What is notebooking? Well, to be honest, my kids and I are still new to this tool - having just started about six weeks ago - so my knowledge on the topic is limited. That said, I think of it as the creation of a personalized journal of studies, or as an academic scrapbook of things learned.
It is not the robotic completion of a prefabricated worksheet that restricts expression, creativity, and breadth of knowledge. Worksheets seem more designed to prepare for a test. It puts learning into someone else's preconceived box of knowledge - making it sterile, confined, restricted, and uninteresting. Completion of a worksheet is done just to get it over with and entering "fill in the blank" type responses may highlight key terms, but it feels disjointed and is just a snapshot of the total picture. Conversely, the creation of an open-ended notebook page requires a person to really consider what should be included, to truly think about the subject as a whole, and to learn for the sake of learning!
The term notebooking, as used in this case, is not the same as the “note taking” that I did as a child – especially not the kind with a structured outline format. Granted, learning how to organize thoughts and key points is a good skill to have, and a systematic outline is clear, understandable, to-the-point, and shareable. But despite that (or perhaps in addition to it), I remembered the most when I was able to use different colors to highlight or write with, added doodles and designs, or even rearranged the information in a way that MY brain could best grasp it. It was this manipulation of the material to make it my own creation that anchored it more solidly in my mind.
It’s as though notebooking places learning more in the hands of the student, creating something of a middle ground between conventional schooling and a child-led approach because it can link parent/teacher-directed study to [at least some] interest and self-expression of the child – giving them more freedom to explore a subject their way.
About the Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership
NotebookingPages.com is an online resource for downloadable and printable notebook pages with a variety of themes and designs that can be used with any grade and nearly any curriculum or course of study. They offer some free resources, but they also have the Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership program that allows for unlimited access to their thousands of pages and designs, including those currently available AND any notebooking pages added in the future as well! Options range from basic, simple, lined or blank pages with borders, to pages with images/graphics, fancy lettering, and/or clipart. These things are often combined with the option of basic lines or primary lines for writing at different stages of development. Many of the pages have spaces for adding artwork or other embellishments too.
Thankfully, there is an Easy Start Guide, a series of tutorials, links to recommended reading, and a few other helpful articles and tips to help those of us who don’t know much about notebooking or where to begin. They also arrange all the downloads by topic and have a search bar to help someone find what they are looking for.
NotebookingPages.com has plenty of suggestions on how to incorporate this tool into your own homeschool. They have a few ideas for different types of notebooks and designs and one of their webpages has a cute graphic illustrating ideas for things you could add or include in a notebook, such as charts, post-cards, poems, mini-books, timelines, photos, diagrams, copywork, narrations, drawings/artwork, songs, interviews, observations, lab reports, vocabulary, coloring pages, and several other ideas.
I must admit that I’m not one to want to read directions, watch tutorials, or follow step-by-step checklists when I get involved with something new. Instead, I like to just dive right in and explore, figure things out for myself, and learn through hands-on experience and trial-and-error. Nonetheless, I made myself go ahead and walk through the tutorials provided with the Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership – particularly because I was sent emails to remind me about them. I’m glad I did. There were at least a few things that I found helpful and informative, that I don’t think I would have figured out on my own, such as options for notebooks and the importance of narration (which is explained further in the resources they provide).
Now that our notebooks were all set and waiting to be filled, we started to incorporate the use of notebooking pages whenever and wherever they fit into our studies. We’ve been doing a lot of learning based on the girls’ interests, so we would simply print up a notebooking page of their choice to go along with the topic at hand. Luckily, both girls love taking notes!
There were so many options to choose from when it came time to print up some pages! The main categories in my Member Center included Bible/Character, Famous People, Fine Arts, Geography, History, Holidays, Language Arts, Science/Nature, A-Z, and Any Study. Each of those categories had sub-topics to choose from, ranging from animals to presidents to states and countries and so much more! Some of the selections we used were about dinosaurs (an ongoing interest of both kids), President Obama (because of the current news about the presidential elections), famous inventors (including George Washington Carver), birds and animals (since our girls adore them), the scientific method (as a review), and some blank and lined pages with a colorful border.
I must say, however, that I did not like how all of the downloads were organized simply with words or links. (Lots of words and not enough visual stimuli for this Pinterest-loving woman!) There wasn’t an easy option to preview the printables using my computer and browser. Granted, they did have an overview page called a “catalog” that showed what a set of printables would include, but even the catalog had to be downloaded first. Instead, I would really have liked small images to quickly see what our options were before selecting something to download. I could then select only the page I preferred to have each time, rather than downloading a set of pages.
Also, we noticed that there were several times that, despite the thousands of pages, we still couldn’t find a themed printable to match what the girls were interested in. However, they were satisfied with the generic pages in most cases, so this was a minor issue. And of course, that is the beauty of a lifetime membership… they are adding things all the time, so our resources are not limited on there.
But let me get back to how we did things. My girls would read a book or watch an educational video about something. Then, I'd have them narrate back what they remembered. We'd take simple "key word" notes to help jog their memory later, we discussed what they thought, and I answered any questions they had. Then they used their chosen notebooking pages to record their thoughts and include some relevant artwork or cutout/printed images. I did encourage them to enhance their writing with visual aspects (such as decorations, maps, drawings, diagrams, charts, etc).
I left the details up to the girls to decide and let them know there was no right or wrong way to make their pages. I did not summarize the educational material myself or dictate what they needed to know, though we did a whiteboard or printout available for reference, with the brief notes and key terms that we had discussed previously. When looking over their work, I didn't focus on spelling or grammar because I wanted to encourage them to write as much as possible and get used to this process. We can always work to refine things as time goes on.
After the girls finished a new page, they were encouraged to describe and present it and wanted to show them with daddy when he got home. (Which, by the way, never really happened with worksheets they completed in the past. They have far more interest and pride in their notebooks!)
Notebooking seems like it can be used to create a lasting finished project to be proud of, a keepsake to enjoy for years to come, and an obvious and complete portfolio of material studied for future reference and record-keeping. Of course, this is entirely dependent on how much a parent and child want to make this a part of their homeschool and how much effort they put in to it! Not every tool works for everyone, but a key feature of notebooking is the flexibility to adapt it to your own style.
I think the NotebookingPages.com Lifetime Membership has been a good tool for our homeschool. It seems the girls really enjoyed notebooking, especially with lots of pages to choose from and print up any time they wanted them. I also noticed the girls’ skill at choosing information to include in their notebooks and selecting pertinent details, as well as their general confidence in their own abilities, blossomed over time, so we plan to keep incorporating it in the future as well.
If you'd like to know more about NotebookingPages.com and what they have to offer, you can visit their website and/or social media pages. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter!
I'm a homeschooling mom of two, enjoying our time in Hawaii and hoping to share some of that experience with you, including ideas, reviews, resources, and information.