I wouldn’t dare try to tackle the subject of Astronomy without a good textbook, so I was very excited when I found Signs & Seasons. As far as curriculums go, nothing I’ve seen comes close to this. Two enthusiastic thumbs up to Jay Ryan for writing such an excellent resource.
This year I’ve been teaching a Classical Astronomy class in our local homeschool co-op. I’ve been using both the Signs & Seasons textbook and the accompanying Field Guide. The curriculum is meant for high-school-age students, and after trying it out in a classroom setting, I’m eager to use it with my own kids when they get older.
Benefits of Signs & Seasons
- Biblical worldview. Every chapter continues to spell out the implications of Genesis 1:14, showing how God made the lights in the heavens for signs and season, days and years. Scripture can be found throughout the textbook.
- Focus on naked-eye astronomy. If you’re looking for a book about “deep space” astronomy or information about distant galaxies and quasars, this is not the textbook for you. If, however, you want to understand the “clockwork of the heavens” as seen from earth, then this book is perfect. The curriculum requires no special equipment like telescopes or binoculars.
- Well-illustrated pages. Astronomy is a very visual discipline. Students must think “spacially” to really grasp the concepts. Having well-made pictures is essential to learning it. Nearly every page of the textbook contains quality diagrams and pictures.
- Well-organized chapters. Jay’s book walks readers from the most basic concepts to more complex ideas in a way that is easy to digest.
- Integrated with classical sources. The textbook is filled with quotes from pre-modern astronomers, philosophers, theologians, artists, church fathers, poets, statesmen, mathematicians, and historians, integrating them into each lesson, making it ideal for a classical education model.
- Hands-on activities. The Field Guide is filled with activities for students to do…and I mean filled. Most of the activities require students to get out under the heavens and observe what they see. Yes, some of it requires students getting up at odd hours of the morning or staying up late, but that’s to be expected when it comes to astronomy.
- Ready-made tests. The Field Guide contains 8 tests that cover the 8 major chapters of the textbook. The tests, like the text book itself, are all well-written and well-illustrated.
- Supplemental Celestial Almanac. This new resource is an ideal supplement to the textbook. It is a fully-illustrated monthly guide to the sky. It is very inexpensive (currently $3 for each monthly e-zine) and worth far more than what you pay for it.
Teaching My Astronomy Class
I used the Signs & Seasons textbook as the basis of all my class lectures. I also tapped resources such as Bible commentaries, sources about Greek mythology, and some other astronomy resources to supplement my teachings. I also used several 10-20-minute clips from The Teaching Company’s DVD course, “Our Night Sky” (while I wouldn’t recommend the whole course for a high school crowd, it has some great moving and 3D visuals that really bring the subject to life).
For class requirements I asked the students to (a) complete 13 specific activities in the Field Guide, (b) visit a planetarium and write a paper about their experience, and (c) write a research paper.
You can read my syllabus here: “Classical Astronomy” (pdf, 239KB).