Author Archives: Nicole Williams

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

Children Necessary to Christmas Joy

I thought you might enjoy pondering this section of Charlotte Mason’s Parents and Children, as you enjoy the Christmas season:

In these leveling days we like to think that everybody has quite equal opportunities in some direction; but Christmas joy, for example, is not for every one in like measure. It is not only that those who are in need, sorrow, or any other adversity do not sit down to the Christmas feast of joy and thanksgiving; for, indeed, a Benjamin’s portion is often served to the sorrowful. But it takes the presence of children to help us to realize the idea of the Eternal Child. The Dayspring is with the children, and we think their thoughts and are glad in their joy; and every mother knows out of her own heart’s fullness what the Birth at Bethlehem means. Those of us who have not children catch echoes. We hear the wondrous story read in church, the waits chant the tale, the church-bells echo it, the years that are no more come back to us, and our hearts are meek and mild, glad and gay, loving and tender, as those of little children; but, alas, only for the little while occupied by the passing thought. Too soon the dreariness of daily living settles down upon us again, and we become a little impatient, do we not, of the Christmas demand of joyousness. But it is not so where there are children. The old, old story has all its first freshness as we tell it to the eager listeners; as we listen to it ourselves with their vivid interest it becomes as real and fresh to us as it is to them. Hard thoughts drop away like scales from our eyes; we are young once more with the children’s young life, which, we are mysteriously made aware, is the life eternal. What a mystery it is! (pp. 280-281)

I wish you all a very merry Christmas!

Hatching Baby Chicks

chick 1Several years ago I decided I wanted chickens. Live ones, living in the backyard. I had been moving my family to a more traditional lifestyle, and growing my own food and raising chickens were part of the deal. Maybe I should tell you right up front, though, that at the time we lived in a neighborhood. Have you ever thought about having pet chickens in the yard? Neither had my neighbor. Or my husband actually. I checked the statutes of my area and found that it was legal. As for approval from my hubby, he was tolerant of the idea…sort of.

chick 2There is a lot to know about raising chicks, so I did much reading and preparing before they ever arrived. Two of my favorite resources were the website Back Yard Chickens, and the book Chicken Tractors by Andy Lee.

Our first batch of chicks were delivered through the United Postal Service. (Really!) We had a temporary home prepared for them in the laundry room, and we snuggled them in directly.

chick 3In these early days, baby chicks require much care, (mostly because they are messy and have to be cleaned up after very regularly,) but more importantly, they are so CUTE that you have to watch them for hours! And what is nature study beside observation? Anyway, it was February, and indoor nature study seemed much more inviting.

Shortly after these cuties got moved outside, my sister decided she would like some ducks for her pond. She bought an inexpensive incubator and ordered some eggs through the mail, but we did the incubating at my house. By this time I had figured out that this was a pretty neat school activity.

Some of the kids built an egg candler, which is used to shine a bright light through the egg to see what is happening on the inside. (Later, we found that the flash light setting on my smart phone works just as well.) This was a great nature study activity because we could track the development of the embryo. You cannot hold the light to the egg for long, because it’s important that you don’t change the temperature of the egg. Therefore, each child had to take a quick hard look, then put the egg back, before going to the table to draw what they had seen.  We did weekly drawings like this in our nature study notebooks, and I think they came out wonderful. (Click on the picture below to look more closely.)


We did find that hatching ducks is harder than hatching chickens, and really requires a better quality incubator. I ended up having to help some of the duck get out of their shells at the end, which is a pretty precarious thing to do.

duck 3

Over the years we have hatched several batches of chickens and ducks. I also got a batch of meat chicken by mail once, but that’s a whole other story! And most recently we hatched some Sebastopol geese. Geese are harder to incubate than ducks even, but my sister got a really nice incubator which we used for them. We also used eggs which her own geese had laid, and 5 out of 7 of them lived, which apparently is really good.

This goose just hatched and is still in the incubator.

This goose just hatched and is still in the incubator.


Whether you incubate some eggs, or just want to learn more about their development with your kids, I would suggest the following books:

For young children and early readers
Egg to Chick by Millicent Selsam (63 p.) This has excellent drawings which show embryonic development. There is an in-print version, but I haven’t been able to compare it with the original. Sometimes books are “revised” when they are reprinted, but you never want a revised version of a Selsam book.
Where do Chicks Come From by Amy Sklansky (LRFO1, IP)
Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones by Ruth Heller (PB, IP) Shows other animals that also lay eggs.
All About Eggs: and how they change into animals by Millicent Selsam. Another one that considers other animals that lay eggs.

Middle to upper elementary readers
A Chick Hatches by Joanna Cole and Jerome Wexler (47 p. with a medium amount of text on each page) This book includes photographs of embryonic development.
Science Projects With Eggs by David Webster

Middle School and up
Window Into an Egg: Seeing Life Begin by Geraldine Lux Flanagan

Thank you Kim B. for inspiring this post! I hope you and your family enjoy incubating your eggs.