Notebooking is one of my favorite parts of homeschooling! I have written, and recorded bits and pieces about it here and on my YouTube channel, but this post will deal directly with it.

What is it?

“Notebooking,” as we have come to call it in the homeschooling world, is akin to the tried and true practice of keeping a “commonplace book.” A commonplace book has been known as a place to put down ideas, quotes, diagrams, plans, recipes, scriptures, and just about anything that can be recorded on paper. Numerous historical figures have kept such books, including John Locke and Thomas Jefferson. I remember Corrie ten Boom mentioning keeping a journal in which she wrote down special scriptures and savings she used when writing her various books and in giving her talks.

According to Zondervan in their Lifehacks Bible:

Commonplace books were a way to compile knowledge, usually by writing or copying information into a notebook. They were essentially scrapbooks filled with items such as proverbs, prayers and sermon quotes, and they were used by readers as an aid for remembering useful concepts or wisdom they had learned.

When we apply this to homeschooling, we get a unique, effective tool of learning. A child takes information received into his different “gates,” processes it, and then reforms it into his own impressions and thoughts. Afterwards, he takes these thoughts and impressions and expresses them in writing and visual design.

NOT a workbook…

Workbooks and worktexts have become the norm in our conventional idea of education, but they are a relatively new invention. For most of human history, students studied using actual books, not textbooks. They would study, recite, write, and apply information. They recorded all of this learning in notebooks, and often continued this practice well into their adult years.

Textbooks have a very different approach. Instead of allowing a student to take in information, process it, and then come to their own conclusions about it, they are made to believe there is only one way to think about a subject. There is only one “correct” answer. No room for independent thinking, or questioning the narrative of the producer of the material. Textbooking produces maleable, predictable sheep. Notebooking produces people who analyze and question, whose conclusions require absolute truth.

Here are some other postitive benefits of notebooking:

It is engaging.

Children are allowed to enjoy learning for learning’s sake.

It produces excellent retention.

The information goes in one way, but the child gets to choose how it will come out the other, so it sticks in his mind because of the unique processing that is required.

It gives a record of what is being learned.

This is important when we find ourselves accountable to government agencies, neighbors, and relatives.

It provides a keepsake of the learning journey.

I have on my bookshelves many, many binders filled with examples of the past 30 years of our notebooking together. How sweet it is so sit and go through these pages with the children, as they have grown and as they are having children of their own.

It is economic.

Notebooking can be done with the most basic of supplies–one could create an effective notebooking page with only a piece of paper and a pencil!

It can be used with all subjects and disciplines.

We have used notebooking for Bible, language arts, math, science, history, home economics, art, and on and on…

It can be used with conventional textbooks.

In fact, notebooking is a way to hack textbooks so they become real learning books.

It can be used at all levels of learning.

From preschool through high school, which I have covered in the past and hope to be explaining in more detail as I do more posts on this subject.

It can help develop life-long habits.

Since notebooking helps in analyzing and organizing one’s thoughts, it can become a habit that helps with future endeavors, whether in business or home life.

It allows a creative outlet.

Even though a lot of notebooking pages have a predictable structure to them, the possibilities are endless. Our own children have done four-page fold-outs, maps, etc.

It gives a child ownership for their own learning.

This method allowed us to move completely away from any grading system. We discovered our children loved learning so much they always wanted to do their best work.

It gives everyone the sense of accomplishment.

There is nothing like the satisfaction of a job well done–and that goes both for child and mom!

I hope this little post on notebooking has enthused you.

I am hoping to post some more information on notebooking leading up to the publishing of a series of what we are calling “Commonplace Books” which you can either download for free or purchase from Amazon.

You can watch or listen to my podcast on this subject by clicking below:

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