Introducing Notebooks

We did a lot of Narrations in the beginning of our homeschooling journey.  This was just natural with FIAR the first time round with Josh and Jess and then the more I looked into narrations it became more intentional.  Josh and Jess are keen writers and they learnt to type early so written narrations soon became the norm for them.  We filed their narrations into a ring binder – Notebooking!


This was before I met Cindy Rushton (not in person LOL! but her writings).  When I read her book “Notebooking! Yes! You can be a Binder Queen!” I was hooked.  In reality we were already doing it but she gave us context and direction.


I then got to the point that I wanted more than written narrations (which were really casual reports) from Josh and Jess.  I had come across a list of narration options which helps to see narrations as more than a paragraph or two.  I tried to present notebook pages as a creative option. Josh is stuck in his ways (and he is good at it) of writing paragraph after paragraph – he does alternate with various genres now.  Jessica loved the creative aspect I was presenting; the opportunity to include pictures, coloured paper, fancy lettering etc. 


So notebooking in our house now –

For Josh and Jess (12 and 11)

They have a history, biography, Australian studies and literature reading programme.  After each of those books they are to “do a notebook page”.  This is to be any form of communicating what they found interesting or learnt.  They have a copy of the above mentioned narration options list which they refer to occasionally.   Josh likes his work on a4, filed in plastic sleeves, in a ring binder.  Anything creative that he does do is done on the computer with WordArt or the like.  Jess on the other hand still likes to work with interactive mini fold books (which are often associated with lapbooks) and coloured paper.  She likes to store her work in Scrapbooks (recycled paper kind we would have had as kids for painting etc) so she glues her work in one scrapbook per subject.


For Science they are working through separate books that have various assignments attached.  They continue to communicate something after each lesson – be it following the instructions of their curriculum or a narration style. 


For Nomi and Daniel

We are still working through FIAR with them.  We combine notebooking and lapbooking (interactive mini fold books) with them, though we use a large Scrapbook as work just gets glued in and we don’t waste time trying to make it look good on a lapbook!  We try and write something – or rather communicate something – at the end of each lesson and it gets stuck into the scrapbook. 


Other Subjects like Bible and Character studies  (which we study together as a family)

We continue to communicate something after we have learnt but for these subjects the kids have a ring binder to collate everything together. 


I like ring binders (and we have binders labelled Bible / Character and another for General Knowledge)  I like to see their learning as continual and building upon previous study.  So I don’t break these up into years – they only get a new binder when one is full not because it is a new year.


Notebooking and Independent work

As I try and make less distinction between homeschooling and home life I am finding that notebooking is right there beside me.  As I have asked the children to communicate what they have learnt (rather than give me a narration) they are making this a lifetime habit rather than a school activity. 


The benefits of this are that they work on their “notebooks” in their productive project time.  For example, Josh writes many stories and is collating a Writing file.  He does this in “school time” and “free time”.  Jess is interested in horses.  She often writes out a piece of information and sticks it into her Horse Lapbook during her project time.  Jess has made herself several Notebook/Lapbooks – one on organization, and one of the projects she wants to complete.


This concept has helped us make the most of our family holiday times.  I like to have a short table time every night during our family holidays.  The kids write in their holiday journal.  For our last holidays wherever we went we collected information.  When we got home the next few weeks was spent on their holiday notebooks/lapbooks.  I was not needed here; it was independent work so I was able to complete the tasks I needed to do.  Different writings and different subjects were pursued by the two of them, for example – a poem on the tsunami, a nativity play, comparison between 1850’s family and our family, research on koalas, research on tsunamis (as a weather phenomenon), poem on picking blueberries, letter asking for information, etc.


In our regular life, as the kids passions start to develop I am encouraging them to keep their papers, their planning of a project, their sketches, their doodles.  They have started collections – stamps, coins, business cards, rocks.  I am encouraging them to read about these hobbies.  To write what they learn, to organise their collections (another form of Notebooking). 


Josh likes the idea of gardening.  We are going to try – yet again – and we will be getting him to record certain aspects of the project.  Josh likes to watch the news – this triggers discussion and research – he could notebook various aspects of news – especially a story that grabs him.  Joshua has just started to collect insects – drying them out and mounting.  This gives scope for a notebook as he learns more. 


Jess is making her own recipe book by recording the recipes she has learnt so well she can cook by herself.  As she learns more about scrapbooking a notebook on techniques is growing.  


Nomi is an artist so is making an Art Portfolio, as well as a couple of collections.  She has also made a notebook on dogs which includes a lot of drawings and some copywork.


Daniel is into space so has a space notebook.  As he learns more on home maintenance he will be building a notebook (he leant to recognise a bolt and a nut the other day so he will be sketching these for his first notebook page).


A friend has had her forth child born this year, plus she was living with her extended family, and now is renovating her house.  It has been a very informal; life happens kind of school year for her.  The opportunities to record, to notebook, what is going on though is endless.

  • The baby’s growth, baby’s needs,
  • Character training
  • Floor plans for their new bedrooms, materials needed for renovations
  • Writing after reading a book
  • Writing after watching an educational TV programme
  • Writing after a field trip, excursion or family outing
  • Notebooking can happen on pet care, hobbies, and fascinations.


Those interested in nature (such as our Nomi and Daniel) will be working on nature notebook pages.  We won’t be doing this in a planned, scheduled time but rather when they find something, they will be asked to draw it for their nature notebook.  As they get older they will research and communicate their learning.


Guidelines for their Notebooking
I have found that the kids work better if I give them “General Knowledge” time for one hour a day – and in this time they either pursue the knowledge of History/Science or they communicate what they have learnt in something, somewhere (notebooking).  Though this may mean that we don’t get through our “curriculum” we are getting learning done! 


I like to see a variety of writing choices.  The Narration Choices list and a writing manual help them with this.  Though often their idea actually does direct the genre, eg.  If they are comparing two things I get them to do a ven diagramme, if they are listing things, a list, if they are telling the facts, I encourage a diagramme, or a flow chart or illustration. 


I like to see them finish what they have started.  This often means we slow down, go through our files and actually commit to finishing ideas off.


The biggest key

I haven’t forced writing on my children.  I do require them to communicate though.  The key for our family has been in asking our children to communicate something you have learnt.

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