Website, Yahoo Group, Newsletter, and Curriculum
Jay Ryan is a homeschool dad who has been involved in astronomy writing since 1995. He is actually quite well known as an astronomical cartoonist since his “Starman” comic strip appeared in hundreds of astronomy newsletters. While he was the Contributing Editor for Sky & Telescope magazine from 1997 through 2001, Jay created “SkyWise,” an educational cartoon feature, which was rerun in NightSky magazine in 2004. He also wrote a 32-page astronomy comic book, Cycles: An Introduction to Astronomy and Time.
Since 2002, Jay Ryan has been devoting his efforts to sharing the sky with Christian astronomy students and homeschoolers. He has written articles for Homeschooling Today, Homeschool Enrichment, The Old Schoolhouse, and others. His website, www.classicalastronomy.com, is dedicated to helping the next generation rediscover our lost astronomical traditions. It includes pages on the seasons, skies, planets, and other astronomy topics. Jay explains everything in great detail from a logical point of view, with Biblical references. On a side note, his article about whether or not you really need a telescope offers some excellent advice with which I totally agree, based on my own experience. Be sure to look at "The Sky This Month" feature, too.
Jay publishes an e-mail astronomy newsletter, the “Classical Astronomy Update,” to which I’ve been a longtime subscriber. This newsletter keeps you informed on what’s happening in the sky and describes relevant astronomy topics from a Christian perspective. I love the way it covers both historical events and current events. You can read past issues and sign up for a free subscription by going to www.classicalastronomy.com/NewsletterArchive.asp. Jay also has a Classical Astronomy Yahoo Group where members from around the world discuss observations of the night sky.
Signs & Seasons: Understanding the Elements of Classical Astronomy is a Biblically-centered, evolution-free science curriculum written and illustrated by Jay Ryan. Signs & Seasons is particularly well-suited for Classical Christian homeschoolers or those who follow the philosophy of Charlotte Mason. Unlike the majority of astronomy books that focus on popular “Modern Astronomy” such as space travel and black holes, Signs & Seasons teaches “Classical Astronomy.” This is the traditional approach to studying the sky as it has been done for centuries.
Astronomy is the most ancient science and it was one of the Seven Liberal Arts in a classical education. This meant that Astronomy was once as essential to an educated person's training as Arithmetic, Geometry and Music. Thus, astronomy had been part of the education of every classical and medieval scholar, as well as great thinkers from the Renaissance and Reformation, through the Founding Fathers of the American Republic. Basically, the starry sky is an excellent means of observing logic and order applied in a natural system.
Throughout history, people have used the sun, moon, and stars for timekeeping and navigation. This is the purpose for which God created the celestial bodies – for signs and seasons, days and years (Genesis 1:14). At one time, everyone from common folks to scientists knew how to read the signs in the sky. However, somewhere along the way this knowledge was forgotten and is now neglected or even omitted in contemporary classrooms and curricula. Signs & Seasons provides a golden opportunity for Christian homeschoolers who respect God’s creation to rediscover the astronomical heritage of a bygone era.
Signs & Seasons is packed with fascinating facts about the history of astronomy, as well as practical information useful for astronomical observation. Signs & Seasons contains chapters on the phases of the moon and the passage of the seasons; finding the traditional constellations; identifying the visible planets; how our calendar is based on the sun and moon; and how the times of Passover and Easter are derived. Perhaps even more importantly, Signs & Seasons sets the record straight about supposed “pagan influences” in astronomy, and offers challenging Biblical and historical explanations that distinguish the legitimate science of astronomy from the ancient superstition of astrology. In addition to the main text, Signs & Seasons includes extensive Field Activities, a large Glossary, a Biographia of Quoted Authors, Astronomical Tables, Selected Bibliography, a list of resources for further reading, and an index.
As a lover of quotations, I especially appreciate this opportunity to learn about astronomy through the quoted words of Scripture and various authors - ancient, medieval, modern, Christian and secular alike - from Aristotle and Cicero, Augustine and Basil the Great, Martin Luther and John Calvin, to Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci. Such extensive use of historic quotations is certainly unique in a science book! Many of these quoted individuals and sources are also featured in my book, Learning for Life: Educational Words of Wisdom, so it's interesting to see what they have to say on the particular subject of astronomy.
My oldest son has been interested in astronomy since he was a baby. Seriously, he had memorized the names of all the planets when he was only two years old! I've always been a stargazer myself, and liked to write poems about the sky when I was in school. As a result of these interests plus the fact that we're bibliophiles besides, our home library contains over 50 astronomy books - including Jay Ryan's earlier work, Cycles. And as far as I can tell, Signs & Seasons is the only astronomy book of its kind on the market, which makes it a must-have for any collection.
Jay Ryan has done for astronomy what Jay Wile (Apologia Educational Ministries) did with the other sciences, by writing a Creation-based user-friendly curriculum designed with home learners in mind. Signs & Seasons provides a serious study of astronomy, and yet it is enjoyable to read and doesn’t seem like a textbook at all. Even the introduction and appendix are interesting! It is suitable for a high school level astronomy class or as a self-study guide to the sky for homeschoolers, college students, and adults. While the recommended age level for Signs & Seasons is 13 and up, the whole family can benefit from this book. Older homeschool students can utilize the field activities to obtain high school credit, and the same field activities can be done for fun by younger children under parental supervision.
Signs & Seasons is an 8½ x 11” heavy hardbound book, 280 pages in length, lavishly illustrated on thick glossy paper, with an eye-catching front cover that would be suitable for display on a coffee table. Selected pages are printed in the style of an old almanac from Colonial America. Jay Ryan's astronomical masterpiece was painstakingly researched and skillfully put together with clear text and crisp graphics. The superior quality of this book means that it would make an excellent gift for the stargazer in your family. Order a copy at www.classicalastronomy.com.
Jay Ryan recently published a companion workbook to accompany the curriculum textbook. The Signs & Seasons Field Journal and Test Manual was especially created for high schoolers to establish 120 hours of field work for a full high school astronomy credit. Time sheets are provided to enable students to record work hours and thereby document their time spent working on the course and related activities. The Test Manual section measures the student’s mastery of the subject matter for assigning a final letter grade. I was thinking of making up my own test questions for each chapter but hadn’t gotten around to it yet, so I was really glad when this book was released!
The Field Journal and Test Manual is a 192-page perfect-bound softcover, the same high quality publication as the textbook. It includes tables, maps, sketch boxes, worksheets, test pages, a parent-friendly answer key, and even copy-and-cut-out paper rotatable wheels for modeling the motions of celestial objects. This workbook makes the curriculum a lot more useful for busy homeschool families. One more thing I would like to add is that the author, through his Yahoo Group, will be happy to answer any questions that you have. This in itself adds tremendous value to the curriculum, while it also enables you to discuss your night sky observations with other Classical Astronomy aficionados from around the world.
See Also: www.mangobay.cc/users/moonfinder – Jay Ryan’s SkyWise is a series of colorful, educational, comic strips about astronomy. Originally published in Sky & Telescope magazine from 1997-2001, they are grouped by subject and order of appearance.
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