You may know that Charlotte Mason assigned her children multiple streams of history each term, but did you know that she assigned them several streams of science as well?
Form 1 (grades 1-3)
Form 1 students did not do any formal science yet. All of their science education fell under the category of nature lore. However, they already had various streams presented to them. They were always reading (or being read to,) from two different science books. One fell under a category I would term general, meaning it focused on a region, such as Plant Life in Field & Garden by Buckley. This also included regions that were far off, such as Animal Life in Africa by Duncan or Tommy Smith’s Again at the Zoo by Selous. The other was about a specific plant or animal group, such as Birdland’s Little People by Pike or Trees and Shrubs by Buckley.
Form 2 (grades 4-6)
Form 2 students continued reading one nature lore book. Across 39 terms of programmes (from 1921 to 1933,) P.U.S. students were always assigned one of two nature lore books: Life and Her Children by Buckley or Madam How and Lady Why by Kingsley. I’ve read some interesting articles attesting to the fact that Buckley and Kingsley were two of the only science writers for children of their day who stood by their faith, however, they both believed in the theory of evolution. Unfortunately, neither one of these books would be my pick today. Despite Buckley’s faith
Unfortunately, neither one of these books would be my pick today. Despite Buckley’s faith, Life and Her Children is essentially a catalog of evolutionary biology, which might not be the best fit for every family, and I have a love-hate relationship with Madam How and Lady Why. I really think everyone should read it at some point in their lives, but because we are so limited in the number of books we can fit into our children’s science education feast, while still adhering to Mason’s page counts, I prefer to use The Story Book of Science by Fabre. It is not quite like either of the two books listed above, but neither are they like each other. On the schedules, Mason specifies a time of reading “nature lore”, so I feel like that is the common principle. The Story Book of Science is definitely nature lore, while still teaching an ample amount of science, in a wide variety of subject areas.
A formal science book was added at this time as well. Students spent two years reading The Sciences by Holden and then third-year students read An Introduction to Elementary Botany by Laurie. The Sciences includes sections on astronomy, physics, chemistry, weather, geology, so students were getting a good sampling of all of the formal science subjects. Most of the subjects were taken over a single term. Today I do not use The Sciences, but rather several small books that are a bit more up to date.
Form 3-5 (grades 7-11)
Forms 3 and 4 students continued to read one nature lore book, Winner’s in Life’s Race by Buckley. This was the sequel to her book Life and Her Children, where she dealt with backboned animals. While I think it is important to use a book with literary power in this spot, I also think it is important for our students to take up the study of biology in earnest at this point. Hence, I suggest the book Men, Microscopes, and Living Things by Shippen, which offers an overall survey of the field of biology, while maintaining a beautiful narrative style.
In the first half of the 38 programmes I studied, students in form 3 were reading two different science books, but I noticed that in the last half of those programmes, the first year students (grade 7,) had dropped back to two science books most of the time. (Three if you count their nature lore.) These extra two or three books covered subjects such as botany using The Study of Plant Life by Stopes, general science using Fairyland of Science by Buckley, earth science using Geikie’s Physical Geography Primer, or a book about one specific topic such as The World of Sound by Bragg.
This is where I diverge from Charlotte Mason’s plan, a bit. I have my reason, which I will explain in my next article.
Form 6 (grades 12)
Form 6 students were assigned an additional title, making their total five books. They read The Study of Animal Life by Thomson, The Romance of the Human Body by Macfie, a general science book, a geology book, and an astronomy book. An interesting discovery I made is that she used a textbook for 12th-grade geology – gasp! 😀 I’ll talk more about that another time. Suffice it to say that the textbooks of her time didn’t look anything like the textbooks we talk about today.
I mentioned above that I diverge from Mason’s plan for students in form 3 through form 6. This article was getting so long already, that I thought it would be better to move that explanation to a separate article.