Charlotte Mason Nature Study and Science Resources

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Charlotte Mason Science and Nature Study Resources

In April, I introduced a series of blog posts that I plan to go through over the next few months, sharing some of my favorite Charlotte Mason homeschool resources broken down by subject. These are the ones we’ve tried and have been so helpful in making our days run more smoothly. They have also engaged my kids in whatever subject we’re covering. In some cases, they’re resources that have been made by other homeschooling moms or are from reputable homeschooling companies, and sometimes they’re just different items that have been helpful to us in a specific subject.

These are by no means the only resources out there, and I will offer others in some subjects that I have heard of but haven’t had the chance to try yet, or I have friends who have used them and appreciate them. But the main list will be the resources we’ve used in our homeschool over the last (almost!) six years that have been so helpful to us.

Today I’m sharing some of our favorite resources for nature study and science, which, I feel, are interchangeable subjects. In fact, our science for Form I has been nature study and natural history, which were an excellent introduction to the power of observation!

Charlotte Mason Nature Study

Nature Knowledge the most important for Young Children.––It would be well if we all persons in authority, parents and all who act for parents, could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.

Mental Training of a Child Naturalist.––Consider, too, what an unequalled mental training the child-naturalist is getting for any study or calling under the sun––the powers of attention, of discrimination, of patient pursuit, growing with his growth, what will they not fit him for? Besides, life is so interesting to him, that he has no time for the faults of temper which generally have their source in ennui; there is no reason why he should be peevish or sulky or obstinate when he is always kept well amused.CHARLOTTE MASON (HOME EDUCATION)

Rough Classification at First Hand.––For convenience in describing they should be able to name and distinguish petals, sepals, and so on; and they should be encouraged to make such rough classifications as they can with their slight knowledge of both animal and vegetable forms. Plants with heart-shaped or spoon-shaped leaves, with whole or divided leaves; leaves with criss-cross veins and leaves with straight veins; bell-shaped flowers and cross-shaped flowers; flowers with three petals, with four, with five; trees which keep their leaves all the year, and trees which lose them in autumn; creatures with a backbone and creatures without; creatures that eat grass and creatures that eat flesh, and so on. To make collections of leaves and flowers, pressed and mounted, and arranged according to their form, affords much pleasure, and, what is better, valuable training in the noticing of differences and resemblances. Patterns for this sort of classification of leaves and flowers will be found in every little book for elementary botany.

The power to classify, discriminate, distinguish between things that differ, is amongst the highest faculties of the human intellect, and no opportunity to cultivate it should be let slip; but a classification got out of books, that the child does not make for himself, cultivates no power but that of verbal memory, and a phrase or two of ‘Tamil’ or other unknown tongue, learnt off, would serve that purpose just as well.CHARLOTTE MASON (HOME EDUCATION)

Resources

Nature Study Hacking Guides
Sabbath Mood Homeschool Special Studies Rotation and Guides
Nature Study Collective
Handbook of Nature Study
Handbook of Nature Study website
Ambling Together Nature Study Guides
Sabbath Mood Homeschool Living Science Book Lists
Stan Tekiela Field Guides

Articles

Nature Study with Small Children
Nature Study Lays the Foundation for Science
Natural History: Implementing Special Studies (and an outline)

Even as picture study gives my children the opportunity to develop relationships with art, I see Charlotte Mason nature study as an opportunity for them to develop relationships with the natural world, and both subjects also improve their powers of observation. When I first began researching Miss Mason, her emphasis on having children spend a great deal of time outside in natural settings where they could observe and experience natural objects and living things was immensely appealing.

I appreciated the idea that, through the study of nature, they could become friends with a butterfly or slug and, in a way, get to know that little creature’s personality rather than simply thinking of it in terms of something to classify and dissect. I want my kids to grow up with a love of the natural world, and I feel the best way to do that is for them to spend a lot of time in the fresh air as often as possible.

Before they were school-age, simply being outside and in nature in our own backyard or at a local park was all we really needed, but as we began formal school lessons and they got older, I found myself wanting a little more guidance.

When my son was in Year 1, we did nature study in our co-op, but I also chose to schedule nature study time at home (I honestly can’t remember why I wanted to do both, as what we did in co-op was perfect on its own) and went along with the AmblesideOnline nature study rotation. That first year, I tried to come up with nature study lessons on my own but also found the Handbook of Nature Study website very helpful.

After that, I discovered the Nature Study Hacking guides from my now-friend, Joy. These were extremely helpful in getting us into the habit of making entries in our nature notebook as they schedule intentional time for that each week. They also helped me have a better understanding of what our nature study time could look like using the Handbook of Nature Study when we did it on our own. It gave me a lot more confidence about executing a nature study lesson on my own.

For older children, when my son graduated to Form II (or 4th grade), I began using the Sabbath Mood Homeschool Living Science Guides (more about that below). In those, Nicole Williams mentions doing “special studies” that are more focused nature study time. She has several resources on her website that help with this special study time that include videos, handouts, and checklists. I have not used any of these myself, but I have very much appreciated the resources I have used from her website and trust that these are also high quality and helpful. Honestly, all of her website is just a tremendous wealth of information not only for nature study and science but also for Charlotte Mason homeschooling in general.

If you’re just starting and want to dip your toes in the nature study water, you might also look into the Nature Study Collective ebook linked above, which includes 174 nature studies on different topics related to Nature Study with ideas for implementation.

Charlotte Mason Science and Nature Study Resources

Charlotte Mason Science

Huxley’s axiom that science teaching in the schools should be of the nature of ‘common information’ is of use in defining our limitations in regard to the teaching of science. We find another limitation in the fact that children’s minds are not in need of the mental gymnastics that such teaching is supposed to afford. They are entirely alert and eager to know. Books dealing with science as with history, say, should be of a literary character, and we should probably be more scientific as a people if we scrapped all the text-books which swell publishers’ lists and nearly all the chalk expended so freely on our blackboards. The French mind has appreciated the fact that the approach to science as to other subjects should be more or less literary, that the principles which underlie science are at the same time so simple, so profound and so far-reaching that the due setting forth of these provokes what is almost an emotional response; these principles are therefore meet subjects for literary treatment, while the details of their application are so technical and so minute as, except by way of illustration,––to be unnecessary for school work or for general knowledge. We have not a copious scientific literature in English but we have quite enough to go on with in our schools. We find an American publication called The Sciences (whose author [Edward Holden] would seem to be an able man of literary power) of very great value in linking universal principles with common incidents of every day life in such a way that interest never palls and any child may learn on what principles an electric bell works, what sound means, how a steam engine works, and many other matters, explained here with great lucidity. Capital diagrams and descriptions make experiments easy and children arrive at their first notions of science without the verbiage that darkens counsel. Form IIA read Life and Her Children by Arabella Buckley and get a surprising knowledge of the earlier and lower forms of life. IIB take pleasure in Kingsley’s Madam How and Lady Why. They are expected to do a great deal of out-of-door work in which they are assisted by The Changing Year, admirable month by month studies of what is to be seen out-of-doors. They keep records and drawings in a Nature Note Book and make special studies of their own for the particular season with drawings and notes.

The studies of Form III for one term enable children to––”Make a rough sketch of a section of ditch or hedge or sea-shore and put in the names of the plants you would expect to find.” “Write notes with drawings of the special study you have made this term,” “What do you understand by calyx, corolla, stamen, pistil? In what ways are flowers fertilised?” “How would you find the Pole Star? Mention six other stars and say in what constellations they occur.” “How would you distinguish between Early, Decorated and Perpendicular Gothic? Give drawings.” Questions like these, it will be seen, cover a good deal of field work, and the study of some half dozen carefully selected books on natural history, botany, architecture and astronomy, the principle being that children shall observe and chronicle, but shall not depend upon their own unassisted observation.

The study of natural history and botany with bird lists and plant lists continues throughout school life, while other branches of science are taken term by term. (Continue reading for more about upper forms.)CHARLOTTE MASON (a Philosphy of Education)

Resources

Sabbath Mood Homeschool Living Science Guides
Home Science Tools

Articles (in addition to those linked above)

Charlotte Mason’s Method for Teaching Nature Study & Science

When my son began Form II, I followed the AmblesideOnline scheduled reading of Madam How and Lady Why. I went into this book knowing that it gets mixed reviews. Most, if not all, of the other moms in our homeschool co-op ended up dropping it for various reasons, but I at least wanted to give it a try.

We did all of the readings for Term 1 of that year, and it really is a wonderful book. I loved the idea of “eyes” vs. “no eyes” and, of course, the concept of Madam How and Lady Why as a whole. However, we struggled with the rest, especially picturing the places in the readings. I used the study guide provided on the AO website and tried to find pictures or videos online that showed the areas he discussed, but I couldn’t always find good options for us.

I think it would’ve been a wonderful book to continue if we were living in England, or at least had visited England, but because we couldn’t quite picture what he was talking about, it was challenging to appreciate it fully. I know many will disagree with me, but that was our experience with it.

My son also has more of a natural interest in technology, and while he does enjoy nature study and observing the natural world (especially weather patterns and collecting and learning how to take care of bugs), he really loves machines, robots, and electronics. I wanted to find science lessons that would appeal to him more as we were already heavy on learning about nature, so in Term 2, I switched to using the Sabbath Mood Homeschool Living Science Guides, and we’ve been using those every term since then. Some have been more successful for us than others, but I appreciate the scheduled activities, intentional nature journaling time, and how thorough they are, and we will continue to use these in the future.

I have also found her lists of living additional resources and science books (linked above in the nature study resources) so helpful, and I try to get at least most of those from whatever subject we’re focusing on that term from the library. The ones we especially like I buy to add to our permanent collection.

I also linked to Home Science Tools which is where we get the majority of our supplies for our science studies.

I also wanted to mention that my friend Dawn Rhymer (who has a Master’s degree in physics from the United States Air Force Academy) gives an excellent talk on middle and high school science at various retreats (including ours!).

I don’t know how this list will change as my kids get older, but as it stands, with my oldest going into his last year of Form II, this is what we’ve used with success. What would you add to the list?

In my next post in this series, I’ll be sharing our favorite resources for art and handicrafts! If you’re not signed up for my newsletter, click here to get a notification when the new post is available!


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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for this series of posts! It has been interesting to learn about some new (or new to me) resources. I was looking at the Nature Study Hack books and the Nature Study Collective. I know you said you haven’t used the NSC but after looking through it would you say that they are similar in content and age range? (There aren’t as many sample pages available for the NSC.)

    1. I would say they’re similar in age range, though I think NSC would be good for preschool age as well. The NSH guides are more guided and can be used over an entire term of school, whereas NSC has a general overview for different nature study topics. I hope that helps!

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