Science, Nature Study, and Charlotte Mason
Maybe the most common question I get after “What curriculum do you use?” is “What about science?” There’s a bit of a misconception out there about Charlotte Mason and her approach to science. People think she was light on science, maybe because she was so heavy on literature.
The thing to keep in mind is: the Charlotte Mason method says that education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. Just because we aren’t pulling our hair out trying to make random science experiments work or buying expensive science curriculum does not mean we are not learning biology, chemistry, physics and more.
There are several ways we incorporate science in our lives:
Charlotte recommended hours and hours of outdoor time in the afternoons after lessons are completed.
This is so special and also impossible for our family (and I suspect yours, too.) We do school in the mornings and our afternoons are full of dance lessons, church, and work commitments.
But one morning a week, we meetup with a small group and visit a local park. We are fortunate to have a one nearby park that is entirely nature-focused. There’s a creek to play in, paths to hike, a few fishing ponds. It’s really great.
If we just took nature in as we found it, we would find a great deal: trees, birds, bugs…But there are so many things out there so:
During that 12 weeks, we seek out opportunities to learn about our topic. For example, last term, we learned about Rocks and Minerals so we reached out to a local Gem and Mineral Club and discovered they offer a free kid’s class on Geology. Next term, we will learn about fish, so we will visit an aquarium and go fishing.
One educational investment we make is memberships to our local museums and zoos – but a membership to all of them at the same time is not financially feasible – so if there happens to be a location that is specific to our 12-week focus, we will pick up a membership for that location.
For example, mammals and reptiles were both on our nature study list for last year, so we made sure to get a membership to our zoo. This year, since one focus is fish, we will get a membership to our state park so we can fish/camp easily.
When it’s time to learn about flowers, head to the arboretum or invest in some new flowers for your own garden. Let the kids pick them out and help plant them.
In my experience, when we’re doing a mom’s-idea science experiment, mom is the one doing all the work, the kids are not very interested, and half the time, the experiment doesn’t work anyway. However, the times my kids got an idea and wanted to try something out, the whole situation turned around. They were the ones searching for experiment ideas. They were the ones gathering supplies. They were the ones excited about seeing the results. And if it failed, they were the ones trying to figure out what went wrong and trying again.
Whoever does the work, learns. This is not child-led education. There are plenty of ways to get a kid wondering about a science topic to the extent that they ask a question that requires an experiment. And those are the science moments they will remember.
It may sometimes look like science learning is not happening, but that’s just because there are no worksheets and vinegar volcanos (although, we did make a vinegar volcano once…). When nature and all the science that comes with it is a normal part of your life, the learning comes naturally.