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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Notebooking - Creativity with a Purpose

I would have to say that using notebooks in our homeschool is themost rewarding and fulfilling thing we do. It honestly keeps meafloat and from feeling discouraged or ineffective. In fact,notebooks even give me a sense of accomplishment, a much neededsentiment in this ongoing journey.We usually use notebooks in place of worksheets, even when thecurriculum provides worksheets. Fill in the blank worksheets withword searches, matching games and the like are unable to engage mychildren the way creating pages for their notebook does. Writingand illustrating for their notebook employs all of the child, hismemory, his creativity and the things that interested him the mostabout what we learned. The child remembers his work far better whenall of his mind is involved in recording his learning than he doeswhen simply has to fill in the blank with the right word.And besides these benefits, notebooks are just so much more fun,creating a social and energetic atmosphere for the entire family. Isimply love the sight of my children gathered around the table,sharing a large bucket of colored pencils, chatting about what theyare drawing, discussing the subject, and complimenting one another'swork. They are all doing the same thing, each on his or her ownlevel. It is the closest we have gotten to the idyllic homeschool Ihad pictured in my mind before I began this adventure.The way it works is like this; after each story we read, or everytime we teach history or science, the children sit down toillustrate a picture, or write down what they learned, usually both.The younger children sometimes dictate to me as I type out theirnarratives. This exercise serves as a written account of what thechild remembered from the lesson or story. The child is required toreally contemplate and ponder on what was studied, and enjoysputting his musings in words. After that, they place their work in apage protector inside their literature, history or science three-ring binder. As we look back at all that we have done throughout theyear, the children review and revel in their past learning. Andthere we have a complete record of the wonderful books we've read,the science and experiments we did, and the history we studied. Itis all recorded and preserved; an unmistakable testimony of ourlearning.As an instrument for the parent, notebooks offer a delightful recordof what we taught and what our children learned; providing tangibleevidence that, "Yes! I actually did teach them some interestingthings this year!" When our children keep a personal notebook filledwith collected artifacts, information they read about andillustrated, it rewards us to remember all that was accomplished.The contents of our notebooks span the range. Our botany notebookis filled with, among other things, illustrations from nature walks,preserved leaves and records of all our experiments. Each historynotebook is replete with illustrations from field trips, books weread and artists they studied. Our literature notebook has anillustration from each chapter of whatever book we are reading and anarration of the events therein.Children of all learning styles are rewarded from the usenotebooks. The verbal child can write long narratives, poems andstories about each subject. The artistic child can illustrate anassortment of pictures or make collages to help him remember thesubject. The tactile child can collect artifacts and items thatrelate to the subject. And the preschooler feels they are "doingschool" too as they color their little pictures and put them intheir own notebook, just like the big kids. The notebook gives thechild freedom of expression, while giving organization and order tothe learning process.We use plastic sleeve page protectors for every page placed in thenotebook. It keeps each page nice as the children peruse their workagain and again. Each time the children look through their notebookthey are reminded of what they learned, unknowingly reviewing theirschool work. Each time they show it to a friend or family member;they subsequently lock the information into their brain forever.This lays a solid foundation for future studies.As learning progresses and deeper analysis of subjects are needed,the previously compiled notebook can serve as a springboard for morethoughtful study. For example, a child can open his American historynotebook, and look over his simplified version of the settling ofJamestown. This will enable him to recall enough information to moveinto deeper study of the subject. Notebooking can make advancedstudies less laborious.Notebooks have been so gratifying for our family. The notebooks showelements of the child's learning, character, creativity and naturalbent. It is a blessing to look over their past work. I love that Ican say with confidence that "Yes! We have learned a lot these pastyears!" Without the use of notebooks, all the rich books we readand the incredible things we have learned would likely not beremembered. I can only imagine that when the children are grown andgone, I will spend countless hours pouring over their old notebooks,laughing and crying at the rich memories they hold.

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