With all the pressure on STEM or STEAM learning these days, delaying science instruction until our children are 10 (or even older) can be stressful. Won't our children be behind if we just ignore science? And when are we actually supposed to start science, after all?
The common consensus is usually that nature study counts as science until our children get a little bit older. It is a type of science on its own. Observing the beautiful things of Creation will give children a solid base for future science learning.
As I've dug into Charlotte Mason's first volume, Home Education, to see what her recommendations are for beginning lessons at home, I've had a few surprises. This area, natural philosophy, or science, was one of them. The idea that we should hold off on science in favor of closely observing things in nature is not what she recommended in this volume. So, if you feel like you should start science because of today's educational needs, but thought you should wait because of loyalty to Charlotte Mason, I hope you consider yourself free of conflict.
You can read the rest of my posts in this series here.
"All natural phenomena are orderly; they are governed by law; they are not magical. They are comprehended by someone; why not by the child himself?" Parents' Review article, as quoted by Charlotte Mason in Home Education
In Home Education, Charlotte Mason affirms that being outdoors is still very necessary for young children. I assumed we'd continue our long hours outdoors during our first year of formal lessons (I still have two children in the early years, after all!) and read some nature lore. However, the books she recommended were topical, living science books.
That's right, science.
She recommended the book, The Sciences by Edward Holden. This book goes beyond nature study; it discusses natural phenomena like astronomy, weather, and even chemistry.
The purpose of this kind of "natural philosophy" is to teach children about the things that interest them, and that they see everyday. But, observing and reading books is not all she had in mind for children during their earliest lessons. She says:
"One thing is to be borne in mind: nothing should be done without its due experiment." Home Education, page 271
It's possible that some experiments will have to come through observation, such as keeping a log of the moon's cycle. But I can tell you that I'm excited about doing science experiments, as it's a fun, enjoyable way to add some wonder into our days.
Home Education Curriculum: Natural Philosophy
Like I mentioned before, Charlotte Mason recommended this book:
The Sciences by Edward Holden- I read the first few pages of this book, and can see why it is recommended. Charlotte Mason said that some of the chapters will be out of reach of a child under 9, but many of them will be beneficial. I am planning on reading about meteorology and astronomy during our first year.
Star Stories for Little Folks:- This book by Gertrude Chandler Warner is lyrically written and teaches about specific constellations. This is something that I've never learned, so I look forward to learning it with H. As with all older books, make sure the reproductions are done well if you plan to purchase!
Of course, Charlotte Mason had many other recommendations, and in her PNEU schools, she did not begin actual science lessons in these earliest years. But, I think conflicting recommendations like these give us the freedom to choose what works best for our own families.