Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Library Hints: making the most of tags

When you're at the LibraryThing web site, click on a tag to see all books with that tag. You can view all tags clicking on the "tags" tab at the top of the display.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

How do I start?

Read. This is the foundation of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy—reading good single-authored, engaging books. Living books pique a child’s interest and imagination. Children sense the author’s excitement for a subject which often makes them excited about it as well. These same principles apply to science and math as they do to history and literature, though non-nature science is the most scarce.

Explore. Children learn through play, adults learn through experience. Activities and experiments are at the core of science learning. Charlotte Mason considered the laboratory first and then the engaging books to go along with it. Science is about understanding and describing God’s world around us. It usually starts with an observation, followed by a question, which is then answered through experimentation. Not all children are going to be scientists; still there is merit in the observation-question-experiment paradigm. It promotes reflective thinking when considering why things happen, and logical thinking when designing even simple experiments. These skills can be applied to other areas of life as well. How you integrate reading and exploring is up to you and your children, and hope to give you some great ideas here.

With a good activity book and a shelf full of Living Science books, you’re ready to go!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Building a home library

Three words say it all: Library Book Sales. Here in Massachusetts these sales are abundant. Libraries or library societies sell used books that are either donated or withdrawn from the library stacks (the so-called ex-library books.) Children’s books are usually lowest in price—typically $.25 - $1.00 per book, paperback at the lower end, hardcover at the upper end. Sometimes books are priced by hand, or nice old books are sold separately at higher prices (book dealers frequent these sales as well.) At these prices, building a large library is quite affordable.

Of course you get whatever happens to be there. For non-fiction, I don’t find this to be much of a problem for younger children. (As for fiction, skip the abundance of twaddle you’ll find; classics are common at these sales.) Non-fiction twaddle still contains facts, even if it is not literary and not as engaging. You might just pick up a vintage ex-library that you would never have looked at otherwise and find it to be a real gem. It might even be part of a series, and then you’re on the hunt for others in the series at subsequent book sales. You might even start looking at used book sites, like The next thing you know, you’re a bibliophile in need of more bookshelves!

As the At Home Science catalogue grows I will be entering more ratings and reviews. Anything with 5 stars is something for which I would pay full price (though I rarely do!) It’s the kind of book that will remain permanently on our shelves; the kind of book that would make me gasp loudly for joy should I ever see it at a library book sale (I did that when I dug into an unopened box under a table and about three books down I found Holling C. Holling’s Pagoo. I gave it to one of the other moms I was with that did not have that title yet.) Some of the books have wonderful pictures, others great activities, still others good facts if never read aloud.

And there’s twaddle, too, I admit it. I’ll donate those to my local library when my kids have outgrown them. They’ll have 1 star beside them.

Friday, May 18, 2007

About the Library

LibraryThing is a free site in which you can get and display book information. You can also add tags, comments, ratings, and reviews. Since At Home Science has books at its core, the information at LibraryThing is half of this project! To get to the At Home Science Library, click on the LibraryThing icon. If you click on a picture, and if the picture is supplied by Amazon, you will be brought to; if you click on the title/author, you will be brought to LibraryThing social data for that book (owners, reviews, tag cloud, and such.)

I use the tags for subject categorization. Here’s a list:

Activities (books with experiments or other activities)
Biology (processes, internal anatomy, classification, microscopic life)
Biomes (describes flora, fauna, and geologic features together)
Natural History
Nature (external, visual features and habits of plants and animals)

Other tags describe the general reader level:

Preschool (up to first grade and is mostly picture books or short texts)
Beginner (present an introduction to a topic without going too in depth)
Intermediate (books contain more extensive and in-depth information)
Advanced (books are for high school level)

I don’t find ages or grades to be as useful as this system. You may have a 5th grader that has never covered a topic before and may do better starting out with a beginner book. You may have a 3rd grader that loves science and is quite ready for intermediate books and activities.

I also use other tags and comments and labels to describe the books, like:

Literature (a story with a narrative style)
Pictorial (photographs/illustrations are particularly good)
Series names

This is the labeling scheme as it currently stands. I will, of course, edit this document to reflect any changes that may occur. Feedback on this is greatly appreciated!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Welcome to the home page of

At Home Science

Books, tips, and resources for teaching science at home.

Why At Home Science? I am primarily a homeschooling mom of three boys; I also work and teach part time in the medical field. I follow the Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy and approach, using living books and experiential learning to foster a lifetime love of learning. Charlotte Mason wrote at the end of the nineteenth century, so her science education focused almost exclusively on Nature Studies, whereas our family, and this site, explores science broadly though still using the same educational philosophy.

We all have subjects that evoke joy and others that evoke anxiety. I believe much of this is induced by large-group education in which all children are expected to perform in a certain way at a certain time in order to pass an assessment. This is just one reason why I homeschool. For me, science is a joy! I hope to create a resource for homeschoolers intimidated by science and those with the same joy we have. Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy has been life-changing for our family, and the more I read about it and use it, the more convinced and secure I am in her ways. Nothing surpasses literature and experience as the center of learning for kids and adults alike, and for all subjects including science and math. Here I present myriad alternatives to textbooks and highlight some real gems of science literature and resources. I look forward to hearing from you, and I pray these resources serve your at home science needs.