Notebooking…ahhh, just the thought makes me hyper! If I could ask every homeschooling family to do just one thing, it would be to just give notebooking a try. This is the one technique that pulls everything together – studies, research, real life, personal interests – EVERYTHING! It reaches even the most reluctant writer! It makes homeschooling fun and easy! Who wouldn't want to try that?

Furthermore, everything that normally clutters up the busy homeschool home can be tucked away into a notebook. All of those precious narrations can be safely protected in notebooks. All of those daily copywork lessons can find their home in notebooks on each of the topics that your children love so much. Even those awesome handouts that you have piled up from field trips can find the perfect home in your notebooks! Homeschooling is recorded. An heirloom is built!

Want To Give It A Try?

Getting started is as easy as A, B, C. Let me take you through the easy steps:

  1. Gather your supplies. Your supplies can be as simple as a three-ring binder per child, plastic sheet protectors, and a pencil per child. You can make this as simple or as crafty as you like! Over the years, notebooking has worked so wonderfully in our home that we are constantly on the lookout for different and fun supplies. Since I am a scrapbooking nut, we love trying out all of the new scrapbooking supplies during our daily notebooking time. By doing so, our daily lessons are as fun as a scrapbooking party — every day! If you have no idea where to begin, see our shopping list for quick ideas on supplies that work great!
  2. Make Your Supplies Accessible. Set aside a place for your materials and a place for your children to work. There is something wonderful about having a place for everything and everything RELIABLY in its place. The work in the beginning is well worth the time during the school year. We have a shelf that contains books that I find along the way with great copywork that I would like for my children to add to their notebooks on those "no ideas are flowing" days. Just having everything there, ready to go, is such a blessing on those busy mornings. Plus, I have learned over the years that this is the best way to really utilize the resources that I have on my shelves.

    Just file away any pages or pictures in either manila envelops or file folders. If the children know where they are, they are more than likely to use them on their own. Also, you will want to use anything else that you have in your home. I keep our paints, papers (plain and colored cardstock and 20lb paper; writing paper; etc.), glues, templates, cutting utensils, rulers, markers, pens, pencils, etc. on a shelf and in plastic bins by our dining table (where we do our daily lessons). They are in their spot and that spot is close by. If we want to encourage our young writers, we must give them free access to the best materials. 
  3. Turn Your Children Loose! Yep! This is all that is left! Inevitably, when I teach workshops on notebooking, I can almost see the brains of mothers clicking away with one tough reality, "IF ONLY I HAD MORE TIME TO DO THIS!" Oh, beloved! Notebooking is not another thing for you to do! The hard part is almost over. The hard part is learning what this is all about and how to get everything together so we can turn our children loose! 

When we began notebooking, I copied a Bible verse a day as a model for my son to copy. As he copied his verse, he would place his page for the day in a plastic sheet protector and add it to his notebook. The next day, his page for that day would slide in behind that page. The next day, he would add another page in another page protector. We built the entire notebook; not specific divisions or subjects. We chose not to divide by subjects because we wanted a nice full "product" built over time. As we added to the notebook each day, I could see the delight building in my young writers. They would sit and just flip through the pages. They loved seeing success. They loved seeing the notebook build up.

As time went on, my son began to find and copy poems that he liked, songs from the church hymnal or from his history lessons. He began a collection of art prints. He added maps that highlighted journeys. At the end of the first year, we had a bulging notebook and a young writer that had gone from reluctant to really excited! The notebook quickly became "his own" notebook. At the end of the year, we divided our notebooks (there was no room to add anything else) into obvious divisions. We had a Bible notebook, a history notebook, a poetry notebook, and another copybook. All of these have continued and several have divided into other notebooks through the years (he now has FOUR history notebooks — Great Men and Women of the Civil War, Battles of the Civil War, Military Notebook, and World History Timeline Notebook! AND that is JUST History!). As your children dig into their interests, they may have other notebooks that develop. Let them go! You will learn more about your children as they learn more about topics AND writing!

So, What Do You Think?

Want to give it a try? If I could ask every homeschooling family to do just one thing, it would be to just give notebooking a try. So, think about it. Pray about it. Then, get those supplies. Set aside a spot for your supplies. Then, turn those budding young writers loose! 

Our Quick Notebooking Shopping List…

  • One notebook per child. Our favorite notebooks are the 3-ring vinyl notebooks that have the clear pockets on the outside so the children can design their own covers. We usually choose the white notebooks and fill it full of plastic sheet protectors. Then, all our children have to do is add their work each day.
  • Plastic sheet protectors. They work great at protecting your child's work from spills, rips, and smudges in 3-ring binders and especially for preserving pressed specimens. We use the 8 ½- by 11-inch sheet protectors, which we buy by the box at Sam's. The non-glare type is more durable, does not scratch as easily, and is not as brittle as the shiny ones.
  • Paper. We choose a wide variety of paper depending on what we need from an office supply store:
    • 110 pound white for art and timeline notebooks.
    • 110 pound colored for notebook covers, for sturdy pages, for mounting specimens or pictures.
    • Plain lined paper for their level of handwriting.
    • Printer paper for the computer.
  • Staplers. We keep the regular staplers AND the heavy-duty booklet staplers. These are especially great for making booklets!
  • Camera. Digital cameras are simply priceless! If you have a film camera, you can request a CD-ROM with the pictures on it. Your children can paste-and-clip pictures into their work. If they are constantly building, cooking, creating, or tinkering; they can document what they are learning through scrapbooking the process. 

Other "essentials". You may already have lots of these. Different kinds of scissors, hole punchers, highlighters, pens, pencils, markers, watercolor pencils, sketch pencils, mounting tapes, mounting corners, glue stick, stickers, rubber stamps, paper cutters, colors, paints, and of course, scrapbooking books and magazines!

Copyright, 2004. Used with permission. The Old Schoolhouse magazine. Cindy Rushton is married to Harold Rushton, and the mother of Matthew (17) and Elisabeth (13). She is the author of over 75 books, Bible studies, and homeschool resources. She publishes two magazines, Time for Tea and Homeschooling The Easy Way. She is a speaker for homeschool conventions across our country. Go to www.cindyrushton.com, email her at cindy@cindyrushton.com, or call Rushton Family Ministries at 1-256-381-2529 or 1-888-HSBOOKS.