Monday, January 18, 2016

Homeschool Review: Sixth Grade Astronomy

Mater Amabilis for Level 3 science (sixth grade) includes a few books on astronomy and the universe. It's only a part of the year, but I wanted to write about the other texts separately. Our Universe : A Guide to What's Out There by Russell Stannard, Copernicus, Galileo, and the Catholic Sponsorship of Science by Jan Meyerhofer with Mary Daly, and Exploring the Sky: Projects for Beginning Astronomers by Richard Moeschl are the three astronomy-focused books.

I was a little concerned at first by the older publication date of Our Universe. After looking through the book a little and talking with Kansas Dad, though, we decided the knowledge of the universe and planets shared in the book is general enough to be without inaccuracies when compared to more modern texts.

I can understand why this text is recommended by Mater Amabilis. It reads like a conversation with a scientist who loves studying the universe, a scientist who believes in a Creator:
Some people who believe God created the world worry about this. If there was no Time before the moment of creation, how can we have a God who starts out on his own and then, at some later point in time, decides to make a world? We can't. Does that get rid of the idea of God? Some people think yes. I and others think no. The important thing about whether God is the Creator is not how he got things going in the first place, but "Why is there something, rather than nothing?" That still seems like a good question, for which one answer, perhaps the only answer, is "God."
While reading the chapter on the future of the universe, I wondered about current theories. A quick search online found the same two competing theories at the forefront of the current research.

The last chapter discusses what appears to be the randomness of the universe. It presents the surprising perfection of the universe for the presence of life on Earth as a reason to at least consider an omnipotent and loving God who ordered everything.

First Son loved this book. It was not only one of his favorite science books; it was one of his favorite school books. He enjoyed the illustrations and cartoons and was able to narrate it beautifully chapter after chapter.

In the schedule of lessons, the chapter readings from Our Universe are followed by a few days working from Exploring the Sky. This book has lots of fascinating projects using materials you probably have lying around the house. I am not a person who builds things or uses tools; it's something I could change but since Kansas Dad revels in that sort of thing and I prefer reading books, that's how it's remained. First Son wanted to complete lots of projects that involved the types of tools and materials Kansas Dad keeps out in the shed. Unfortunately, Kansas Dad had a particularly busy semester when we were tackling these texts and simply didn't have the time to help with projects week after week. Considering carefully our resources (time), I opted to switch to another book which I already owned and loved.

The Stars by H. A. Rey has plenty of detailed science, especially at the end of the book, but we mostly spent time perusing the constellation charts and then going outside to see if we could find the constellations. I wanted First Son to feel comfortable and familiar with the night sky and this book granted us exactly that. We didn't need any tools, just clear nights (which weren't always available, but that's how life goes).

The third text, Copernicus, Galileo, and the Catholic Sponsorship of Science, is the most challenging of the three. The main text is a speech given by Jane Meyerhofer followed by a response from Mary Daly which allows the student to read two versions of Galileo's story. This book is a wonderful resource in explaining the politics and interactions of the people who lived and breathed and, sometimes, made mistakes including Galileo and the authorities within the Catholic Church. The book contains many more resources for the student (and his or her teacher) like an annotated bibliography, excerpts from John Paul II's 1979 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on faith and science, and a paraphrase of Galileo's Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany.

The schedule of lessons sets aside two weeks for this book, but First Son really struggled with it. We spent over three weeks reading this book together. I'm convinced the time to delve through the challenging material will reap benefits in the future as the notorious story of Galileo reverberates through all our science studies especially when First Son (and all our children) begin to discuss the intersection of faith and science with young people out in the world.

The italic print: Links to Amazon are affiliate links. As an affiliate with Amazon, I receive a small commission if you follow one of my links, add something to your cart, and complete the purchase (in that order). I like to use the little I earn on the blog to purchase birthday and Christmas gifts.

I purchased Our Universe and Exploring the Sky used on Amazon. I purchased Copernicus, Galileo, and the Catholic Sponsorship of Science new from Sacred Heart Books and Gifts (not an affiliate link). I received The Stars new as a gift. These reports are my honest opinions.

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