It Might Only Take a Notebook… by Cindy Rushton


It was a normal day, just like so many others, but my life was changed. In fact, it was a conversation similar to so many throughout my life…just girl talk in the kitchen over meal preparation. Who would imagine that it would change my life and lead me toward my life call? Who would imagine that it would put together all of the pieces to my jumbled-up life?

Mamaw Alma Lee Rushton was my ex-husband’s grandmother. I remember the first day I met her. We had an instant bond. It was amazing.

When Mamaw spoke, she spoke vision… instruction… inspiration… and a deep passion for Godly womanhood. Her opinions meant so much to me. Her insight was always biblical. Her instruction was patient and kind. I clung to her words. They were steeped in a love for God, a love for family, and a deep love for me.

So, imagine the day that my life changed. We were busy in the kitchen preparing one of those good old summer meals. Family meals in our families meant that all of the family favorites were part of the menu. The funny thing, this day had ALL of the favorites. Looking back, the entire time was so special that it was beyond a regular day. This day would go down in our family history as pivotal. It changed my life and in turn changed our whole family.

Being a godly woman is so important. Sure, we are born to be women. But, godliness is a choice. The choices are made in little things and big things all along the way. Those things influence not just our own lives, but those around us, those we all touch, and those in generations yet to come. We are women with great influence. Our greatest influence cannot be planned. Our greatest influence will happen when we least expect it.

Going back to that special day…

The kitchen was bustling and yummy smelling. Mamaw was her usual sweet, rosy-cheeked, and upbeat self. I was a bit weary. We were back home in our home-town because his dad was having a triple by-pass. Mamaw was in deep prayer for her son, but you saw only her intense faith in God and not even one moment of fear, worry, or doubt. The kids were tickled to be running around Mamaw’s yard playing and chasing her “critters” outside. He was enjoying time with his grandfather. It was the typical picture of what things were like when we went “home” to see our family.

I was soooo excited, in spite of my concern for my father-in-law. I had just received a nice package filled with beautiful slick copies of the magazine which was featuring one of my articles for the first time in a magazine. In spite of the difficult circumstances, I was elated to get to give Mamaw her own copy of my first article in a magazine. It was my treat to give her that day. I was hoping it would brighten her day. I had NO idea that it would lead to a pivotal moment in my life.

She was in awe! She stood there with big alligator tears in her eyes as she beheld the magazine. Seeing my name there on the glossy page was a total delight to her. Just months before we had stood in that kitchen having a very interesting conversation that was the “back story” for what was going on that day. Actually, so many of those special days in that kitchen were the catalysts behind that very special day.

I remember time-after-time sitting there or helping her with her chores while she just poured forth into my life. She would talk about little things like tips for sewing or cooking or homemaking. She would talk about even more challenging things like disciplining the children and being a godly wife. She would also talk about life-changing things like my relationship with God and how to live an authentic and intentional Christian life. While the conversations were never planned, they were milestones in my life–big and small. I don’t know how many of you just crave for a Titus Two mentor, but as a young woman I just wished that God would send someone to be a Titus Two mentor into my life. Little did I know that it was through those God put in my life to influence me. There could never be anyone who could teach me to love my husband and children like their very own grandmother. No one else could teach me to love my home and the ministry within my home like the grandmother who’s home called us “home” from so many miles away. Her influence was perfect training. Isn’t that how God does it?

I loved time with her. Every time I was around Mamaw, I came away with so much wisdom. Many times, I took a notebook and jotted down tips and ideas while we talked. They were GOODIES! GEMS!

It was not long until I became the secretary for our local smocking guild (heirloom sewing group). I was responsible for producing the newsletter for our members. For those who know me, you would not be surprised that I simply COULD NOT stand to have the page only include the details for the meeting. There was SO MUCH WHITE SPACE! I thought that sewing tips were an adorable embellishment for our newsletter. I loved tips so much that I thought it would be fun to include them each month in my newsletter. They made it all fun. Of course, most of my tips came from learning at Mamaw’s side. I got so many great ideas from her that I decided to pay for her membership to the guild so she could get the newsletter. She LOVED it! Actually, she loved it so much she passed it around to all of her friends.

I had no idea until one day I went to see her and she asked me to go by the local paper to ask our editor to put the tips in the paper. My response was probably the very same response you might would have, “Mamaw, BUT I AM NOT A WRITER.” She gave me a quick list of reasons why the newspaper “needed” my tips. All I can say is that I knew not to mess with her! ha! I went to the paper to just ask. I was completely convinced that they would laugh me out the door and that THEY would silence Mamaw’s crazy idea once and for all. Well, it didn’t go that way. Mamaw was right. They not only wanted my tips, but they wanted for me to begin my own column. Every week after that I had a column. I always tell everyone that I fell into it backwards. I think Mamaw shoved me! ha! Either way, God used her belief in me to give that nudge in a direction that would have NEVER been one I would have even thought to pursue.

Now, fast forward with me. I had moved away. My column had grown. I loved it. But, I still did not have a vision for what God was about to do. In fact, I had no idea what God wanted for me to do with my life. I knew He wanted for me to be a godly wife and mother. But, I wondered what He had meant by calling me into ministry. He had been so specific at several times of my life. I could not put the pieces together. I had kept right on moving forward, being faithful in all that I KNEW I was to be doing each and every day. But, I just could not see how all of the pieces came together. It was really unsettling. Well, that is where this story gets good! I have told you already about my first magazine article and how I was about to surprise Mamaw with her own copy of it. But there was more to the back story.

One of the reasons Mamaw had wanted the tips put in the paper was that she was keeping a notebook filled with my goodies and did not want to miss even one. Her notebook was filled with all of those articles, my recipes that I would copy and share with her, all of my letters sent from Alabama, all of the cards I sent her, pictures of our family, etc. It was her “Cindy” notebook. Now, I do want for you to know that I was married to her grandson. I was an “inlaw.” He was not even her only grandchild. She had a beautiful family filled with grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But, she valued my writing and I was just a Dental Hygienist–NOT A WRITER!! She valued my writing so much that she KEPT it all. What is even more touching was that she had set up a PLACE to keep everything. That takes great effort. She not only kept it, but she invested in a nice, big notebook and sheet protectors to guard every piece like it was a great treasure. She kept things that would have been long forgotten, long lost. But, she kept them because they were dear to her. They were dear to her because I was dear to her. Do you think she ever knew how that one commitment would change my life?

Well, now let’s go on to that precious day. I had been writing my heart out for my sweet little column. I fell in love with writing. It was like having a nice afternoon tea with friends. I could pull back as my little ones played or slept in and pour myself a cup of tea and just share my heart. Sometimes it was tips. Other times it was my excitement for being a wife and mother. Every article was a piece of my heart. I simply loved writing! It became my favorite hobby. Who would have figured it? Mamaw???

That day was very special. As we look back, it was the last day I would see her and spend time with her. Only one short week later, she passed away. Her death was a sweet, yet very difficult time for us. Never before had I seen a true Proverbs 31 woman pass away. Yet, in her death every word spoken about her was declaring Proverbs 31 over and over. She was the one! Well, one of that beautiful crowd!

To me, looking back, I know that day was a gift from God. It was to go down in my story as a pivotal moment. I have never been the same since.

Remember I mentioned going through those years enjoying my calling as a wife and mother, yet having a void there in my life. I was a Christian. I was a committed Christian. I loved womanhood. But, there was a void. It just was not coming together. I wondered many times if I had somehow missed my calling along the way. Very often, I would get a bit frustrated that I did not use my single years to pursue ministry and missions. I could not figure out how I would use my gifts and talents to pursue my purpose. I was just confused.

That last day with Mamaw was precious. I was so excited to give her that beautiful copy of my article in a REAL magazine. I knew it would be a delight to her. But, I had no idea exactly how much of a delight. I don’t know, maybe things don’t always “click” with me. I had heard her talk about her “Cindy” notebook. I had even started writing for the newspaper because she wanted to be sure that no one kept HER COPY of my articles. But, until I gave her that gorgeous magazine, I had not SEEN the “Cindy” notebook. WOW! She pulled it out. It was a treasure to her. I could tell. I stood there with big tears in my eyes. Her commitment to protect my work as a treasure to her was overwhelming. She really LOVED my writing. She really TREASURED my writing. It was more than important. It was a treasure! You don’t just “keep” things like this. It was intentional. It was a priority. It spoke volumes to me.

No one, not even myself, had kept EVERYTHING with such a passionate love for me. Sure, my mom kept so many things. But, I don’t think she had even kept those articles. In fact, *I* had not even kept them all! UGH! Mamaw did not miss even one of them. They were all there. Kept for future generations. Precious. Guarded. An investment into ME and those who will come after me.

I stood there looking at the notebook. I was overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness, but there was more. You could see it in Mamaw’s eyes. She truly LOVED and ADORED my writing. It meant so much to her. I had never thought about my words being valuable, much less loved or needed. They never seemed to be too great in school. Well, in school, actually I always felt that my words and my ideas did not measure up. They never seemed good enough. My teachers never really gave me outright encouragement in those areas. Sure, they made me editor of the school paper. Of course, I thought that was to torment me! (ha!) They were very hard on my writing. I could not understand it. The last thing I wanted when I came out of school was to write anything for the rest of my life. Funny how God changes things, huh?

There was something that was rising up in my heart as I stood there looking at that notebook and Mamaw’s excitement over the magazine. I could feel all of the pieces in my life coming together as I stood in that room with her. It was more than pivotal. It was life-changing.

She took a few moments to read the article. She was “buzzing” as she did. She LOVED it! I felt a pride inside that was just precious! I respected her sooo much that I wanted to please her. This was a beautiful gift for her that day.

As she finished reading the article, she said something that would point the way for the next thing AND would change my life entirely. She, very matter of factly, said, “Cindy! You HAVE GOT TO write a book!” My immediate response was almost exactly the same as my response in that room to her challenge to write for the newspaper, “Mamaw, BUT I AM NOT A WRITER.” Can you imagine her sweet face in heaven as she looks down upon me today after I have written almost 150 books, thousands of articles, and taught thousands of workshops in the last 25 years? Just funny!

The most precious part of that afternoon in that sweet Southern kitchen was what followed. She told me that I could easily take my articles and put them together into a book. She was not a writer. How did she have SUCH vision? She continued to talk to me about sticking to my priorities. She told me that I was a good wife and mom. She told me how proud she was of our family life and our family. She shared with me her one prayer request that God had answered for her–that all of her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren would be saved and serve God all of their lives (all of us were saved and serving God in ministry!). She literally passed the torch to me that day. It was a spiritual mantle that she placed upon me in that sweet Southern kitchen. I wear it today. It is my passion. It is the call. It is my life purpose–to help those in our culture get back to God’s design for true, authentic godliness and the godly home. The pieces all came together that day.

We had our biggest dinner ever that day with Mamaw. It was her last one to cook. But, I was full before the blessing was ever asked and one bite was taken. She had poured forth more that day through her spirit than she had cooked up in that kitchen in all of the years of her marriage!

She believed in me. She had faith that I would pick up the torch and carry on the legacy for generations yet to come. She saw something in me that I did not even see in myself. She delighted in something in me that I did not even know was there.

I wonder today who WE could touch like this? Is there someone we could just believe in? Is there someone we could just enjoy and delight in? Is there someone who’s life just might be different if we would invest in them? I am talking about the little things and the big things. I am talking about the moments we least expect. I am talking about being ALL THERE even in the kitchen LIKE we would be in a pulpit! That is where the legacy is built. That is where the legacy is passed on to future generations. And, it might only take a notebook!

Cindy2015About Cindy Rushton…

Cindy Rushton is the mother of Matthew (28) and Elisabeth (25). She is Mimi to Joshua, Achilles, and Oliver. Cindy lives in Middle Tennessee. Cindy is the author of almost 150 books, Bible studies and homeschool resources. She has become a beloved and favored speaker for churches, special events, conferences, homeschool conventions and retreats across our country. You may contact her through email: See her online at:

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The Importance of Routine by Cindy Rushton


Good morning dearies! I just got an email from Mary Beth asking me to share this article. She remembered reading it before, but couldn’t remember where to find it. She asked if I could post it here. YES! Hope all of you enjoy! This is an oldie. Fun to read now that my crew are grown and graduated. I could not recommend better tips today. This one is timeless. Enjoy….

Homeschools come packaged in all sorts and types.  Homes all have their own atmosphere…their own discipline…and their own life.  What will make for happy homeschool days?  My vote goes to routine!

As we look at different homes, we find that many people use many instruments to establish discipline.  In our home, we have used primarily two tools–instruction and routine!  You can probably see the need and benefits for instruction but why routine?  Routine is the means by which we lay down the tracks of discipline.  In our family routines, we take away much of the pain of who does what, when they are to do whatever, and how much they are to do.  It has become part of our character to do all that we do with excellence…diligence…and of course, speed!  So, what are some ideas for bringing routine into the home?  The following thoughts are a hodgepodge of my thoughts on routine and form that I have jotted down as I studied this month…

•    When planning routines, priority is given to the most important things. The most important thing is the spirit of the person!  We all need our time with God primarily.  If nothing else is done each day, why not the quiet times?  However, often I myself find the struggle is more for the to-do’s than for my relationship with God OR with the children.  If we value the person the most, we find that our priority becomes that time to talk, read, relax, and even work together.  Yes, there is always more work to do than there is time to do it.  We must accept that reality while planning the time that we devote to that work around time with God and each other!

•    Use lessons to establish habit and discipline. Lessons are the perfect means to establish habit and discipline in the child. Lessons are perfect time to lay the lines of good habits and correct the harmful habits.  Through their lessons, they learn skills, practice godly character, learn that there are “musts” in life, and learn to use all of the faculties of their minds.

•    Feel free to alter any given routine! As we go through life, we find that life is so short.  The sunny moments simply must be snatched along the way.  Even in Charlotte Mason’s schools, she would ring a bell on nice days and set off for an all day expedition!  Can we be this spontaneous?  Yes, duty calls and responsibilities should be accepted habitually.  BUT, all the duty and responsibility is out of balance without the liberty to enjoy life and its spontaneity!

•    Remember that it is not essential to have a developmental program for the child. Instead of trying to teach each child on his/her own grade level, we all share in life together.  We all learn from life together as fellow students.  We are constantly establishing good habits, good priorities, and good routines!  We use REAL LIFE as the curriculum!  Because of this, we can relax knowing that real life is the perfect teacher.  It will be as we go along the way that we will teach the most to our children.  If we base what we teach on “grade level,” then we find that our children simply do not thrive and learning becomes artificial!  Instead, let’s look at what life can teach us.  An example from our life was just this past week.  We were in Mississippi for our Homeschooling Seminar.  Almost all of our family lives in Mississippi.  As we were getting ready to leave from the Rushton’s home to go visit my Daddy, my son was only listening to a conversation between his great-grandmother and I when God brought forth a natural lesson from life.  She was commenting on Matthew’s new book Fearless Warriors, when I shared with her that his next book was to be on the Great Men and Women of the Civil War including our family.  As she said, “Well, you know that both my grandfathers were in the War!”  Matthew darted across the room to sit at her feet and glean from her stories of long ago!  He was able to jot down two more stories for his book…and where did it come from?  LIFE!  It is not essential or even recommended to limit your child to what is learned at their grade level!  Let your time with them be your curriculum!  You will find that the results will influence their routines, priorities in life, and habits for all of life! You will find that they will be able to learn MORE than is possible following a typical scope and sequence!  You will find your homeschool more fulfilling while you are juggling less!!

•    Use home as the atmosphere for teaching! Our homes are a perfect “growing ground” for children.  As mothers, we can view our children as our little plants that will have to be nurtured in our homes.  We will have to pour into them.  We will have to devote ourselves to their constant care.  We will have to be the ones to snatch up those weeds (harmful habits, attitudes, and ideas) that will quickly grow to hinder or possibly cut off their growth.  We are their caretakers.  In being their caretakers, we have to devote all to instructing them at all times.  It may mean that for a season, we just stay home and pour into them… but the results are worth it.  We will find our homes bearing great fruit through our children!

•    Accept that we are never perfect or there! It is often so hard to accept our own weaknesses, needs, or limitations.  We want to be perfect BEFORE we start teaching our children, yet God’s plan entails walking alongside of one another as fellow students in HIS classroom of life!  In our routines, we must operate with what IS possible.  We are not perfect, but also our feelings or the circumstances all around us do not sweep us along! We are free to grow and learn together throughout all of life!

A Typical Day at the Rushton’s…

So, wondering what our routines look like? Would you like a peek into our typical day? Join me as we wake up at the Rushton’s….

Wake up…Quiet times.
No one is allowed to interrupt quiet times. Matthew studies on his own in several of his favorite study guides. (Plants Grown Up by Doorposts, Christian Manhood By Gary Maldaner), Elisabeth listens to the Bible on audio-cassette, and I spend time in study and prayer. SOMETIMES I take my prayer walk if the weather permits…judging by my weight  this time, you can tell it has been sweltering hot lately!)

Chores… The Children have to do the majority of the housework…kitchen, bathrooms, laundry, feeding animals, cleaning their rooms… This is done EVERY day. We usually can get most under control pretty quickly so we can settle down for our table time. This helps get us going for the day while helping to keep our concentration on our skills not the undone work around the house!

Table time… This is our formal study time for our skills. It is a given” for every day. It is not altered because we use our table time to establish our routine in our home. The children work on their Bible Study (right now we are studying through the Old Testament with our Greenleaf resources), Copywork (they select their own selections to copy into their notebooks), Math (we are working through Making Math Meaningful on each of their grade levels), and Language (Alphaphonics for Elisabeth. She is still struggling with her reading, BUT getting better every day…it is finally clicking! Greek for Matthew. He is still working on his Greek Alphabet which is typical for his age, 11.)

Time with Dad… My husband works 2nd shift, so he wakes up around the time that the children have finished their table time. We schedule our day like this for a reason: Dad is TOO much fun! He used to distract the children from the time he woke up because they much more preferred to be listening to Dad…or  helping him with his projects around the house. So, I try to finish their disciplined time by the time he wakes up so they can have the next few hours with him! They may work on building something (garage right now), or fixing something (the story of our life!), or going somewhere (they love to ride with him on his motorcycle…yes, we are Gold Wing people!), or just talking with him! Harold has this time to pour into them just “who” he is. He does not teach them Language or even Algebra…he teaches what is most needful…about himself!

Productive Free Time…We usually all do our own thing in the afternoon after Harold goes to work. This is the time that I work on any writing projects…or paper work…or return any calls…or prepare our next meals.  The children spend this time on pursuits that they enjoy. It may be playing, observing nature, reading, working on projects of their own, practicing their instruments, writing, working on the computer…so on. We try to limit what is available in our home to only educational pursuits. Actually, even their playtime is narrating what they are learning in their history read alouds!

Dinner…Baths…More Productive Free Time

Bedtime…Read Alouds… This is our best time to read from the Bible, or our school Read Alouds. We are currently reading through the Bible in a year. This time is spent in prayer, narrating from the previous day’s reading, reading our new selection, and praying again for each other’s requests. We choose our read alouds from a variety of subjects. It may be a classic in literature or a biography or a mission story or a living science book…we swap up so that we read different books together as a family

Well, this is a look at our routine…how is yours?  Is there a routine to your day?  Is there enough margin in each day to allow for ministry as it comes up?  To allow for spontaneity?  Is there enough time that is unorganized by you so that the children can learn on their own?  My prayer is that this issue will encourage you to develop a routine in your home that will give you the peace and fruit that comes only by walking each day in God’s plan for your homeschool!  Happy Homeschooling!

Notebooking! Easy as A, B, C! by Cindy Rushton

Heard your buddies talking about Notebooking? Intrigued? Want to know more? OR…have you been Notebooking for years? Just need a bit of encouragement? Some fresh new ideas?

Well, wherever you are…however you prefer to teach your children…regardless of your children’s abilities, or even disabilities, you will find that Notebooking is EASY as A, B, C!

There is something precious about Notebooking that can transform any writer into an “addicted writer,” especially when they see that their work is precious to those they love the most. Notebooking can help us all to document those almost impossible studies that we really need to document. In fact, Notebooking is one idea that can revolutionize your homeschool. It has ours! This one idea can take your most reluctant writer and turn him into a researcher, who loves to write.

Want to know more? Let’s take a closer look at some Notebooking ABC’s…

A…Anybody Can Notebook!

Who? What ages? Well, this is perhaps the most exciting part about Notebooking! All ages can develop a notebook. High-schoolers can use the researching and recording skills developed through Notebooking for their daily lessons and then for the rest of their lives. Elementary age struggling writers will LOVE Notebooking. Even your toddlers will be thrilled to keep their pictures and “copywork” in their very own special notebook. Oh, even YOU will treasure keeping your own notebooks.

Oh, that is not all! It does not matter if your young writer is a whiz, your writer will be challenged daily by the skills that must be used with Notebooking. If you are a bit reluctant because your child already seems already a bit allergic to their pencil, your child is sure to love this one! In fact, I can almost promise that if you will just give Notebooking a try (What can you lose if the other ideas are not working?), you will find a different child within a year! Yes, this is one other thing that I love about Notebooking—it meets all of us right where we are. All abilities can be challenged through Notebooking. All interests can be developed completely. All learning styles are drawn to Notebooking. Notebooking is for anyone, well actually it is for everyone!

B…Because…Learn Why You Should Try Notebooking???

I have always been a “why” person. Convince me of “WHY” I am to do something and you have got me for life! Well, I want for you to know just a few of the perks that we have found along the way as we have used Notebooking for all subjects of study within our home. I will list and briefly explain a few…

* A place for everything and everything in its place! There is something deep within me that MUST have a place for everything AND must have everything in its place. In the busy homeschool, this has been my greatest struggle. I like to KNOW where things are and that I can be sure to find them when I need them. I also like for things to stay nice, especially if my children have worked so hard to finish their work with excellence. Hands-down, Notebooking is the best and easiest way to KEEP your child’s work nicely in a place that it can not only be found, but can also be viewed at any time by any one. A simple 3-ring binder can be used, by the child, to keep records naturally (and easily)…to help them see their progress… to teach them to be neat and orderly…and to encourage and teach the disciplines that are crucial for them all of their life (record-keeping, researching, thinking and discerning, organizing, categorizing, outlining, in-depth studies, writing). What amazes me the most is how effective this simple discipline is in training and developing the gifts of all children regardless of which age you begin using Notebooking or what level their current writing abilities may be.

* Perfect for each child and each family…I don’t know if you are as particular about the material that your children study, but this was one of the greatest concerns that we had as we began to homeschool. The problem with this is that EVEN in the homeschool market, there are materials that are in opposition to what we believe on a wide variety of topics and subjects. If this does not make things tough enough, materials are often written for specific ages and grades instead of to people of all ages and grades, making the material either “dumbed-down” or completely boring. Then, to top-it-off, we have run across great materials with completely inaccurate information. What to do, what to do??? Oh! Notebook!

* In order to teach our children our beliefs AND what others believe (and why we DON’T believe the same way), we have to search for material from a wide variety of sources. Notebooking is the perfect place to compile all of the information so our children can form their own beliefs and convictions based on a very thorough foundation. We don’t have to worry about age or grade segregated materials either. We can take out the great information (pictures, charts, terms, quotes, and stories), compile it in our notebooks, so all is used most effectively regardless of age. We even use the materials that have great pictures yet, have very little or sometimes NO truth in them. All can be used to build a notebook…well, all under our direction, which is yet another of the benefits of Notebooking!

* Wherever your child is…whatever may concern you…Notebooking gives the flexibility to teach to the child, not the book. Notebooking is so versatile. It goes the pace of the child. It can easily be added to any curriculum, especially those that could use a breath of life. Even those hard to document subjects or unit studies can be recorded in notebooks. Not to mention, LIFE can also be recorded in notebooks! Since education really consists of life, Notebooking documents the true education that takes place in the home.

* Notebooking is FUN!!! One of my struggles as we began homeschooling was the guilt I felt when we REALLY had fun homeschooling. Where on earth would my children learn the “fact of life” that life is not always fun??? (The answer to this question is CHORES!) Where would they learn to continue working even when it was tough…especially if they never had a hard time with their lessons? (The answer to this question is CHORES!) How could they learn from a wide variety of subjects unless those lessons were dictated by a curriculum? (This answer is coming soon!) Can education be effective and challenging IF it is fun?? (This answer is YES! Glorious YES!)

Well, well…this brings us to another advantage to Notebooking: Notebooking is FUN! The notebooks are wrapped around areas of interests NOT subjects. In fact, subjects are not even the focus. Instead, subjects are blended into study, in context, so they make sense instead of being disjointed and artificial. Since subjects are taught as part of the topic, children begin to see that learning is part of life—real life! They see that life is FULL of learning! Learning becomes a lifestyle, instead of in a box or to just pass a test.

In our home, we have found that our children have certain individual interests. If those interests are the means that we use to introduce new material, we can pretty much teach anything and be assured that they will develop a love for that new topic. Want a picture of what this looks like??? Our oldest son, Matthew (fifteen when I first wrote this article) absolutely LOVES anything to do with History, the military, and the “why” behind anything (even Phonics!). We have found that this VERY “boy” boy loves poetry…if it is historical in nature. He loves art…well, IF it depicts historical events (His favorite artists are Mort Kunstler and Norman Rockwell…both known for capturing American Life on canvas!). He loves music…especially if it represents ideas (He has collected lots of different songs from the Civil War for his notebooks. He loves them for daily Copywork AND believes that they tell the REAL story behind History!! Cute huh??) Your child is wired the same way. Regardless of your child’s interest, you can reach them through the discipline of Notebooking. ANY topic is game…even, well, ESPECIALLY if it is fun!

* No Artificial Deadlines!!! Remember writing assignments in high school and college? What is your stomach doing as you think about them? Probably churning as you remember those late nights living off of caffeine just to “buy” enough hours in the day to make the deadlines. Even now, I am not a “deadline” writer. My best work has to be mulled around…thought upon…lived…loved…and made a part of ME. Deadlines take away the heart of topics, and eventually the heart of education as well. In fact, they teach us that the product, even if it is shallow and undeveloped, is more important than the process or the relationships with the areas of study. Want true success? Want to develop a writer who loves writing?? Try the discipline of Notebooking!

* Notebooking follows the pace of your child. Whether your child comes to a skill that is challenging him to his limits or your child needs to find a real challenge in his education, Notebooking meets them where they are and gently challenges them onward without frustrating them! Notebooking, also, allows for growth.

An example of this comes from our family. We have many notebooks that have developed over the years. There are some that have had seasons of intense focus…followed by YEARS of dormancy…only to come back with such a passion that they have developed into workshops, magazine articles, books, and even several series’ of books! There are also many that have developed during a study that is now complete. Those are no less special. It is just that they are not “life” studies as others seem to be. In fact, some have been just for personal edification and for personal study. We keep them ALL! They are all beloved! They grow with us…and sometimes they even let us outgrow them. They are still beloved friends along our journey! Each has helped us to be more and more creative. Each has nurtured our delights and interests and in turn, continued our self-education.

* Encourages In-depth Studies… When I began Notebooking, it had nothing to do with homeschooling. It was as a practical discipline for my own studies. I began as a young wife to study in depth what the Bible said about being a godly wife, mother, mentor, and woman. I just naturally began to compile information along the way. Where did I keep it? In a three-ring binder of course! If I had not had a place to put little goodies that came along my way, I would probably have never continued the study for the last 15 years. I am also pretty certain that I would not write as much as I do had I not been able to find the information in “its spot” after I collected it. I probably would have grown very discouraged to not have a good system for keeping all of my dear information.

Our children are wired the same way. Notebooking is a discipline you will find in common with many of the greatest writers of all time. I love that in Scripture we see God commanding that the kings be trained by copying His Law in a book of their own so that it could be with them all of their lives (Deuteronomy 17: 18-20). Oh, it is not just for training…it is also a practice kept by God Himself (see Malachi 3: 16). Can’t you just see heaven? Full of shelves and shelves of binders???? Hoot! Hoot!

My dear friend, Notebooking is not just a technique that has been thought up over the last few years. It is eternal. It can continue as long as they would like to continue with a notebook or a topic. It is not limited to certain ages or grades, and of course, not to just one project or just in accompaniment to projects that come along the way. Notebooking can be a life discipline. No scope-and-sequences…focus on subjects…or hurt feelings from grading their hard work with red pens and abundant criticism. Instead, your children can develop a discipline of collecting gems and great information. They can dig deeper in areas of interest. And imagine…this covers all of those subjects naturally and EASILY!

* A Unique, Individual, Personalized Education! As I think of all of the benefits of Notebooking, I have to say that of all of them, I think this one is the most precious to me. Notebooking encourages a completely unique, individual, personalized education. There are NO topics off limits. ANYTHING can be a topic. If it can be a topic for a career or a book, it is game.

Think of those topics most mothers find their most reluctant writers “into”…baseball, dogs, history, sewing, racing, cooking, travel, games, on and on!! All of these can be used for notebooks (Did I leave out your child’s topic?? Trust me, I probably listed it in my book!). There are no limits! Notebooks can adapt to your child’s personality, creativity, and talents. There is NO right way to create a notebook NOR any wrong way to make a notebook. This is not to be vague, rather it is to encourage independence, creativity, and originality!

C…Chomping at the Bit??? Want to Know How To Get Started Now???

All right…fired up yet? Ready? Chomping at the bit to get busy building those notebooks??? Here are some easy how-to’s…

* Gather Your Supplies… Your supplies can be as simple as a 3-ring binder per child, plastic sheet protectors, and a pencil per child. The great thing about Notebooking is that you can make this whatever you would like! Over the years, Notebooking has worked so wonderfully in our home that we are constantly on the lookout for different and fun supplies. Since I am a Scrapbooking nut, we love trying out all of the new Scrapbooking supplies during our daily Notebooking time. Of course, you do not have to go this wild…but, I am sure you will want to! If you have no idea where to begin, see our shopping list for quick ideas of our favorite supplies!

* Make Them Accessible…Set aside a place for your materials and a place for your children to work. There is something wonderful about having a place for everything and everything RELIABLY in its place. The work in the beginning is well worth the time during the school year. When we begin a new study, I go through my books copying all pages that would make great coloring pages to go along with our Copywork and Narrations. I also reduce many pictures or copy all thumbnails that would be great for our History Timelines. We have a shelf that contains books that I find along the way with great Copywork that I would like for my children to add to their notebooks on those “no ideas are flowing” days. Just having everything there, ready to go, is such a blessing on those busy mornings. Plus, I have learned over the years that this is the best way to really utilize the resources that I have on my shelves.

Just file away any pages or pictures in either Manila envelopes or file folders. If the children know where they are, they are more than likely to use them on their own. Also, you will want to use anything else that you have in your home. I keep our paints, papers (plain and colored cardstock and 20lb paper; writing paper; etc.), glues, templates, cutting utensils, rulers, markers, pens, pencils, etc. on a shelf and in plastic bins by our dining table (where we do our daily lessons). They are in their spot and that spot is close by. If we want to encourage our young writers, we must give them free access to the best materials. The benefits are unbelievable!

* Turn Your Children Loose! Yep! This is all that is left! Inevitably, when I teach workshops on Notebooking, I can almost see the brains of mothers clicking away with one tough reality, “IF ONLY I HAD MORE TIME TO DO THIS!” Oh, beloved! Notebooking is not another thing for you to do! The hard part is almost over. The hard part is learning what this is all about and how to get everything together so we can turn our children loose!

When we began Notebooking, I copied a Bible Verse a day as a model for my son to copy. As he copied his verse, he would place his page for the day in a plastic sheet protector and add it to his notebook. The next day, his page for that day would slide in behind that page. The next day, he would add another page in another page protector. We built the entire notebook; not specific divisions or subjects. We chose not to divide by subjects because we wanted a nice full “product” built over time. As we added to the notebook each day, I could see the delight building in my young writers. They would sit and just flip through the pages. They loved seeing success. They loved seeing the notebook build up.

As time went on, my son began to find and copy poems that he liked, songs from church hymnal or from his history lessons. He began a collection of art prints. He added maps that highlighted journeys. At the end of the first year, we had a bulging notebook and a young writer that had gone from reluctant to really excited! The notebook quickly became “his own” notebook. At the end of the year, we divided our notebooks (there was no room to add anything else) into obvious divisions. We had a Bible Notebook, a History Notebook, a Poetry Notebook, and another Copybook. All of these have continued and several have divided into other notebooks through the years. As your children dig into their interests, they may have other Notebooks that develop. Let them go! You will learn more about your children as they learn more about topics AND writing!

So, What Do You Think?

Easy as A, B, C? Want to give it a try? If I could ask every homeschooling family to do just one thing, it would be to just give Notebooking a try. I am sure that if you try just a bit, you will be addicted too! So, think about it. Pray about it. Then, get those supplies. Set aside a spot for your supplies. Then, turn those budding young writers loose! Want to know what will happen? They will be addicted too!

Need More Help???
Check out Our Notebooking Super Sale!

The Formation of Habit by Cindy Rushton

“The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; on the other hand, she who lets habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction.” “If we fail to ease life by laying down habits of right thinking and right doing, habits of wrong thinking and wrong doing fix themselves on their own accord.” ~Charlotte Mason

We all come into homeschooling bringing our own personality…our beliefs of what school should be like and how children learn best…and of course, these little ones in which God assigns for us to teach. We find immediately that homeschooling is so much more than just teaching subjects. It requires so much more of us! As I look back at the over the past years of homeschooling, I find that a large majority of my efforts have not changed much since we began that spring of 1991. I am still battling the to-do’s of homemaking, the pull of all the extras out of my home, and even more so, the formation of habit.

The formation of habit is central to what we do in our homeschooling. It is so central that Charlotte Mason, an educator from the late 1800’s, wrote the largest portion of her 6 volumes on home education on the formation of habit rather than the teaching of lessons. She said often that Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, and a Life. Yes, she felt that discipline in the home was one-third of what made a complete education!

So many mothers seek for curriculum or schedules to bring structure, order, and even education to the home. Structure, order and education all come from the formation of habit. Formation of habit is not available from any curriculum or any planner or any schedule. Rather, good habits are formed as real education occurs in our home. We have many areas of habit formation that the parent must consider in the education of the child. Consideration must be given to establishing good habits in each area of the child’s being…their intellect, their physical life, their religious life, their character, and their will. Yes, a true education affects all areas of the child’s life!

Habits of the Intellectual Life…

Most often, we think of their intellectual life as we think of homeschooling. We want for our children to be trained in attentiveness, obedience, the act of knowing, fit and ready expression, right thinking, right judging, accuracy, excellence, the good life. However, we seldom realize the great importance of ideas to the intellectual life. You see every habit in the child first comes by ideas. Miss Mason shares in her book Parents and Children the following… “Every habit has its beginning. The beginning is the idea which comes with a stir and takes possession of us.” The question is where do they get such ideas? How do we influence their intellectual life with ideas?

First, ideas are chiefly passed from person to person. It may be by the means of a relationship, or a great book, or something that someone may create (clothes, art, music, poetry, and literature…). You probably remember many instances that you were inspired to greatness by a story-or sadly were influenced to compromise your morals by a song or relationship.

We influence the intellectual life of our children as we carefully moderate the ideas in which they come in contact with. It may be guarding the relationships that they develop. It may be in eliminating activities, which do not support a home-centered lifestyle. It may be selecting appropriate literature or other influences. Our jobs as parents are eased, as we are selective about the food we select for the minds of our children. We want for the children to love learning, so we are careful to present them with ideas in the form of great literature, beautiful poetry, fine art, sensational music. We give them time to develop relationships with what they are learning whether it is a person from their biographies…or seeing a need to learn to write so that they can produce a product of worth to themselves and others.

Secondly, we find that our choices as parents will influence the ideas that our children internalize about education. I remember growing up in the public schools with the thought that education was someone teaching us in a classroom. I could not see all of life as educational. I could not fit church into my box of “what learning should be” so you can imagine the difficulty with changing my ideas and thus, habits once we began to homeschool. Our children may have never been inside the walls of a school, but they have ideas about learning which influence the way that they learn! We can influence their ideas of what education is by the food we give for their minds, the activities we allow them to participate in, the friends that we allow to influence their lives, and our own philosophy of education. These will make all the difference in the development of their intellectual habits!

Finally, we influence the ideas that our children have about the intellectual life by the lessons that we serve before them. Lessons are a means whereby we may establish habit effectively. The children learn by lessons whether the effort to give their attention is necessary or not, whether their minds and intelligence are respected or not, whether we care more for the test scores or for them and their calling in life, whether it pays to have initiative or whether it pays to sit, soak, and sour. As we train our children in intellectual habits, we will find that learning is really more natural than the models that were set before us in governmental and private schools. We will find the children become self-educated at early ages on a path that is totally individual for them! We will find that our children will be children of purpose!

Physical Habits…

The habits of the physical life are interwoven in all areas of life. A person is judged by their neatness, the order in their life and personal belongings, and their standard of excellence. The habits of instilled in their lessons and spirit influence their physical habits. Because of this, children should be able to express their good character through their physical lessons. It may be to demonstrate attentiveness through listening carefully to their read aloud and then physically place their “re-telling” on paper. It may be to demonstrate their habit of excellence by habitually setting forth to do their copywork without reminder and doing so with precision, accuracy, and perfect execution. It may be to demonstrate their orderliness by helping to keep the home nice, neat, and orderly.

These habits are essential for the home to function optimally. The outward fruits from a lack of training make life tedious for the mother. A messy home, constant supervision of the children, inattentiveness of the children to their lessons all require much more stress than taking time to lay down the lines of good habit. The fruits of an orderly, neat, well-functioning home are definitely worth the effort!

Religious Habits…

Each and every day in our home begins with quiet times. Each member of our family is required to spend their time in Bible study, prayer, and Bible memorization. This was not always so. For many years, I had to establish these habits of the religious life by time spent every morning in Quiet Time WITH the children. It did not take long until I saw Matthew begin to have his own quiet time. I share this because the most crucial habits to instill in our children are those that bring them closer to the Lord.

Habits such as thought of God, reverent attitudes, sense of duty, regular devotions, reading the Bible, praise, prayer, Sabbath keeping only come from the consistent teaching and the model of the parents. The responsibility lies with the parent to instill these habits from an early age. These habits cannot be left for chance without leaving our children ill equipped to know and follow God.

Habits of Character…

Religious habits are empty and vain if we are not diligent to instill in our children the habits of character that are so necessary for the godly, well-educated child. Character used to be essential. In our society, we often ignore the character of the child and focus on the intellectual attainments of the child. Charlotte Mason shared in her book Parents and Children the following insight,

“Disposition, intellect, genius, come pretty much by nature; but character is an achievement, the one practical achievement possible to us for ourselves and for our children; and all real advance in family or individual is along the lines of character. Our great people are great simply by reason of their force of character…let this be borne in mind, whatever ugly quality disfigures the child, he is but as a garden overgrown with weeds; the more prolific the weeds, the more fertile the soul; he has within him every possibility of beauty of life and character. Get rid of the weeds and foster the flowers.”

For every bad habit, there is an opposite good habit. We all desire the wonderful character habits of candor, fortitude, temperance, patience, meekness, courage, generosity, personal service to God, relationship with God, gentleness, kindness…but these character qualities come to be only with care of the parent. Charlotte Mason shared that in order to eliminate bad character and develop the fine character qualities, the parent had to have special treatment as follows…

“The child may be cured in a month if the mother will set herself to the task with both hands and of set purpose; at any rate, the cure may be well begun, and that is half done…Let the month of treatment be a deliciously happy month to him, he living all the time in the sunshine of his mother’s smile. Let him not be left to himself to meditate or carry out ugly pranks. Let him feel himself always under a watchful, loving, and approving, eye. Keep him happily occupied, well amused. All this to break the old custom which is assuredly broken when a certain length of time goes by without its repetition. But one habit drives out another. Lay new lines in the old place. Open avenues of kindness for him. Let him enjoy daily, hourly the pleasure of pleasing. Get him into the way of making little plots for the pleasure of the rest-a plaything of his contriving, a dish of strawberries of his gathering, shadow rabbits to amuse the baby; take him on kind errands to poor neighbors, carrying and giving of his own. For a whole month the child’s whole heart is flowing out in deeds and schemes and thoughts of lovingkindness, and the ingenuity which spent itself in malicious tricks becomes an acquisition to his family when his devices are benevolent.”

If you find a weed in your child’s character, replace it with a flower! Choke out the weeds/defects in character with the graces of fine character!

Habits of the Will…

All of the above is of no real use until we deal with the final area of establishing habit–that of the will. The will shapes the destiny of the person. The will determines the consistency of action of the individual, the heart behind what is done or said or believed or accepted, and the final acceptance of your authority as the parent and ultimately God’s authority as Supreme Ruler in that child’s life. It is by the will that the child can “turn his thoughts to the things he wants to think of-his lessons, his prayers, his work, and away from things he should not think of.” (Charlotte Mason in Home Education) It is by the will that the child learns to manage himself with self-government, controlling himself, compelling himself, and overcoming temptations.

The will of the child is very tender. The habits of the will are just as tender to instill. In the area of the will, the wise mother can strengthen her child, thus having fruit in all areas of habit. She strengthens the will with several tools–habits of the will. One such habit is giving the child a sense of conquest over his own inclinations. She can invite the child to cooperate and praise him as he experiences little successes!.She can teach him the habit of compelling himself. Charlotte Mason called this habit the highest accomplishment of life. It is certainly so. As he heartily intends and purposes to do something he is bidden to do, he can use his own will to compel himself. This habit in motion is as exhilarating as seeing a child walk on his own, but more so because we know that as the child learns to compel himself to do good or to choose not to do bad, he is able to become self-governed for life. Another habit to instill is that of completion–succeeding at what they set forth to do or finishing what is started. This habit is one that influences every other area of habit!.It influences who the child becomes.

The last habit of the will is that of letting God teach the child through his conscience. My key verse for homeschooling is 1 Timothy 1:5, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” This verse sums up all of the emphasis of good habit. Without the formation of good habits, the goal of our instruction can never be attained. Our children would never will to do that which is good from pure hearts because they would not have a love for good. They would never learn to be sincere in their faith because they would develop the habit of self-centeredness and selfishness. Their faith would be in self. They would never have a good conscience that only comes from total fellowship with God through His Holy Spirit. Our goal is but this one thing to instill habit in our children so that they may have love from pure hearts…have a good conscience…and have a sincere faith. What an awesome goal–the formation of habit. Habit reaps a character. Character reaps a life.

Fall! Don’t Miss Nature Studies! by Cindy Rushton

Fall is here!

Anybody else having “fall fever?” Ready to get outside to soak up the beauty and fresh air? Oh! I LOVE the fall! This is the perfect time to make up any excuse to get outside. But, what if we call it “school” as we enjoy this gorgeous fall?

Yep! It is fall and time for fall themed nature studies. Yep! Time for that weekly nature walk! Time to pull out those nature notebooks and begin a fresh new study. NO pressure. Just with atmosphere of fun and delight!

Want some ideas that are EASY? How about some of our favorites? Let’s dig in…


  • Take a nature walk to collect fall leaves. Classify leaves by color and form. Press for nature notebook. Jot down date, name, and where found.
  • Select and draw a leaf for your nature notebook. Include date, name, and where found.
  • Collect, describe or draw the fruit or seeds from your tree.
  • Record the date that the first leaves begin to fall.
  • Cut a chosen leaf out of similar colored paper.
  • Make cards with pressed leaves and special poetry or Scripture.
  • Sketch your tree in watercolor or crayon for your nature notebook.
  • Sketch a tree and label the parts.
  • Write a description of the roots of the tree.
  • Hunt for fall poetry about trees. Copy into your nature notebook.
  • Look up Scripture verses about trees. Copy into your nature notebook.


  • Each week take a walk to collect new fall wildflowers around your neighborhood. Press into a scrapbook/nature notebook.
  • Sketch and label flower parts.
  • Hunt for poetry about the flowers that are blooming each week.
  • Find Scripture verses to copy into your nature notebook about all flowers.
  • Plant some flowers outside in your yard.


  • Time for bird migration. Read about it with the children. Go to any area that birds gather—observe!
  • Take in any feeders for migratory birds.
  • Don’t forget to feed any birds that stay around your home. Put one right outside of a big window so the children can watch the birds up close.
  • Look for bird feathers. Keep in your nature notebook. Be sure to note where found, what kind of bird, and the date found.


  • Work on your bug collection.
  • Hunt for insect homes—under rocks and fallen logs…in the bark of a tree…in corners of your home…anthills…under leaves…on plants…so on.
  • Watch for flying ants.
  • Go to a pond to collect water insects.
  • Look for masses of ladybugs. They hibernate in large groups, nestled in the roots of grass.


  • Keep an amphibian or reptile overnight.
  • Make a home for a new pet! Study all about what they eat and how they live most comfortably.
  • Preserve a spider web. (see Ideas Section of Nature Study the Easy Way for details)


  • Experiment with seeds…hitchhiking seeds, germination, growth rate…so on!
  • Collect wildflower seeds.
  • Make a seed chart.
  • Research to find which plants in your area have edible roots. Dig up some and give it a try.
  • Hunt for fall mushrooms.
  • Go gather pecans. Make a pecan pie.
  • Go pick apples at an orchard. Make homemade applesauce or apple pies.


  • Keep a chart of the moon phases for a month—try October!
  • Take an evening to spend stargazing.
  • Watch a fall sunset.


  • Keep weather chart for the first two weeks of the season—begin October.


  • Take a day for each of your collections to maintain! (Rocks… shells… feathers… so on.)

Seasonal Table Ideas…

  • Pumpkins
  • Indian corn
  • String of apple rings
  • Mums
  • Nut people
  • Spatter leaf prints
  • Autumn lanterns
  • Autumn wreath
  • Apples
  • Colors: warm autumn golds/muted reds/orange/earthy greens