Developed for homeschooling parents with little experience teaching science, Earth Science & Astronomy for the Grammar Stage and Earth Science & Astronomy for the Logic Stage are part of a classical homeschool education system for elementary and junior high level students.
The Author’s Background
Paige Hudson wrote both the student workbook and teacher guide, utilizing her degree in biochemistry from Virginia Tech University and her many years of experience homeschooling her own children. These guides are designed to accompany more traditional textbooks and other resources recommended by the author. A staff member of the guides’ publisher, Elemental Science, is overtly Christian, but the author’s philosophical presuppositions are unclear, as far as I could find. (This isn’t necessarily a negative, but I prefer knowing an author’s bias, as we all have them.) It’s possible that the guides omission of explicitly Christian language is intentional to cater to the secular homeschool market, which is growing in popularity. These guides do not interact with Christian views on science at all, so any integration with Biblical creation is up to the teacher using these Guides.
At a Glance
These guides are somewhat bewildering at first look. This shouldn’t be off-putting to prospective users. A thorough reading of the teacher guide’s introduction will go a long way in helping teachers use these resources effectively. The teacher guide also includes activities and lessons, bringing in other resources as needed, while the student workbook includes mostly blank worksheets that facilitate the lessons. The guides are perfect-bound paperbacks with a black-and-white interior and includes what appears to be hand-drawn graphics. Today, most textbooks include full-color spreads with sophisticated graphics and images, so the fact that these guides aren’t in color may affect students’ attention and interest.
The Intended Audience
The guides cover two age groups. The guides for the Grammar Stage target traditional grade school levels 1–4. The Logic Stage guides are meant for the middle school level, namely fifth through eighth grade, and the material is appropriate for these age groups. The guides must be supplemented by one or more of the recommended textbooks, many of which are available online or at your local library. The teacher guide, then, is key to putting it all together and preparing each lesson topic.
I need to caution that an understanding of the classical approach needs to be in place to fully utilize these guides. For those unfamiliar with classical approaches to homeschooling, you’ll find more information on this teaching style on their website.
The Earth Science and Astronomy books are divided into units. For example, the solar system unit in the Grammar Stage guide lasts 12 weeks. Each week, the guide reminds teachers of the supplies needed, gives a purpose statement for the week, as well as instructions, an extra activity for further study, reading assignments from the auxiliary resources, and discussion questions. Journaling is an important part of the authors’ classical approach, as is poem memorization, to help students retain information. Hands-on activities and projects that can span several weeks are outlined in the first week of a unit. For example, in the solar system unit, instructions are provided for making a paper model of the solar system to scale. Rounding out the weekly unit is a short quiz, and a proposed schedule for both a two-day-a-week approach and a five-day-a-week schedule.
These guides are not Christian or even religious in approach, but they seem to studiously avoid the age of the earth or universe. For example, there are sections on the life cycle of the sun and plate tectonics, but no mention of the time scales involved. The teaching is ambiguous on any ancient dating, leaving it up to the educator, or possibly the auxiliary textbooks, to cover.
Since parents will need to spend a significant amount of time preparing for these classes, I would not recommend these guides for parents with little time to prepare or for those uninterested in rigorous teaching. These guides are very well thought-out and are recommended as long as prospective users are fully aware of the caveats. The material is age appropriate, but didn’t stretch or challenge students, and it often recommended outside sources for more information. If you are a homeschooling parent or teacher using classical homeschooling methods, you may find this fits your style well, in which case this is an important additional resource available to you.
Dan Bakken is an amateur astronomer and an instructor for Reasons Institute. Dan has taught astronomy courses at the high school and community college level. Dan holds a BSc in physics, MA Christian Apologetics, and MA Science and Religion.