What is notebooking? Find out here. We love notebooking and we use it often here.
Let’s talk about how to teach the skill of notebooking, and how to implement the discipline in your home.
How to Notebook with Kids
Starting Out With Notebooking
We started notebooking when my youngest kids were in 1st and 2nd grade, using the pre-made Apologia Exploring Creation Elementary Science series.
It was a new idea for us, and I sort of stumbled my way through without doing a lot of research on the subject. I knew I was vehemently opposed to worksheets, that I wanted a creative and fun way to school, and that I wanted my children to graduate with higher level cognitive skills, excellent writing and research techniques, and a love of learning. I wanted to use classical methods to school, yet to unleash them from rote techniques.
How to Notebook with Young Kids
Starting out with notebooking, we found it really helpful to use fun, engaging pages with lots of room for drawings and interesting-looking writing spaces. The writing lines were also a big help, as our kids were still really learning how to form letters and sentences.
- To begin, we all sat around the table, the boys with their notebooks and colored pencils, and me with the Apologia textbook, or from the Bible.
- I read to them from a subsection, and then the boys took turns telling me what they’d learned.
- When we first started, we only read a paragraph at a time; that subsection expanded significantly as the boys learned to listen.
- After they verbally narrated what they’d learned, the boys would write a sentence summing up something they’d heard. Sometimes what they wrote was important information, sometimes it was something like “Slugs are gross”. I let them have a lot of leeway.
- If they weren’t able to formulate a sentence on their own, them I coached them. The boys would then draw a diagram or picture to represent what we’d read. At that point, I’d read another paragraph.
We worked through our notebooks slowly at first, and it was a good practice in patience for me. Sometimes we’d take our notebooking outside, where we’d measure out and draw a humpback whale in the street with sidewalk chalk, then take a picture (with the boys inside the whale of course!) and we’d paste the printed picture into our notebooks.
Notebooking in the early grades made learning fun, memorable, and the boys progressed quickly in their cognitive and developmental writing abilities.
Emily Bronte’s Notebook
(Illustration: Emily Bronte, 1837, Public Domain)
How to Notebook with Older Elementary Kids
- As the boys developed in their notebooking skills, I would read aloud an entire section of material while they worked with their colored pencils, then allow them time to narrate what they’d learned in their notebooks.
- They each developed their own writing voice as they worked.
- They would read their work back to me and we’d discuss what they’d said.
Because we started notebooking in science, my boys frequently asked for spelling help. However, I rarely corrected their spelling.
I did always remind them to use their best handwriting. There were days when one of my children was definitely not doing that. However, I really believed that if he had the space to develop cognitively, the developmental practice of handwriting would follow. Switching to cursive helped his handwriting a lot, and I believe that the muscle development and memory that came from the process of handwriting also really helped. I’m glad I bit my tongue, friend.
How to Notebook in Middle and High School
My boys are now in high school, headed toward college. I am so grateful for the time and effort we’ve put into learning to notebook and into using it in our home!
We’re now able to creatively apply notebooking to a number of subjects, and I’ve increasingly been able to help the boys pursue electives and topics of interest using materials I choose, rather than searching for a curriculum that doesn’t quite exist.
For instance, several years ago, we started theology and spent the year studying the Doctrine of the Bible. I can tell you that it was a wonderful thing for us to read aloud appropriate materials, discuss them, and then to allow my kids to notebook about what they’ve learned.
Through middle and high school, we’ve used Bible Road Trip™ Notebook Journals and Cobblestone Path™ Church History Research Journals.
I’ve had a wonderful time helping my kids study the Bible and Christian history in a laid-back manner.
My boys truly feel like they’re at the wheel of their education. (OK, sometimes they’d rather be skateboarding or playing basketball, but they’ve developed a love for learning, and they’re really great writers. In fact, both have been published several times in international magazines.)
Homeschool Notebooking Works for Many Subjects
We use notebooks for pretty much everything. I don’t think that’s necessarily a great idea at the start. Do you remember being in elementary school, and your hand would literally ache? It takes time to develop the skills and musculature for writing.
By the middle and high school years, we used notebooks (blank and structured notebooking pages) as follows:
- Art ~ We use notebooks to sketch, mix colors, experiment with techniques, and notebook about famous artists.
- Music ~ We are incorporated composers and hymns into our history and notebooked about that.
- Math ~ We have been using a literature-based math program, Life of Fred, for a number of years now and we love it. The boys notebook important concepts and then work through the few problems.
- Science ~ We have used some wonderful Christian homeschool science resources. The boys notebook through it all. One of them notebooked an independent project in quantum mechanics…I don’t even know what to say about that.
- Geography ~ Notebooking is a fabulous way to record maps, concepts, demographics, and prayer needs for states, countries, and geographical boundaries. One of my boys does his geography notebooking on the computer so he can use Google Earth and Wikipedia, copying and pasting the maps and photos.
- History ~ Notebooking is a great way to work through history! Check out the timeline notebooking journal in the resources below.
- Christian history ~ I’m so excited about Cobblestone Path™! I hope you’ll join us.
- Bible ~ Notebooking is perfect for Bible study! Check out the Bible Road Trip™ journals. Notebooking can also help with Scripture memorization. I’m notebooking/copyworking my way through Romans right now.
- Languages ~ Notebooking is also a great technique for learning vocabulary, declensions, conjugations, and more.
Leonardo DaVinci’s Notebook
(Illustration: Paris Manuscript F, Folio 18V and 19R, Leonardo da Vinci, 1508, Public Domain)
William Blake’s Notebook
(Illustration: William Blake (1757-1827), Public Domain)
Notebooking Pages and Journals & Notebooking Resources You Want to Know About!
Bible Road Trip™ Year One Bible Notebooking JournalsHow to Use Bible Notebooking Pages to Teach the BibleCobblestone Path™ Church History Research JournalsMy Sermon Notebook for KidsMy Field Trip and Travel JournalMy Book Log | A Notebooking JourneyMy Timeline Notebooking JournalFamous People Who Kept Journals – Is Notebooking Right for Your Child?What is Notebooking? And Why Notebook?How to Notebook with KidsOde to Notebooking | Why we love homeschool notebooking
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