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Nature Study, Plus . . .

As wonderful as Charlotte Mason-style nature study is, it does have its limits. Charlotte was aware of those limits, and she did not use natural study exclusively. As we researched her comments about nature study, we discovered that she supplemented that foundation with three things: living science books, object lessons, and nature projects.

We’ll focus on living science books this time, then address the other two activities in the coming weeks.

How to Use Living Science Books

  • Living books should supplement, not replace, nature study.

    “Now the knowledge of Nature which we get out of books is not real knowledge; the use of books is, to help the young student to verify facts he has already seen for himself” (Vol. 2, p. 261).

  • Use living books for planned, structured studies, while still doing nature study spontaneously.

    “The study of natural history and botany with bird lists and plant lists continues throughout school life, while other branches of science are taken term by term” (Vol. 6, p. 220).

    “The nature-walk should not be made the occasion to impart a sort of Tit-Bits miscellany of scientific information. The study of science should be pursued in an ordered sequence, which is not possible or desirable in a walk” (Vol. 3, p. 237).

What to Look For in a Living Science Book

  • Avoid textbooks and teacher-explanations that present facts without living ideas.

    “The child who learns his science from a text-book, though he go to Nature for illustrations, and he who gets his information from object-lessons, has no chance of forming relations with things as they are, because his kindly obtrusive teacher makes him believe that to know about things is the same thing as knowing them personally” (Vol. 3, p. 66).

  • A living science book should put the reader in the position of the original observer.

    “The children are put in the position of the original observer of biological and other phenomena. They learn what to observe, and make discoveries for themselves, original so far as they are concerned. They are put in the right attitude of mind for scientific observations and deductions, and their keen interest is awakened” (Vol. 3, p. 238).

  • Use books that have literary value.

    “Of Natural Science, too, we have to learn that the way into the secrets of nature is not through the barbed wire entanglements of science as she is taught but through field work or other immediate channel, illustrated and illuminated by books of literary value” (Vol. 6, p. 256).

Some living science books that we have enjoyed include:

You can also search for Charlotte Mason-style science books in our CM Bookfinder.

What living science books have you and your children enjoyed? Which ones would you recommend to fellow CMers? Let us know!

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3 Responses to “Nature Study, Plus . . .”

  1. Dawn Marmor August 23, 2007 at 1:59 pm #

    One of the best living science books we have read is Cubby in Wonderland which describes the natural and geologic wonders of Yellowstone National Park through the eyes of a cub black bear and his mother as they visit the park for the summer. I don’t have the book in front of me right now to give the author.

    One neat part of our experience of the book was that the very day we read about Old Faithful, we discovered a web cam of the geyser and were able to “watch” it erupt twice.

  2. jacqueline August 24, 2007 at 1:08 pm #

    For your Australian members, I’ve recently come across ;
    The Wonderland of Nature, by Nuri Mass,
    this was first published in 1964, and has now been revised and is distributed by Downunder Literature.
    The format is the author going out for walks with her two children and discovering different things. The book focuses on Insects, and has other (less extensive) information about spiders, plants and seashore.She has done beautiful line drawings to accompany the text. My dd7 likes the book. We can use it as a reference when we find an insect but I’m also reading it a chapter at a time to learn about things to look for.

  3. Angie September 6, 2007 at 3:44 pm #

    We loved the Burgess Bird Book, too, and now we’re really enjoyin the Burgess Animal Book! Another favorite is James Herriot’s Treasury for Children.