Secular Science Resources for Homeschoolers



Big History Science Reading List – Part 2

I found a few more books to add to the Big History Reading list.  Again, I don’t expect anyone to read all of them, I just want my students to read at least 2 or 3 of them.

My son received How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown a few years ago but I had never read it.  I picked it up last week and finished it in a few days.  Its a very entertaining book about the how Mike Brown and his team searched for the 10th planet and how their findings changed Pluto’s status.  There’s a lot of good science about how planets are discovered and how scientists get credit for their discoveries.

5112YFsXIJL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_While looking for an audio book, I happened upon Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance.  My boys and I listened to this a few years ago and it was excellent.   It would fit in nicely with the last few units of Big History.  There’s also a kid’s version, which might be good for the middle school students,  Elon Musk and the Quest for a Fantastic Future Young Readers’ Edition.

And lastly, I bought a copy of  The Total Skywatcher’s Manual: 275+ Skills and Tricks for Exploring Stars, Planets, and Beyond, produced by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and I think it would be a great book for 51e1U35aBxL._SX394_BO1,204,203,200_homeschoolers trying to do some observational astronomy.  Its got a lot of nice activities and recommendations for objects to look for in the sky.  It also has sections on binoculars and telescopes.  This book might be better than Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe for families with younger kids.


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Big History Science Reading List

Since quite a few high school students are going to use the Big History Project as their history or world geography as well as science (astronomy/earth science), I’ve put together a list of books that I think go along well with the course.  I haven’t read all of them yet,  but was able to find most of them in the local library and read the first chapter or two.  I don’t expect anyone to read them all but hope they will read 2 or 3 of them over the year. Most of them are non-fiction, but I threw in a few novels as well.  Most, if not all of these should also be available as audio books.

51BS1xe6xgL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan.   Great discussion on critical thinking and spotting ‘faking news/science’.

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe by Lisa Randall.

The Martian by Andy Weir – Excellent novel and movie about surviving on Mars.

Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe by Terence Dickinson, Adolf Schaller. (If students get interested in star gazing this is a good book)

The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution by David Quammen. My older son had to read this for his freshman college seminar and recommended it to me.  Its a very interesting read about Darwin’s life after the Beagle voyage and how he finally came to share his ideas on evolution.

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin.  This is also PBS series.5101H2lhtXL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond.

The Illustrated Longitude: The True Story of the Lone Genius who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel.

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf.  I haven’t actually gotten my hands on this yet but its waiting for me at the library.  Alexander von Humboldt was an explorer, scientist, polymath and father of modern environmentalism.  There’s a graphic novel about von Humboldt by this same auther.

In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall.  This reads almost like an adventure novel and is her own account of studying primates in Africa.

4174Q3aRZlL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgJurassic Park: A Novel by Michael Crichton.

The Jasons: The Secret History of Science’s Postwar Elite by Ann Finkbeiner.

The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity by Byron Reese.


More good books

I saw a post on Facebook about giving a child a new book each day in December and thought what a great idea!  My kids are too old for this and only read ebooks on their iPads but I started thinking about some of our favorite picture books from when they were younger.

61rMNeQ4q3L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_  Parts, and it sequels by Tedd Arnold is a hysterical look at a young kid who thinks he’s falling apart when he notices his hair on his comb, is it all falling out! and belly button lint – his stuffing is coming out!  The writing is great, very similar to Dr. Seuss with its rhythm and rhyme, which makes it fun to read aloud.

The next book is one my kids and I still make jokes about and quote, though I’m sure no one around us ever understand why we’re saying, “I have a jar. Do you have a jar?” 1318100The book is called The Happy Hocky Family moves to the Country by Lane Smith.  It was a gift from grandma for my eldest’s 4th birthday and it was an instant hit.  The Hocky family moves from the city to live in the country and the book shows the problems they have adapting to country life with some very simple pictures and very brief statements that hit the funny bone just  right.  This book has been on our shelf for over 11 years and there it will remain.

91rE2vRRtJLIf Everybody Did by Jo Ann Stover is another book we read over and over and over again. The illustrations are the key to this book about what would happen if everybody… picked flowers (a whole meadow of empty stalks), smashed cups (room full of broken cups) etc.  I can’t find my copy of the book, I think I may have given it to a friend, or stashed it with the Dr. Seuss books.  Its a funny way to get the point across to kids why they shouldn’t pick flowers, or leave toys about, squish the cat, etc.

The Martian by Andy Weir

the martianMy boys and I finished the audio book of The Martian last night and I can easily say that’s the best audio book I’ve ever listened to.  The story is fantastic, the main character Mark Watney is fantastic and the narrator, R.C. Bray does an amazing job.  Yes, there is swearing in this audio book, but the man is stuck on Mars, and I’m pretty sure my language would be a lot worse than his.  If there’s any situation where swearing is appropriate its this book.  My boys 12 and 15 had no problem following along with this audio book and we all really enjoyed it.  Lots of laugh out loud moments with Mark Watney’s wise-ass remarks – many of which can be found on page of The Martian Quotes.  If you have  some science/space geeks in your house, or just a smart-ass teenager I highly recommend listening to this book with them.   (updated: We really enjoyed the movie as well, but as usual, there is much more in the book, so make sure you read – or listen to The Martian).

A few good books

These series are books my boys have read themselves. I’ve read a few of them, but not all of them.

benedict societyThe Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart is the first of four book, five if you count the book of puzzles, The Mysterious Benedict Society: Mr. Benedict’s Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums.  I think my kids were around 10 years old when they read this series.  I read the first one and it was quite fun.  Kind of like Harry Potter where these kids with unusual talents get together to fight ‘evil’.  What’s nice about this series is that teaches critical thinking and problem solving as it shows the kids working their way through the mysteries and puzzles.  My older son really enjoyed the book of puzzles as well.

last apprenticeMy older son has read all of the The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney.  In the UK, the title of the series is the Spook’s Apprentice.  The Seventh Son, which is very loosely based on these books, came out a year or so ago,  but we haven’t seen it because the reviews were so bad and the trailer alone made it clear it wasn’t the same story as the books.  The main character, 12 yr old Thomas is apprenticed to a spook – who fights and captures witches and other ‘evil spirits’.    These are pretty easy and quick reads so if you have a reluctant reader these might be a good choice. I read 5 or 6 of these and found them entertaining, Amazon says they’re good for 10 and up.

artemis fowlMy younger son has recently finished reading the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer.  I haven’t read any of these but my son really enjoyed them.  The main character, Artemis Fowl is a 12 year old criminal mastermind and my son says, “Its a futuristic fantasy with fairies and dwarves, with laser guns….”, sounds like a good book for boys.   There are 8 books in the series and Amazon rates them for ages 10 and up.

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