Moving Beyond the Page (MBTP) fits into a special niche within the homeschool market. It's a secular, unit study approach based on constructivist theories of learning* that primarily targets gifted children. At present, the curriculum is available for teaching pre-K through eighth grades at a gifted level. The same curriculum might be used with average students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Each year's curriculum is designated with an age range rather than a particular grade level.
Age 4-5 (Pre-K for gifted students, kindergarten for average students)
Age 5-7 (kindergarten for gifted students, first grade for average students)
Age 6-8 (first grade for gifted students, second grade for average students)
Age 7-9 (second grade for gifted students, third grade for average students)
Age 8-10 (third grade for gifted students, fourth grade for average students)
Age 9-11 (fourth grade for gifted students, fifth grade for average students)
Age 10-12 (fifth grade for gifted students, sixth grade for average students)
Age 11-13 (sixth grade for gifted students, seventh grade for average students)
Age 12-14 (seventh grade for gifted students, sixth grade for average students)
The first level for ages four and five might serve as either a preschool program or a kindergarten program. For kindergartners, you need to add a complete reading program since this level introduces letters, sounds, and handwriting, but does not teach blending or decoding. MBTP recommends ABeCeDarian Level A, but you can use whatever you like.
A single parent manual covers the 30 units for the year; 26 of those units use letters of the alphabet as the organizing themes while the other four units focus on holidays. Lessons should take about 45 minutes to one hour per day. Each week's unit uses a children's storybook that will be read aloud and discussed throughout the week.
This level is weighted more heavily toward hands-on activities than the other levels. While children can learn to print both upper-case and lower-case letters, the lessons provide options for children who are not yet ready for handwriting—options such as using Play-Doh or popsicle sticks to form letters. Other differentiation options are sometimes included.
This first level is interdisciplinary like the other levels with its coverage of math, language arts, writing, science, social studies, art, music, and drama. It also works on character development as well as listening skills, using scissors, and other such early learning skills.
You will need the materials kit for this level because it has hundreds of craft and activity items pre-packaged into labeled bags for each unit. Items include die-cut figures and specialized craft supplies that might be difficult or impossible to make or supply yourself. While the materials kit includes construction paper, Play-Doh, Tempera paints, and other such items, you will still need to supply crayons, markers, pencils, glue, scissors, Scotch tape, a hole punch, shaving cream, and blank paper to be used frequently plus the occasionally-used items such as a cookie sheet or plastic containers. Each unit has a list of required and optional items you will need for the week. If you have basic supplies on hand, you will need to do little more advance preparation for each week than finding the required storybook, pulling out the materials kit baggie for the week, and perhaps gathering one or two household items. This makes it very easy for busy parents to provide their children with learning experiences that will both teach and delight.
Age 5-7 and Up
For the next four levels (Age 5-7 through 8-10), each year's curriculum is presented in four spiral-bound books called "Concepts." Within each Concept book are three or four units, with eight to ten lessons per unit. Each Concept book focuses on a theme—one theme per Concept, primarily addressing Social Studies and Science. In the first two levels (Age 5-7 and 6-8), math and language arts are integrated into the Concepts.
Age 5-7 assumes that students know letters and sounds plus numbers 1 through 10. For the most part, it does not assume that children can read, although some activities seem to be making that assumption, likely based on the author's belief that most gifted children learn to read early. This level teaches manuscript printing, so activity pages are included for practicing letter formation. At this time MBTP does not incorporate cursive instruction. In Age 8-10, they recommend adding your own choice of cursive handwriting programs. While some phonic activities are included, MBTP is not meant to provide reading/phonics instruction. You will need to select another program on your own for that purpose.
Beginning with Age 7-9, language arts is offered separately from science and social studies. The programs still tie together topically with children covering similar topics in language arts, science, and social studies. For example, when children learn about sound in science, they read a biography of Helen Keller in language arts. However, the connections are not as pervasive as they are in a true unit study approach. MBTP recommends the Right Start math program for use with Age 7-9 through Age 9-11 for math. Right Start is an especially good fit if you have used either or both of the first two levels and are moving into Age 7-9 since MBTP has already discussed the abacus used in Right Start and laid the groundwork in earlier levels so students should be very comfortable with that math program. As far as other subjects—art, music, drama, and critical thinking also receive plenty of attention within the Concepts at all levels.
Concept topics for each level are:
Age 5-7: Environment, Similarities and Differences, Patterns, and Change
Age 6-8: Community, Culture, Measurement, and Matter and Movement
Age 7-9: Environment, Change, Cycles, and Relationships
Age 8-10: Interdependence, Force and Power, Similarities and Differences, and Exploration and Survival
Age 9-11: Relationships, Diversity and Interdependence, Systems, Discovery and Survival
Age 10-12: Environment and Cycles, Force and Power, Change, Systems and Interaction
Age 11-13: World History, Culture, Geography, Earth Science, and Physics
Age 12-14: American History and Government, Chemistry and Biology
I realize these topics are a bit vague. There is not space to list all the unit titles but a few will suffice for a more detailed understanding. The "Change" Concept for Age 5-7 has the unit titles "Identifying and Recording Change," "Time," and "History – Change over Time." The "Interdependence" Concept for Age 8-10 has the unit titles "Dirt and Plants," "Native Americans," and "Ecosystems and Ecology."
For Ages 7-9 and 8-10, three companion literature units correlate with each Concept book, which means there are 12 literature units per year. Each literature unit is essentially a study of a single novel or storybook. Literature units serve as a springboard to cover broader language arts skills such as grammar, composition, spelling, vocabulary, and handwriting. While literature has been selected to correlate with themes in the science and social studies books, they can be used independently. As an example, the literature selected to correlate with the "Interdependence" Concept for Age 8-10 (units on dirt and plants, Native Americans, ecosystems and ecology) is Little House in the Big Woods, Sign of the Beaver, and Native American Animal Stories. Some parents might wish to use only the science and social studies or only the literature units, especially if children need to work at a lower level in language arts than they are able to function in science and social studies. For each of the Concepts in these lower levels, there are both a teacher and student book for science and social studies. Literature units each include both teacher and student pages—student pages are printed on only one side and can be removed from the book. The program requires the purchase or acquisition of quite a few additional books for use with the Concepts as well as the books to accompany the literature units. (These are all available through Moving Beyond the Page.)
For Ages 9-11 and 10-12, a shift takes place that has students working more independently. Instructions are written directly to the student. Parent pages are relegated to the back. These brief parent pages summarize what students are accomplishing in the unit, provide a few helpful tips plus links to additional resources, and other such helps. Each age level consists of 6 units of science, 6 units of social studies, and 12 units of language arts. Each of the units is bound in its own book with student-directed lesson plans, student activity pages, and the parent overview. The Life of Fred math series is recommended beginning with Age 10-12.
Ages 11-13 and 12-14 change the layout yet again. Concepts have been replaced with topics. Social studies and science are now given more attention with reduced time spent on language arts and literature. There are now ten units for each of the three areas. Science and social studies each feature a different topic. Correlating literature is related in some way to one of the topics but less so than in younger levels. Among literature for the Age 11-13 level are The Pearl, The Hobbit, Greek Myths, and Newton at the Center. One language arts unit is dedicated to an independent study/research project.
MBTP is more properly called an interdisciplinary approach rather than a unit study since all activities are not tied to the theme, especially in the literature units. For example, spelling words are culled from lists of most commonly used words and those following particular spelling patterns rather than from the book being studied.
Because the program targets gifted students, it teaches conceptually and holistically. That is, it starts with the big picture so children have a context for learning, then it moves on toward details and specific skills. It assumes that children will intuit (figure out for themselves) much of what is taught directly in other programs. It does not review or drill in the traditional sense. For example, there is no systematic instruction in grammar or math in the first two levels. However, the essential skills (according to state and national standards) are taught in scattered lessons, then students are expected to use and refine those skills through application rather than review and drill. In regard to grammar, all basic concepts such as parts of speech are taught over a span of a few years rather than each year as in traditional programs.
Concepts are written with some "differentiated activities"—activities from which parents can select those best targeted at the ability level of each student. This allows parents to use the same Concepts with students who might be one or two years apart. (However, literature units might need to be selected for different levels to more closely target each child's ability.) Sometimes, parents will need to adapt activities to fit the abilities of students.
MBTP incorporates lots of hands-on activities and experiential learning. You will need to gather materials for every lesson, although much is already included if you purchase the complete program for a level. Complete programs also include science kits which are very helpful since science activities are the ones requiring the most oddball resources.
While the teacher manuals have detailed, daily lesson plans, parents will need to do some lesson planning and preparation. Lessons also require parental interaction and supervision to a large extent in the younger levels. As children advance, there are increasing amounts of independent reading and writing required of students to the point where students in Age 9-11 and above work independently much of the time. Rubric forms for evaluating students' writing are included. Overall, the program requires more reading and writing of students than do most other programs.
Each unit within each Concept has a culminating project to complete. There are no quizzes or tests until Age 8-10, and even then the culminating projects might be more valuable in terms of evaluating student progress.
Student Concept books consist primarily of activity pages in the younger levels. Most of these are not typical worksheets; it doesn't seem that any two are alike. Instead, they direct students to draw, write, analyze, complete graphs, color, create booklets, complete Venn diagrams, and other such activities. Literature unit activity pages include some that are typical of grammar and handwriting workbooks, but they have many more that are similar to those in the Concepts.
The curriculum is sold in a number of different packages. You can purchase a complete level that includes all Concepts, Literature Units (when applicable), novels, books, science kits, and math "tools" such as a scale and weights (when applicable). You can buy only the Concepts and Literature Units, then obtain the other books and resources on your own. Or you can purchase packages for only one Concept at a time. There is also an option for the upper levels to buy a complete package for the Concepts, including all required resources, but that does not include the Literature Units. And as I mentioned before, you can purchase the Literature units separately. Sample lessons that include both teacher and student pages are available on the website for free so you can check it out before purchasing.
The complete packages will certainly save you a lot of time and hassle, since there are so many items per level, and I expect you might have some difficulty locating all the individual items to purchase or borrow on your own.
For example, the Age 8-10 complete package includes the four Concept parent manuals; four Concept student books; 12 literature units; 31 required books; kite kit; Idea Factory - Force and Motion Kit; Science In A Nutshell: Magnet Magic Kit; ScienceWiz Electricity Kit; Dig A Dino Velociraptor Kit; Minerals, Crystals, and Fossils Science Kit; Work: Plane and Simple; and Timeline of History.
Among the 31 books are titles such as How do Animals Adapt?, Explorers Who Got Lost, Exploration and Conquest, Dirt, Experiments with Plants, The Very First Americans, If you Lived with the Cherokee, Eco-Fun, Africa for Kids, A True Book: Asia, Geology Rocks!, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Turn of the Century, Can You Feel the Force?, and America Votes: How Our President is Elected.
Many of the titles selected for the literature units are well-known titles like Charlotte's Web and Sarah Plain and Tall—titles frequently used for such educational purposes.
I need to add a note about the science kits. The Magnet Magic science kit includes its own activity guide, activity journals, compass, various magnets, items to test with magnets, iron filings, magnetic "test shields," and a toy car kit. The ScienceWiz Electricity Kit also includes its own manual with all materials (except a D cell battery) for multiple experiments and activities. Minerals, Crystals, and Fossils is actually three kits within the one set and includes all the materials and instructions as do the others. There's a lot to work with in these kits, and it's all attractively packaged in easy-to-use-formats.
MBTP Online Version
MBTP is now also available in an Online Version. The The Online Version offers instant access to parent manuals and student activity books via the internet at lower prices, although you do not permanently own access rights. Multiple students in your family may use the online curriculum simultaneously at no extra cost. Families may renew the online license for half-price for younger siblings. This makes the online version more cost effective for families in the long run as well. In addition, students may also type responses to some of the questions directly into the computer, saving or printing the results. The Online Version has also beefed up multimedia with more website links plus integrated pictures and videos, especially for Ages 9-11 and up. You will still need to purchase required literature and manipulative kits when you buy the Online Version.
MBTP has also instituted IdeaShare™, an online community for MBTP users to share ideas and resources they've discovered.
In contrast to most of the comprehensive unit studies written for homeschoolers, the content and approach of the program are decidedly secular. Christianity is treated in the same manner as Native American belief systems, Islam, and other religions. However, parents are encouraged to discuss their own religious beliefs with children in numerous activities. While the approach to religion might bother some, others will appreciate the openness. Many parents will also appreciate an emphasis on character education as well as the attention given to ecological issues.
As the publisher says, there are elements of Waldorf, Montessori, Unschooling, Core Curriculum, and Classical education incorporated into MBTP.
With this mix of approaches, I expect that Moving Beyond the Page will appeal most to those who love experiential learning and real books, who lean towards relaxed or unschooling approaches, who also want some ideas, structure, and direction but don't want a religious curriculum.
* "Constructivists view learning as an active process in which the learner actively construct[s] knowledge as he tries to comprehend his world. Constructivist theory is about facilitating the learner to go beyond simple memorization toward understanding, application, and competence" (www.movingbeyondthepage.com/faqDetail.asp?faqID=20).