About the Empirical Science Courses
Why did we chose the Novare science books?
A crucial requirement for us as we developed our science curriculum was that it reflect a proper understanding of the distinction between the methods of discovery and the modes of knowing proper to empirical science and natural philosophy. In brief, both spheres of inquiry begin with experience. Empirical science remains at the level of specific, observed reality, seeking increased precision and greater probability of accuracy through testing, repetition, and controlled experimentation. Natural philosophy delves into the understanding of universal concepts and necessary truths through the abstraction of universals. So, for example, Biology tells us man has an immune system and how it works; philosophy of man tells us man is a rationally ensouled animal. The distinctions in method and mode are introduced in our trivium sequence.
The authors of the Novare books carefully seek to express and respect the distinction. On the one hand, they promote good science by demanding precision in method by promoting a clear understanding of the limits of what is known, and by not attempting to present truths from Revelation or philosophy as scientific alternatives. On the other hand, they promote good philosophy by not allowing the discoveries of experimental science to be elevated as the only things known or generalized as more than probable theories, avoiding materialistic reductionism and scientism.
In addition, the authors promote a number of other pedagogical ideas that are wonderful: they emphasize mastery over breadth, keeping the text tight and focused. They emphasize integration, bringing in history, theory, mathematics, and promoting good English usage. And, they are carefully cognizant of the need to appreciate (not merely know) reality in wonder and gratitude.
For more information on Novare's general "textbook philosophy," see the article here.
Why follow the recommended course sequence?
We will defer to Novare on this question. Read an in-depth article here. We hope to eventually offer a two track system, similar to the one described in the article. At present, we are developing our sequences in both empirical science and math to follow Novare's recommendations.
7th Grade ~ Life Science
8th Grade ~ Earth Science
9th Grade ~ Introductory Physics (Algebra I)
10th Grade ~ General Biology (Geometry)
11th Grade ~ General Chemistry (Algebra II)
12th Grade ~ Physics & Cosmology
In addition to the ideas presented above, the sequence exemplifies the assent of the mind from the immediate to the elevated, by moving from that which the students can most easily see and touch (bugs and dirt) to that which requires abstraction, contemplation, and the consideration of first principles (cells, chemical bonds, stars, and primordial events), thus standing as an analogy to the assent undertaken in the TPT course sequence.
Why emphasize lab work?
A laboratory component is essential for every high-school level science class. Not only does a lab practicum give students direct knowledge and experience that are virtually impossible to obtain from a text, but the report writing component of lab work provides a rich enhancement to the overall learning objectives for the course. The students will be required to write full-length lab reports from scratch for some labs and short form reports for others in all the high school courses.