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.
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:
Here is a video which will explain more:
You can try the Westvon notebooking pages by clicking through this link:
Here is a post with more notebooking pages:
Here are some more language arts notebooking pages:
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: