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!
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