Author Archives: Nicole

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.

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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.

My First Elementary Study Guide!

EL Astronomy-400From the beginning of this venture I knew that I wanted to create study guides for all three levels of science, but I wasn’t sure how that would look for elementary science. There are several parts and pieces involved in a CM elementary science curriculum, that it doesn’t feel like a cohesive plan of study. Not to mention the terminology, which seems to change when you are not looking.

I’m happy to tell you that in the end, it all came together. The various parts and pieces have found their home in this guide: nature lore, science, activities/experiments, objects lessons, special studies, exams and some good old encouragement for the teacher as well. It’s all in here. When you have finished this term, you will have finished what Mason counted as a solid term of elementary science.

I hope you and your children enjoy it!

Astronomy: Elementary Living Science Study Guide

By-and-by he passes from acquaintance, the pleasant recognition of friendly faces, to knowledge, the sort of knowledge we call science. He begins to notice that there are resemblances between wild-rose and apple blossom, between buttercup and wood-anemone, between the large rhododendron blossom and the tiny heath floret. A suggestion will make him find out accurately what these resemblances are, and he gets the new and delightful idea of families of plants. His little bit of knowledge is real science, because he gets it at first-hand; in his small way he is another Linnæus.” (Mason, School Education, 1904, p. 77)

Men, Microscopes, and Living Things is Now Available

I am delighted to announce that Living Books Library has republished my favorite living science book: Men, Microscopes, and Living Things by Katherine Shippen. As you probably know, these ladies are my co-hosts on A Delectable Education, but they also run a private lending library with over 17,000 living books, most of which were published before 1970. It has been a long time dream for them to republish some of their favorite old living books so more families can enjoy them, and I am elated that the first book republished through this new venture, Living Library Press, is a LIVING SCIENCE BOOK!

Men, Microscopes, and Living Things

Get your copy of Men, Microscopes, and Living Things now at Living Books Press for $13.95 (plus $3.50 shipping,) and then come back and get a copy of the study guide I designed to introduce middle school and early high school students to biology through the pages of this lovely book.


Form 3 Astronomy Study Guide Now Available

My Form 3 (gr. 7-8) study guide for Astronomy is finally available! It uses the book The Planets by Dava Sobel (2006), which is a beautifully written book. I’ve had so much fun writing this guide and hope it is just as much fun for your students to use.


I think this will work well for your form 4 (gr. 9) students as well, in case you are looking for something for them, and my form 2 (gr. 4-6) astronomy study guide will be available by the beginning of August, so maybe your whole family can dive into the same science topic this fall. I’ll be using the book Finding the Constellations by H. A. Rey for the form 2 guide in case you want to get a copy of that now.


Science, a Vast and Joyous Region.––Science is one of these provinces. Here, the stars are measured, the ocean sounded, and the wind made the servant of man; here, every flower that blooms reveals the secret of its growth, and every grain of sand recounts its history. This is a vast and joyous realm; for the people who walk therein are always discovering new things, and each new thing is a delight, because the things are not a medley, but each is a part of the great whole. So immense is the realm of Science that one of the wisest and greatest travelers therein, who had discovered many things, said, when he was an old man, that he was only like a little child playing with pebbles on the beach. -Charlotte Mason, Ourselves, p. 35

Object Lessons

Charlotte Mason tells us that the young child is “full of vivid interest. He has a thousand questions to ask, he wants to know about everything; he has, in fact, an inordinate appetite for knowledge.” Unfortunately, we soon cure him of all of that by “occupying him with books instead of things…and we succeed in bringing up the unobservant man (and more unobservant woman) who discerns no difference between an elm, a poplar and a lime tree, and misses very much of the joy of living.” (Parents and Children, p. 181-182)

If we are determined to follow Mason’s lead down a better path, we must remember that while books are an essential part of a Mason education, things can be very instructive as well, and the more we find a balance between the two, the more intelligent and observant our children will become.

Object lessons are a wonderful way to gently guide a child to carefully examine a given object (a thing) in order to find out all he can about it through the use of his five senses. In fact, when the child’s senses have been exercised and his interest aroused, he can most effectively retain what he is discovering. Continue reading