A Fun Alternative to Workbooks for Homeschooling

Instead of using an expensive, complicated, tiring curriculum for history, geography, and literature, why not try something new? This post will be all about a fun alternative to workbooks: Notebooking!

“Notebooking” is not in the spelling dictionary of my computer, so it is one of those concepts that is unique to homeschooling. The idea is to take a sheet of paper and portion it out so children can enter bits of information.

This involves two very important parts of real learning:




The freedom part comes in because with notebooking we are allowing the reader to write down what he thinks is significant, not what someone else has deemed important.

Truly, “regurgitation” is one of the most stultifying and inefficient methods of learning, but one we all default to, most of the time because it is what we are used to, a lot of the time out of peer pressure, and sometimes because it is convenient (or so we think).

Notebooking allows the writer to take the information presented, roll it around in the brain, and then produce a new rendition of the information from a different perspective. This encourages creativity and higher thinking skills.

Conventional workbooks and worksheets are so specific that they are more about memorization, parroting, and producing than understanding and applying.

Giving a child the opportunity to look at information and make it his own is liberating and invigorating.

Structure is important, too.

There are those of us who need some boundaries. We are the ones who can think of a kazillion new things to do every minute, but need someone to sit on us and make us focus on one-thing-at-a-time.

So, notebooking can do that, too. Instead of saying to a child, “Here is some information. Read it and do something with it,” it says, “Here is some new information. Think it carefully through and organize it into these different categories and tell us about what you learned by expressing your thoughts in a way we can relate to and understand.”

What’s included in a notebooking page?

The simplest notebooking pages have a section for a drawing or something visual, and a section for writing. The more complicated ones have places for entering more specific information, without being too explicit on what is required.

For instance, I like to include a place for a quote or for copying a portion of the text. I may like to suggest some bullets for a quick jotting down of important facts or interesting tidbits drawn from a study of, say, the different forms of rocks or the life of Benjamin Franklin.

For a biographical study, there is a place for a general drawing or graphic element (such as a map), and another for a drawing (or printed picture) of the subject.

colorful biography notebooking page

Also, a “fact file” of general statistics is provided.

For an event, other forms of expression are suggested:

The fact file is slightly modified, and the writing and graphic areas are simplified.

Then there is the literature type of notebooking page. Here is an example:

Notice the simplicity. The spaces have categories assigned, but they are general and open-ended (the “quote” space is actually copy work, but don’t tell the kids!). There is no place on this page for an actual narration of a story or novel. This is best done orally, especially at young ages. I have included a narration/essay page for the back (when printing two-sided) for the older set.

Want a free PDF of these notebooking pages, with some premade covers to boot? Click here:

Free Colorful Notebooking Pages

Here is a video which will explain more:

You can try the Westvon notebooking pages by clicking through this link:

History Scribe

Here is a post with more notebooking pages:

Free QUALITY Notebooking Pages

Here are some more language arts notebooking pages:

How to Turn ANY Novel Into a Language Arts Textbook

Don’t have a printer, or don’t want to spend time printing out stuff for your kids? Why not use composition books for notebooking? They’re cheap, and they’re open-and-go! Here is a post on these with a link to a photo gallery:

How to Homeschool With Composition Books

I hope you can see just how much more fun the content area of learning can become when you use notebooking. Do you have any favorite resources for notebooking you could share?


25 thoughts on “A Fun Alternative to Workbooks for Homeschooling”

  1. We have been using your notebooking pages for years and love them! I just print a whole bunch at the start of our school year and keep them in a handy folder. We fill in our pages, and then slide them into a page protector and add them to a 3 ring binder. By the end of the year, we have quite the portfolio. Thank you, again for making these available!

  2. Loooooove when you have videos! You’re so inspirational and I just love your sense of humor . I have gained so much wisdom from your down-to-earth wisdom on life and homeschooling that I can’t even begin to describe it all I love the simple and cheap ways to school, they’re much more personal in my opinion. Keep up the videos! lol

  3. Sherry,
    I just had twins in March ( I have 7 children total) and I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed on what to do for the next school year. I’ve been praying asking the Lord to guide me and he has led me to you. Praise God! You have already been such a blessing. I bought your lesson plan books for the McGuffey readers and your Gently Grammar workbooks and now these awesome note booking pages. Thank you for your wisdom and thank you Lord for giving Sherry the gift of helping and encouraging others.

    In His Service,

    • I’m so humbled by your sweet words. I can remember being in the same spot, and some dear ladies opened their hearts to me and encouraged me. I’m so glad I can be that for you, too. Thank you, Lord, for the blessings You gave me that I can share with others!

  4. Our two favorite notebooking tools are the “My Writing Journals” from Miller Pads and Paper, which come in various line sizes and have a drawing page followed by a writing page, and regular notebooks that don’t have wires. I like that with both of these options I can tear a page out easily to add to a portfolio.

    That said, I printed the pages you offered, and I know that my daughter will enjoy them. Thanks!

  5. Sherry, I can’t tell you how encouraging it has been to me to find you! I was wondering if you could share a link for the pages that you included in your daughter’s book for drawing. Also, do you have a drawing curriculum or resource that you would recommend? Thanks again for all your hard work and encouragement! ~Karen

    • Thank you for your sweet comment, Karen. Unfortunately, I’d love to share a link with you, but I’m foggy on which pages you refer to. Could you be more specific? We don’t use any curriculum, our kids are drawn to drawing and “arting.” There are loads of tutorials online that are fun to watch for free that you can enjoy together.

  6. Wow!
    Thank you so much for sharing your notebooking pages. I have been devouring all your YouTube posts and downloading all your notebooking pages. I have started with the Mcguffey 2nd Eclectic reader with my 9yo son who is a reluctant writer and reader, and I’m already seeing an improvement.
    Would love for you to cover how you educated your sons, and if there was much difference in educating, especially the reading and writing aspect, of your sons and daughters.
    Feeling so blessed to have found your blig and YouTube channel.
    Thank you from Australia x

  7. Hi Sherry! Thank you for all of your notebooking resources!! I need some suggestions… I’m mainly focusing on the 3 R’s (Robinson Curriculum), but have been doing a very relaxed book basket, which includes bible, science, history, and poetry (rotating subjects except bible). I’m already using your Record Book to note all the subjects being covered, but I’d also like something to show evidence of learning. How would I implement notebooking with our book basket, but not make it over-kill? My oldest is only six, so I’m not expecting too much for now. TIA!

    • In answer to your question, how about having your child dictate to you an oral narration or synopsis of what you have been learning together and then having him/her color a little picture to go with it? Just an idea…

      • Great idea! Instead of having my kids do 1 essay a day as RC suggests, I will be using the McGuffeys and your lesson books. Would it be too much to have my kids do a notebooking page related to our book basket topic of the day each day? I’m really trying not to be too ambitious lol.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.