Science Narration Journals

I have no particular talent.  I am merely inquisitive. 
- Albert Einstein

When my  two oldest, now graduated, entered the middle school years, I handed them a popular science textbook.  Up to this point, all we had used were living books for science.  They had read, narrated, sketched, labeled, observed, and recorded all sorts of things in addition to spending an awful lot of time outdoors.  For whatever reason, I thought it was time we tried this series out.  I guess I'm not sure why, as they were interested in many things scientific, curious about the the world around them and  able to discuss more laws of nature than I could.  In other words, they were doing just fine.
 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. Mason, Vol. 6 p. 218
They glanced through the table of contents and began to remind me that they had already read about this or that topic in such-and-such a book.  They weren't stating that they already knew everything there was to know about each topic, but it was clear that this text was going to be redundant for them and could they please move on?  Looking back, I see what an important lesson this was for me as I learned to trust Mason's use of living books even more, particularly in the seemingly high-stakes area of science.

I was reminded of this little story when I recently came across some of their decade-old science narration journals.  We have continued these with my four at home and I am convinced of their importance.  We spend our science time exploring out in nature, sketching in nature notebooks, documenting in My Calendar of Firsts, trying pertinent experiments and reading lots of living science books. These books are narrated by telling back through oral, written and/or drawing narrations.

The pictures with this post are examples of their science journals.  After they've completed a reading, they have the option of sketching an entry as their narration.  They sketch, add relevant text, then come and explain it to me.  This is so fun!  My daughter's  Blood Saturation/Degrees of Anoxia sketch led to dad sharing some interesting (ahem) stories from flight school. Today, my son's (12) sketch of a sun gear and planet pinion in a differential led him to adding notes from his book on Galileo and the competing ideas of his day on the solar system.  You just never know what will be important to them or the connections they will end up making.
This scientific attitude of mind should fit us to behave ourselves quietly, think justly, and walk humbly with our God. But we may not confound a glib knowledge of scientific text-books with the patient investigation carried on by ourselves of some one order of natural objects; and it is this sort of investigation, in one direction or another, that is due from each of us. We can only cover a mere inch of the field of Science, it is true; but the attitude of mind we get in our own little bit of work helps us to the understanding of what is being done elsewhere, and we no longer conduct ourselves in this world of wonders like a gaping rustic at a fair. -Mason, Vol. 4 p. 101
A wonderful blog post about Mason and high school science is Getting Ready for High School Science:  Wonder and Order by Beth Pinckney.

Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Admiration, Hope and Love,


More science journal posts -

Science - Each New Thing is a Delight
My Calendar of Firsts


  1. That's very encouraging to hear. I also heard great things about wadding through living books from CM in the City and Jenny at Grace in loving chaos.

    As I was going through the books, seeing titles I'm going to need soon, and organizing, I saw ALL the science books starting from year 3, and specially on year 5 or 6, I forgot. Many have told me if CM is ONLY all this nature thing, looking at birds and smelling flowers, ha ha ha, they find it so little or non impressive, that's so mistaken... sigh... but if any have doubts, come and read Nancy and moms of older children educated this way, you can always find it doesn't fail, we all, moms included, get a delightful and solid foundation on History, Science... there is nothing lacking or little, ambitious but non pretentious, it many times goes unnoticed in its simplicity.

  2. *wadding... I don't know what's the word I'm looking for, something that means navigating through, not wadding (actually, I don't think I've seen that word before, it may have sounded as some other I was trying to use!)

  3. Silvia- maybe Wading?
    Nancy- any ideas for encouraging the start of a science journal? I have a boy who really tries to stay away from any writing!

  4. It is so comforting to read this. Great notebooks. I've been doing this with my younger daughter, but I really should let my oldest start something similar. I created a notebooking journal for her but I really should just give her a blank one ; )

  5. Silvia - Thanks!

    Jenny - With the blank notebooks, it is very interesting to see what strikes them and what mental efforts they put into it, I think. (Although I'm sure your journal is very nice!). It is just like oral narrations, where they add their own touches and their personality comes into play.

    Rachel - Indeed! My son who shies away from writing has actually improved his writing and his reluctance through this! At the beginning, there was little to no labeling or writing for him. This came about slowly as he was ready and through patient encouragement.

  6. Beautiful post, Nancy. This is a good example of how "Education is the science of relations."

  7. No fair...beautiful notebooks, great idea about science journaling using real living books but where are the book titles that your children enjoyed?! Were these only the Ambleside Online selections or did you read other books? :o)

    Nicole in MD (said with love in a joking manner)

  8. Love these journal pages - especially the cover art using the periodic table. Very cool.

    My kids keep science journals, too, and my son especially likes to make drawings that make me laugh. I can see by his comic-strip drawings and writing that he understands the concepts, but I really delight in knowing he is creating memories with his funny drawings.

    I will show my children this blog post. They will enjoy seeing the nice work and knowing that other CM homeschoolers make their own science journals, too.

    Wonderful post.

    Oh, and thanks for the link to the blog post about preparing for high school. The topic is top on my mind lately.

  9. Hello Nancy, I've really enjoyed catching up on the happenings at Sage Parnassus.

  10. Hi Nancy,
    I always enjoy your posts and I agree with you about how much our students learn from being immersed in living books. We tried something similar once with a science textbook before high school "to get them ready for high school science," I thought...! I learned my lesson. :-)


  11. What are some living books with a science theme that you love?

    1. Honeybee,
      Could you bee more specific? What age? Old or new?
      From joy to joy,

    2. Well, I have 2 boys, 10 & 8. This is our first year homeschooling. I want to collect any books from their age level through high school on any science-related subject. I know there are probably lots and it would take lots of time - which I'm not expecting you to do. I just wondered if there were a choice few that you "just can't live without"?

      Your blog is an inspiration to me! It motivates me every time I come back - something I desperately need!
      Thank you & bless you!

      Gina in MT

    3. Okay, so I've thought about how to answer this because I really do have about 100 living science books. We are always into at least 2 or 3 at any given moment and different books are more popular with different kids. We always have a living biography of a scientist going (and as you know, all biographies are not created equal - it has to be living.) There is also a few Natural History selections going on, too. If you are beginning to collect while they are this young, you will be sitting pretty as they enter high school - so kudos to you for caring and being on the ball with this.

      So for now - I would encourage you to gather biographies like crazy, google "living science books" (which you probably already have done!), look up what AO is recommending, Simply CM, and collect the books you find that Mason herself used for science.

      A favorite book of my son's last year was Fabre's "Storybook of Science". It also lent itself very well to some very creative drawing narrations.
      He also read Isaac Newton by Harry Sootin which is a Messner book. I had preread many of the recommended Newton biographies and felt that this one soared a little higher than the others.

      I will try to write about more titles on the blog in the future. You are not the first dear reader to ask.

      Does that help?

      From joy to joy,

    4. Thank you so much, it does help! I had looked at the AO list & at Simply CM but I do need to Google it out! I looked up the books you mentioned in your post as well. I'm excited about the 'Storybook of Science' particularly! It sure is lovely to benefit from other's experience. It sure is lovely that others are willing to share their wisdom despite their busy lives!


  12. Loved this post. I also felt the pressure to cave on certain popular homeschooling textbooks. Once we began reading about all those flying creatures, however, my kids soon indicated that most of the information being given was already ingrained through living books, observation, hours outside and nature study. There were interesting tidbits of information that they didn't already know, and the experiments were amusing. But, by and large, the information was what they already knew or had deduced themselves. I'm curious, though, what do you do for experiments with living books? Do you simply allow the children to come up with their own?

  13. These notebooks are fantastic, Nancy! As a mom with only elementary-aged children, I find these very encouraging and inspirational. Thank you for sharing them!

  14. Love this!!! And I know that I am nearly 6 years late to this conversation, but this is beautiful and timeless. Having used Apologia Physical Science (grudgingly) last year for 9th grade, am looking to do more living science from here on out. I see a kindred spirit here...we also did the same little sketchbooks for science. That was the part that made Apologia doable and my artsy daughter loved it.

    I want to come to your conference Nancy, for 2017. But, it is booked already, maybe. It's far too. But, I will try to make it work in the future