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Moving Beyond the Page: Ages Nine to Eleven Concept 1: Relationships Review by Cindy West

Kim A. Howe
Epiphany Curriculum
3110 Buckingham Rd
Durham, NC 27707

This is one curriculum that has really grabbed my attention and I have considered it an absolute pleasure to review! We are not a "curriculum in a box" type of family, but this unique company has given us a new perspective on the idea of buying a complete curriculum!

Moving Beyond the Page materials strive to present lessons in a way that not only actively involves students in the assignments but also turns them into lifelong learners. The lessons, which are based on state and national standards, promote critical thinking and problem solving and offer hands-on activities.

The company offers a variety of curriculum choices for children from preschool through eleven years old. The concept I reviewed was geared for children between the ages of nine and eleven. For this age level, there are four concepts, each lasting approximately 40 days. Using all four concepts provides an entire year of lessons, with a few weeks of flexible time for either diving deeper into certain parts of the curriculum or doing your own things. Math and handwriting are not covered and must be purchased separately.

I reviewed the first concept for this age level. Its overall title is Relationships, and it covers approximately 40 days of instruction. Within this concept, there are three science/social studies topics and three literature topics--all revolving around the idea of "relationships." It's recommended that the topics be covered in a certain order as they build upon each other and build relationships between each other as they progress. Below is a topic chart for this concept.


Science/Social Studies
Unit 1: The 50 States
Unit 2: Energy
Unit 3: Your State

Unit 1: Poetry
Unit 2: The View from Saturday
Unit 3: American Tall Tales

Moving Beyond the Page does not use textbooks but instead uses living literature and informational books as the main teaching texts. This really appeals to me, and my children love it! Best of all, when you purchase the concept, all the required literature is included!

What else is included? As you can see in the chart above, the Relationships concept includes three units for science and social studies and three units for literature. Each of those units comes with a guide, which means you receive six guides. At this age level, the creator is trying to promote as much independence as possible in the student, so the guide is geared toward the student.

A table of contents tells the student exactly what to work on and how many days it should take to complete that particular section. In the actual lesson, there is a student plan that provides to-do's in a checklist format so that the student can read exactly what is expected and check each item off as it's accomplished. There is even a list of materials for the student to gather before diving in. I'm a mom who very much appreciates a curriculum that encourages independence and organization in my children!

After the student checklist are worksheets and/or project sheets that are necessary for completing some or all of the lessons assigned. These are more than a typical fill-in-the-blank or question-answer type of worksheet. I consider them more in-depth, requiring real thought from my children. For example, one of the first activities in the American Tall Tale unit is learning about different types of stories and then thinking about what stories you have read that can fit in each category. Critical thinking skills are necessary in order to make the personal connections.

Other worksheets and activities involve cutting and coloring maps, finding examples of certain parts of speech in the assigned reading books, creating plot and character maps, charting records from experiments, and completing mini-reports. There are a few typical fill-in-the-answer worksheets, but the critical-thinking and problem-solving worksheets are much more abundant. Those of you who enjoy notebooking will really like the worksheets offered in this curriculum!

Sometimes the lessons will require your child to complete a hands-on activity. Believe it or not, most of these supplies are even included when you purchase the entire concept! You get a box of Sculpey clay, a Scrambled States of America Game, a ScienceWiz Energy Kit, and a Dream Catcher Kit. If you're like me, it's often easier to skip a hands-on idea when finding the materials takes too much effort. There's no effort at all involved when the materials come in the box with the books and manuals!

I found the topics covered to be very full and complete. Again taking the American Tall Tales unit as an example, in 12 days the student will have covered a vast array of language arts topics, including genres, parts of speech, story elements, story development, sentence structure, spelling and vocabulary, and comprehension. By the end of the unit, the student will have a final draft of his own tall tale. This doesn't begin to include the other academic connections to geography, social studies, science, character, music, and more.

For the parent, the guide includes an overview of each lesson. It tells you what your child should be able to understand after completing the lessons and questions to ask to check comprehension. You are given ideas for introducing the lesson before your child takes the reins. An answer key is included for each of the activities your child is asked to complete, with suggestions for further discussions once the lesson is complete. Character issues are often covered, although the book doesn't claim to be Christian in content. There is nothing un-Christlike that I found.

Just to review, the Relationships concept comes with six student/teacher guides, four nice hands-on manipulatives, and eight wonderful pieces of literature. The price, at $221.87, is a bit steep considering this is only one-fourth of the curriculum for your year, but literally almost everything you need is included. If you are able to buy an entire year's worth of concepts at once, there is a substantial savings.

What other concepts would be covered during the year? Concept 2 is Diversity and Interdependence. Units include The Living Seas, Immigration, Biomes, The Cay, The House of Tailors, and My Side of the Mountain. Concept 3 is Systems, with units on Light and Solar System, State Government, The Human Body, A Wrinkle in Time, Lincoln: A Pictobiography, and Independent Study. And Concept 4 is Discovery and Survival. Units include Colonization and Revolution, Technology and Invention, Westward Expansion, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and The Ballad of Lucy Whipple.

If you already have a curriculum you love, it's possible to buy only one concept and use it as a supplement to what you are using. There is an option to buy only the student/teacher guides if you find you already own several of the literature books or manipulatives.

Quite honestly, I found this material to be wonderful but challenging. In fact, upon browsing the website, I found that the curriculum was originally developed for the gifted child. However, the author believes that all students can benefit from a challenging curriculum that has high expectations.

If you find that the suggested time frames are moving too quickly for your child, you could slow down and take more time. If your child finds the independence factor too challenging, it's easy for mom or dad to do more guided learning. For these reasons, I believe it can work with all types of students.

In order to complete the material independently, the students should be reading and comprehending books on 5th and 6th grade reading levels. They should also be able to write several paragraphs on a given topic.

I love that the units foster independence and rely on living literature rather than dry textbooks. I think the student organizers and worksheets are wonderful! And I am impressed by the high expectations placed on the student. I expect my children to come away from learning with a whole lot more than memorized facts. This curriculum supports a much deeper level of thinking and learning through a wide variety of lessons and activities that students will actually find exciting.

Understanding how the units fit together in a year's time was a tad bit difficult at first, but the detailed explanation of the curriculum at the beginning of the unit guides cleared that up for me. Other than that, I am highly impressed with and wholeheartedly recommend Moving Beyond the Page.

Product review by Cindy West, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2009