Episode 24: Middle and High School Science


Charlotte Mason is extraordinary in the arts and humanities, but does her method really work for science, especially in an age when science is king? This podcast will address all the aspects of teaching science that put most average parents in a panic at the high school level and you will find yourself eager to get on with it.

Listen Now:






"Our aim in Education is to give a Full Life.––We begin to see what we want. Children make large demands upon us. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. Thou hast set my feet in a large room; should be the glad cry of every intelligent soul. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking––the strain would be too great––but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest. We cannot give the children these interests; we prefer that they should never say they have learned botany or conchology, geology or astronomy. The question is not,––how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education––but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?" (Vol. 3, pp. 170-71)

“Where science does not teach a child to wonder and admire it has perhaps no educative value.” (Vol. 6, p. 224)

"Geology, mineralogy, physical geography, botany, natural history, biology, astronomy––the whole circle of the sciences is, as it were, set with gates ajar in order that a child may go forth furnished, not with scientific knowledge, but with, what Huxley calls, common information, so that he may feel for objects on the earth and in the heavens the sort of proprietary interest which the son of an old house has in its heirlooms." (Vol. 3, p. 79)

“The essential mission of school science was to prepare pupils for civilised citizenship by revealing to them something of the beauty and the power of the world in which they lived, as well as introducing them to the methods by which the boundaries of natural knowledge had been extended. School science, therefore, was not intended to prepare for vocations, but to equip pupils for life. It should be part of a general education, unspecialised, in no direct connexion with possible university courses to follow.” (Sir Richard Gregory, quoted by Charlotte Mason in Vol. 6, p. 222)

"So much attention is now given to the practical and systematic study of science in schools that the valuable influence of descriptive scientific literature is apt to be overlooked. An intimate knowledge of the simplest fact in nature can be obtained only through personal observation or experiment in the open air or in the laboratory, but broad views of scientific thought and progress are secured best from books in which the methods and results of investigation is stated in language that is simple without being childish.
"Books intended to promote interest in science must differ completely from laboratory guides, textbooks, or works of reference. They should aim at exalting the scientific spirit which leads men to devote their lives to the advancement of natural knowledge, and at showing how the human race eventually reaps the benefit of such research. Inspiration rather than information should be the keynote; and the execution should awaken in the reader not only appreciation of the scientific method of study and spirit of self sacrifice, but also a desire to emulate the desires of men whose labors have brought the knowledge of nature to its present position." (From The Wonders of Physical Science by Edward Fourlier, used in PNEU)



The Mystery of the Periodic Table

For the Love of Physics

(Contains affiliate links)



Read-Aloud Revival Episode with Dr. Pakaluk

Nicole's Website with loads of information on living CM science

*NEW Living Science Study Guides--Nicole guides us through a term or year of Middle School Biology

Keeping a Science Notebook

Living Science Ideas scroll down for a subject by subject list of living books

43 comments:

  1. Ummmmmm...WOW. This is SOOOO so good and helpful! :) I am NOT what I would call a science (or math ;) ) person at ALL, so I identified with some of your thoughts/feelings, Liz. You gals made this so ATTAINABLE and made me feel so much less nervous. It also challenged me and encouraged me to branch out and research and just try some of these things. I sooo love the idea of using friends and community for some of the experiments etc and look forward to doing that with our CM group in the future!
    Nicole, I've been digging around your blog and just LOVE it...I'm looking forward to looking deeper into science with my children.
    I attended and graduated from private school and seriously I only remember the Scripture we memorized (which is a good thing!) and I learned how to type well. LOL! Seriously, I mean the teachers etc were wonderful people, but I'm learning EVERYTHING with my children NOW. I'm sooo thankful for a Charlotte Mason life, huh?! Your podcast is SO helpful and encouraging. Thanks. :) Amy

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    1. I'm so glad this episode was an encouragement to you, Amy. I went to a public school, so I did not memorize scripture, but I did learn to type. Sometimes I wonder if I'm learning so much more now, because I want to know, (I care,) not because nothing was taught to me. I know the CM method is by far better, but it makes me realize how important it is to impart a love of learning to our children, so they will continue learning as an adult. It also supports the idea that the science of relations is the only way to really have our children's education stay with them.

      -Nicole

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    2. That's a very good point, Nicole. I'm learning to care. Hmmm...although, I still think I didn't learn much from the fill-in-the-blank-workbook ;), but there were other lessons that I learned there, in regards to relationships etc so that's good to remember that. Sigh. Yes. The sciene of relations. :)

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  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I look forward to this every Friday.
    Also, thank you specifically to Nicole for your passion in the area of science. I attended your science for middle and high school immersion last year at CMI, and it revitalized science in our home!

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    1. You are very welcome, Parke! And I'm glad to hear the immersion class was helpful to your family.

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  3. Great episode! Would you be willing to lay out the science rotations as you did the history streams? I would like to follow this method but want to be certain I understood the rotation.

    Thank you!

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    1. In form 2 (grades 4-6,) they worked through The Sciences by Holden which allowed them to "take the other sciences term by term" like she says, but we don't see that actually happen in MS and HS. In those forms she was bound by the best book she could find, and she lamented that they didn't have much. Today we do have many great books, so I think we can abide a little closer to her desire for them to take the various science subjects term by term. But to answer your question, we don't have examples of her using a rotation the way she did with history, because the books she had to use did not lend themselves to that ability. I will be writing on my blog very soon about some of the things I have noticed, however, so maybe subscribe over there so you don't miss it.

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  4. At the high school level do you do any quantatative physics and chemistry? (solving problem sets, balancing equations, etc.) If so what resources have you used?

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    1. Depending on the ability of the child, I think this is a very important addition. No child should feel like they cannot enjoy and learn from science if they are unable to master quantitate science. For them qualitative science will still be very valuable. But if a student can handle it, then it will add so much to their understanding. Not to mention making math have greater purpose. There are several resources online for learning to use math in science. But this is also a great place to use a textbooks as a resource. No need to get any particular one, because you will only be referring to it occasionally, so you might be able to pick up a used one cheap, even at a garage sale. I list a few items under the "resources" heading of my chemistry page and my physics page at Sabbath Mood Homeschool.

      -Nicole

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  5. You talked about using a spine for science too. What spines would you recommend for the various studies (chemistry, physics, biology, earth science) and would you use different ones for MS and HS?

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    1. Laurie, In most cases I would use a different one for MS and HS. High schoolers can typically handle a deeper level of study. Also, while a MS student may have one term of chemistry as an introduction, a HS student will likely do 3 terms of chemistry over the course of his HS career. That said, if this is the first exposure of a subject, maybe your HS student can do that first term with the MS student, and then continue on from there.

      As to what spines to use. I would really recommend you look around at my living science pages on Sabbath Mood Homeschool. Keep in mind that a compilation of biographies is sometimes the best spine, because the student proceeds through the understanding of the subject in the same order that the scientists came to understand it. It is likely to make more sense and establish better science of relations. But there are others. I usually make a note on those book list pages when something is a favorite of mine, so check that out and let me know if you have any questions.

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    2. I have looked at your website extensively and love your recommendations. I see you chemistry favorite and physics favorites for high school. However, I am having trouble discerning what would be a biology spine. Can you help?

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    3. This is a tricky question. My favorite is Men, Microscopes, and Living Things. I use it as the spine for middle school, but if your student missed it at that grade level then I suggest it be read anytime. It's wonderful for any age person (even adult,) and is the ONLY good survey of biology available.

      After that, you have the issue of there being so many subjects and not enough time to cover each of them well. (Human anatomy, genetics, cell biology, botany, evolution/paleontology, ecology/environmental biology, zoology/animal behavior and physiology, microbiology, forensic science, biotechnology, neuroscience, health, or medical ethics.) Mason would not approve of a textbook style skimming of the subject, nor would she approve of cramming to cover them all. So I suggest each family choose a course of study that takes into account what is important to them and of interest to your student.

      I hope that helps.
      ~Nicole

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  6. and I am loving the list of books on your website. This is making so much more sense to me now and i love mixing several "fields" in a year and repeating them to capture the difference in student ability and maturity.

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    1. I just saw this comment Laurie! Thank you for your encouragement. It is so true that our idea of a distinct "subject" of science is often kind of ridiculous, because there is so much overlap. And with that in mind, it seems silly to do "freshmen biology" or "sophomore chemistry" and then never go back to it. By repeatedly focusing on various subjects, the science of relations can really build, which is where true understanding happens.

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  7. The book, Science Matter was mentioned. I have this book . . . . well it sits on my shelf unread. What grade and under what "stream" of history would you include it?

    Also, when will Nicole have a guide out for high school level and which "stream" of science. (Planning going on here! Trying to decide if I should put off my science planning for my high school student.)

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    1. Hi Cassie,
      I think Science Matters is a great 12th grade wrap up to science, because it includes a little bit of everything. It could also be used one chapter at a time throughout high school. I once put together a plan for HS that used it as a spine for the whole 4 years.

      Regarding study guides, I am working hard on those. The MS biology study guide could be used as a single first term of biology for HS, followed by other biology subjects. I am also working on chemistry, physics and weather. I am not sure which will be done first though. I'm sorry I that don't have a clearer outline yet.

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  8. Oh happy day! I picked up "All about Our Changing Rocks" at a thrift store today on a whim. Looked like it might be something good and found this review
    - An extensive and satisfying survey by a recognized non-fiction writer, this seems a better coverage than Carroll and Mildred Fenton's first geology books and about equal in content to Rocks, Rivers and the Changing Earth, by Nina and Herman Schneider.

    I am very excited and the language seems to fall nicely into what is "Living" (still flipping through it), but I am so glad to have had your podcasts to have me looking for books I didn't even consider before.

    Thanks

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    1. That's wonderful, Laurie. The "All About" series is usually a good bet. Congratulations on your find!
      ~Nicole

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  9. Have you ever seen or heard of "The Vertebrate Story"? I found a copy at the thrift store and it looks good, but maybe too much if taken all at once. Still working out science through living books after years of PS.

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    1. I haven't heard of that one. It sounds similar to Arabella Buckley's Winners in Life's Race.
      ~Nicole

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  10. nicole - i am looking at your ms biology guide and really want to use it- before I buy though- i would like to know what other books are used as being in the uk - sometimes the books you recommend on your living books lists are very expensive to get over here. I want to be sure i can afford the books before i get the guide else i will have wasted money on your guide if I can't get the books - if that makes sense!

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    1. That makes a lot of sense, Jo. And just to let you know, the book Men, Microscopes and Living Things is being republished, and will soon be available. I've seen it and can testify that it is a beautiful reprint.

      To answer your question, none of the suggested titles to complement the course are required or necessary. They are just fun additions if you can get them at the local library, or you see that your child really wants to take a topic to the next level. That said, I really like the books Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas and Sparrow Girl. Both are picture books and worth reading at some point.
      ~Nicole

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    2. Thanks Nicole,I found a hardback copy on amazon uk of 'so many marvels' from 1968 - hopefully that will do!
      I am actually hoping to use it with my 13 and 14 yo boys together, to relieve the pressure on me to plan absolutely everything (we have been struggling for a couple of years to find our groove since a baby arrived, we moved house and have not done cm from the beginning (public schooled previously) ) I have been lost for a long time and so hoping this guide will just mean 'one less thing' for me to stress over....will it be 'enough' for them to do for the year's biology or do they need more as they are older than middle school? I am planning to do another science topic each week too as you suggest in the podcast, and nature lore/nature study each week. Thanks for your wonderful time and resources....this podcast, along with Leah Boden's uk cm group and cm show periscopes - are the only things that seem to have made cm make sense and seem do-able for me (and i've been trying for 5 long discouraging yrs off and on!!!). So very, very grateful for you ladies! xxx

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    3. Jo, we are so happy to be an encouragement to you. I have a couple of thoughts on what you said. Remember at their age, that they do not need nature lore anymore, unless they just love it and want to read it on their own time (like I do!). You probably meant special studies, which they should indeed include in their daily outside time. The biology will work well, even though they are older than middle school. It is a perfect overview of biology for middle school or high school, but after that they will need to continue biology one day a week with another book. Hopefully I'll have some guides does for a next option by next year. As to your other science subject I will have an Astronomy course complete in the next couple weeks that would also work well for your boys. They should do a little chemistry and physics each year, but to start with some earth science would be great. It will be the same format as the biology book, meaning they can work on it independently, but will require 3 days a week to complete in one term, so it's a compliment to the biology. Lastly, if you need any help getting a plan together for your school year, as you indicated being lost for a long time, please consider doing a consult with us. We would be happy to help you get a plan and make this your best year yet.
      Wishing you the best!
      ~Nicole, Emily and Liz

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    4. Disaster! the biliogy (katherine shippen) book i thought I had found and ordered on amazon uk marketplace - they have cancelled the order as no longer available, and I cannot find another copy in the uk (well there is one for £122 but thats a tad out of my price range!!!) looks like i'm back to square one...
      Thank you for the offer of a consult, however im not sure how much you can help with me being in the uk for book choices etc, also I have next to no budget to work with (hard times for a season),but I appreciate the thought. Thank You! xx

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    5. Hang in there, as the reprint will be available very soon.

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    6. Nicole - I have just noticed the republished Men and microscopes book here on the uk amazon - yay! Can you tell me - do you lay out how to use your guide with more than one student ....as in....would i have to juggle who does what lesson when, so they can share the same books and your guide (but read it on their own so for example day one - one boy do biology the other is doing astronomy so they don't need the same books at the same time... OR would i do it more as a group read aloud sort of thing - how would that work out each day? I have the books in my amazon cart and am just holding off buying your guide and the books cause i can't "see" how I would practically get it done with both of them.....Thanks for these wonderful resources. x

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    7. I would have them work together, Jo. They can take turns reading aloud. Students that age should be reading aloud some each week anyway, so this is a good opportunity. Some of the activities are more fun to do together as well. But if you don't see working together as an option, then they could switch off as you mentioned.

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    8. Oh Nicole that's a great idea! - I didn't think of that! so have them work together but without me..... I think that will work well - the boys are very close. Thanks x

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  11. Nicole,
    I recently attended the conference in Roanoke and absolutely loved your scheduling session-thank you so much! It was great! However, I had to make the hard decision between your science session and Mason and the Older Child (I am new to CM and have a 13 yo-sooo, really felt the need to attend the latter.) However, now I feel stuck in science! You have so many great suggestions! I am so very thankful for ALL the work you have put into researching all these books. In addition to my daughter I also have two Form 2 students (4th and 5th grade). I would love to start nature lore with all of them as we have never done that, but am hesitant to choose a book for both forms. I thought about The Storybook of Science- but by next year would that be too simple for my daughter? Also, should I use Men, Microscopes, and Living Things this year or start that next year--is that a book that would continue all through high school or do you switch it at some point for something meatier? What are your suggestions for "spines" for each category of science? I'm sorry-I know this is A LOT OF QUESTIONS!! Can you tell I've been swirling thoughts for a few days?? Thank you for any advice you can offer-I know this may seem confusing and I am rambling. I apologize! Again, thank you so much for all the energy and time you have put forth. I hope you have a blessed day!

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    1. Shannon,
      Story Book of Science will not be too easy for your daughter next year. It is full of fascinating information, that most of us adults do not know, and because it's translated from French to a British English, it can be a little hard going at times. So it would work well. However, it doesn't matter. There is no need to finish the book. I usually assign that book over 3 years (8 chapters per term,) and then in 7th grade I recommend students move on to Men, Microscopes, and Living Things. She can just stop when she gets to 7th grade.

      Men, Microscopes, and Living Things should be done one day a week for a whole year. After that, other biology books can be read on that one day a week. I hope to have a botany study guide out next year, so that will be an option as well.

      Regarding my spine recommendations, you can look at the texts I use for my study guides. Those are my favorites. I haven't narrowed down all of my favorites yet, but as I do, they will be the ones I make guides to compliment.

      If you haven't been over there yet, I would recommend you look at my website. Particularly the charts for form 2, form 3, and high school.

      I hope this helps.
      ~Nicole

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  12. Thanks Nicole! I definitely plan to use your guides! Since my daughter is already 8th grade this year, my plan was this: Storybook of Science this year along with some history of science and nature study. Over next summer I hope to use your astronomy for a fun study...then her ninth grade year use your Men, Microscopes, and Living Things along with your Chemistry-Physics-Geology rotation suggestion (which I LOVE btw!!) Then maybe that summer use your botany study! I plan to let my boys (4th and 5th gr) go along with her as much as possible...switching them up for your suggestions for their form. I plan to do a nature study with all of them as long as they want!! Does this sound reasonable? Thanks again...so thankful for each of you!

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  13. Shannon, I misunderstood your previous question. I had in mind that you were asking about a 5th grader reading The Story Book of Science. That's why I said just stop when they get to 7th grade, and move onto biology. You can wait until next year to start biology with your daughter, but it really isn't necessary. You know your family best, so you will have to make that decision. Your boys should not be doing as much science as your daughter, so while they might like the experiments, they should probably have books that are more appropriate for their level. You might want to check out my form 2 page.

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  14. Nicole, a quick question about the ordering options for your Biology Study Guide and Men, Microscopes, and Things.

    In this option below, is the text the actual printed book that is being sold?

    Digital Download and Mailed Print Copy and the text Men, Microscopes, and Living Things – $30.00

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  15. Thank you so much for this episode and the reassurance it has brought to my heart. While realizing that education is more than mere preparation for a job or career, as a Pediatrician turned SAHM homeschooling mama, I have been cautious to make sure the path we are beginning for our children's is one that would prove rigorous and rich enough to allow doors to be open even if their callings are in graduate, post-graduate, or professional level studies. Your account of the science-oriented student and her early experiences was so very reassuring and really resonates with the basic requirements of knowing how to "do" science and be a scientist (an articulate observer and thinker) rather than just possesing the capability of memorizing scientific data points. We recently moved from WA to Okinawa, Japan, and because of our studies of all the abundance in WA (even just in our front yard), our girls have fallen in love with seeing the stark differences here in this particular corner of God's amazing creation. Their eyes are open! Thank you so much again!

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    1. And the paradigm shift for all of us is realizing that if we let them grow really knowing the world, their future is exponentially more far reaching than we even hope for. Thank you so much for your comment!
      ~Nicole, Liz & Emily

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  16. Do you have any suggestions on how to include research projects in the upper years or asking questions and using the scientific method to produce a result? Does CM ever do this? I have not stumbled on this in any of my readings of course I don't have the volume of upper years yet and haven't studied so much there. Thanks!

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  17. Nicole - I am looking at your weather science guide. Can you tell me if the book will work for us in the uk? it is set in america no? Would it be better for me to find a uk based book?

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    1. Hi, Jo. I try to be sensitive to people using my guides from many locations. I know people who use them in Japan, South Africa, and Canada. I think of them, and even you! as I write them. That said, the form 3 weather guide follows a storm system from central Canada across the northern section of the US. Even so, I think the location matters little. Kids in the American south or the west may never experience that specific storm system any more than your kids will, but they can relate to the weather patterns introduced. I hope this helps you decide "weather" it's right for you. :)

      ~Nicole

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    2. 'weather' lol , thank you Nicole!

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  18. My eldest is just beginning Form 2B next year and I am so excited to use so much that I have learned from these podcasts, and I plan to use your guides at Sabbath Homeschooling, Nicole. Could you address the higher math needed for Physics, and how that might be accomplished even though we are doing a bit of physics over multiple years?

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    1. There is a lot of common information that can and should be learned in the field of physics and chemistry even if a student never gets up to the level of math needed to do some of the computations in each. They can still understand what is being accomplished by those calculations. A student who can do the math, should, and I include the option of working problems in my guides. But a student who can't do the math should never be shut out from learning what amounts to massive amounts of common information about this amazing world.
      ~Nicole

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