When friends and family members discover that you have elected to home school, one of the most common reactions is, "I could never homeschool! I wouldn't know where to begin!" When I made the decision to home school, I too felt a certain amount of anxiety. I wondered if I would truly be able to meet the needs of my children.

As you prayerfully proceed, you begin to discover the wealth of knowledge and materials that are available to the homeschooling family. In fact, you may find the choices you have to be a little overwhelming. Eventually you begin to determine what "works" and what doesn't and in time you find that you have developed a strong sense of how to teach your children knowledge and wisdom.

For many families, however, this process may take much longer than we would like. As a result we can't help but think about the time we lost pursuing methods that were not very effective. We may find ourselves asking, "If we could homeschool our children all over again, what would we do differently?"

To answer this question, it's important that we consider what our objectives are and whether we have a clear vision of where we are going before we start the homeschooling journey.

We knew that it was one thing to make our children read history books. But would it not be much better if we could give them a love for history? Additionally, we could easily direct our children to read their Bibles but it would be much more valuable if we could pass along to them a genuine love for God's Word. In such critical categories surrounding the development of our children's lives, none of us want to be spinning our wheels. We all want to make the learning experience rich and rewarding from the beginning.

In our home we earnestly wanted to pass onto our children a love of history. Yet as we began to teach history we soon learned that the typical textbooks made the subject matter dry and static. Biographies, however, made history so much more enjoyable. They reveal the heart behind the men and women in the events. This is so important because it allows our children to genuinely connect with historical figures and join with them in their struggles and their triumphs. Put simply, it made history come alive! 

This approach is also true of many other areas of study. Howard and William Hendricks (Living by the Book, 1993) wrote about the importance of getting "involved" with the text. They report that studies have shown that we remember 10 percent of what we hear; 50 percent of what we see and hear; but 90 percent of what we do, see, and hear! They even suggest that as you study the Scripture one of the best ways of getting involved with the text is by creating charts. 

We've witnessed first hand that if we could get our children to personalize and engage in their studies, they showed much greater interest, enthusiasm, and retention. In my own experience as a young student, I can still clearly recall a sixth-grade assignment to create a report on the state of Florida. I was instructed to go to the library and find all the materials for myself. I was not merely looking up "answers", I was researching, reasoning, and then writing about my findings. To my surprise, I had a blast! As anyone who knew me at the time can tell you, I fell in love with the "sunshine state" and was eager to discuss it at the drop of a hat! In fact, I still have my notebook and remember so many things I learned about the state of Florida.

It has become clear in our homeschool experience that creating notebooks for each subject we tackled is not only fun it is also extremely effective. Our nine-year-old son is creating a U.S. history and geography notebook. He is also compiling a notebook from writings from his morning devotions, where he is learning about the attributes of God. Our seven-year-old has her own history notebook, as well as a notebook she is creating from the Bible stories we are reading together in the mornings.

Since we began creating notebooks, we have noticed a remarkable increase in their ability to engage in what they are learning. Their notebooks have also served as a wonderful means to review and refresh what they've learned. When friends come over, our children are always so proud to show what they have created and what they have learned. Their attitude toward learning is so different from when they filled in the blanks on worksheets, which were often discarded and forgotten.

Charlotte Mason had her students create notebooks and many homeschoolers today are convinced that there is no better method of teaching. Here are some of the benefits to notebooking that we have discovered:

  • They build strong thinking, research, and writing skills. 
  • They provide a means to look back and review the many people, places, and events that have been studied.
  • They help students create and personalize their own reference materials, dramatically increasing their ability to recall what they have learned.
  • They eliminate hours of busy work and help make the most of the student's (and teacher's) time.
  • They work well with many of the prominent teaching philosophies (i.e. Charlotte Mason, Classical Approach, Principle Approach, etc.)

Creating notebooks can be compared to keeping photo albums. Often the memories our children keep from their early childhood are the ones we have recorded for them in the family photo book. As they look over the pictures, the moments we've recorded with our camera are relived over and over again in their minds and readily recalled. If we forget our camera the memory over the years is often forgotten. The same holds true for the things our children are learning. So much will be forgotten, if we do not create a way for them to look back and review.

"If you could home school your children all over again what would you do differently?" We would find ways for our children to get involved with what they are learning, and we would have them create a paper trail, to use for reference and review.

No matter what method you subscribe to in your home schooling endeavors I hope you and your children will find the thrill of learning about God and His creation a lasting and meaningful experience.

Our passion for this method of learning lead to the creation of our company Hold That Thought! We have historical figures whose stories need to be told. We have maps on the different explorers but their courses need to be charted. And we have many other sheets that will involve your students as they go through history and other subjects. We also have some amazing timelines that when assembled can reveal the chronology of history at a glance. Most importantly, all of our materials are hands on and help you cover all the key historical people, places, and events that comprise our world.

Elaine Depew lives in Glendale, California. She has spent over 20 years creating, writing, and designing pro-life materials published by The Repair Shop, a pro-life publishing company she co-founded. Along with a group of educators, artists, and researchers, she has now turned her attention to the homeschool community to create Hold That Thought. You can view their website at www.holdthatthought.com.
Copyright, 2004. Used with permission. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com
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