It's no secret. I despise textbooks. I don't even like Story of the World much. Shocking, I know. I would much rather read subject-specific picture and reference books. Yes, it's more work to hunt them down and many times the library doesn't have just what we need, but, for me, it's worth it.
I also would rather participate in meaningful writing, rather than work through exercises that ask my children to write about some arbitrary topic. For us, that means writing about the subjects we're studying. (Also lots of freewriting, but that's a different topic for a different post.) In the past, we've done copywork, and that worked out pretty well. As my oldest gets . . . well . . . older, however, we need something to grow up with her.
Since I wasn't quite sure how this would all work out (except for nature study pages & nature journaling, which we already experiment with), I downloaded Jimmie's Notebooking Success ebook for help getting started. I love her approach. She emphasizes that the process of notebooking and the associated organizational skills students develop (selecting pages, organizing them in binders, etc.) are just as important as the finished pages. Speaking my language, perfectly.
How We Use Notebooking
We mostly use the pages for history right now, because we're focusing our studies on Early American history this fall. I emphasized in the beginning that this is her (my 9 yr old's) collection, and that this is something she can use as a reference for years to come. It takes a little prodding and reminders to take her time (such a choleric temperament) and do this neatly, but she seems to enjoy it. At least she doesn't complain about it. Which is a BIG deal. Huge.
Our process is pretty simple. We read books from the library, one unit of time at a time. For example, we recently read about Thomas Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Lewis & Clark Expedition. As she reads sections of books, I ask her questions and ask her to summarize things. The verbal processing with me really helps her and serves as her prewriting phase. She then creates a brief summary and illustration on a page. I always allow her to draw or write about a learned fact that she found interesting, even if it is somewhat silly (like who kept strange animals in the white house) and not the most important thing to remember. She still gets the facts, but I think it is more important to keep history as an interesting, living story for her than to emphasize the memorization of stale facts. Because how well did that work for so many of us?
Then there's the editing. Once again, it's time for me to disappoint. Despite being a former English teacher, I really don't place a ton of emphasis on this. At least, not at this stage. We're testing out notebooking. She's writing. She's interested in history. I'm not killing her interest by making her edit every single word. Like I said, not now. Once in a while, we look over a page together, and I might just mumble "capitals" or something else, if I see she's refusing, once again, to capitalize the first word of sentences or names or something like that. Because that's annoying and difficult to read and rude to people who have earned capitalized names. It bugs me when she does it consistently, and we will correct a page if I see that we need to break a bad habit. But, honestly, a missed capital or comma or the occasional misspelled word is not necessarily cause to rewrite every page. It's fine. And she's going to look back at these pages next year or five years from now and catch her own mistakes anyway. Which is the whole point, right? We edit for publishing. End of story.
I bought premade pages this summer, because I really didn't know what the heck I was doing. Plus, it was summer and hot and my brain was fuzzy and I so didn't want to have to think. So. Premade pages. You could get by with free templates or get snazzy and make your own. One day, I think it would be fun to let Ella make her own. Oh, look. Another skill. :)
These are the sources I'm using so far:
- Blank notebooking & timeline pages from NotebookingPages.com
- Images from ClipArt Etc - for battles or scenes that prove difficult to illustrate
Organizing It All
We're still working on a system. So far, it's just chronological, with the presidents' pages in their appropriate time slots. We threw in a couple of timeline pages so we could see how everything fell during the Revolutionary War. I had no idea how many years apart some of these major events happened! Mama's learning a lot here, too.
As she completes pages, she puts them in a filing tray. Once a week or once a month or whenever we remember (I'm really random about this), I'll remind her that the tray is getting full and she'll punch holes and file them in her binder. Kids love hole-punching, right? She likes putting the pages in order, too. This is not a hair-pulling task. Not in the least. It's actually kind of fun. Especially for a kid who loves to make books. She's made tons of animal encyclopedias over the years. Now, she's making history reference books. She digs that.
As you can see, we just have the two binders for now. We aren't doing any formal nature studies at the moment, but we had some old pages that needed a home. We'll take a history break soon and pick up with the nature again when it's cooler. And less buggy.
I'm thinking about making the third one a language arts binder, just for storage purposes. A place to keep favorite poems, Ella's stories, and spelling lists. Normally, we would compile all of this into one end-of-year book, but it looks like things will be a little different around here, and I'll have to get used to the idea of an on-going system.
And then I could change my mind completely next month. Who knows. For now, the notebooking test-run is working pretty well for us.
Anyone else notebooking? Have any tips to share?