of our own booth at the county fair
  • designing an advertisement for the book
  • creating and sending out flat traveler style spiders to friends and family
Drawing what the farm looks like in each of the four seasons

The one and only downside to this is that when you purchase the online component, you only retain access to the unit for 90 days after activation.  This means that if you desire to use the unit again for younger children in the future, you will have to purchase it again. The physical books are also consumable, so you still cannot reuse them for other children, but I’d suggest that an added perk to buying the online option would be a longer access time to the product.

For The Water Cycle science unit, we received the physical package (with a retail value of $25.94) which contained the teacher’s guide, and the book A Drop Around the World by Barbara McKinney. This unit teaches students about the characteristics of water and how it moves through the various states of matter. It contains five lessons and a final project and is designed to be completed in twelve days. It is also to be used for children in the 7-9 age range.
Gathering rocks to make a water cycle jar
The lessons in the guide are set up very similarly to the above language arts online guide.
  • The Getting Started section gives you the “big ideas” or main points of the lesson, facts and definitions, skills that will be learned and introduced, required materials, and a brief introduction that will inform students on what they have to look forward to learning that day.
  • The activities area contains an average of three tasks or crafts to complete with detailed instructions for each one.
  • The wrapping up portion provides a quick review and a life application of the concepts or skills learned.

Any student pages or worksheets that will be used throughout the lesson can be found in the spiral bound teacher’s guide. This is a consumable resource(as previously mentioned) so you are not allowed to photocopy the pages. If you will be using this unit with more than one child, you will have to purchase an extra workbook. As I did with the Charlotte’s Web unit, for this I just allowed my six year old to listen in and participate in some of the hands on activities if he chose to do so.

Using jellybeans as a representation of the percentage of the earth contains water

Beginning with the properties of water, this study will give a tour through the water cycle, explaining each step and also giving hands on experience that will help the lessons sink in and stick. My children love crafts and seem to retain information better when they have something they can do that relates to their lesson. There was no shortage of these in this unit!

Our water molecule models

We learned about the types of clouds and the weather that various types accompany. We graphed what the clouds outside our own door looked like for a week. We studied the different types of precipitation and learned how the water cycle is used by animals around the globe.

I knew the material was really being absorbed by my children because when we went to a lake for a family outing over a holiday weekend, my daughter made several comments about puddles she saw and how she could tell they had evaporated a little.

Any curriculum that builds retention and provides fun activities is a hit in our home!

An experiment that showed how the water cycle works

Once again, we have been impressed with Moving Beyond the Page. It is a thorough curriculum that provides solid material in ways that will work with children of any learning style. I love that it uses literature as the basis of its studies. We love a good book around here and I love to incorporate learning with our reading.

Painting with watercolors to learn about evaporation

We only utilized two of the individual units during this review, but there are also full curriculum packages available for ages 4-14. This could be what you need for your entire homeschool year or you can pick and choose units to use as supplements to a different curriculum.

An experiment with condensation

Note: this is a secular curriculum, so if you are a Christian, you may want to make sure you take a look at the online samples of the units that you are interested in, particularly in the science area, to make sure that nothing conflicts with your personal beliefs.

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