I get asked many questions about how to get started in notebooking and how best to implement it into a homeschooling schedule. I know from my experiences how overwhelming it is to try something new and different, the whole time wondering, is this really going to work? So, let me introduce you to notebooking. Notebooking is easy to implement and it is going to be worth your time and effort. In this section of our site, I will share with you what my children and I have learned through our homeschooling experiences with notebooking. I hope you will find this to be a source of encouragement as you seek to make your homeschooling days more meaningful and fun!
What is Notebooking?
Notebooking is the coined term for what one may refer to as educational journaling or scrapbooking. Essentially, the idea is to create a compilation of what has been learned and experienced in any number of subjects or activities and organize it in a notebook (or binder). It is generally up to the child to determine what he wants to include in this notebook, although you may want to provide some basic guidelines to help him get started. Written narrations, copywork, timelines, reports, lists, observations, drawings, maps, and photographs are just some of the items that he may include. The notebook pages he creates for his notebooks will capture the new knowledge he has discovered as well as his own personal reflections of what he has learned. The finished notebook will prove to be a treasure for years to come as the child reviews all that he has learned and admires the elements that he brought to the subjects in making his very own book.
I would say there are two primary essentials needed in creating a notebook. There is a visual component and a written component. These two components work together to convey what the child has learned from his lessons. Instead of filling in worksheets or answering a list of discussion questions to test what your child has learned, you are giving him the opportunity to “show” and “tell” in a variety of ways what he has learned. This method requires more than memorizing a few key facts in order to later pass a test.
Notebooking allows your child to soak up what he finds most important and interesting from the subject. The pressure to “perform” is eliminated. Instead, that to which he is naturally drawn to within a subject, he is allowed to explore more deeply. He will make what he is studying his own. Unlike more traditional methods, he will not soon forget what he has learned. The end result of this process is a child who truly knows what he has learned and can express it to others. He becomes a storyteller, a teacher, and in some cases an expert after spending such quality time with his studies. It is an enriching experience and one that you and he will not want to trade for the former “traditional” methods of learning.
Let’s say you are doing a study of the late Middle Ages and the current topic is Marco Polo. You will probably read a variety of sources on Marco Polo. From the readings, have your children orally narrate back to you what they have read and what has been read to them. This process of “telling back” helps them make mental notes of what they have learned and also begins the creative process needed for writing down their narrations later. This is the basis of the “written component”. This written component may be expressed in a variety of ways in their notebook: through written narration(s) of any number of topics regarding Marco Polo’s life, a mini-book of interesting facts learned about Marco Polo, copywork from one of the books read and/or a quote from Marco Polo, a poem, a list of new words (with brief definitions) learned during their study, and so on.
During the study, your child will undoubtedly form mental pictures from the stories read. These need to be captured as well. This forms the basis of his “visual component”. The easiest way to express this mental picture would be through some form of drawing or painted picture. He may want to also decorate his pages with borders or other clipart from the time period. In addition to his own drawings and decorations, other visual elements may be added as well such as: a labelled map of Marco Polo’s travels, a timeline of the events in his life, a picture of Marco Polo (maybe from an online search, clipart collection, or timeline figure), a copy of the cover of an interesting book he read on this subject, a coloring page, and so on. There are no limitations to what may be included in his notebook!
Through this process of creating the notebook, your child will develop a variety of skills – listening skills, narration skills, organization skills, artistic skills, and more. The most rewarding and beneficial skill captured by all of these individual skills is the ability to extract important information from his studies and organize it in such a way that “teaches back” what has been learned. Some of the most important and influential people in history are those who are able to independently teach themselves and express themselves well. Your child will learn to do both through consistent use of notebooking.
Once they find their “groove” with notebooking, you may find your child creating notebooks for interests outside of their school subjects. Encourage them to EXPLORE their interests, DISCOVER new knowledge, and to CREATE notebooks to capture it all! For years to come, you will enjoy their created notebooks. Their notebooks will have captured years of memories and will become priceless treasures for the whole family.