Saturday, March 02, 2013

Examining the science curriculum: Philosophy of Education, Chapter 10 (Curriculum)

Part Three of Three.  Part One is here.  Part Two is here.

For me, the most revealing parts of Charlotte Mason's curriculum...or maybe any curriculum...aren't the booklists or the books themselves:  they're the exams, or in some cases, the final projects.  What is it that you expect someone to know, or to be able to do, when they're done your lessons?  Put an engine together, put dinner on the table, play all the songs in the first half of the book, conjugate French verbs, or tell you about the Battle of Marathon?  If you are requiring the exam response to be written in verse (as Charlotte Mason sometimes did), you had better be having your students write in verse pretty regularly.  If you want them to tell you about six kinds of tree buds they've found, then it's logical that they are going to be spending time outdoors looking for tree buds.  That isn't to say that you are just "teaching to the test"; but the tests do show what's supposed to be important in a term's work.

Charlotte Mason may have downplayed math and science somewhat, but her students certainly weren't ignorant about their world.  Here are some science and geography samples, found on the vintage examinations page at Ambleside Online. I've removed the publisher and price information from the book listings, but you can see them in the original Programmes.  Knowing the publisher does help if you're trying to track down a specific edition--for instance, the Programmes often just give page numbers to be read, and if you can find the same edition, you can see how those line up with chapter or topic headings.

Form 1A  (second or third grade)


Books used in this term: Ambleside Geography, Book I, pp. 55-66, aand Book II, pp.100-120 : six map questions before letterpress, then reading and narration ; no additional matter should be introduced. Phillip's Atlas of Comparative Geography.

Other work to be done:  Children to be able to tell about six places father and mother have visited. Pace and make plans of your schoolroom, the distance to front gate and 10 yards on each of 4 roads. Suitable tests under Scouting (see Parents' Review, June, 1920.)

Exam questions:

1. Can you explain why the sun never seems to remain still in the same place? (covered on pages 55-56 of Ambleside Geography, Book I)

2. What do you know about the fiords of Norway (page 106 of Geography, Book II), the Siberian plain (page 117), an Arabian desert (page 119)?

Natural History

Describe two wild flowers you have found and two birds you have watched.

What do you know about "the dwellers in Sparrow Town"? (Birdland's Little People) Describe (a), the flowers of three shrubs that grow in the hedge, (b), three shapes of leaf.

Tell what you know about a hedgehog, or, about three kinds of flying animals (not birds). (Tommy Smith's Other Animals)

Form IV (Approximately grade 9-10)


Books used in this term: The Ambleside Geography Books, Book V.  pp. 268-325 (Polynesia; Australia; New Zealand; Causes Which Affect Climate; "Interchange of Productions"). Our Guardian Fleets in 1805,* by H. W. Household, pp. 1-80. Six Months in the Sandwich Islands (optional).

Other work to be done: Know something about foreign places coming into notice in the current newspapers. Ten minutes exercise on the map of the world every week. Philip's Atlas of Comparative Geography may be used. See also tests under "Scouting." Teacher to use The Treaty Settlement of Europe, by H. T. Fleure (for new frontiers). Map questions to be answered from map and names put into blank map (from memory) before each lesson. Teacher may find useful Out-Door Geography, by H. Hatch.

Exam questions:

1. Name and describe three groups of the islands of Polynesia. (Ambleside Geography)

2. What causes affect climate? (same)

3. Give some account of New Zealand with map. (same)

4. What do you know of (a), Nelson's favorite studies, (b), his manner of life on board ship. With what parts of the world was he familiar? (Our Guardian Fleets)

Natural History and Botany

Books used in this term: Winners in Life's Race, by Mrs. Fisher, pp. 279-314. Elementary Studies in Plant Life (just a reference, not the text), by F. E. Fritsch, pp. 42-74.

Other work to be done: Keep a Nature Note-Book, with flower and bird lists, and make daily notes. For out-door work take some special study, leaf-buds, cotyledons, etc. The Changing Year, by F. M. Haines, or, Countryside Rambles, by W. S. Furneaux: January to March. Furneaux's A Nature Study Guide.

Exam questions:

1. What methods of leaf-protection are employed by herbs and trees? (Assuming that is from Fritsch's book)

2. Write notes, with drawings, on the special studies you have made this term.

3. What do you know of the Herbivora? What animals does this class include? Give a life sketch of one of them.  (This would be from Winner's in Life's RaceThe page numbers in the online edition do not match those given in the assigned reading, but I'm pretty sure it should be part of Chapter X, "The Large Milk-Givers.")

General Science

First Year of Scientific Knowledge, by Paul Bert, pp. 192-284. Some Wonders of Matter, by Bishop Mercer, pp. 1-88 (just a reference, not the text.  There is a search-only version at Hathi Trust.)

1. Most substances can assume the three forms of matter in succession. Give and describe examples. (Bert's book; the page numbers in the online edition do not match the assigned pages, but the questions come from the chapter on Physics, starting with "The Three Forms Bodies Assume."

2. Describe a thermometer and account for its changes. (Section 121 of the chapter above)

3. What is light? What do we see? How does sight give us knowledge?  ("Light" is right after the "heat" section.)

Hygiene and Physiology

Books read this term:  A Health Reader, (reference only, not the text) by "W. H. Abrahall" (should be M.A. W. Hoskyns-Abrahall), pp. 1-54.

Exam question:

Describe and illustrate the processes of digestion.

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