I would have to say that using notebooks in our homeschool
is the most rewarding and fulfilling thing we do. It honestly keeps
me afloat and from feeling discouraged or ineffective. In fact, notebooks even give me a sense of accomplishment, a much needed sentiment in this ongoing journey.
We usually use notebooks in place of worksheets, even when the curriculum provides worksheets. Fill in the blank worksheets with word searches, matching games and the like are unable to engage my children the way creating pages for their notebook does. Writing and illustrating for their notebook employs all of the child, his memory, his creativity and the things that interested him the most about what we learned. The child remembers his work far better when all of his mind is involved in recording his learning than he does when 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. I simply love the sight of my children gathered around the table, sharing a large bucket of colored pencils, chatting about what they are drawing, discussing the subject, and complimenting one another's work. They are all doing the same thing, each on his or her own level. It is the closest we have gotten to the idyllic homeschool I had pictured in my mind before I began this adventure.
How Does Notebooking Work
The way it works is like this; after each story we read, or everytime we teach history or science, the children sit down to illustrate a picture, or write down what they learned, usually both. The younger children sometimes dictate to me as I type out their narratives. This exercise serves as a written account of what the child remembered from the
lesson or story. The child is required to really contemplate and ponder on what was studied, and enjoys putting his musings in words. After that, they place their work in a page protector inside their literature, history or science three-ring binder. As we look back at all that we have done throughout the year, the children review and revel in their past learning. And there we have a complete record of the wonderful books we've read, the science and experiments we did, and the history we studied. It is all recorded and preserved; an unmistakable testimony of our learning.
As an instrument for the parent, notebooks offer a delightful record of what we taught and what our children learned; providing tangible evidence that, "Yes! I actually did teach them some interesting things this year!" When our children keep a personal notebook filled with collected artifacts, information they read about and illustrated, it rewards us to remember all that was accomplished.
The contents of our notebooks span the range. Our botany notebook is filled with, among other things, illustrations from nature walks, preserved leaves and records of all our experiments. Each history notebook is replete with illustrations from field trips, books we read and artists they studied. Our literature notebook has an illustration from each chapter of whatever book we are reading and a narration of the events therein.
Children of all learning styles are rewarded from the use notebooks. The verbal child can write long narratives, poems and stories about each subject. The artistic child can illustrate an assortment of pictures or make collages to help him remember the subject. The tactile child can collect artifacts and items that relate to the subject. And the preschooler feels they are "doing school" too as they color their little pictures and put them in their own notebook, just like the big kids. The notebook gives the child freedom of expression, while giving organization and order to the learning process.
We use plastic sleeve page protectors for every page placed in the notebook. It keeps each page nice as the children peruse their work again and again. Each time the children look through their notebook they are reminded of what they learned, unknowingly reviewing their school 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 more thoughtful study. For example, a child can open his American history notebook, and look over his simplified version of the settling of Jamestown. This will enable him to recall enough information to move into deeper study of the subject. Notebooking can make advanced studies less laborious.
Notebooks have been so gratifying for our family. The notebooks show elements of the child's learning, character, creativity and natural bent. It is a blessing to look over their past work. I love that I can say with confidence that "Yes! We have learned a lot these past years!" Without the use of notebooks, all the rich books we read and the incredible things we have learned would likely not be remembered. I can only imagine that when the children are grown and gone, I will spend countless hours pouring over their old notebooks, laughing and crying at the rich memories they hold.