Posts Tagged ‘solar system’

High School Astronomy for Homeschoolers

Monday, October 7th, 2019


I have been researching high school astronomy for homeschoolers for quite a few years, and it wasn’t until this year that I found a curriculum that looked beautiful, was beefy but not too mathematical, and that was understandable. I finally found it! I ordered the majority of these from Master Books, but my dad already had several of the books and DVD’s. The large Hubble coffee table book we got from Costco.

Here is a list of books that we got:

  • The Stargazer’s Guide to the Night Sky (includes planisphere inside back cover)
  • Survey of Astronomy: 9th -12th Grade Teacher Guide
  • Our Created Moon
  • Taking Back Astronomy

The four books listed above are all you need for a full year of high school astronomy. Besides the huge Hubble book, I’ve also added:

  • The New Astronomy Book
  • The Privileged Planet (DVD)
  • Our Created Moon (DVD)
  • The Heavens Declare (set of 3 DVD’s)
  • Binoculars, and hopefully a used telescope at some point

Unboxing High School Astronomy

To see the books up closer, take a look at this unboxing video, where I show you the beautiful photos and describe what I am doing for astronomy this year:

High School Field Trips for Astronomy

Just during the month of September, we have already gone on 5 astronomy field trips! The first one was an astronomy workshop at a local library, where the speaker presented many different astronomy activities that would be taking place in my area. I asked him where the nearest observatory was located, where the best place to see the Milky Way was, and when the next star party was scheduled.


On a different day we went to a planetarium, where we leaned back and observed outer space from a domed ceiling. I’ve always love planetariums because it makes me feel like I’m an astronaut in outer space, just floating and looking at the nebulae and planets.


We looked through telescopes at the sun during the daytime, to try to find solar flares and sun spots. On the day that we were looking, there were no sun spots or solar flares, but it was still cool to look through the expensive equipment to see the sun without hurting our eyes. The Spokane Astronomical Society had a booth at a local festival, and they were getting the public interested in astronomy by having their telescopes set up.


At night we attended a star party, which was also hosted by the Spokane Astronomical Society. We were able to find basic constellations, the north star, and some planets. We actually got to see four of the moons of Jupiter, and a red stripe going across it! (I’ve never been able to see that in real life before, so it was definitely cool.) And we also saw the rings on Saturn!


Our family also attended another workshop at a different library, presented by a NASA representative. The workshop was entitled “Space Frontiers.” We saw a space suit, Shuttle EVA suit glove, small rocket steering thruster, Martian meteorite, and other artifacts. Joe Bruce was the speaker, and he had witnessed four space shuttle launches and the launch of Space X Falcon Heavy from the Kennedy Space Center. He described what it was like, from the perspective of someone who was there!


We have learned so much high school astronomy so far and have experienced it! I’m always astounded at how much fun I have homeschooling my kids, and this year is no exception. Hands-on is the best way to learn about a subject, and we plan to go star gazing many more times this year.

Solar System Cake

Monday, May 5th, 2014


We finished our study of outer space by making this cool Solar System cake! One night at dinner I was brainstorming with the kids how to make a cake look like the sun and the planets. I was thinking I would do a rectangular cake with dark blue icing and draw the sun and planets with icing gel.

But dark blue frosting is very hard to make because icing starts white. And it seems like a lot of work to draw the sun and planets with frosting, especially if your hands start trembling because you want to make it perfect.

I could use candies for the different planets instead of drawing them, choosing the correct colors and sizes for the candy for each planet.

Suddenly a different idea it hit me: Bake one cake in a circle pan, and frost it yellow. Then make the planets cupcakes! “Brilliant!” I shouted at the dinner table, beginning to sing the Halleluyah chorus. The kids cheered, laughing hysterically at my singing. Of course the kids approved, since making cake means eating cake.


I cut a piece of cardboard slightly larger than the circle cake, taping foil on it, before plopping the cake down on it. After the cake cooled, we frosted it yellow. I placed gold-wrapped Rolo candies around the edge to make the sun fancy, but you could use any yellow candy.

I mixed different colors of icing, and I frosted the cupcakes according to the color of the planets. I frosted Mercury with chocolate frosting instead of trying to make gray frosting. (Yuck! Who would want to eat that?) The Earth cupcake was first frosted with blue, then green blobs for the continents. Jupiter was yellow with swirls of red. Saturn was yellow, and I stabbed a pink pipe cleaner as a ring around it. You could also use licorice.

I placed the Solar System cake on a dark blue sheet that I threw on the table, and I used white candy sprinkles for space dust. Don’t you just love it?

Solar System Unit Study

Monday, April 21st, 2014

solar-system-unit-studyThis post contains affiliate links. I was compensated for my work in writing this post.

We did a super fun solar system unit study during the past month, and these are the hands-on activities that we did. As we were doing the last four chapters in Earth and Space by Bright Ideas Press, we came across the brilliant idea to make our own planet cards. The book recommends using 3 by 5 cards, and there is no reason why you can’t cut these out from black card stock paper so that the planets are pasted against a black sky. You draw the planets on one side of the card, and you write a description of each card on the other side.


Be sure to check out plenty of planet books from the library so that your kids can do research on each planet. We also had a DVD about the planets, which my kids have enjoyed over the years.

You can make model planets with styrofoam balls, painting them in bright colors. We did this years ago, and I used a sewing needle to stab into the ball’s edge in order to hang them up in my sons’ bedroom.


Go to a planetarium if you can, so that you can get a description of what the universe looks like. You will also want to go to an observatory to see the far reaches of space. At the very minimum, you should go stargazing out in the country. Try to pick out the constellations. Here is a description of how to go stargazing:

You can also make tin can constellations. I give you a description of how to do this in the demonstration video at the bottom of this post.


Besides the planets and stars, you will want to study the sun. There is one chapter in the Earth and Space book about the sun, giving a rich description of the center of our solar system. The hands-on project for that chapter was to make sun prints. You will have to watch the following video to see how we make the sun prints. Or you can read about how we made sun prints several years ago:

Here is a demonstration video for our solar system unit study:

We have enjoyed using Earth and Space by Bright Ideas Press this year. Why not pick up a copy of the book for your science curriculum next year? You will love it!