Review of Home School Astronomy Curriculum

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After I posted recently about Home School Astronomy, several readers wrote to ask me to post a review of the curriculum. Gohan is not currently studying astronomy at home, and does so much science between all of his classes and work at home, I couldn’t bring myself to ask him to do any more science right now. Being the dedicated blogger that I am, however, I took it upon myself to review the curriculum with myself as a student. I should note that I do love astronomy and seeing “cool” things in the sky, but have never studied it formally, even a little bit. Somehow, I managed to make it through a full public school and university education without any Earth Science at all. So, I was actually a good test subject for this curriculum, despite my…. ahem… advanced age.

Home School Astronomy sent me a copy of “The Mighty Sun and the Cooking of Mercury” to review. The presentation is done in PowerPoint, which I actually have very little experience with. If you do not own PowerPoint, Microsoft has a free version that you can download. Click here for the PowerPoint 2007 viewer and here for the PowerPoint 2010 viewer.

The presentation uses very high quality photos that are mostly from NASA and ESA. The text is presented on screen, though the parent has a separate script to read. The text is presented in a way that is easy to read, despite sharing the screen with the image. Either the font color contrasts the image so that it stands out or the image is shifted to accommodate the text.

The information is presented with lots of interesting trivia tidbits thrown in, which also really help to put things in perspective. Some such tidbits are:

Mercury is only about 3,000 miles in diameter (meaning ‘measured across the center). That’s only about as far as the East coast of the United States to the West Coast.

Solar tornadoes spin jets of fire and gas near the poles of the Sun and are as wide as North America. They are thousands of miles high and spin thousands of times the speed of tornadoes here on Earth.

All the nuclear bombs in the world could blow up on the surface of the sun and we wouldn’t even notice.

Pretty amazing stuff!

There currently are a total of eleven presentations, though “Tour the Solar System” appears to be more of simplified, all-in-one presentation. Each presentation costs $9.95 for a download or $11.95 for a CD. Home School Astronomy suggests this as one possible schedule:

Monday: Complete the warm up activity and talk about this week’s lesson.

Tuesday: Show the presentation on your computer and read the script along with the show. Start on the discussion questions.

Wednesday: Review the presentation (it’s fun, the children won’t protest). Finish the discussion questions.

Thursday & Friday: Work on cross curricular activities as desired.

This seems like a reasonable schedule for a high school student. If I was using it for a middle school student, I would probably stretch it out over two weeks. The vocabulary is a bit advanced for elementary school children.

The cross curricular activities are to be done on your own. The suggested activity for “The Mighty Sun and the Cooking of Mercury” is:

Where is solar energy being used in your state? Does your state offer incentives for businesses and private home owners to switch to solar energy? How much would it cost to switch to solar energy at your house and how much money could be saved on your electric bill?

The only complaint that I have is that I would have liked some audio. Given that Gohan has dyslexia and I am trying to find ways for him to be able to do his school work on his own, I would have liked to have the text narrated in addition to appearing on the screen. Even for non-dyslexic students, I think the presentation would be improved with some audio, even if it was just some background music.

Other than the lack of audio, I found Home School Astronomy’s presentation to be interesting and informative. With the current number of presentations, I think it would need some fleshing out to qualify as a full, stand-alone high school curriculum, but it would make a great supplement for high school students or full curriculum for middle school students.

Labels: Astronomy, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff