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{Tutorial #3} Time for Notebooking!

Observing ants (age 6)

Observing ants (age 6)

Let’s do a short recap of what we have covered so far.

  1. You’ve identified your busywork and square pegs. If not, click here.
  2. You’ve removed busywork resources from at least ONE subject by physically putting them somewhere out of sight. If not, click here.
  3. You’ve practiced ORAL narrations with your children at least one time. If not, click here.
  4. Narration and notebooking are tools to be used with or without curriculum.
  5. The use of narration and notebooking is not limited to any one homeschool methodology.

All good? If so, you are ready to begin NOTEBOOKING!

Let’s start with a definition.

Definition of Notebooking

Journal, map, photos

Notebooking is …

Creating and compiling
a personalized notebook of learning experiences, new knowledge, insights, sketches, illustrations, creative writing, reflections, and more! This is not a diary, but more like a scrapbook of things learned.

The notebook takes on the personality of its author (your child) as he decides what content to include, how to present it, how to organize it, … how to shape what he’s learned.

The notebook captures the journey of your child’s learning. His notebooks not only record new knowledge, but also reflect his deepening understanding of the world, his developing writing voice and creative talents.

Components of Notebooking


There are two primary components used to create notebooks:

  • the written component
  • the visual component

Instead of filling in the blanks of a worksheet to test what your child has learned (or more so, NOT learned), you give him the opportunity to show and tell what he has learned and what interested him the most. This method requires more than memorizing a few facts in order to later pass a test.

The pages he creates for his notebooks will capture the knowledge he has learned with his own words, images, and personality. His notebook will reveal to you what he thinks and feels and teach you the insights HE brings to the topics he studies.

 

A Typical Day with Narration & Notebooking

 

The Written Component

Created with The Notebooking Publisher web-app and a 3D Notebooking Pages Border template

Created with The Notebooking Publisher web-app and a 3D Notebooking Pages Border template

Let’s say your child is studying the late Middle Ages and the current topic is Marco Polo. You and/or your child will read (or watch or visit) any variety of sources on Marco Polo. Next, your child will orally tell back (narrate) what he has learned from these sources. The focused attention needed for oral narration helps him create mental notes of what he’s learning. This begins the creative process needed for writing it down later.The written component may be expressed in a variety of ways in his notebook:

  • through written narration of a specific topic regarding Marco Polo
  • a list 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
  • an essay about the culture of this time period
  • a creative, fictional story that intertwines with events from Marco Polo’s life

In addition, encourage your child to add his own thoughts regarding the ideas and events he encounters in his study.

The Visual Component

My daughter used timeline figures from HomeschoolintheWoods.com and a map from KnowledgeQuestMaps.com.

Timeline figures from HomeschoolintheWoods.com.
Map from KnowledgeQuestMaps.com.

During the study, your child will undoubtedly form mental pictures from what he has studied. We want to capture these as well. This forms the basis of the visual component.Some of my childhood memories solely exist because of photographs. Without the photographs, I would have forgotten.

The visual component is important for this same reason — it makes a different sort of mental connection than the written component. It creates an additional layer of this study in his mind.

The easiest way to express the visual component may be with a drawing or painted picture, but he could also:

Map from BiblioPlan History Curriculum

Map from BiblioPlan History Curriculum

  • add a map of Polo’s travels
  • create a timeline of Marco Polo’s life
  • add an image of Marco Polo
  • illuminate his notebook with borders and/or clip art
  • copy the cover from an interesting book he’s read about Marco Polo
  • add a coloring page
  • add a photograph of a completed hands-on activity related to his study

There are no limitations to what written and visual components
may be added to the notebook.

What can your child add to his notebook?

Priceless Benefits of Notebooking

Happy NotebookingThe use of notebooking in your child’s education:

  • relieves the pressure of studying and memorizing facts for the short-term test at the end of a study.
  • removes the confines of a curriculum’s scope and sequence.
  • disciplines your child to soak up important and interesting information as he studies.
  • unlocks a love for learning as your child begins making his own connections to his studies and sees purpose in what he studies.

With notebooking, he has the freedom to:

  • study topics more deeply and intently based on what interests him.
  • to choose what visual elements to include in his notebook.
  • to decide how he wants to write about it.
  • organize all of his information in his own way.

Eric NotebookingUnlike many other learning activities, your child will not soon forget what he has notebooked. In addition, he has a notebook to remind him if he does need to jog his memory!
Instead, he will own the knowledge and be able to effectively express it to others.

Your child becomes a storyteller, a teacher, and in some cases an expert after spending such quality time with his studies. It’s an enriching experience and one that neither of you will want to trade for the prior busywork.

Through this journey, your child will use and develop a variety of skills – listening, narration, organization, art, and of course writing skills.

Perfecting his abilities to extract important information, to synthesize this information with his own opinions and former research, and to finally organize it all in such a way that “teaches back” through both written and visual media are PRICELESS skills.

Some Final Thoughts…

Let me end by saying, “Your children’s notebooks are a treasure!” They serve as a fantastic way to review what’s been studied, but also, like a family photo album, they strike an emotional connection for the child because this is HIS story about HIS learning journey.

Homework

Today’s Homework {Notebooking Focus}

Today’s tutorial is a bit LONG because I wanted to include as much detailed info as possible to get you notebooking without any roadblocks. I would suggest you take TODAY to read the whole tutorial. Then, TOMORROW, skim it over again and get notebooking! :)

By now, you should have chosen to let go of busywork from at least ONE of your subjects.
Notebooking is not something we want to ADD to an already overloaded day.
Instead, we want to replace and eliminate busywork with notebooking.

With that ONE subject in mind, let’s get to today’s homework.

Materials needed:

  • Choose the resource(s) you and your children will read, watch, or study for this subject.
  • Provide “notebooking pages” for your children …
    This can be regular notebook paper, blank paper, or pages from your Notebooking Pages Member Center.
  • Provide writing utensils and preferred art medium available (my kids prefer colored pencils).
  • Each child needs their own 3-ring binder if using loose-leaf notebooking pages.

Step-by-Step Notebooking Practice

Important:
Please read this all the way through before beginning with your children.
I’ve tried to provide helpful tips and address any roadblocks you may encounter along the way.

  1. Read and Narrate
    • Following our previous Narration tutorial, read and have your children orally narrate back to you.
    • If you come across any new names, important dates, or unfamiliar words, you can jot these down on a white board for later.
    • At the end of the reading and narrations, allow time for an optional brief discussion. This is NOT a lecture session and NOT a time for you to provide a summary of the reading.
  2. Choose a Topic and Notebooking Page
    • Ask your children to think about these two questions:
      1. What did you think was most important or interesting about what you studied today?
      2. What kind of image or artwork would best show what was most important or interesting?
    • Then, give each child their blank paper or notebooking page(s). If using notebooking pages from your Notebooking Pages Member Center, allow them to pick what size/# of art frames they want to use and print that page for them.
  3. The Written Component

    • What do we write?
      Approach this as lightheartedly as possible because this seems to be the scariest part for most kids … WHAT DO I WRITE? With their answers to the two questions above, they now have a good starting point for the written component of their notebooking page. Remind them of their answers. In fact, ask them for another short oral narration to gently boost their confidence … reminding them what they already “know” about their topic.

      I would frame 2 options to make this easier for reluctant writers:
      1) They can write a narrative that includes their most important and interesting point.
      2) They can make the important and/or interesting point the main topic of their page.

      Either way, we have encouraged them to choose a focus. It will be up to them to evaluate what info they want to keep and what can be discarded. Remind them … there are no wrong ways to do this!

      Continually encourage them to make this page about what they know and not about what you know or can remember for them. They need to develop their own thinking skills here. Be sure to provide them access to notes, new names, new vocab words, and dates from the reading so they will be inclined to include them.

      This process may take some time to adjust to (it requires higher thinking skills), so start gently. Be patient and overly encouraging. It is so worth it! After they get the hang of narration/notebooking and become more confident of their writing ability, they can venture off in any direction they want. I find this little bit of focused help in the beginning makes things easier especially for your reluctant writers.

    • How much to write?
      An easy guideline for the length of writing, at least in the beginning, is to require them to write at least one sentence per year that they have been schooling. Example: 1st grader-1 sentence, 2nd grader-2 sentences, 4th grader-1 paragraph, etc. Of course, this is just a starting point for those who aren’t your natural writers. Your natural writers will naturally want to write more. Middle school and high school children should be writing multiple paragraphs.

      For younger kids, you may need to be their pencil if their hands cannot keep up with the words in their brains. The creativity and words are there, but they may not have the spelling or handwriting skills needed to keep up with their flow of thoughts. Don’t stifle their creativity by limiting them to words they know how to spell or write. If you have young ones that need this extra help, plan for it. The extra time is worth it. You will treasure the difference it makes in what they will want to write when they know they are not limited.

    • What about grammar, spelling, writing style and structure?
      I cover this discussion in much more detail in other posts. For now, let me just say we need to stay focused on developing a writer. Teach grammar, spelling, and writing skills separate from your notebooking time. Do expect your children to correctly use the grammar, spelling, and the writing style/structure they have mastered so far. However, do not graffiti their hard, creative work with your red pen.

      If they incorrectly spell a word they should know, very lightly circle it with a pencil (and put a dot/star out in the margin of the same line so you can easily recheck their correction). If they make poor use of grammar or writing structure/style, I make note of it and we work on this during our grammar/writing lesson time. Of course, if a child is just being lazy and making poor use of the skills he does possess, then you may need to have him redo his work.

      For the most part, I look for the child’s notebooking to show me how their skills are coming along. Their notebook will display the journey of their growing writing and artistic talents. It’s so much fun to watch kids read through their notebooks from previous years, pointing out the way they wrote certain words, sentences, the way they drew, etc. They see the journey for themselves.

      So, I advise you to go easy on the technical aspects of their writing (for now). As needed, be their editor when asked and encourage them to write BIG thoughts, with enthusiasm and passion.

  4. The Visual Component
      Now that they have chosen their topic and have written about it, ask them how they would like to “show” what they learned or how they can complement their writing by adding any of the following: an illustration, a diagram, a map, a colored picture, a photograph, or maybe just some decorations to the page. Again, try not to structure this too much for them. In the beginning, they may need some suggestions to help them get started, but try to let them pick their own artwork as much as possible. This is their notebook and we want it to be an extension of their creativity.

  5. The Finished Page
      When they have completed their page, be sure to put a date somewhere (bottom corner?) and then add it to their notebook (binder). I think it is easier when first starting to keep all of your notebooking pages regardless of content in the same binder. Fill the binder with sheet protectors, if you prefer, to protect their pages and then just file the pages in as they complete them.

      Once you have developed your own plan for how you will continue to implement notebooking, you may decide to use different binders for different subjects/studies. You could also continue to use one binder until it becomes full or until it contains enough of a certain topic/subject to move some pages to their own binder. There are no rules here. I have done it both ways and both make complete sense.

      If you are done with that topic, then move on to the next. If not, make more pages throughout the study. You might decide to do a more detailed page together the next day so that you can include some of the facts or details that you feel are most important. Or you may decide to give them a particular type of task/writing activity … like writing a poem, copywork, or creating a timeline or map. Just be sure not to crowd out their own creativity and thought process.

      Providing some structure is fine as long as it does not turn notebooking into the busywork we want to eliminate.

  6. Sharing the Notebook: DO NOT SKIP THIS VERY IMPORTANT STEP!
      I will be the first to admit that sometimes I forget to read my kids’ notebooks. Not reading your child’s notebooks is like not grading their math book. First, you are communicating that their work must not be too important otherwise you wouldn’t be neglecting it. Secondly, it sets the bar low for what you expect from their notebooks. Without feedback, it’s unlikely they will grow their skills and, in fact, they will likely become lazy and uncaring about their work. This is NOT what we want!

      Set aside time for your kids to share their notebooks with you and/or the family. For my own reference, I like to mark somehow that I read their page (just a little check at the bottom will do). Provide specific, verbal, positive feedback. Say something more than “Wow, this is good." Pay attention to their details so that they will be encouraged to keep adding more details!

      You could say something like:

    • “I like the way you described this part of the story. It helps me to really ‘see’ it.”
    • “Your illustration is a perfect match for your narration topic.”
    • “Great job using that new punctuation!”
  7. Share your experience with us.
    I would love to hear about your experiences and to see photos of your kids’ notebooking pages. Your comments and photos will also encourage other new notebooking families. Use the comment section and photo upload below and share away! :)

 

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 28 comments
Heather McCool - May 4, 2015

Hey Debra,
I’m wondering if you can make a little download of printables based on your tutorials? I’d like something pretty to glance at to refresh me on these points that i can keep in my teaching binder. I already printed the idea tree titled Just a few things you can add to a notebook. I have it on the wall next to my computer. Maybe there are some other things that might be helpful? Im also thinking of adding the idea tree to my child’s binders to help them with ideas when they want to do things on their own. Thank you so much for all you do! This lifetime membership is just amazing!

Reply
    Debra Reed - January 28, 2016

    Just wanted to let you know we did add printables of the notebooking tutorials to the LIFETIME Member Center! :)

    Reply
Christina ODonoghue - August 4, 2015

I have found your pages very interesting. I am a schoolteacher in Scotland and I would like to try your techniques with some of my classes. It is a High School and my time with my pupils is limited to 55 minutes so must try to adapt your ideas. Are there any other schoolteachers in the same situation that have managed successfully? I tried to apply for lifetime membership through instalments but something went wrong with the transaction, will look into it again. Meanwhile, thank you for sharing.
Zarina

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Elizabeth Armstrong - September 24, 2015

We started noteboking on Tuesday. So far my kids love it. We had tried it when we first started homeschooling 5 years ago, but it just wasn;t the right fit for them, then. Now however, it seems to be. Thank you again for all of the hardwork that you put in for making the notebooking pages. I’m still debating over the membership. I want them to stick with this and show me they will. They are 12 and 14, so for now it is a waiting game. If they stick with it for more than two weeks then I know we will have a winner. :) That is what I am hoping for.

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ClassicalKMom - November 28, 2015

These tutorials are very helpful. I know my kids would enjoy designing their own written (typed) and visual notebook pages. They are also old enough where they can start doing some online research to look up pictures, maps, timelines, etc… I am wondering if there’s a way that you recommend for them to safely research on the internet? Do you have any suggestions or preferred resources?

Thanks so much!

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cristinamonterroso - January 3, 2016

I love the idea of this! I did get the lifetime membership and plan to use it. My only hesitation, though, is that the notebooking we have done in the past seemed like busywork to my son. he sort of dreaded it. He is a voracious reader, but a hesitant writer – it’s not his favorite thing, though he is good at it. Many of the questions you suggest to ask them, i can foresee my son saying “I don’t know” (He is 8). I plan to implement NBing this week, again, after doing all the tutorials, but I would love some guidance as to how to help my son not dread this.

Reply
    Debra Reed - January 28, 2016

    Hi Cristina,

    When my kids are asked by non-homeschoolers if they really enjoy homeschooling, I always “cringe” knowing that their response is going to be just like most other kids when it comes to “Do you like school?”. It’s school! Some kids LOVE it, some enjoy it, and some just can’t wait for it to be over! :) That being said, I find the same with our notebooking. Not every child is going to LOVE it, BUT I do find that with ALL of my kids, they prefer notebooking to other ways of cementing their learning because it works, it doesn’t feel like a waste of time, and they are truly proud of their finished work. With an 8 year old boy, I would focus on topics he truly enjoys and make that the focus of his notebooking and writing time. Build those skills with something he enjoys studying. He may never LOVE writing, but he will definitely enjoy it more with a topic he enjoys studying. Also encourage him to share his work with dad, grandma, etc. Not only does this build his confidence but encourages him to do his best work! Hope this helps!

    Reply
pmzcnes - January 9, 2016

I just can’t tell you how excited I am to start this! I only wish I had come across your website sooner. We have five children and our oldest is 18. He has another year at home schooling. He would have greatly benefitted from this for a longer period of time. I know he will enjoy this as will our other four children ages 15, 11, 8, and 6. I know I will enjoy this. I notebook or journal our schedules, assignments, activities, grades, etc. naturally because it’s more my style….something I enjoy.

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erica - March 10, 2016

Hello,
I am a new homeschool mom getting ready for first grade with my 6 yr old. I really like the idea of notebooking, I think it will be fun. I was wondering, how do you suggest I start with my first grader? His writing skills are not strong yet; for example, he does not know when to space his words although he is an excellent reader. Should I go ahead and start notebooking with him or first teach him how to space his words? thank you so much for all your help!!!

Reply
    Debra Reed - March 23, 2016

    Hi Erica,

    Until the kids are confident in their spelling and handwriting, I go very gently with the writing portion of notebooking. You can act as his scribe and write his narration or short caption as he dictates it to you. He can then add this to his artwork or a coloring page (whatever he wants to create). You can even have him copy it (in part/whole) for handwriting practice. What is most important at the early stages, in my opinion, is the oral narration and for him to do what is easy and most enjoyable … which is probably drawing a picture or putting together some images you find from the internet on the same topic. Once the spelling/handwriting are better established, then he can begin to own the written part.

    Reply
all14amy - May 3, 2016

My 7th grade daughter has homeschooled using what we call Life School, mostly experiential life events such as gardening, cooking, museums, reading and extracurricular events which we call life adventures such as Girl Scouts, singing, piano and guitar lessons and performances and church or religious studies. I believe a person only needs to be taught 3 things to be able to learn all he needs to know in life – to read, to ask questions and to listen for the answers. My daughter has always been allowed to explore the library and bring home any books she is interested in although I decide on videos and movies. She has always been encouraged to ask questions on any matter from anyone as long as it is politely asked and she knows she is required to listen to the answer and then can continue her learning through continued conversation or personal study. At eleven years of age she scored a 16 composite score on the first test she has ever taken, the ACT. I was quite pleased.

So based on this history of learning I am wondering how to incorporate this Notebooking into our learning? I cannot find any busywork to eliminate from our practices. I am hesitant to introduce what might be seen as busywork to her with a structured plan and while I can introduce it as a form of scrap booking which we already do or as college preparatory skills, I am wondering if you have any other ideas?

My daughter is incredibly self motivated to learn but does not enjoy writing although she types well. Can these Notebooking pages be used on the computer for teaching computer skills, typing skills or for people who just don’t like writing?

Thank you for your expertise on this. I look forward to learn ways to use our Lifetime plan.

Reply
    Debra Reed - August 11, 2016

    Hi Amy,

    We do have a computer-based notebooking web-app that is available to our LIFETIME Members. It includes many of our current notebooking templates, but you can also create your own completely from scratch. I think notebooking and narrations will add a another layer to your daughter’s learning. Notebooking and narrations give her the opportunity to build skills of retelling, teaching, and owning the information as she learns how to process it in a way that she can communicate back to the world around her. You can read more about our web-app here: https://notebookingpages.com/publisher

    Reply
fourbygrace - May 30, 2016

I previously commented that I thought I’d be fighting our boys to get them to physically write for their narrations…and then it just clicked, I can use note booking AS their writing! With our older two, we ended up hiring a tutor to make sure they learned to write properly before college. It’s no news flash that most boys resist writing. It just occurred to me that our younger boys are very likely to accept the “chore” of writing notebook pages if they are conscious of the fact it is replacing additional time spent on a separate writing curriculum. We will still work on their writing skills, but they can use their notebooks to PRACTICE what they’re learning. That brings me to a very important question. HOW MANY notebook pages are enough in a week? I am thinking I’d be thrilled to have 3 pages a week since they will be also taking co-op classes that require at least a full page a week and one school day is spent there as well. That means they would effectively be writing one page a day on the other four days. Thoughts?

Reply
    Debra Reed - May 30, 2016

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I will use writing curricula to help me “teach” writing skills/techniques to our children. We may do some writing that’s not for the notebooking just to practice the new skills. When we take time to do this, they take a break from some/all of their written notebooking and focus on oral narrations. For the most part though, notebooking has replaced “writing” as a separate subject. Your plan sounds great to me!

    Reply
queenireneof4 - June 29, 2016

Hi Debra,

I am excited to be a lifetime member! We will be doing a study of the world next year, picking and choosing countries from each continent to add to notebooks this year. We will be focusing on basic geography and learning basic facts about each country (like climate, flags, foods, holidays, etc) My question is, how many times a week do we do a notebook page? We are going to try to do one country per week, but the sheer amount of info we could record about each country seems so incredibly vast that I don’t know where to begin narrowing it down to what we should include on our notebooks, how many pages. week, etc. What is realistic for a 10 year old and 8 year old?

Reply
    Debra Reed - August 11, 2016

    This really is going to be different for each family/child. We typically notebook each week for Bible, history, science, and literature studies. How much depends on the depth of what we are studying, the age of the child, their current writing ability, and how much other notebooking they are doing in other subjects that week. They might notebook one topic a week for some subjects while doing 2-3 for others.

    You have to find the right balance for each child. Too much notebooking can burn them out just like anything else. Start simple and continue to build until you find that balance for each child. Some weeks we pull away from notebooking to work on specific grammar and writing skills rather than piling that work on top of their notebooking. assignments. During those weeks, we will focus more on oral narrations.

    Hope that helps!

    Reply
kgillon - November 22, 2016

HI Debra,

So grateful for discovering your resources! Do you have a video of you presenting this tutorial of notebooking? I think my daughter would understand it best in video form seeing you explain it step by step:)

Blessings,
Karen

Reply
LazyR7 - November 30, 2016

Hi. We started homeschool this year with our 4th grade son. I started with All-in-one homeschool online curriculum. I have struggled to stay on top of everything and he has not been getting everything done. I would like to start notebooking with him. I don’t feel like we have busywork to eliminate. What is your best advice to get started for somebody new to homeschooling? Do we pick a topic, get a book from the library, research online, and then start notebooking? I am overwhelmed and a little lost and need guidance.

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ymhyde - January 31, 2017

Hi! I went to college to teach High School Math and Science. I expected to go back to work once all of our children were in school. I never expected to be homeschooling our 4 children. We felt lead by God and decided to homeschool when our oldest was 3 yrs old and so our kids have always been homeschooled. (We have a 2nd grader, 1st grader, 3 yr old and 2 yr old.) I still continue to struggle to separate how I was “taught to teach” in a classroom from how I want to teach my children at home. I am beginning to get the “I hate school” comments and the sighs when it is time to start our day or get back to work after a break. I want to get away from the “busywork” but I am really struggling reprograming myself so to speak. I love the idea of notebooks and I have done a lot of research on it but I am having a hard time getting away from the “busywork”. Thoughts or ideas?

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nurseamber16 - February 7, 2017

What do you do for math?

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kajalshah - June 20, 2017

Hi. This is really helpful. I am just confused in one thing. My child is 6 years old and he is in grade-1.
He loves reading his scrap books. We make them like lap book.
But in that I have to do all cutting and pasting and he will label the things.
If he does all paying them he will not write. He knows everything what we discuss. He remembers most of them after quite period of time.

But is it ok to do more than half of his work to make him interested or I am doing too much of spoon feeding which is going nowhere.

Thanks.

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Chris - July 20, 2017

I love the idea of notebooking – and I downloaded your amazing 600 page sample and will be looking more at it.
I’ll have a high school freshman this year (plus other grades), and I see how this would be great to use with History & Science, but how do you incorporate critical thinking into the notebooking (for high school)? If I have him read his History book, and then notebook about the chapters, I’m eliminating all the worksheets, but those have critical thinking questions – I’m not sure how to incorporate the 2 without making more work for myself.

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Jennifer - October 26, 2017

We are a homeschooling family, ranging from grades 4 to 10. I am quite frustrated with our typical workbooks and find that a lot of the information isn’t really necessary for life use but feel stuck when ensuring they are receiving a rounded education without textbooks/workbooks. How do you choose what you will teach (subject matters per grade level) and ensure they are fundamentally prepared for life beyond elementary school with this method? I want my oldest children to be more independent and actually interested in becoming self-motivated learners. You’ve said that you have a range of learners, as with my youngest daughter, grade 4, struggles with reading and comprehension, how can I strengthening her reading abilities through this method? I am excited to try any method that will make our home education more appealing and interesting. Thanks so much!

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Ruthie Vander Lugt - November 2, 2017

I have a 10 yo son on the Autism spectrum, and this is our third year homeschooling. I have been through several curricula searching for the ones that will engage him. I am really looking forward to using this method to chase away the last vestiges of busywork and add that component or “real” learning. I can easily see how this method would work for every subject except math. Any suggestions as to how we might use this method to reinforce the math concepts we are learning? Thank you!

Reply

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