Homeschool Students and Families
Signs & Seasons was originally created as a homeschool curriculum, though it has garnered an adult readership as a popular introduction to visual astronomy. Our philosophy is that the lessons in a science or nature curriculum should not consist solely of reading a book, and then closing it with a sense of having obtained a complete lesson. Such an approach is not a useful method to understanding God’s creation or scientific methodology.
Rather, a meaningful lesson in science and nature is only obtained by direct observation and interaction with the natural world. Thus, it must be understood that the essence of Signs & Seasons is the outdoor Field Activities, shown in the Appendix and in the Field Journal workbook. Families who have not diligently performed outdoor observations have struggled and have not been satisfied with the course. Conversely, families who have conducted regular observations have reported satisfying and rewarding experiences through the Signs & Seasons course.
Amateur Astronomers and Planetarians
The author is an amateur astronomer, a telescope maker, and a friend of planetarium directors. Signs & Seasons originally grew out of his involvement in amateur astronomy. Upon researching this project, the author read many primary sources of astronomy, and discovered that the techniques of spherical astronomy are very ancient, and that the horizon, meridian, equator and ecliptic were known to the Greeks centuries before Christ. These ancient traditions were practiced down through all history, and were preserved in the almanacks used by farmers and sailors up through the 19th century.
These techniques are mostly forgotten in the general population today. Amateur astronomers and planetarians are the primary individuals keeping these traditions alive in the 21st century. Amateur astronomers use the techniques of spherical (i.e., classical) astronomy to point their telescopes, and Classical Astronomy is the entire basis of a standard planetarium program.
Since Classical Astronomy is so poorly understood today, a steep and difficult learning curve awaits the novice amateur astronomer or planetarian. Signs & Seasons is specifically designed to present the principles of Classical Astronomy in a methodical fashion, building concepts from familiar basics, in increasing complexity. In this manner, a straightforward approach is presented to becoming an outdoor visual observer of the sky, rather than the random, haphazard learning experience typical of astro-newbies. For this reason, Signs & Seasons has been popular with amateur astronomers.
With its Biblical foundation, Signs & Seasons is welcome and appreciated by Christian amateur astronomers. However, this course is also potentially useful to those in the mainstream who do not share the Christian faith. Some in secular astronomy have objected to the Biblical emphasis of Signs & Seasons. However, the astronomical tradition passed through centuries of Christendom, and this is abundantly reflected in the literature quoted in Signs & Seasons. An atheistic presumption is a relatively recent development in the history of astronomy, measured only in short, recent decades. Thus, Signs & Seasons can help open-minded non-Christians appreciate aspects of the western astronomical tradition that are neglected in the current generation.
Navigators, including Boaters and Pilots
For centuries, navigators relied on the stars to guide their ships across the oceans of the world. Navigational works such as the Nautical Almanac and American Practical Navigator (Bowditch) have been mainstays aboard ship for centuries. The celestial techniques for finding longitude and latitude have long been used by others, including cartographers and surveyors. While most navigation today is done with electronic instruments, such technology is known to fail. A prepared navigator should at least understand the elements of finding direction from the stars, in the event of an instrument failure.
Like most landlubbers, many sailors today are unfamiliar with the constellations, and are unequipped to find direction from the sky. Signs & Seasons can help. This course is only an introduction to the elements of visual astronomy, and does not teach detailed lessons in celestial navigation. But it can be an excellent starting point for the interested novice.
If nothing else, the starry sky is dazzling out on the water (and above it), far away from the city lights. Signs & Seasons can help boaters and pilots appreciate the glory that is declared by the heavens above, to enhance the experience of themselves and their passengers.
Hunters, Fishermen, and Outdoorsmen
Those who enjoy the outdoors are often outside at night under a pristine dark sky. The hunters of years gone by understood how to tell time and find their direction just by looking at the sky. The Sun, Moon and stars are still overhead today, just as they were in the old days. It’s still possible to measure accurate time by the Big Dipper and the other stars at night, and by the motion of the Sun by day. Signs & Seasons can help you rediscover these ancient techniques, just as our forefathers had done in a bygone era.
You’ve taken care to prepare yourself and your family for a grid failure. When the lights go out, you’re ready. But have you thought how you will set your watch? And if things are really bad for a long time, how will you measure the passage of longer periods time, like weeks and months? Are you familiar with the traditional methods of marking the passage of weeks, months and seasons, from observing the Sun, Moon and stars? This information will be very important for reestablishing agriculture in a post-energy world, and those who understand these techniques will have an advantage over those who do not. Signs & Seasons can help you gain this advantage and get you started with learning timekeeping and navigation from the sky.
You’re keeping chickens and canning your own jelly, just like the pioneers who tamed this continent. Your family is reviving all manner of forgotten customs which were once commonplace in American life. So what about the traditional methods of timekeeping? A properly designed and aligned sundial can tell time accurate to within ten minutes, which is close enough for most purposes. Who cares what exact minute it is anyway? The Moon can help you count the days and the weeks, and the shifting constellations can measure the passage of seasons. Signs & Seasons can help you reconnect with the original homesteaders by learning how they told time.
Many Christian camps are located in remote rural locations, far from the bright lights of the city. The night skies at these camps are very dark and starry. Some kids have never seen such a dark sky in their lives. And they might not see one again for a long time. A night sky astronomy program can be a wonderful addition to a youth camp, and can help these kids learn even more about the wonderful things the LORD has placed over our heads in the sky above. Signs & Seasons can help you learn your way around the night sky.
Many people simply want to learn more about the LORD’s creation, and to understand the beauty and wonder. However, in our generation, the sky is Terra Incognita. Most people, including Christians, have no idea what’s going on overhead. Signs & Seasons can get you started toward understanding the amazing celestial order established in the sky.