Before I start writing about science, I want to get one thing clear. I use Charlotte Mason's methods with my daughter because they work for her. I consider it Providential that it was the first homeschooling method I looked at, because not only did it resonate with me as a philosophy, but when I did give it a go, it turned out to be the method that worked best for my student. There are certain other methods of homeschooling that also appeal to me in an academic way. Bits of classical homeschooling, for example, or the method that is used by many gifted homeschoolers (whatever that is called). When I look further into these methods, though, I realise that they just would not work with Jemimah. And given that there is only one child in my homeschool, that would be a bit foolish, wouldn't it?
The reason that I have read so deeply into Mason's writings is not to discover more about her philosophy of education; I am not a philosopher. I read because I learned quite quickly that the Charlotte Mason method worked best when it was followed completely, following not only her 20 Principles, but all of the practices that follow on from these - activities that seem quite simple by themselves but actually link together into a very complex and clever system. A 'philosophy', I guess. The closer I followed the method, the better my daughter learned. For me, it was as simple as that.
The reader will say with truth,––"I knew all this before and have always acted more or less on these principles"; and I can only point to the unusual results we obtain through adhering not 'more or less,' but strictly to the principles and practices I have indicated. I suppose the difficulties are of the sort that Lister had to contend with; every surgeon knew that his instruments and appurtenances should be kept clean, but the saving of millions of lives has resulted from the adoption of the great surgeon's antiseptic treatment; that is from the substitution of exact principles scrupulously applied for the rather casual 'more or less' methods of earlier days.
Charlotte Mason Toward a Philosophy of Education p19.
Next year with AO Jemimah will begin the HEO years - House of Education Online. In Australia we call it High School. She'll be in Year 7. It's hard to believe. My little girl. You've watched her grow up into a delightful young lady here on A Peaceful Day.
When I first started homeschooling, that was the question people asked: "Will you continue through high school?" It is a big one, isn't it? I've been thinking a lot about this recently, and it's raised a lot of questions of its own.
Q. What does Jemimah want to be when she leaves school?
A. At the moment she wants to be a vet. That may change. She's 11.
Q. Does she have the academic ability to attend my alma mater, The University of Melbourne or one of the other top universities that offer this course?
A. Yes, but she may not have the personal application and determination.
Q. Do I plan on homeschooling right through to Year 12?
A. One day at a time. Some days yes; others, not so much.
Q. Can I continue to teach her using the methods that work best for her?
A. That's the million dollar question.
These questions naturally lead me to thinking about a secondary curriculum that remained true to Charlotte Mason methods and my daughter's learning requirements, her areas of strength and weakness, but one that will also will cover the key learning areas that she will be required to cover if the does move into Tertiary education in Australia. Now for the humanities I am perfectly happy with Ambleside Online. The Advisory ladies have done a sublime job at designing a curriculum that is as close as possible to Charlotte Mason. It works for Jemimah; it works for me. With maths I am happy with the English style maths of MEP for the time being. Looking through my niece's Year 9 Pearson school maths book, I am satisfied that Jemimah remains a grade or two above her year level (Jemimah is officially in Victorian Grade 5.)
Science, though, had me worried. Maybe that should be in the present tense. In the primary levels, AO emulates CM with an emphasis on nature study and a close, focused observation of creation as a means to know God. (Observation is one of those skills in a CM education that is simple alone, but which done regularly has so many complex outcomes.) I am really happy with the science knowledge that my daughter has obtained thus far using nature study along with AO's wonderful living science book selection. From Year 7 onward, though, AO commences using the Apologia science curriculum. Now Apologia is Christian. That's a plus, but it is so, so, American. That's a huge minus. I wanted an integrated science, I didn't want science as a whole to be separated into one subject - chemistry or physics or biology - per year; science doesn't work like that. Not in real life. It also doesn't work that way in Aussie schools, where kids just do 'science' until Year 11. The thing that worried me most about Apologia, though, is that it is a boring textbook. I looked through the sample pages online, and my heart sank, because I knew instantly that my daughter would absolutely hate science taught like that.
And so, at the beginning of this year I commenced putting together a Living Science curriculum. I started rereading what Miss Mason had to say about science. And in Volume 6 that's quite a lot.
I found this:
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. p223And this:
(T)he teaching of science in our schools has lost much of its educative value through a fatal and quite unnecessary divorce between science and the 'humanities.' p223And this:
Books dealing with science as with history, say, should be of a literary character, and we should probably be more scientific as a people if we scrapped all the text-books which swell publishers' lists and nearly all the chalk expended so freely on our blackboards. The French mind has appreciated the fact that the approach to science as to other subjects should be more or less literary, that the principles which underlie science are at the same time so simple, so profound and so far-reaching that the due setting forth of these provokes what is almost an emotional response; these principles are therefore meet subjects for literary treatment, while the details of their application are so technical and so minute as, except by way of illustration,––to be unnecessary for school work or for general knowledge. p218-219And this:
It is a wide programme founded on the educational rights of man; wide, but we may not say it is impossible nor may we pick and choose and educate him in this direction but not in that. We may not even make choice between science and the 'humanities.' Our part it seems to me is to give a child a vital hold upon as many as possible of those wide relationships proper to him. Shelley offers us the key to education when he speaks of "understanding that grows bright gazing on many truths." p157And this:
Where science does not teach a child to wonder and admire it has perhaps no educative value. p224And this:
We have considered in a previous chapter what we do for children as inhabitants of a world ordered by natural law. Here we have a contention with some teachers of science who maintain that a child can only learn what he discovers for himself de novo. The theory is plausible, but the practice is disappointingly narrow and inexpansive. The teacher has got his knowledge through books; why then are they taboo for the children? Probably the reason is that text-books of science are desiccated to the last degree, so the teacher hopes to make up for their dryness by familiar talk about the Hydra, for example, as a creature capable of close friendships, about the sea-anemone as a 'Granny' of enormous longevity; that is, the interest of the subject is made to depend upon side issues. p275All of this inspired me to try to put together a science sequence that would engender a wonder and admiration of science. One that was clothed in literary language. One that provided many wide relationships. One that was taught the same way the humanities are taught. One that came from my Christian worldview. One that would work for my student...and her mother.
First things first. I was not about to throw the baby out with the bath water. AO has served me well, thus far, and I trust it to continue doing to. That said, I happily included AO's science recommendations in my year's work. Secondly, being a tad nervous, I added our science reading into our family read alouds instead of burdening my daughter with extra school work. As a consequence I had to make it fun. Thirdly, I planned to demonstrate everything I possible could to demonstrate and aid in understanding.
I've been trying our new science plan now for six months, and so far I've been absolutely delighted with how it's going. I'm going to tell you exactly what we've done, but I'm going to tell you in another post, because blogger has already made me rewrite this post after it disappeared into cyberspace along with the Jubjub, and so I've decided to divide it into two. Also, this is long enough that you've probably dozed off already.
The biggest challenge for me is finding living books to cover the areas included in Australia's National Curriculum. Like it or not, it will be in place when Jemimah is applying for University placement, and so I do need to take it into consideration. When I look at year 7 she has already covered everything but earth science. That gives me hope. There are some great living books out there. Perhaps I can just teach her the rest myself without a text. Daunting, but possible.
I also worry about including enough Christian content. There are few good Christian science authors out there. The emphasis there is on the good. There are some, though. I realise that I will need to include secular science authors, but I don't want to turn my daughter into an atheist, you know?
There are still many, many i's to be dotted and t's to be crossed. There are lots of bridges to cross. I'm really glad my daughter is only in Grade 5. The thing that makes me determined to succeed, though, takes me back to the beginning of this [post. Charlotte Mason's methods have served me well so far. I'm confident they will continue to do so into the high school years as well.
AO6 Living Science Curriculum a la A Peaceful Day coming soon.
Thank you for reading and putting up with my waffle. Have any of you ever attempted living science through secondary school? What barriers did you come up against?