Thursday, June 27, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Beyond the Page

 Ahhh... Summer.... A time of swimming pools, picnics, playtime, and school review time. Wait, what? "School" anything and "summer" shouldn't go together, right?? Not in a homeschooling house! (And increasingly "regular"-schooling families who don't want their kids to forget everything over the course of three months' break. In our house and many homeschool families, we're taking the time to look at what we did last year, where are the gaps, and what can we improve on.

One are that we've mentioned is science for our oncoming 8th grade Maestro, and reading comprehension and speed with Bruiser. When the information for Moving Beyond the Page listed that the review material would include a science program for older students and the possibility to use a reading/literature program for a younger student, it was the perfect fit for me to shore up both areas of study in our kids.

When our box came in the mail, it included a smaller white box, and a rather heart-stopping moment for me when I realized that in my excitement over finding such a program I didn't see that a microscope is required to do the program about Cells! Yikes! Like any resourceful homeschooler, I reached out to my local homeschool community. And the payoff was an excellent, hospital-quality microscope on loan!  So, back to what else was in the box...

There were blank slides and slide covers to make our own slides, blue dye, and prepared slides for us to look at. The package also contained two books - Cells and an exercise book that gave questions and hands-on instructions for the course. The Cells program is geared towards the 10-12 year old age range. I used it mostly for our oldest three boys (ages 8, 11, and 13), but the Girlie (4 years) often came over just to look in the microscope and see what we saw. The website about Cells also says that the program is geared towards being used with the literature book The Tree that Time Built, but the literature program we are using ended up being The Sign of the Beaver. (Which I'll get into in a minute.)
Forgive the lack of shirts- they're hoping to head to the pool next!
Each lesson is meant to take about 30 minutes to complete, and the whole program (both portions) can be completed within 19 days. They start  right away with the microscope and its various parts, and looking at plant cell slides. The kids were, of course, very excited about looking in the microscope. We had to quickly establish rules for the borrowed microscope, and I learned I need to do my homework and look at needed supplies a day ahead of time (sometimes the activities called for things like pipe cleaners, etc. to make more of a 3-D model), but all in all, we enjoyed the activities. Learning about the various cell parts really took me back to my own school days!

We took Sign of the Beaver more slowly because it is a touch higher than Bruiser's reading level and he and I are taking turns reading the story aloud. The oldest boys have worked ahead and finished the curriculum portion, but are still getting into the family reading time aspect and encouraging Bruiser in his efforts, which I am happy about.

We have the physical book to read, which can be purchased to go with the online curriculum for a bit extra, and the study material and questions, etc. are online. The online material is meant to be completed within 3 months once it's activated so you do have to work at it once it's activated or lose your access. I also wanted the Bruiser to work on handwriting so I printed out the question pages for him to answer the questions and so I would have a record of his work. (To be sure though - it would be theft if I shared the pages with anyone else, so I will not be passing the printed pages around.)

We are enjoying Sign of the Beaver - it is a good "boy" adventure book by Elizabeth George Speare. The main character is a 13-year old boy who is left alone in the woods to care for his house while his father returns to Maine to get the rest of his family. It is set in 1768, and shows the various ways that Matt (the boy) has to plan ahead so as not to run out of supplies, deal with adversity, and keep the log cabin he helped his father build in good shape. He gets into trouble and is befriended by some native Indians in the area. It is a book of both courage and a boys' foolhardy moments.

Books such as this one really get me thinking about how much was required of our youth at that time, vs. how much we require of our youth (mine in particular!) now. The difference is huge, and books like this help outline for the kids as well, that perhaps they can truly do more than they realize. They want and yearn for that sort of adventure and challenge, and why shouldn't we give it to them?? The start is in read-aloud time with books such as this one - and the Moving Beyond the Page program is a good, affordable supplement to help walk them through it.

Cells cost $43.97 for the physical books and supplies, and $39.91 for the books to be online, while Sign of the Beaver is $23.98 for the whole package to show up at your door and $19.92 for the online version.

You can see what other reviewers had to say by heading over to the Schoolhouse Review Crew Link-Up

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