Posted on Leave a comment

Mother Culture: Notes on A Biblical Home Education, Chapter Three: Science

From December 6, 2012


Once again, Jacki has blessed us with her organizational talents and shared her notes on our discussion and observations from our Charlotte Mason meeting.  If you are new to our little spot here “Under the Maple Tree” then, please join our little group.  You will find details here about this actual and virtual support group and our previous notes on the blog site under the tag “Mother Culture”.  In short, we meet as a small support group to learn from one another and a good book as well as to encourage and spur one another on in this crazy homeschooling life.  This year our book of choice is A Biblical Home Education by Dr. Ruth Beechick.  If you are interested in joining us even if only virtually, then the book is available through Maple Tree.  Contact me, Cori, for ordering information.

If you are following our little group online or if you missed the meeting in person or if you were here and wanted to look over the ideas and resources that we discussed then please enjoy the notes below with thanks again to the talented Jacki Young.  There are so many great ideas, information and suggestions here that you might want to check back here for a reference here and there.

 Chapter 3 – Science to Match the Bible

(p.41) Ruth Beechick states that homeschooling parents seem to “fear science more than any other subject”  (Do you really think that that is the case?)
o As homeschooling parents, we don’t always remember learning the materials we are now teaching. It is difficult to teach materials that we aren’t familiar with
o Many “traditional” teachers don’t invite students to ask questions. Beechick advises that priority should be given to having students ask questions and seek answers. “If you spend more time on space and less time on insects, it is fine as long as children are learning to ask questions and seek answers” (p. 52)
o Many science students and in fact, science professionals, have to hide their creationist stance or risk losing the respect of friends or colleagues
o Good resources like Apologia help to manage the fear of teaching science

(p.55) “Some `readers’ may not enjoy what we call hands-on science activities. Other students may seem more balanced between learning from reading and learning from activities.” How do we know that our “readers” understand the scientific concepts they are reading about?
o Discussion shows understanding of concepts
o Narrating shows understanding of concepts
o Jonathan Park CDs have been shown to teach concepts well

Should we focus on doing dissections with our children as part of learning science?
o Can buy “shrink wrapped” creatures for dissection
o Can easily obtain creatures in our “own backyard” eg. Cori’s dead fish anatomy lesson 😉 (We were camping and found a “science lesson” on the beach.)
o Can extract skeleton of creature by burying near an anthill to speed up decomposition.  That sounds like a science lesson in itself!)
o Can euthanize creatures humanely with baking soda and vinegar.  This is what snake owners often to with rodents that they keep to feed to their pets.
o Some households not comfortable bringing in “dead bodies” due to sanitary concerns or because “life is precious”.  This is reasonable.  Charlotte Mason didn’t see the need for school children to do dissections needlessly.

Some resources for teaching science in primary grades
o Usborne early science books – series of 4-5 books on plants, fish, etc.
o Burgess Bird Book for Children
o Pagoo by Holling C. Holling and other Holling C.Holling books
o Christian Liberty Nature Readers – beginning reader for science topics
o “Apples, Bubbles & Crystals” teaches science as it goes through the alphabet.  This is a fun resource for young students.
o Field guides
o Handbook of Nature Study by Comstock
o “I Wonder Why” books
o DVDs
o Simple activities are helpful
§ Eg. Paint with lemon juice and put in the oven to make painting visible
§ Jance VanCleave book for simple science activities to be done from your kitchen

What is the difference between Babylonians and Sumerians? (p.45)

How did the calendar come to be?
o Calendar Quest by Jennifer Johnson Garrity

Other good resources recommended by HS Freebies website:

How do I do science experiments at home?
o Apologia kits – don’t have to buy the kit to do the experiments
o For chemistry, some basic materials needed ie. Microscope, Bunsen burner
o If using Apologia check out for schedules for completing the books

ApologiaGeneral Science curriculum

Red Wagon Tutorials – previous years on USB for $120 (Are there copyrights to consider here?)

Some important considerations to apply to home school science:
o Focus on teaching younger children what they’re interested in, and teaching middle & high school students what they need to know for their future plans
o Teach children to think for themselves & take responsibility for their own work
o Do science as a family group
o Talk together about what is learned so siblings have something in common and can learn from each other

(P. 58)”Science students can usually learn from any ol’ book”
o Are illustrations, colour and design wasted on “science minded” students?
o Science minded students will learn science regardless of the colour and design qualities

Nature Study

Project FeederWatch to learn about birds in your backyard. Submit data on birds visiting your backyard feeder to Cornell during the winter months
Country Diary of Edwardian Lady – a naturalist’s diary from 1906
Engage grandparents – you may be surprised how much knowledge and interest they have
Books by Susanna Moody & Catherine Parr Traillm (for older children and adults)
o Catherine Parr Traill’s “Backwoods of Canada” describes a naturalists experience emigrating from England to Canada
Local resources such as Eleanora’s Diary – journals of a Canadian pioneer girl
Great Canadian ArtPak by Cyndy Regeling
James Herriot – Childrens’ Treasury and other stories
Burgess Book series
Clare Walker Leslie’s “Keeping a Nature Journal” – suggests journaling topics through the seasons, sketching tips, and how to teach nature journaling


1) A couple resources to add to the last meeting’s topic of “History”:
o Series of accordion style history timelines @ Coles/Chapters/Indigo ie. “The Timechart History of the World”, “The Timechart History of Jewish Civilization”, etc.; very thorough and detailed ($19.99 each)
o Timeline of World History poster @ incorporates Bible history and “secular”; gives high level look for reasonable price ($2 small, $6 large)
2) How to explain to “traditional schoolers” that our children always get an A? If the student hasn’t mastered a subject, we don’t move on!
3) Article on Finlandschools:  Why Are Finnish Kids So Smart?
Standardized testing has negative consequences on curriculum and teachers
Teaching in Finlandis prestigious career with good pay, high educational requirements (3 years masters) and high level of competition for jobs
Teachers focus on what’s best for students, not what will make them better than other students

Posted on Leave a comment

Loving this summery weather…

It’s so nice to be able to take down the walls of the school and to learn and to love and to live so much out of doorsLearning is so much easier when you have materials like this and a classroom full of God’s creation.  Hope you are enjoying taking in some of the beautiful scenery today.



P.S. – If you are still interested in the Newby Workshop then let me know soon.  The July workshop is almost full though there is still lots of room for August…  Also, there is a possibility of a third workshop being offered in Barrie.  I will keep you in the loop as I find out details.

Posted on Leave a comment

Summer’s Cool

Another repost for those of you who have been asking what summer learning looks like at our home…
Summer school can mean many different things in many different homes.  For most homeschooling moms summer school means taking time during the summer months to prepare for next year’s lessons.  For many kids summer school conjures up ideas of tedious lessons in stuffy classrooms.
I realized recently that I usually promise my kids lessons through the summer to which they groan and beg for a break.  Then we proceed with what I think is a very educational summer and they smile slyly at me on Labour Day weekend and think about how I forgot all the summer school.
Yes, I do spend time planning for the coming year.  I must confess too that I always struggle with being realistic with my planning – balancing the amount of time that we have with all of the fun and educational things that I hope to do.  But summer is also our leveling ground: the time when we can “catch up” on some of those fun things that we didn’t set aside the time for during the year.
If you have spent any time in my living room you probably know that we enjoy Charlotte Mason’s approach to education and while I am not on a crusade to convert you to our way of schooling, summer is a good time to dabble in the “gentle art of learning”.
If we can realized that education is more than the simple acquisition of knowledge and memorization of facts then we will all agree that there is much to be learned in the times when a textbook is not present.  We have learned so much by taking the time to help a younger sibling, working together in the garden, or making a collection of amazing shells during a beach day.  If we appreciate that our children need to learn to live virtuously just as much as (or more than) they need to learn to read and write then the summer is a wonderful time to do some schooling without needing to worry about lesson plans and schedules.  If we can take the time to inspire a learner to love their own little patch of garden then later in the fall when they open their textbooks again and start to learn about the life cycle of a plant they will have a friend in the garden that will make the learning so much more exciting for them.
So while the Dean family will soon stop spending a couple of hours every morning at the dining room table doing math drills and copying out Greek words, we will still be hard at work all summer long (just don’t tell the kids!)
Enjoy your summer!

Posted on Leave a comment

Nature Study

I always feel so refreshed after a Charlotte Mason support group meeting.  It was so enlightening to have such a wonderful group of women in our living room for the evening.  When we are gathered I often feel like I did as a kid after a day of playing hard when I would come inside and my grandmother would have a veritable feast of wonderful foods laid out for the family to enjoy.  There was always enough to refresh, satisfy and energize and so much left over afterwards that you just wanted to eat up because it was so good but you couldn’t because you were stuffed full.  Each woman who comes to these meetings has areas of expertise that I want to glean so much from.  This evening was no disappointment.  I am filled and trying to digest all of the yummy stuff that we were able to chat about this evening.
Tonight we chatted about math and of course I blathered on a bit too much but we also got to dig into the topic of “Nature Study” and had a great discussion. 
Since Charlotte Mason’s goal in education was to experience and appreciate God and his creation, she felt that “the only sound method of teaching science is to afford a due combination of field or laboratory work, with such literary comments and amplifications as the subject affords.” (Philosophy of Education, pg. 223)
We tend to think of good science education as encompassing lots of great experiments and focusing on the scientific method and though she thought that that was important she also advocated lots of time in the field “observing and chronicling” (pg. 220) but she reminds us that students “shall not depend upon their own unassisted observation.” (pg. 220)  Field guides and other “carefully selected books on natural history, botany, architechture and astronomy” (pg. 220) were useful companions.  And of course, as always, she advocated a more literary approach to science, making time in the schedule for the reading of complimentary literature that was inspiring and informative.
And what better way to record and show knowledge but by way of the trusty nature notebook.  Miss Mason wrote, “Certainly these note books do a good deal to bring science within the range of common thought and experience; we are anxious not to make science a utilitarian subject.”  (pg. 223)  It is so true in our household, indulging in some time with the nature notebooks has become one of the favourite parts of our structured learning time.
Here are some of the notes that I gathered:  (We were also so thankful to Kendra this evening for sharing from her expertise as a naturalist and her background in outdoor education and ecotourism.)
Laboratory work of literary value:
Apologia’s Exploring Creation with… Young Explorer Series by Jeannie Fulbright
Complimentary field guides and the like
*a tip from Kendra in choosing field guides: drawings are better than photos as they can better capture poses and appropriate colours.*
Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock
Recommended first guides to invest in:
1) Field Guide to North American Birds By Roger Tory Peterson
2) Lone Pine’s Bugs of Ontario by John Acorn and Ian Sheldon
3) Forest Plants of Central Ontario by Brenda Chambers
Also check out:
other Peterson Field Guides
Stokes Guide to Animal Tracking and Behaviour by Don and Lillian Stokes
Living books that might accompany nature study:
Nature’s Everyday Mysteries by Sy Montgomery
A Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden
The Burgess Bird Book by Thornton W. Burgess
The Burgess Animal Book by Thornton W. Burgess
Other books by Thornton Burgess
picture books by James Herriot (be advised that some of his novels have adult content and should be reviewed first)
Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat
And other books by Farley Mowat
for young readers: Christian Liberty Press’s nature readers series
Besides nature walks here are some interesting programmes that homeschoolers might participate in:
The Great Sunflower Project
The Outdoor Hour Challenge
And don’t forget about the value of local events like bird counts, municipal garbage cleanup days and the like….
Wow!  I am really looking forward to getting outside again with my little tribe….
I hope that you can use one or two of these ideas to make science and specifically nature study a much anticipated time in your home.
Happy hiking!