How to Use Notebooking In Your Homeschool

Keeping a notebook is one of the most rewarding ways of learning. Artists, authors, and scientists, just to name a few, have used notebooking for centuries, right back to ancient times.

How to Use Notebooking in Your Homeschool

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It can seem intimidating, though, can’t it? When you look at DaVinci’s notebooks, Edith Holden’s nature journals, or Thoreau’s many books of observations at Walden Pond, it’s hard to picture what a notebook might look like in your child’s hands. The temptation to begin directing their pages, thoughts, and spelling to create a work of art can be tempting – but please resist.

Notebooking is a way to record thoughts, feelings, key pieces of information, and to create a keepsake of learning for your child. You can use printed pages from websites like NotebookingPages to create your notebook. This method is an excellent way to build a portfolio of your child’s work. The notebook is an integral part of the learning process itself, as your child thinks through what they’ve been learning, filters it into their impressions, and uses words and illustrations that are meaningful to them. They are learning to think and not to just save up information for a test or to please you.

So how can you guide them and how do you teach them to use a notebook as an integral part of their studies without anyone becoming overwhelmed, breaking down, or feeling attacked? It is a simple process and one that will benefit all of you since any subject can be done with a notebook and you can streamline your homeschool day. It’s the most flexible learning tool you will ever use, no matter what subject and what learning challenges you’re working with.

Here’s a simple approach to beginning notebooking, spread over a 5-day week. For this example, I’m using history as the official subject so you can see how lots of subjects overlap and fit into the one notebook.

Day 1

Read the pages in an encyclopedia that you’ve chosen for the day. Ask your child to narrate the central message of what was read. A younger child could dictate to you what they took from the reading, whereas an older child, can quickly write a few sentences to summarize the information. High school students might read further online and compare to a previous period in history or add some notes about what else is going on in the world at the time. They may want to add a sketch or google an image and print to add in with their notes. This is their baby, so feel free to offer to help, but accept their “no” gracefully if they want to handle it themselves.

Day 2

Today your child might add what they’ve learned onto their timeline. We keep ours in the same 3-ring binder as the notebook pages, under a separate tab. Again, let them take the lead and enter what is relevant to them.

Day 3

Today might be a map that you print out and let them highlight. Older students might prefer to draw the map themselves using something like Ellen McHenry’s Mapping the World with Art videos; a younger child would probably need a map with the cities and rivers, etc. printed for them to find, and a middle student might locate the place on a wall map and add it to their notebook page’s blank map. Can you see how this is adaptable for everyone? A preschooler who insists on joining in might just want to color a flag or a picture to paste in.

Day 4

Today might include a hands-on experiment (think of how the Egyptians cultivated crops through irrigation, for example) which you can photograph and print. The students could add their notes, analysis page, and sketches.

Day 5

Today you look at art from the time period. Younger students can use a coloring page of an art piece that grabs their attention. Older students might want to try their hand at using the artist’s medium, a tutorial of that piece, or create something 3D (such as a Greek urn) and photograph it to incorporate. They could also make notes about patterns, natural substances used to make the art or anything else that grabbed their attention.

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That’s how simple it can be. Short lessons, with your students recording what is important to them, and putting information together in their heads as they gain a deeper understanding.  It’s a win-win because you have covered five subjects in one notebook, in about half an hour on each a day.

Notebooking can be used for all subjects. Art, Music, Poetry, Math, Science, Bible, etc. If you can learn about it, you can use a notebook for it. It becomes a reference for the child as they get older and delve deeper into their learning, a keepsake that they look back on with pride, and it takes a tremendous amount of work off the parent.

A few final thoughts to keep in mind:

Encourage their best handwriting, however, try not to be overly worried about it. If your child asks how a word should be spelled, feel free to tell them; but you want your child to focus on making deeper connections with what they are studying, rather than worrying about the dreaded red pen.

You can suggest, but don’t insist. It’s so hard to keep your hands off their project sometimes but do it. If you want to set an example, start a notebook for yourself and work on it right alongside them.

Notebooking doesn’t have to be colorful, beautiful, or have a perfect layout. It just has to contain information that your child thinks is important.

Do you include notebooking in your homeschool?

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