The Bridge – Cycle One Science

This entry is part 31 of 38 in the series Classsical Conversations

At the outset of this grand Bridge idea I had, I thought science would be the hardest piece to figure out. And I was right. I am not by nature a scientific thinker – give me history and language any day. But having read the science selections from the early years of Ambleside Online with my kids (some a number of times), I have fallen in love with science as a story, science as history, and science as a tool for good thinking. The inquiry which happens in our homeschool as a result of our readings is a treasured part of our learning.

So, this science piece was difficult to figure out. However, I believe God’s superintending over our homeschool shone through here. I picked some books to preview and found them to be a perfect fit – schedule and content wise. Now I get the benefit of being excited about our science learning this year, too! Praise God.

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The Bridge Between CC and CM

In case this is your first time hearing about this Bridge, let me fill you in on some quick details about what is going on here.

  • Our homeschool is what I would call Classical with Charlotte Mason influences. I am not slavish about any of the curricula or resources I use because the last time I checked none of them actually teach my kids. {Well, besides Saxon Math, but I had a little something to do in the early years. Even then Saxon is not my master.}
  • I love the two approaches and have used them in our Early Elementary years. But I noticed they will not always be compatible. It’s not their approaches – because I believe them to be more alike than they are different – but their workloads.
  • The upper elementary years of both Classical Conversations and Charlotte Mason (we use Ambleside Online) are jump years. Fourth grade is when students in CC enter Essentials – with a heavier work load. Year 4 is when CM/AO students’ workloads become heavier – Plutarch, Shakespeare, Latin, etc. The student is stretched, no matter which way the parent leans.
  • By seventh grade/Year 7, the divide is so great between these two programs in terms of workload; a choice must be made.

I want to be there for my kid, bridging that gap for as long as possible. There will be a day when we will be left on one side of the river. The idea is for us to make as many journeys across the waters, using the tools afforded by both sides, so the tools remain.

Also, I can’t quite bring myself to burden my student with such onerous work in upper elementary. There are plenty of years for 7 hour school days ahead. Now, I want to continue to feed my kids good living books, while building the solid foundation for their future educational pursuits.

Oh, and I am not doing any of this stuff perfectly. If you see something which sparks your imagination for your homeschool, wonderful! This is all about blessing one other homeschool mama, not about showing off.

What We Have Done in Early Elementary with CC and CM

If you have been following along with either Classical Conversations or Ambleside Online in the early elementary years, you have likely discovered just how easy it is to incorporate the science selections of Ambleside into CC.

I believe Classical Conversations shines in science. In the early years, I believe the biggest hurdle to “doing science” is doing science experiments. CC has had my back for all of the Foundations years, giving my kids experiments each week – sometimes 2 – to help train them in the scientific method, to prime them to ask “why” and “how” questions, to fill them with a sense of wonder.

I am not going to try to be coy – I have learned SO MUCH in our Classical Conversations Foundations community day experiments! We would have never gotten around to those at home. Believe me, I know myself!

Where CC shines in science experiments and discovery, Ambleside Online shines in nature study and literature-based science learning. We have absolutely LOVED all of the books in Years 1-4. My kids have learned about various animals and their behaviors. They have discovered the elasticity and other wonders of water! And they have learned the Secrets of Everyday things. Uncle Paul is a favorite around here!

Why Not Keep this Two-Pronged Approach?

As I mentioned, the Science piece of our homeschool has left absolutely nothing to be desired. We have read some amazing books in the past 5 years and we will continue to have science experiments each week at CC! This seems to work so well, you might be wondering why I would get off of the two-conductor train I have constructed for myself.

As I started to look ahead to the Challenge or middle school and high school years, I wanted to figure out a way to be learning science concepts taught in Classical Conversations in a more immersive way. When we read about something in science, I want there to be lots more of the connections, lots more of the, “Oh, we know about that!” moments.

Would there still be connections to be made? Yes, absolutely! I have seen it too many times to think otherwise. However, I started dreaming of a sort of fully immersive curricula. When CC was introducing geology and zoology in Cycle 1, I wanted to be reading CM/AO inspired living books to my kids focused on those topics. Then when CC moves into astronomy and physics, I wanted to be able to dive into the living books in those areas, too.

I also started thinking about laying a foundation for the Challenge years a bit, too. More on that in the selections.

With a bit of reworking and compromise, I felt I could structure a Bridge between the two choices of CC and CM.

How I Imagine the Bridge Working

So, as I said, I am looking to create this Bridge for the upper elementary years. Classical Conversations calls these years the Essentials years. Ambleside Online calls these Years 4 through 6. The idea is for my students to start the Bridge their first year of upper elementary. No matter which Classical Conversations cycle we are going through, the books and resources will be the same. I have selected books from all three of the AO years (4-6) and some other books from years 3, 3.5, and 7.

Thus, some of the books for a fourth-grader entering the Bridge will be “stretching” books. What stretches the fourth grader will be appropriate books for the fifth-graders and sixth-graders going through the Bridge that same year. Regardless of the age-grade level of the books, there will be fewer books per term and per year than Ambleside Online would have. Where AO would recommend upwards of 7 history textbooks for a year plus geography and biography, 5 science books plus biographies, and 4 novels plus other literature, I am only scheduling one or two books in each of those categories per term.

I am going to only refer to the cycle number of Classical Conversations in naming the elements of the Bridge. This program is intended for 4th-6th graders. The only thing that changes each year is the cycle.

The Bridge – Science Cycle One

I feel like there has been a LOT of prefatory remarks about this Bridge. Keep in mind I am trying to answer all the questions which come into my head. However, I am sure others will have more questions. Please ask away!

If you are like me and want to read even more, I’ve got you! Here are the other articles I have written specific to the Bridge:

So without further ado, here’s how I am breaking down science for Cycle One.


There will be three terms per year, set up as 12 week terms. The entire year of Cycle One has a “spine” book. Then each term adds a book or two to hone into biographies of the scientists.

As you likely know, CC’s memory work for science usually includes 4 major sciences in each cycle. For Cycle 1 the topics are taxonomy, botany, geology, and meteorology (with a little oceanography thrown in). It is so widespread! Those pegs are very widely spaced.

I wanted to bring some cohesion to these topics by looking ahead a bit at creation science from the Challenge years. My students are asking a lot of questions about science and the Bible lately. I wanted to give them the information they are looking for from a specifically young-earth, 6-day creation point of view. That is the “spine” for this year.

I also wanted to give my students rich biographies of the scientists behind the concepts we are looking at in Cycle 1 of Classical Conversations. Through those biographies, my students will learn who discovered the “pegs” of the memory work. However, I am not looking for a picture-perfect match-up. Rather I am looking to immerse my students in a rich, multi-faceted exploration of scientific concepts.


I know you have read a lot to get here! Stop the scroll, here are the selections:

Picture Books with Science in Mind

I have been collecting a few picture books to keep on hand for science this cycle. My kids are already completely ready to jump on these. I have to put them out of reach until we “start” school.

The Schedule for Science for Cycle One

I am still working on putting all this into a printable schedule for you. Instead of releasing the schedules individually, I will be creating an overall master schedule similar to the ones you will find in AO.

Since the history for Cycle One of the Bridge informs the literature selections, some of the information will be introduced in the history books and then will be seen again later in the literature selections. I view this as a feature, not a glitch. In our homeschool experience, my kids like to “remember” things. They like to see things they vaguely remember and then suddenly hear one tiny detail which unlocks the entire store of the memory they have.

This is what I am looking for in the Bridge – for my kids to see the connections through exposure and immersion.

Following the Bridge

Are you interested in hearing more about this Bridge? You can get updates and extras when you sign up to get my emails. I have a specific email list for you. Here’s the sign up.

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Bringing Classical Conversations together with Charlotte Mason for the upper elementary years - cycle one science selections explained

Series Navigation<< Starting Homeschool with Classical Conversations? Encouragement from a Seasoned Mama of 4The Bridge Cycle One – Schedule >>

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Erin

    Thank you for this!!

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