Elementary Science – Form I (grades 1-3)

A few months ago, I shared with you what Mason had planned for upper elementary science, and now I would like to talk to you about what she had planned for first through third graders, (Form I students).

We see on the schedules that during those years they had four time periods devoted to science each week: natural history for 10 minutes three times per week, and one object lesson which also lasted 10 minutes.

When we look at the programmes we can see that their assigned science reading always fell into 3 categories: two separate nature lore books, and some resources that supported their special studies.

Usually we say that nature study, with the corresponding nature notebook, and special studies are afternoon activities, but Form I students’ schedule didn’t always reflect that idea. Things that became afternoon activities for older kids, such as drawing and handicraft, were scheduled during the morning hours in these years. This is the time for learning those skills, so deliberate instruction needs a place in the schedule, but they would be taken up as independent work later on.

That said, a mom with several children of varying ages will need to figure out how to best arrange her schedule. She might want to utilize the help of her older kids in the afternoon to teach a younger sibling something that she would otherwise teach them herself. For example, when my teen sister lived with us, she taught my little girls several handicrafts, such as how to knit and crochet. My morning schedule was full with teaching a houseful of big kids, so typically my little girls had their deliberate teaching of drawing, handicraft and natural history in the afternoon while everyone else was doing the same thing.

My point here is that you recognize that there are four areas to focus on in the area of science for your early elementary students, and while we will consider the time allotted on the schedule to help us create some boundaries, we can do each of these things at other times if we need to.

So I would coordinate the following:

  1. natural history, 10 min – nature lore (book 1)
  2. natural history, 10 min – nature lore (book 2)
  3. natural history, 10 min – nature study book, or maybe reading something related to their special study
  4. object lesson, 10 min – based on either one of the nature lore books or their special study topic *although Mason specifies that one benefit of homeschooling is that this can be done during an afternoon nature walk.

I think the nature study notebook might still need to be done in the afternoon, because I don’t see how their drawing could possibly be limited to one of these 10 minute periods.

Let me be clear that I’m doing a bit of guessing here. I’m taking two things that were linked: their schedule and their list of work to be done, and trying to piece it together.

Let’s talk about the books they used. They always read two different texts for nature history each term. I called the books nature lore (book 1) and nature lore (book 2) above, and I really do see a distinct difference between the type of books used. One of the books were typically about an ecological region, like By Pond and River by Arabella Buckley, and the other was about various animals, like birds or animal friendships or zoo animals.

It’s important to note, however, that they did not always finish these books in one term. Some of the Eyes and No Eyes books assigned were under 50 pages, and in those cases they would finish it in one term, but if a book was longer than that, then they would either omit a couple chapters or split it over two terms. Typically the nature lore (book 1) books averaged 40 pages per term and the nature lore (book 2) books averaged 55 pages.

How should this look in your home? Each week you would read aloud approximately 4 pages of nature lore (book 1), and then later in the week you would read aloud about 5 pages of nature lore (book 2). Four to five pages! Per week! Does anyone else look at that number and just pause? Hang in there, because next week I am going to discuss this idea further. After each reading you will allow your child to narrate, and in many cases you will want to utilize your outside time to look for some of the things you read about. For instance, if you do read By Pond and River, surely you will want to take a walk near a pond or a river to see what you can see.

Special studies for these little ones was predetermined. At times the programmes varied a bit, but typically they stuck to the following rotation:

  • Fall: wild fruits, birds and other animal
  • Winter: twigs of trees, birds and other animal
  • Spring: wildflowers, birds and other animal

Again, you might have to make a different decision for your family. If everyone else is studying reptiles, likely your second grader will not want to be left out. But do note that these topics are what I would think of as “low hanging fruit”. They are basic things that everyone can find, while a lizard can be elusive.

What did I not mention? Chemistry, Physics, Experiments in Botany, etc. Science as we call it today is not introduced into the curriculum until your student reaches 4th grade, Form II. But don’t be discouraged, or feel like you are holding them back. This time of learning the habit of observation and recording, learning to find joy in the laws and order of nature, and learning the art of asking questions is vital preparation to their study of science later on. Mason said it plainly when she stated, “out-of-door nature study lays the foundation for science.” (Mason. A P.N.E.U. Manifesto.) Without this foundation, science becomes just a mater of mastering the subject, through memorization, but not through understanding.

Elementary Science – Form II (grades 4-6)
Nature Study and Science Lingo
Opening Their Eyes

10 thoughts on “Elementary Science – Form I (grades 1-3)

  1. stringstowings

    I LOVE your explanations to Charlotte Mason's ideas! I first found your website when frustrated with scheduling a CM style education, and it has been WONDERFUL implementing that kind of scheduling! And, your other posts break everything down just as well so that it is so much easier to implement! Thank you! Keep doing what you're doing….it is of great help and encouragement, especially since it's not the way most people learned, but it is such a rich, lovely way and I want to bless my children with this style!

  2. Nicole Williams

    Thank you so much for your message! It is such an encouragement to me! I agree with you completely that this is such a rich and lovely way to be educated. I'm glad I can help to elucidate it.

  3. Catie

    I’ve been going through your scheduling posts (again) and they are so helpful! 🙂

    I love this one, as well. I really appreciate all the practical advice you give, while staying true to Mason’s principles. 🙂

    Still loving the podcast too! God bless you!

  4. Pingback: Mason’s Streams of Science | Sabbath Mood Homeschool

  5. Betsy

    Thanks so much for all your information and resources, Nicole! I’m curious – do the Eyes and No Eyes books need to be read in order?

    1. Nicole

      Hi, Betsy. No, they do not need to be read in order. It might help you to know that some were read in a single term, but frequently they were read over 2 or even 3 terms. Aim for 35-40 pages per term to mimic Mason’s assignments.

  6. Jessica Close

    Hi, do you have more of a schedule to follow for elementary (Form 1) students? Do you have a schedule that follows any of the Classical Conversations cycles?

  7. Carol

    Can you tell me or refer me to a source on the difference between a nature lure and nature study book and examples of each for approximately 2nd grade?

    1. Nicole

      I’m sorry I overlooked this question, Carol. The two types of books are quite similar, so I understand the reason for the question. Nature lore should cover a variety of topics, such as Story Book of Science by Fabre or The Burgess Book of Nature Lore by Thornton Burgess. It will likely be a long book (300-400 pages) and will, therefore, be read over several years. Special study reading, on the other hand, is about one topic usually and is rather short. Charlotte Mason recommended “pamphlets” that were available in her day, but we have access to many quality books that are fairly short (30-50 pages or a section of a larger book) that can meet this need. A few examples would include Peeper, First Voice of Spring by Robert M. McClung, Squirrels in the Garden by Olive Lydia Earle, and Biography of an Ant by Alice L Hopf.

      I hope that helps clear things up.


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