Teaching Science: Subject by Subject, Part 8

Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Subjects: ScienceWe hope this Subject-by-Subject series is proving helpful to you as you homeschool your children. We’ve already covered several school subjects: history, geography, spelling, Bible, and handicrafts. And we have several more to go as we discuss which methods Charlotte used to teach each one.

And remember, if you don’t want to wait for a particular subject to show up, you can always refer to this handy chart and short explanations to get a quick overview and remind yourself which Charlotte Mason methods to use to teach each subject.

Today let’s talk about teaching science.


Charlotte used a two-faceted approach to teaching science that was very effective: systematic studies and spontaneous discovery. The systematic studies were accomplished through reading and narrating living science books. The spontaneous facet was added through doing nature study.

  • Living Science Books & Narration

    Just like we talked about for teaching history, living books and narration provide many fertile educational opportunities. Remember, a living book can be written in story form or in a conversational tone directed to the reader; but whichever style it uses, a living science book should make it easy to picture what is being talked about.

    Yes, Charlotte sometimes used a textbook for some high school level science topics. Let’s face it, not all advanced science details can be comprehensively explained and practiced in story form. But on those occasions we can couple a conversational science textbook with a good living book to introduce or supplement the topic and help the student make a personal relation and want to learn more details. We’ve listed some suggestions of both conversational textbooks and living science books in the science section of our SCM Curriculum Guide.

  • Nature Study

    But just reading about the world around us is not a full education; we must give our children opportunities to experience that world for themselves. Nature study lays the foundation for science studies. As our children (and we) encounter different elements and living creatures outside, they form a personal relation with those things and are ready to learn more about them.

    Get each child a blank sketchbook, some colored pencils, and a field guide or two. Then once a week go outside and record your observations in writing and drawing. What is the weather like? What do you see by way of plants and animals? Yes, you can take digital pictures instead or look at close-up illustrations on the Internet, but there is nothing that will encourage you to look so closely and carefully than trying to draw for yourself the object that you are looking at. Use the field guides to help you label your drawings. Over time you will gain at least a “nodding and naming acquaintance” with God’s creation in your yard. And that is time well spent.

    We wrote at length about nature study in this series, which includes 8 Reasons To Do Nature Study, Nature Study in a Nutshell, The Secret of the Nature Notebook, 5 Great Nature Projects, and more! Also, the book Hours in the Out-of-Doors will tell you everything Charlotte said about nature study, in her own words.

  • Teaching Tip

    A wonderful resource for nature study is the Outdoor Hour Challenges that are correlated to passages in the Handbook of Nature Study. If you are uncertain how to get started with nature study, these 15-minute challenges will get you up and running quickly and easily.

New Jack’s Insects Narration & Nature Study Notebook

We’re excited to announce the release of Jack’s Insects Narration & Nature Study Notebook to go along with our popular living science book, Jack’s Insects! Now your student will be guided through the book with leading narration questions. Recommended websites and other resources will help him learn more about the insects he meets in the story. Plus, insect-watching and drawing tips, a handy insect list, and plenty of drawing pages will encourage him to get outside and record his own observations with insects in his backyard. A great new resource that combines all the Charlotte Mason methods for teaching science featuring a book that she actually used in her schools!

3 Responses to “Teaching Science: Subject by Subject, Part 8”

  1. faithjrny July 19, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    I don’t know if you have reviewed them yet, but my daughter used Biology 101 and Chemistry 101 dvd’s the past 2 school years. Coupled with living books on topics covered, they were wonderful! She was doing these at the same time my son was absorbed in Apologia’s Biology and Chemistry courses. The 2 approaches fit each of them quite well. My dd would have come away from Apologia absolutely hating science. Now she is excitedly sharing fascinating tidbits with me! My son thrived with Apologia as he is a very driven, independent learner who loved the challenges put forth in these texts. He would not have been challenged enough w/ the Biology and Chemistry 101 courses.

    Just another option!

  2. faithjrny July 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    Yes, I did read that. Again, as others responded on that particular thread, the Biology 101 and the Chemistry 101 can be beefed up to allow for the high school credit. This approach was very well-suited to one child, just like Apologia was well-suited to my son. Not everyone is going in to the sciences, and even if a student is college-bound, the 101 courses can work beautifully.