Astronomy For High School
Astronomy, Space, Stars, and Stargazing!
We are a homeschooling family that combines the Classical and Charlotte Mason methods in our learning. We try to make learning relevant and interesting, hoping to stir an interest in our sons that will motivate them to learn more. We try to build on interests by noting their passions and then offering courses and projects to help them dig in deeper.
My youngest son, age 14, has wanted to do a formal study of astronomy for a very long time. He dreams of space and draws elaborate space vehicles. His favorite Lego sets are Star Wars and other space related models. He reads loads of science fiction: H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Eleanor Cameron, and Isaac Asimov. We often are outside looking at stars and moon together late into the evenings. Last summer the two of us slept outside on our deck for a complete week so we could watch the Perseid meteor showers in the night.
I planned a study that would both be informative and interesting for my high school age son. He loves researching things so the basis of his astronomy course is really one that is student led. We have a spine text but then he pretty much follows his interests as they arise.
Nighttime stargazing is casual and includes our whole family at times.
I have listed below my specific plans for this year and as the term progresses I will add to the list showing what we were able to add in and accomplish.
We do not have a telescope but we do use our binoculars on a tripod to get a closer look at the night sky. My son keeps a journal of his discoveries as we go along.
We supplement with internet sources like the NASA Photo of the Day and current events.
Hopefully this lens will give you some ideas for your own study of astronomy.
Connection with Earth and Sky
“Geology, mineralogy, physical geography, botany, nature, biology, astronomy--the entire realm of science is like a beautiful fenced green field and we need to bring the child to the gate and leave it open for him. He doesn’t need a thorough collection of facts. He needs what Huxley calls ‘common information’ so that he’ll feel some connection with things on the earth and in the heavens.”
This is Our Astronomy Spine Text
If you have a student that likes a more traditional format for learning, this is a great book to lay a foundation. My son reads the text and answers the questions at the end of each chapter as the basis of his book work for this course. There are multiple choice questions, fill in the blanks, and sketching assignments as part of the follow-up self tests.
This book can be the spine for further study. I have my son read and keep a list of questions that arise from the reading leading to further research done independently. He records his answers in note form in his notebook.
Our Basic Astronomy Plan
We have come up with a simple formula for my son's high school astronomy study.
1. Read the Astronomy Self-Teaching Guide. Answer the questions and take the chapter tests.
2. View the NASA Astronomy Photo of the Day. Research something that relates to the photo.
3. Weekly pick a current event related to astronomy and make a journal entry relating the event.
4. Complete at least one entry in the Stargazer's Journal each week. Use the Google Sky Map app.
5. Watch one episode from "The Universe" on Netflix Instant View each week. Write three questions related to the episode and then research the answers.
6. Supplement your time each week with Nightwatch. Complete notebook pages for each planet-continue adding information as you work through your other tasks.
6. Each term pick an astronomy related topic and complete a research report.
7. We also watched two courses from The Teaching Company/Great Courses- Our Night Sky and My Favorite Universe. (links below)
Great Visual Experience
We have used this as a wonderful illustrative companion to my son's astronomy study.
"When I say that life should be full of living, I mean that we should be in touch and able to relate with some genuine interest no matter where we are, what we hear, or what we see. This kind of interest isn't something we give to children.... The question isn't how much a student knows after he's completed his education, but how much he cares, and how many categories of things he cares about." Charlotte Mason
Stargazing Journal - Personal Journal for Your Stargazing
If you are looking for a journal to use over long periods of time for star gazing (or moon gazing), we found a perfect one that my son has been using all year. It has pre-printed pages for you to record each night time session you have. There is even a place on the page for a sketch of your observations. I like that it is hardbound and has an elastic closure.
Using Binoculars for Astronomy
Field Guide We Chose
We have this one on our shelf as a resource. Reading through it gives lots of great information and helps us when we are outside.
Additional Books We Found Interesting
DVD Courses From The Teaching Company
We supplemented our weekly studies with two courses from The Teaching Company (Great Courses). One I found on Amazon to link to and it is listed below.
The other course we watched was Our Night Sky.
Both of these were interesting and light as far as content. They were more to stir up interest than to be "meaty" in nature.
We viewed the lectures, kept notes, and then further researched things we found interesting.
Helpful Links for Astronomy Study
- Google Sky Map
This is an app for your phone and it is wonderful! You hold your phone up to the night sky and it will tell you what stars, constellations, and planets you are looking at! Awesome!
- Watch "The Universe" on Netflix Instant View
My son is working his way through this series on Netflix. He watches the episodes, comes up with three questions, and then uses another day to research the answers. This is a great way to personalize your study.
- Astronomy Notebook Pages
We are always on the lookout for more great resources for our astronomy study. I would love to hear any ideas you have.