A Book Review – God’s Design for Life – The Animal Kingdom by Debbie and Richard Lawerence


Debbie and Richard Lawrence prepared this book, The Animal Kingdom, as a part of the God’s Design for Life for elementary aged homeschooling children. Answers in Genesis published this series.

Authors, the Lawrence family, prepared 34 lessons covering topics such as Vertebrates and Invertebrates; Mammals and Marsupials; Reptiles and Amphibians; Birds and Fish; Insects of all kinds as well large and small animals.

Each lesson has these sections: Supply List, What Did I Learn? and Taking it Further. Throughout the book the student creates an Animal Kingdom Notebook including charts and other observational records and activities for the different classes of animals. Some lessons have other features: Fun Facts, Word Searches, art or other hands-on activities.   Also, every few lessons they provide cumulative tests with answers in Appendix A.

According to Fry’s Readability, the book is written on a middle school level. Since the scientific terms have many syllables, many upper elementary students could read it on their own and it could be used as a read aloud to younger students.

In addition to the master supply list in an appendix the authors introduce the study of life science and how to deal with creationism vs. evolution. This series makes it easy for a homeschooling parent to cover important areas of life science with hands-on activities to stimulate the natural desire to learn.


Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina Brain Rule # 10 Vision – Vision Trumps All Other Senses

VisionDr. Medina says, “Visual processing doesn’t just assist in the perception of our world. It dominates the perception of our world.” P. 224 He goes on to use basic biology to prove his point. Light enters the eye, is bent by the cornea, and focused by the lens. From there, the light strikes the retina sending signals to the vision center of brain. This incredibly complex process produces good vision and it has been thought that, the signals that arrive in the brain must be interpreted to produce a clear picture of what the brain thinks is there. However, it is now believed that the retina actually processes the information before sending it on to the brain. P. 225

Another amazing thing is that our eyes work together to send information on to the processing center and form one image, rather than two. Our brain processes this information and fills in the blanks using our past visual experience and we judge its accuracy.

“As babies begin to understand cause and effect relationships, we can determine how they pay attention by watching them stare at their world. The importance of this gazing behavior cannot be underestimated. Babies use visual cues to show they are paying attention to something –even though nobody taught them to do that. The conclusion is that babies come with a variety of preloaded software devoted to visual processing.” P. 235

Finally, Dr. Medina reminds teachers that they must use pictures and animation to maintain their students’ attention. p. 236-239

Before I give Medina’s summary, I want to mention that he spends time on all of the senses in general with an emphasis on smell in Rule 9 and now a whole rule, Rule 10, on vision. Our world today does a better job of developing visual processing because of all of the visual stimuli that we receive from the beginning of life and more as time continues. Our forefathers had a more highly developed auditory processing system, meaning that people could sit and listen for greater time frames without the visual aids that we use today. I wonder why Medina did not include more emphasis on auditory processing in his Brain Rules. Many of our students who struggle have poorly developed auditory systems.

“Brain Rule 10 – Vision trumps all other senses.

  • Vision is by far our most dominant sense, taking up half of our brain’s resources.
  • What we see is only what our brain tells us we see, and it’s not 100 percent accurate.
  • The visual analysis we do has many steps. The retina assembles photons into little movie like streams of information. The visual cortex processes these streams, some areas registering motion, others registering color, etc. Finally, we combine that information back together so we can see.
  • We learn and remember best through pictures, not through written or spoken words.” P. 240

For more information: www.brainrules.net

Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina

Brain Rule # 7b – Sleep Well, Think Well

Dr. John Medina continues his thoughts on Sleep in the remainder of this chapter. See Brain Rules 7a for the previous part of the chapter..

Sadly, Medina cannot answer this question definitively; How much sleep do we need? There are so many variables including: age, gender, pregnancy, puberty, etc. He proposes that a better question would be: How much sleep don’t we need? Or, at what point would the amount of sleep we get disrupt what we do during our waking hours? P. 158-169

Perhaps we should follow the example of our former president, LBJ, who apparently locked his door, changed into his pajamas during the day to take a 30 minute nap. Or maybe we should have a “siesta” during our work day as other cultures practice? Some researchers found that a 26 or 30 minute nap could increase productivity during the day and another study found that a 45 minutes nap would have the same benefit. P. 158-160

Some studies verify that Sleep Loss = Brain Drain. In one study a successful female student getting under seven hours of sleep during the week and only 40 minutes more on the weekend scored lower than standardized tests. In another study soldiers responsible for complex equipment lost 30 percent proficiency after just one lost night of sleep. After two nights of lost sleep, the lose of performance stretched to 60 percent. In yet other studies considerable loss of function was documented after less than six hours of sleep each night for five days study participants suffered loss of cognitive abilities equal to a continual 48 hour sleep deprivation. P. 162-165

Given that the USA loses $100 billion each year in productivity due to sleep deprivations,  Dr. John Medina makes the following recommendations:

  1. Match chronotypes  – since there are measurement tools to determine this, schedules can be determined by what type the individual is.
  2. Promote naps – provide time and place for naps in the work or school day.
  3. Try Sleeping on it –don’t make decisions or do important work without proper sleep. P. 165-



Dr. John Medina summarizes Brain Rule 7 – Sleep Well, Think Well

  • “The brain is in a constant state of tension between cells and chemicals that try to put you to sleep and cells and chemicals that try to keep you awake.
  • The neurons of your brain show vigorous rhythmical activity when you’re asleep –– perhaps replaying what you learned that day.

Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantative skills, logical reasoning, and even