Mason’s Streams of Science

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)

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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)

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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)Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 2.07.01 PM

Form 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 four 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)

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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.

21 thoughts on “Mason’s Streams of Science

  1. Marcia Robinson

    Thank you for sharing. This is a fantastic explanation and visual. Will you please recommend a good site for current events in the field of Health and Nutrition?

    Thank you!

    Reply
  2. Patti Lofgren

    Wow! That was REALLY helpful! I have generally been doing this choosing at least two science books for each student – one more general and one more specific (sometimes an Apologia text) but I haven’t had a well-thought out plan or reasoning like yours – thank you for sharing and the specific titles were very helpful – there were a couple ones there new to me that I’d like to check into. I’m looking forward to your next article! This one was VERY HELPFUL!!

    Reply
    1. Nicole Post author

      Thank you, Patti. A lot of those titles are the ones Mason used for the Parents Union Schools. They are rather old for us to be using now, but it’s very interesting to check them out. They changed my perspective quite a bit. In fact, I have several blogs to post over the next few weeks based on what I’ve learned from looking at some of those books more closely, so stay tuned.
      ~Nicole

      Reply
  3. Tabitha

    I love visuals! It makes my mind just happy and peaceful. Thank you for this! I love hearing your book reviews, and I’m so glad you also think Mason would have updated books for the current day. I believe she would have been all over the new information and resources.
    Okay, so I do have a question I can’t quite stream out in my mind. When choosing the nature lore for form 1, should they relate at all? For instance, a general book about pond and stream ecology and then a specific one say about fish or salamanders? Or should they be totally different?

    Reply
    1. Nicole Post author

      Tabitha, thank you. I love visuals too. Regarding your question, I see no relation between the books Mason assigned. That’s a good question, though. I agree with you about the new information, but wait until you see what I learned from looking at those 38 programmes! I was completely surprised. I have a visual for that as well…
      ~Nicole

      Reply
  4. Erika

    This is very helpful. Thank you! What would be your top recommendation in Form 2 nature lore for a student who has already read, and loved, The Story Book of Science and is not enjoying Madam How & Lady Why?

    Reply
    1. Nicole Post author

      That’s a hard choice, but I think I would go with any of the following:
      Animal Life in Fields and Garden by Jean Henri Fabre
      The Secret of Everyday Things by Jean Henri Fabre
      Nearer Nature: The Secrets of a Wildlife Watcher by Jim Arnosky
      Small Worlds: Communities of Living Things by Howard Smith

      Reply
  5. Tami

    I’ve had my children (form 2) reading Storybook of Science but we did not complete it over the course of 1 yr. Is this a book you use only over 1 yr or do you schedule it over the form (3 yrs)?

    Reply
      1. Tami

        Then it seems I’m right on track. Thank you. One last question. I was late to the game with Storybook of Science. My son started it in 5th whereas my daughter started in 4th. When he enters form 3 he will not be done with it. Would you have your student complete it before entering form 3, drop it, or extend it into form 3?

        Reply
        1. Nicole Post author

          When he changes forms, just drop it. I see over and over again where Mason’s students moved to a new form and a new set of science books and just dropped the old ones right in the middle.

          Reply
  6. Pingback: How I Modify Mason’s Streams of Science (forms 3-6) | Sabbath Mood Homeschool

  7. Ashley

    I’ve been looking at your science guides, and I’m confused. When it says they are for grades 7-9, does that mean it is enough material to do for three years, or does it mean that it is enough material for one of those years? If so, what would I do for the other two years?

    Reply
    1. Nicole Post author

      It just means that it is appropriate for students in those grades. (The level of reading and the material covered.) you can check out my curriculum pages for a suggested schedule of courses.
      ~Nicole

      Reply
  8. Alisha Fitzsimmons

    Hi Nicole 🙂 I am curious why you have a love/hate relationship with Madam How and Lady Why, is it because of his belief in evolution? I have been planning to use it next year, and planned to pray and then discuss the topic of evolution with my daughter before reading and explain what we believe. If you have another reason why you don’t suggest it I would love to hear it. I also plan to use Storybook of Science next year alongside Madam How and Lady Why, so I could just cut MHLW out completely but I skimmed through random pages of it and really enjoyed what I read. I would love to hear more about your thoughts on it, thanks! ~Alisha

    Reply
    1. Nicole Post author

      Hi, Alisha. Here’s one of the problems with what you describe. In form 2 (gr. 4-6) Miss Mason assigned something akin to nature lore (using EITHER Madam How and Lady Why OR Life and Her Children. I think Storybook of Science fits perfectly in comparison to these books, used over 3 years to equal her page assignments,) and she assigned Holden’s book The Sciences (which mostly covered a different science subject each term.) What you describe is using two books in the nature lore category and no “science” that compares to what Miss. Mason assigned through Holden’s book. All of that said, I would recommend you only read one of those and add some science in there.

      The reason I have a love/hate relationship with Madam How and Lady Why is that it while it has a LOT of science, it also has a lot of moral commentary. I can see why Miss. Mason used it in the nature lore category. Frequently I thought the moral lesson was rich and the science was always rich, but my kids got tired of the author’s moral lessons. To be honest, I think it was because they didn’t know whether to trust him or not. That will only make sense in light of the question you asked — Is it because of his belief in evolution? I do not think a young earth/old earth stance determines whether a person is a Christian or not, but when you tie together an old earth view, science teaching, AND moral commentary, I think you can start to push an agenda. I’m not ok with that in books that are secular or Christian. It might be comfortable if you happen to agree with the author, but if you don’t, and the commentary continues throughout the book, for two years, you might want to tell him to shut it by the end. This was the prevailing Christian belief in Mason’s day, but generally, that is not the case today. I told you that she either used Madam How or Life and Her Children. The latter is a history of evolutionary biology. You don’t often see people bring that back into their curriculum. I’m fine with books that include a chapter on how the earth was created. I can skip it or read it in a lesson or two and be done, but I don’t want them to go on and on about it.

      Now, all that said, I do love the book as well. (Remember – love/hate.) I guess my thoughts are that is shouldn’t necessarily be one of the “science” books. I prefer Storybook of Science and something sciency, “term by term” as Mason said for form 2. Save Madam How for someplace else, but I’m not sure where.

      Reply
  9. Alisha Fitzsimmons

    Thanks for the explanation Nicole. I am using your guides for science 🙂 I was planning to use Madam How and Lady Why in our evening reading, so not necessarily during natural history time on the schedule. I wasn’t really clear on that. I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts on it. Since writing this comment I had prayed and decided to put it on the free reads list and leave it at that because the reason I really wanted to read it was because I thought I would love it not necessarily because I thought my daughter would and I realized that wasn’t the best decision.. I appreciate your blog and all of your resources.. Thank you so much for all you do.!

    Reply
    1. Nicole Post author

      I’m glad I didn’t offend with my unfiltered remarks. Of course, there is no reason why you shouldn’t read it yourself. Us moms should always be trying to increase our own knowledge as well. And you might indeed love it!
      ~Nicole

      Reply

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