Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Science Charlotte Mason Style

Just like in teaching history, living books and narration can be a foundation for a science education. In fact, living books are a key component to teaching many subjects in the Charlotte Mason Method. 
What is a living book?
A living book is a book that makes the subject come alive. It is usually written by one author who has a passion for the subject, rather than a committee who has been hired to dispense facts. A living book touches the emotions and fires the imagination, making it easy to see in your mind’s eye the events that are being described. It contains ideas, not just dry facts. A living science book should make it easy to picture what is being talked about.

Miss Mason did sometimes use a textbook for high school level science topics, for some science is just fact and cannot be adequately explained in story format. Even then, however, we can enrich the textbook learning with a good living book so that he can relate personally to the subject and want to learn more details.

So after reading a portion of a living science book, what do you do? You require the child to narrate. He should tell back in his own words everything he can remember from the reading. Narration demands a much higher thinking level than true/false, multiple choice, or fill-in-the-blank questions. You are asking the child to pay full attention and compose a mental essay, in a sense. Narration may seem easy until you try it for yourself, so you might want to do it yourself to see how it feels. 

Don't expect a full essay narration the first year you begin narrations, but it will build and grow and become more natural to your student.

Examples of Living Science Books

books by Thornton W. Burgess

books by Clara Dillingham Pierson
James Herriot’s Treasury for Children
Gentle Ben,Walt Morey
Rascal, Sterling North
Owls in the Family, Farley Mowat
books by Jeanne Bendick
 books by John Hudson Tiner
books by David Macaulay
books by Donald Silver
Pasteur's Fight Against Microbes, Marie Curie's Search for Radium
Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas
The Monk in the Garden: The Lost and Found Genius of Gregor Mendel, the Father of Genetics
The Boy who Drew Birds
What is Smaller than a Pygmy Shrew?, How Do You Lift a Lion?, Is a Blue Whale The Biggest Thing There Is?
How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the Earth
How Ben Franklin Stole The Lightning
The Mystery of the Periodic Table
Archimedes and the Door of Science, Along Came Galileo, Galen and the Gateway to Medicine
Listening to Crickets

Do you have any more living science book suggestions?

Have you ever tried living books and narration in your homeschool?


  1. You mentioned some interesting titles...a couple of which I can use this week...off to the library!

  2. As always you truly inspire me to go further with what we are doing here. We read a lot. The Rosemary does not like fiction, she finds it hard to keep up with who says what and things like that, but maybe she will be interested in some of these? We can try!

    1. My James has trouble with that, too. Keep up the good work.

  3. I'm so glad the linky swap is working for you and Ticia. I so appreciate the time you both take running the linkups.
    We've been reading Russell Stannard's Uncle Albert books recently. I think they count as living books. They're stories which explain things like the special theory of relativity. The first is The Time and Space of Uncle Albert.

    1. I will have to check them out. Thanks for mentioning them.

  4. Wow. This list of books is great!! I will have to check all of them out!

  5. I've certainly been enjoying the switch :)

    I'm still working through with my kids what is the right level for narration right now. For now they're doing a lot of reciting back one or two facts they remember.

    1. Each child has their own pace. I need to write about that sometime, too.

  6. Fantastic list! Love the notebooking pages too. While I love many of her methods, I was a little disappointed to learn that Charlotte Mason did not approve of unit studies (like my beloved Five in a Row). I incorporated narration and notebooking often into our studies, and I think many CM followers still use it, but I had to look it up when asked recently and was shocked!

    1. That is why I don't do any one method totally. I will be talking about science with other methods, too. We are mostly CM, but a little of this and that. I don't do much unit studies any more, however.

  7. That's a great list of living science books. I petition to add anything by Steve Jenkins to it. Sadly, right now daughter is burned out on "fact books" - the only exception are "National Geographic" titles.

  8. Those pages look great! What artists!

  9. I love your list of living science books. I just pulled Owls in the Family off the shelf at the library a couple of days ago. I remember loving that book when I was in school. I just bought us some great watercolor field books and we used them last week - I will have a post about it Monday. It was so fun to draw and paint what we observed.


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. It means so much.