Review: Pandia Press Astronomy 1

Pandia Press Astronomy

Curriculum Review: RSO Astronomy 1Review: Pandia Press Astronomy 1

Like many of you, I’ve been preparing for fall and the start of a new homeschooling year. Our personal pedagogy relies on my kids’ identifying their interests as the foundation of our projects, field trips, and goals. My job is to help provide a structure we can agree on and resources that will assist us in realizing our vision. Sometimes I start from scratch and create what we need; sometimes I supplement with pre-existing curriculum.

Over the summer, I have been working diligently on collecting and creating the basis for my daughter ’s interest in constellations and mythology. Then she came home from Camp Quest West, enthusiastic about adding a project on paleontology and prehistoric life, which I was delighted to add to my planning. Recently, she clarified that she doesn’t just want constellations and mythology: she wants a whole overview of Astronomy.

Now, I like her passion for learning- especially the sciences- but I have two other kids to plan for, too, plus I’m publishing a book and two full curricula this year. This, it seemed, might be the one-more-thing that would send me to the edge. So, I was thrilled to find out that Pandia Press was publishing their Astronomy 1 just in time!

I’ve used Pandia Press curriculum several times and here’s what I like about all their offerings:

  • They are easy to facilitate
  • They are interesting when used as they are written
  • They are also easily hacked and modified to fit the learner

So, if you are new to homeschooling and/or appreciate everything laid out for you, Pandia Press does that. If you have divergent or precocious learners, or if you enjoy having a guideline without feeling beholden to the curriculum, Pandia Press might also work for you. In any case, I recently received a copy of Astronomy 1 and have some thoughts on how it will work for us.

Overview of Astronomy 1

Overall, the science is solid in Astronomy 1. Author Blair Lee has done a great job in keeping terminology and concepts simple and accessible, with fun projects to illustrate ideas in a tangible, kinesthetic way. It’s exactly what it should be, an entertaining introduction to Astronomy. Many kids, especially those who like humor and tend to relate to characters in stories, will be drawn to the storyline of the dust bunnies, who narrate much of the space travel throughout the galaxy. That said, the language isn’t too childish to put off older kids- that would be a deal breaker for my daughter.

Astronomy 1 has much of what you would want and expect of an elementary-age secular hands-on science course. The suggested grade-level is 1st – 4th, with the target being 2nd.  The course, if used according to the suggested schedule, covers 18 weeks with at least one lab activity per week.

Subjects include:

  • light
  • wavelengths
  • The Big Bang
  • light-years
  • stars
  • constellations
  • the sun
  • the planets
  • space travel and technology
  • asteroids
  • comets
  • deep space

I especially liked the inclusion of space travel and rocketry, because not only is it imperative to understand the role technology plays in obtaining information, but it’s such an exciting topic to cover!

Customizing for your own learners

While you can use this curriculum straight out of the box with satisfaction, that’s not who I am, so I’ve already begun to modify it. I’ve added a whole section of constellations and mythology from our original point of interest, where we will be creating our own illustrated book of star stories. The curriculum suggests grades 1-4, but my daughter is 9.5 and fairly advanced, so I am taking out or hacking some of the labs and adding more complex ones in their place. I’m also adapting it for use over the fall semester only. Finally, I am using many of the suggested books and movies, as well as adding my own. For those who might ask, I did not choose to use Pandia Press’ Astronomy 2 on purpose. It’s for older kids (middle to high school level), and while I’m sure I could have adjusted it to work for my daughter, it was more complex and a longer course of study than what I wanted.

Some of the resources I’ve added are:

Planning and scheduling

I’ve laid out each week in my homeschooling bullet journal with extra ideas if we have time, but not in my weekly spread. I don’t fill out our week until Sunday evening in case we have to shift things around or we decide to spontaneously change gears for the week. This curriculum is fairly easy to schedule in the way that works best for your style and your kids, whether it be twice a week or when you can fit it in.

I encourage you to look at it as a starting point, and then change or add to fit each child in how they learn best. Curriculum should always work for you, not the other way around. At a minimum, double the projects for kids who learn best by working with their hands, add more art and videos for visual learners, and add podcasts, audiobooks, and read alouds for keen auditory processors. Add some field trips and don’t cap the amount of time and energy you spend on the topics your kids are most interested in. It doesn’t need to be balanced, and you don’t have to “finish” in any particular time frame.  

This is the way to make the most of any purchased curriculum without having to start from scratch.

If you are interested in Pandia Press Astronomy 1, you can find it here, with options to download a sample to try before you buy and see all necessary supplies.

If you have any questions about this review or any other topic, I can be reached at


You might also be interested in:

Vetting Secular Science Curriculum

Why Neutral Science Isn’t Neutral

Review of R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Astronomy 2


Stargazing Supplies for The Stargazer’s Notebook: a Unit Study

Stargazing Unit Study, based on The Stargazer's Notebook by Blair Lee, MS. Secular astronomy curriculum

A Stargazing Unit Study: The Stargazer’s Notebook

When I was writing R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Astronomy 2 the idea for The Stargazer’s Notebook came to me. The Stargazer’s Notebook focuses on learning about the universe by observing the night sky. It is an astronomy unit study presented in the guise of a stargazing unit study. I didn’t want kids to just learn the science of astronomy from a book. My hope was that kids would get an understanding of the universe by making direct observations. I felt this would greatly enhance students’ passion for and knowledge of the subject. For two years, my son, my husband, and I stargazed once every month, saw every special sky event we could, and got up at 2 a.m. to see every meteor shower.

I am a scientist, so my life has been filled with scientific inquiry and learning. From the standpoint of family, the two years of stargazing were the best for both of those. My family and I took road trips so that we would have the best viewing of meteor showers. We hosted a solar eclipse party for the families in our neighborhood. Several friends made a point of showing up for dinner time on the nights we were stargazing. These friends would bring their own chair, blanket, and snacks to share.

There are some tools you might want for stargazing. None are really essential, but some almost are. Others are worth it if you want the “whole” experience. Still others are fun, but definitely optional.

Essential Supplies for a Stargazing Unit Study*

The Stargazer’s Notebook: The visible universe is vast and so is the amount of information about it. The Stargazer’s Notebook provides the ideal instruction manual, planner, journal, and cosmos laboratory for the astronomy student, amateur stargazer, and anyone else wanting to learn more about the stars, planets, and celestial objects that occupy our skies.

Stargazing Unit Study, based on The Stargazer's Notebook by Blair Lee, MS. Secular astronomy curriculum, astronomy unit study

The Night Sky Planishere: Apps on your phone are great, but they can not completely substitute for a star map (a planisphere). Make sure you get the correct latitude range of planisphere.
stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

Red light flashlight: I have used this flashlight every time I have stargazed. It has a red light setting and a white light setting. After your eyes have adapted to the dark, you can ruin the adaptation with a blast of white light. Red light does not have the same effect.
stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

If you are using the ebook version of The Stargazer’s Notebook you will want a clipboard for the Night Sky Maps.

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

Almost Essential Supplies for a Stargazing Unit Study*

Binoculars & Tripod

If you want to be able to do things like see the individual stars in the Beehive Nebula or the moons of Jupiter and rings of Saturn then you will want binoculars and a tripod. You might wonder where the telescope is on this list. I found binoculars to be much easier to use and more practical than a telescope. There are things that you need a telescope to see. If you do choose to go out with a telescope, make sure you have practiced using it before going out. 

Celestron Skymaster Binoculars:

I have the 20 x 80 binoculars

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

The Stargazer’s Notebook is written for ages 10 to 100. Here is a selection of books to bring younger learners up to speed.

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

The couple of times I went out without a reclining chair and a warm blanket, I regretted it. Recliners are almost essential for stargazing! It is really nice to be able to lay on your back comfortably and warmly when observing the night sky.

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study
These chairs with backpack straps are great for taking when you need to find the perfect location.

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

Essential for a Stargazing Unit Study? No. Fun to Have? YES!* 

I wouldn’t take it out stargazing in case it adds light pollution, but a glow-in-the-dark constellation blanket for dreaming about stargazing adventures is fun to have.

How could stargazing be complete without your very own set of pens from NASA to use to chart the stars!

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

No evening spent stargazing would be complete without drinks, snacks, and theme music.

SEA water bottle: Do not forget the water in re-usable bottles. That way you are taking care of planet Earth while observing the rest of the visible universe.

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study







SEA drink tumbler for hot drinks: My husband takes coffee out, my son is a hot chocolate guy, and I have to have tea!

Numi Turmeric tea with ginger is the best for staying warm on a chilly night.

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

Fair Trade Hot Cocoa Mix for those who like it a little sweeter.
stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

Use these vegan cupcake toppers for a fun treat on nights you stargaze. It is super yummy with this recipe for delicious chocolate cupcakes and white buttercream frosting, both vegan and the cupcakes can be made with gluten-free flour.
stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

What stargazing unit study would be complete without solar system lollipops? I want Saturn!

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

The night could not be complete without theme music to get everyone in the mood. I have spent more than one night with family and friends discussing the likelihood that there is music on at least one other planet in the universe.

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study

stargazing unit study, astronomy unit study


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