Taking the Plunge into Living Science


We started out just getting our toes wet; I suppose every Charlotte Mason homeschooler usually does at least that with Nature Study and Natural History.  In recent years, we went wading and it did feel good, but this year we took the plunge into Living Science.  We are not just getting our toes wet, no wading alongside textbooks, but all out swimming with Living Science.  Let me tell you the water is fine!

It has been fairly simple really, once the decision was made.  The hardest part was deciding exactly which living books to read, but I gained much wisdom and good advice from the new AO Living Science, Kelli at Grace for the Day, Kathy from Northwest by North, and Jeanne from A Peaceful Day.  The Shrimp is simply doing the Living Science already listed on AO year4.  The older two are working together on another handful of integrated science books.  The mix is sort of odd since The Beauty had already done a full year of biology and Legoman has not, but it will even out over the next few years.

So they read from their Living Science book and then depict something about what they read into their science journals.  Science journals are the best part of embracing Living Science in my opinion.  They usually read from two or three different books each day and make an entry in their journal from each reading.  They are suppose to spend about 45 minutes….we are working on using our time well and not rushing just to be done.  We are also working on neatness.

Then they tell me about their entry.  It’s almost like double narration.  I love it.  All of my children know mom’s mantra, “A reading without a narration is a reading wasted.”  They first have to process what they read enough to decide what to depict in their journal, and then they have to explain it to me.  I am not 100% sure we are “doing it right,” but it seems to be working for us.

Since the older two are reading the same books, it is very interesting to see the difference in their entries.  The gist is usually the same, but sometimes the focus is different….which is ok because they are persons.

Legoman likes to use a lot of words, which is sort of odd because he generally avoids writing when possible.  We have had to talk about neatness and that science journals are to show a depiction which can include words but should often include a picture, graph, or illustration.  (Excuse the poor pictures.  Apparently I need a new camera. 🙂 )

The Beauty on the other hand seems to like color, and like the rule follower she is, she will spend the last minutes of her forty-five touching up her page and adding a bit of color and flair.



They seem to remember well what they are learning and refer back to concepts and ideas as we simply live life.  That is what I want.  This year as we swim in the waters of Living Science they seem to be forming closer relationships and caring more.  I am so glad we took the plunge.

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?  Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, p. 171.


Embracing the Way of the Will Chart

Well, today we worked on our Way of the Will (WOW) chart again. I was encouraged once more. My youngest this time wanted to fill out his page himself.  The first time I did it for him, per his request. They would have continued working on their WOW charts all morning, and I again had to bring the time to a close.   We do aim for short lessons after all, even when they are fabulous.  This time I did suggest they could add to their charts at any time through the week and share them with us next week.

I wish I would have started this after first hearing about it…. but since I did not, I will waste no more time on regrets and instead look forward.  So what have I learned about this process so far?

I need my own WOW chart! Today, I felt myself missing something and guess what – I was.  I discovered I want my own WOW chart.  My kids are not the only ones learning to embrace the fullness of life that comes with a Charlotte Mason education; I am too.  This may be what touches me most personally and intimately about schooling with Charlotte Mason.  And what a wonderful thing I am discovering it to be!  Not only do I need to have my own WOW chart for my benefit, but my kids will benefit from seeing me model the behavior. Modeling is huge in so many ways, but that is another post.  So here is my very own WOW chart ready to go for next time.

My very own WOW ready for next week.

My very own WOW ready for next week.

He learns to distribute the characters he comes across in his reading on either side of a line, those who are wilful and those who are governed by will; and this line by no means separates between the bad and the good. It does divide, however, between the impulsive, self-pleasing, self-seeking, and the persons who have an aim beyond and outside of themselves, even though it be an aim appalling as that of Milton’s Satan. It follows for him that he must not only will, but will with a view to an object outside himself.  Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, p. 132.

When first explaining the WOW to my kiddos there was only one rule – they are not allowed to share examples of their siblings being willful.  I cannot tell you how glad I am we have this rule.  It truly helps keep the peace.  They can give examples of being governed by will for their siblings but not the other way around. Of course, they can give examples about themselves.

So who does go on our WOW charts?  Well, the options are almost limitless.  We have used examples from books read both past and present, from movies and from real life.  At our house we have done Plutarch, Shakespeare, the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress, and more.  You should have seen their delight when they realized they could use examples from The Lord of the Rings.  The examples came fast and furious, and there was almost no stopping them.  They are also learning patience while waiting for their turn to share the next possible entry.


It seems to have been most helpful to focus on individual choices, not individual people. Let’s face it, each of us can be both willful and governed by will even within the space of an hour. Yikes!  And we have ended up examining the motives behind the decision.  Sometimes this is hard to know and we make our best guess, but it effects whether or not the decision is deemed worthy or unworthy.

We will learn more as we continue in this process and will very likely change things as we go along…we always do.  For now, I am thrilled that we have a tangible way to get us thinking deeper about the will, our choices, and what we ought vs. what we want as we work to develop character.

But the one achievement possible and necessary for every man is character; and character is as finely wrought metal beaten into shape and beauty by the repeated and accustomed action of will. We who teach should make it clear to ourselves that our aim in education is less conduct than character; conduct may be arrived at, as we have seen, by indirect routes, but it is of value to the world only as it has its source in character.  Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, p. 129.

It is wonderful to hear a discussion about choices, that is almost completely child driven.  And they are loving it.  In addition, they are starting to examine behavior and choices outside of these WOW lessons….to what they are reading or choices being  made through the day.   Words and phrases such as willfull, governed by will, I ought, I want, I will, character, and virtue vs. vice are becoming a part of our vocabulary, our friends in an odd sort of way.  Will we always keep a WOW chart?  I don’t know, probably not, but for now it is increasing our awareness that our thoughts are important, our will can and should be strengthened, our reason is oh so fallible, and our character matters.

If keeping a WOW is new to you, I suggest reading the sections in Charlotte Mason’s Vol. 6 about the Way of the Will and the Way of Reason.  I have particularly appreciated Nancy Kelly’s blog post and Christy Hissong’s explanation on the AO forum.  Honestly, wrapping my head around the two categories of Willful vs. Governed by Will took me a little bit.  Looking forward to beginning my very own WOW chart next week.

Here are a few more pictures for your viewing pleasure…especially since I finally figured out how to include them in a post. Yeah!

Legoman's WOW chart

Legoman’s WOW chart

The Beauty's WOW

The Beauty’s WOW

The Shrimp's WOW

The Shrimp’s WOW