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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Considering God’s Creation, a review

A complete one-year natural science curriculum designed for grades K-6, Considering God’s Creation from Eagle’s Wings was written from a young-earth Creationist viewpoint by Susan Mortimer and Betty Smith, sisters who grew up as homeschooled “missionary kids.”  These ladies created this program to teach their own children science in a way that glorifies God, rather than ignoring the Divine origins of the universe we live in.

The complete program consists of:  A Teacher’s Manual, a reproducible Student Book, and a CD with original songs.  The 36 lessons provide a general overview of natural science, subdivided by 9 different units:

  • Creation (the beginning of it all, this is really an introduction)
  • The Universe:  Stars, Sun, and Planets (Pluto is listed as a planet.)
  • The Earth
  • Non-Living Things:  Rocks and Minerals
  • Weather
  • The Plant Kingdom
  • The Animal Kingdom
  • Animal Anatomy & Physiology
  • Man:  Made in God’s Image

Unit lengths vary.  Individual lessons can each be covered in a week, though in general there’s plenty of room for doing further exploration on topics.  You could easily spend a whole semester each on The Animal Kingdom, Animal Anatomy, or Man, depending on subtopics you wish to pursue in depth.  You may cover the entire book from beginning to end in order, or pick and choose your topics.  There’s a list of additional resources in the back of the Teacher Manual, including computer games, books, and videos.

The Student workbook consists of “notebook page” designed to be copied (for your own family’s use), completed by the kiddos, and added to their science notebook.  Pages are mini-books, charts, word searches, and other pencil activities demonstrating comprehension.  Answers and full instructions are provided in the Teacher’s Manual (it’s not possible to do the notebook pages without instructions from the Teacher’s Manual).  When they are done, they will have a nice notebook to use as reference and share with friends and family (and the homeschool monitor).

The CD contains 23 little ditties.  Some are designed to be aids to memory in remembering key points and others are more in praise of God’s creation.  Lyrics are included in the Teacher’s Manual.

Each lesson consists of several parts (not all lessons have all the parts), including:

  • vocabulary-  The Teacher’s Manual includes the words, their definitions and origin.  You are encouraged to make flashcards.
  • introduction to the lesson
  • song or poem
  • activity- Most lessons have a hands-on activity for illustrating the concepts discussed in the lesson
  • Bible reading- Students are encouraged to look up pertinent scriptures.
  • notebook- The notebook activity reinforces the learning.
  • Evolution Stumpers- Scientific facts intended to uphold Creation+a young earth and question evolution+a millions of year old earth.
  • review- discussion questions for review
  • Digging Deeper- Here you will find extra activities for challenging an advanced or older child, or for embarking on a more in-depth exploration of a topic.

What did we think?

I had the opportunity to try out Considering God’s Creation with 3 kiddos:  Peter (grade K), Mary (grade 1), and David (grade 5).  I’d say that the optimal grade range for the text (contained in the Teacher’s Manual) is 3-5, though older children will get something out of it if you have them do the “Digging Deeper” activities, many of which involve doing research and writing reports. 

The readings in the text were pretty much completely over Peter’s head and Mary had some difficulty with them as well.  With a little more preparation, including a trip to the library to pick up some pertinent picture books (the resource list doesn’t really include picture books or easy readers as far as I can tell), and maybe a quick on-line search for free coloring pages to keep his interest, it would have been easier to maintain Peter’s interest.

Among the lessons we tried: 

  • Lesson 7 Weather, which is divided into 5 parts, each covering a different factor that affects the weather:  sun, air, water, rotation/revolution, and land. 
    • Activities include playing molecules as they heat up and cool down, investigating the water cycle, and witnessing the Coriolis effect by spinning an egg. 
    • At the end of the lesson, you put together a weather recipe for your notebook that includes the 5 factors. 
    • Possible Digging Deeper activities include researching local climate, watching a couple of Moody Institute of Science videos, drawing a map of ocean currents, and more.
  • Lesson 24  Animal Reproduction/Genetics is  pretty involved and covers both animal classification and dominant and recessive genes. 
    • The activity was The Gene Pool Game, which demonstrates how offspring inherit their genes from the genes available from the parents. 
    • Notebook pages included an animal classification chart and a couple of gene chart activities (determining offspring traits given the traits of the parents). 
    • Possible Digging Deeper activities include researching Gregor Mendel, Carolus Linnaeus (developed the system of classification for living things), writing a report on hybrid animals and plants, and more.

The activities are nicely varied.  The difficulty of the lessons and the amount covered seems to vary somewhat, too.  The weather lesson, for instance, is much easier for younger children to understand and participate in, while genetics and classification was a bit too abstract for them to get a grip on.  The different components work well together.  If I decide to use this for a whole year, I’ll definitely have to pick and choose lessons that will work best with my kiddos, with the oldest adding in plenty of independent research.

We did not use the songs.  I listened to the songs scheduled ahead of time and simply didn’t much care for them or feel that they added to the lessons.

We skipped the Bible readings.  I didn’t see anything there that would conflict with our Catholic faith, and you use your own Bible (references are given, but not the actual readings), I simply didn’t feel it necessary to specifically link these lessons with Scripture.  So, you can use this without the Bible readings if you so choose, which you may want to do if you are working on another Bible study.

We also skipped the Evolution Stumpers this time.  Looking through the book, these are a mixed bag.  A few are well done, but many of them are “huh?” moments instead of “aha!” moments, in other words the logic is not totally there.  Here’s an example of one:

Over the past 100 years, scientists have discovered that the sun is shrinking about 5 feet every hour.  If the sun had existed 20 million year ago (the length of time evolutionists say is needed for animals to have evolved from the “primeval soup”), the sun would have had to be so large that its surface would have touched the earth.  What effect would that have had on the earth?  Would there be an earth at all?

First, the sun’s shrinkage is stated as an accepted fact.  If you do a quick search online, you’ll find that there is no consensus in the scientific community on whether the sun if in fact shrinking at all, let alone 5 feet every hour.  That doesn’t mean that it’s not true, only that it’s not verified, in fact a lot of respected scientists have come to a lot of different and contrary conclusions from the same data (further proof that seeing is not always believing).   

Second, one of the (many) problems with Darwin’s special theory of evolution is that he takes his observations of adaptation, and attempts to project them back into the unobservable past and extrapolate what came before.  This assumes that since evolution is happening now, it must needs have been happening from the beginning, in the same way, and in the same rate.   There’s absolutely nothing to back that assumption up.  There’s also nothing to back up the assumption that if the sun is shrinking about 5 feet an hour now, that it was shrinking 5 feet an hour 100 years ago, 1000 years ago, or 20,000,000 years ago.   This is a logical fallacy.  If you want to combat someone else’s argument, don’t make the same kind of logical errors they make.

But not all the Evolution Stumpers are like this, there is some food for thought here.  The very first one points out that it takes faith to believe in evolution, just as it takes faith to believe in God, and that faith in the “Big Bang” is as much a religion as Christianity is.  I absolutely agree.

So let me tell you what I really like about Considering God’s Creation: 

  • It’s very easy to pick and choose what parts of the curriculum you want to use.  While the notebook is central to the lessons, most of the other components are pretty much expendable/replaceable.  You can use everything as written, or use it as a loose outline for organizing your studies, adding rabbit trails as you like and using whatever other resources you happen to have available. 
  • Considering God’s Creation does not pretend to be an exhaustive treatment of natural science, it’s more of a jumping off point.  There’s seeds here for years of fruitful study.
  • The authors encourage you to teach your child to use their brains and their faith to put everything they read to the test, rather than blindly accepting everything they read.

Overall, it’s a nice compact resource to have on hand with plenty of learning activities for rainy days and food for thought.

Considering God’s Creation (including Teacher’s Manual, Student Notebook, and cd) is available from Eagle’s Wings for $29.95.

Additional Student workbooks available for $13.95 each.

You can listen to samples of the 23 original songs from Considering God’s Creation here.

For more reviews of this and other homeschool products, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in order to review it. I received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own and I was in no way required to write a positive review. My thoughts cannot be “pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered.” They are my own.

Credit: The quote in my disclosure comes from the 1960’s TV series The Prisoner.

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