Do your kids like to write? Up until about this time last year, my kids hated anything that had to do with putting their thoughts on paper. Tears would flow as they were composing essays and researching reports.
I was at my wit’s end.
Over the years, I had heard of notebooking and knew only that it was similar to lapbooking, which we were already doing. Finally as a last resort, I decided to actually begin to research what it was all about, and I am so glad I did.
To put it very simply, notebooking is a form of journaling. Some would consider it to be a combination of journaling and scrapbooking. However you define it, though, it’s often the most effective and stress-free way of incorporating writing into your homeschool because it removes the dread of writing assignments and adds an element of creativity. It is so easy to let your kids have a say in how they’ll approach each notebooking page.
Before I share the notebooking ideas we’ve used in our homeschool, if you are new to notebooking, I urge you to remember two crucial things:
Notebooking should not be one more thing to do, but should be used instead of something else that’s simply not working.
Don’t go overboard and start notebooking every subject, everyday. Stick to 1-2 notebooking pages per day, and no more.
Now that that’s settled, let’s get started…
12 Easy Notebooking Ideas
Copywork is such a simple, yet natural way to model quality writing for your children. Simply choose a notebook- we use composition books that the kids have decorated- and have your children copy quotes, passages, verses, poems, song lyrics…anything at all.
For the past several months, my children have been using Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic as their source for copywork. They use stickers and glitter to decorate the pages and often add an illustration or two. Eventually, we’ll have a beautiful keepsake that my kids can save to look back on our years learning together.
2. Unit Studies
Our family has been using unit studies for years, and we love them, but we always had the same problem…What were we supposed to do with all of the stuff they made? I didn’t want to just throw out everything that the kids worked so hard on.
Notebooking was the perfect solution.
Now when I decide what sorts of activities our unit studies will entail, I’m much more choosy about it because I don’t want to put just anything in our notebooks. We use clear plastic sheet protectors to keep their work nice, and that can get pretty costly, so intentionally choosing their assignments now is a must. As for those projects that can’t be flattened to put in the notebook, we can easily take photos and use those instead. (This certainly helps to lessen the sting when we have to throw something away.)
We use 3-pronged folders for these because the kids like to use drawing notebooking pages at times, rather than just writing all the time.
Our routine for this is really rather uncomplicated. First, during the read-aloud time, I will stop after every few pages and ask one of the kids to narrate, making sure that each child has had a turn. Second, I create a word bank on the whiteboard to help the kids remember what they want to write about. I ask the kids what they’d like me to write up there, and they give me any words they don’t know how to spell, names they don’t want to forget, and sometimes phrases or sentences to help jog their memory. Last, they create their notebooking page.
These are also great keepsakes. We now have a collection of notebooks to go along with many of the books we’ve read together.
4. Independent Reading
Notebooking can be used with silent reading just as easily as it can be used with read-alouds. Simply have your child write about what they’ve read that day. Some ideas are:
- a summary
- a character analysis
- copywork of a favorite passage
- an illustration depicting an event
- a prediction of what will happen next
Keep in mind that notebooking should have some variety, so make sure your kids are approaching writing in different ways, rather than sticking with only one or two methods.
5. Nature Study
I think a lot of homeschoolers keep some sort of nature journals, and these are types of notebooks! Your kids can sketch flowers, trees, animals, or other things they observe outside. They can also collect leaves, flower petals, seeds, and other souvenirs to keep as mementos.
Today my daughter and I went for a walk. She took photo upon photo of flowers and flowering trees that we saw. Then she came home, looked them up, and charted what kinds of flowers they were, where she found them, and what they looked like. Another idea would be to get those pictures delveloped and add them to a notebooking page.
So many things to do!
6. Interest-Led Learning
Since I group and alternate my kids, there are days that my children only focus on the 3 R’s and have no other assigned work. This is the perfect opportunity for them to notebook on any subject they choose.
My kids are all animal lovers, so, as of right now, they are all working on some type of animal notebooks. I pick up books for them at the library, they watch videos, and they look up information online to compile all of their information.
Out of all the notebooks my kids have worked on, these are their favorites, and you can tell because they are the most detailed and contain the most information. Who can blame them? These are notebooks that they can claim entirely as their own, and they love working on them.
I am not one who believes that 3 and 4 year olds need to have any sort of homeschool curriculum, but my almost-4 year old insists upon being a part of our homeschool routine.
Her Letter/Phonics notebook is perfect for that. I simply downloaded some freebies from homeschoolshare.com, print them out as we need them, and use a 3-prong folder. We spend several days on each letter and incorporate little mini-books, poems, and pictures for her to color. She’s very proud of her book, and she’s learning, too!
8. Writing Prompts
These are perfect for notebooking. You can easily use a spiral notebook or any other type of composition book to use solely for writing prompts. It can be a lot of fun to go back and read through what your kids have read over time!
Since notebooking is a form of journaling, I don’t think there’s too much I need to add here. I just felt it was important not to overlook this idea.
I am not going to pretend to be a fan of textbooks, but notebooking really can help them to not be so dry and boring. If you use textbooks in your homeschool, consider having your child notebook through them, rather than having them answer the questions at the end of each chapter. Adding just that small amount of personalization can go a long way.
11. Trade Books
If you’re not sure of what a trade book is, picture the non-fiction section of your library. Those are trade books.
The process of notebooking through trade books is very similar to notebooking through independent reading, although you could add vocabulary notebooking pages and perhaps some diagrams.
My 15 year old daughter has been using trade books to notebook through Ancient Egyptian history. She’s included photocopies of hieroglyphics, her own renditions of hieroglyphics, biographical sketches of Tutankhamun and Amenhotep, and a description of the mummification process, just to name a few.
12. Vacation Preparation
You’re probably thinking, whaaat?
This is something my almost 18 year old daughter came up with. Earlier this year, she and I were discussing some options for things she could notebook about. Eventually, she decided to use a notebook to plan a road trip she’s taking after graduation this year. She’s been mapping out possible routes, researching bus and train fares, and searching out landmarks that may interest her- all in the form of a notebook.
Ingenious, if I do say do myself. 🙂
This idea could easily be used by any family planning an upcoming vacation. Not only will it be educational for your kids, but it will get them even more excited than they already are!
I hope these ideas are helpful for you. For additional tips on notebooking, here are some videos I’ve recently made on the subject: