This is an exciting contribution to the home school science arena. Written in an interesting, engaging style, The Young Christians Book of Astronomy seems to be a real blend of the Charlotte Mason and classical educational methods. Dictation exercises scattered throughout the 14 lessons lead the children (and teacher!) to discussion of many different aspects of astronomy. These narration/dictation exercises are found at the end of each lesson and are excellent prompts to help the children "tell back" what they have discovered during the lesson time. Lessons include the sun, the constellations, a lesson on each planet in the solar system, and many more topics that are fun. You will even be building a model of our solar system and studying what happens during an eclipse.
I found this to be fun, very easy to implement, beautiful on the eyes (it includes gorgeous full color photos), and interesting for me as well as my son. The imagery is stunning and the photos are real space shots. Each lesson begins with a full-page color photo and the pages throughout are glossy and bright. The chosen illustrations complement the photographs perfectly. I especially loved the gorgeous shot of the sun in lesson two - it must be from one of NASA's satellites!
Unabashedly Christian in focus, this program takes the student, over the course of one semester, on a voyage of discovery towards a wee bit of understanding as to just how awesome the Creator of the Universe really is. The age range of this curriculum is anywhere from first through fifth grade. Older and younger siblings can easily be brought alongside with supplementation (ideas provided), or a little help from mom.
Each lesson begins with a reading time. The student can do this, in most cases, but reading together enhances the experience and some children may enjoy your reading these sections for them. After the reading selection, there is a great hands-on activity. Most kids love to do fun projects and Jeannie doesn't disappoint in this area. The activities were fairly easy to put together with household supplies, but purchasing the available supply kit would have made the whole process a breeze. Jeannie has, thankfully, included a complete list of ALL supplies you will need. These are all presented, lesson-by-lesson, at the very front of the book, so it is fairly easy to take a peek at the beginning of the week and gather what you will need. Pencil crayons will come in very handy here. Some lessons have extended activities for adding to the ongoing notebooks; some go right to the project.
Each lesson looks to take about a week to complete, if you break the lesson into more than one reading time and then one day for activities. Lesson two may take longer as it covers more material and delves a little deeper into the topic of the sun. I once heard Susan Wise Bauer say that science is really only necessary once a week for the grammar stage student. YCA makes it a very enjoyable weekly event, but you may have trouble fitting it all into one session; several shorter through the week will probably help the kids absorb the material more readily. A few of the lessons have a lot of reading, and although it flows beautifully and is interesting, there is a lot of volume. Since my son always wants science, this is easy for us to do. Ten minutes of reading should be lots for each session and then you can do some of the "Do You Remember?" questions!
This curriculum really follows the classical model in that it presents one topic and focuses well on that subject for an extended period of time. Learning about God and His heavens is made so much more enjoyable because it isn't diluted with any other "rabbit trails" or mixed into a general bag of science topics. You also won't find lots of busy work here. The expectations of the grammar stage student seem to match with what I have gleaned from Susan Wise Bauer's lectures and writings in that Jeannie doesn't expect any higher order reasoning from the students and the information they need to absorb is presented to them rather than asking them what they think about each topic. It is a thorough grammar stage presentation of astronomy.
For classical education enthusiasts and Charlotte Mason fans alike, there is much to enjoy here. Personally, as a classical loving, Charlotte Mason following, creationist Christian (phew), I really enjoyed reviewing this book. I have been looking for something like this for quite and while and Jeannie has produced a beautiful product.
You won't need to add many more books with YCA unless your budding astronomer really takes off! As you progress through the lessons, your students will be building their own Astronomy notebook. There are opportunities throughout the book for adding to and decorating the notebook, so it becomes a valuable part of the process, and a treasure worth keeping at the end of the year.
The other great news in conjunction with this program is that it is available for Canadians and Americans from a great Canadian distributor! Sherri Piechnik runs Character Concepts from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and is an extremely helpful lady. Sherri immediately recognized the potential of this great program and made sure it was available through her website. She has lots of other great resources as well and I will be reviewing some in other topics. To order the Young Christians Book of
Astronomy, check out Sherri's website at www.characterconcepts.com, and take the time to peruse her other products as well. For US customers, you save money on your dollar, which is always a plus!