Saturday, January 27, 2018

James Herriot as Science

About a year ago, when I was planning Gemma's Year 1 (first grade), one of the sources I used for inspiration was Ambleside Online (AO). (I love AO, and I refer to it often.) One of the books AO, and other Charlotte Mason curricula, recommended for Natural History was James Herriot's Treasury for Children.

At that time, I didn't know much about the difference between Science and Natural History. I was quite ignorant. I thought that Natural History was just a Victorian/Edwardian term for Science. My daughter would be studying Natural History. How quaint.

I ordered the Herriot book and read it. The stories in it were very sweet. Quaint. But not science. I might be able to read this book to my daughter as a series of bedtime stories, but how could I call it school?

Over the past year, I've come across other homeschoolers with the same question. They wonder what science curriculum they should use with their kinder through third grade students. The whole learning-through-stories is nice and all, but where are the facts?

Over the past year, I've also read a little bit about the difference between Science and Natural History, and about the importance of giving a child time to develop 1)their skill of observation, and 2)some general understandings about the physical and natural world.

So, what do I think now?

I think James Herriot's book is an essential Year 1 book. It is a Natural History book in that Herriot models how to observe nature. He displays a sense of humility when he writes about the ways animals surprise him. He watches animals closely, wondering what they will do next, demonstrating curiosity.

There is also has quite a bit of science in the book. By hearing Herriot's stories, children implicitly learn:

  • Living things move.
  • Living things take in and use food.
  • Living things sense changes in their surroundings. (Example: An animal can sense a change in temperature.)
  • Living things grow.
  • Living things die.
  • Living things reproduce. (Example: Mommy pigs have piglets.)
  • Animals can feel comfort and pain.
  • Animals can remember.
  • Animals can communicate.
These are just some of the science lessons children learn from James Herriot's Treasury for Children. In a science textbook, these facts would be stated explicitly. However, by using a living science book, children "observe" along with the storyteller, and discover ideas for themselves.

I'd love you to leave me a comment sharing What science lessons did your child learn from James Herriot's stories? 

1 comment:

  1. Great story thank you!!!! I'm afraid I can't answer your question but I thoroughly enjoyed reading about how your perception of this book changed and how it benefits your daughter.