Why Notebooking Works, even for Older Students

At this point in my homeschooling journey, my heart is to put my cyber arms around the folks who are just starting, or having rocky starts with transitioning to homeschooling. So many give up after the first year, or when their experience does not match all the blogs, vlogs, and IG photos they see on social media. It is unbelievably disheartening to me when a mom says, “We tried it, but he/ she didn’t like it…” I want to respond, “Well, would you pull him/her out of public school because he doesn’t like it?!!” Honestly, I think we put too much pressure on ourselves to create an experience for our families that simply doesn’t exist–or at least, not all the time. So in that spirit, I shared in an online group a picture of the youngest’s perfectly-imperfect notebook page for one of her college courses. It was followed by a message of encouragement for the moms that are giving it their all, but not getting any “love” for their hard work.

Quite candidly, I took the picture because it surprised me as much as anyone. To hear the youngest complain about why she must complete her work in a certain way, and with love and care for her presentation, I expected total rebellion once I no longer had control. I like to think, however, that she is seeing that all the technique, the love, and the care, are helping her immensely. There are some concrete reasons that we continue to stick with notebooking as a learning tool of choice:

Study. I am always looking for ways to make our time together more effective. Sure, there are so many intangibles that occur over the table, and so many benefits of homeschooling that are indescribable in written form. But, if the end product, or at least one of them, is a quality education, then a critical piece of what we do must be to educate in a meaningful way. This includes helping the education stick. Notebooking helps with understanding, and with processing information. From Remarkable.com, “Supporting research suggests that typing notes leads to a more shallow processing of information, almost like your brain is in sleep mode! Whereas handwriting is more efficient at processing information overall.”

Retention/ referral. Though not intuitive, it takes a certain amount of thinking about what to write in order to take notes. The act of documenting what you read/ saw/ heard–listening, reframing, and then regurgitating via a pen and pad–is an exercise in retaining information. Additionally, because what actually lands on the page is your child’s own, it is much easier to use it as a tool for recall and referral. The math notebook our youngest compiled was a lifesaver for us both. No more scratching my head when she could not remember concepts later that she’d spent weeks mastering earlier; I could gently turn back to the page where she began taking notes.

Flexibility. Notebooks can be used for literally every subject, and a blank notebook is a literal blank slate. Not only are they great places to record summaries, book reports, or (imagine!) notes, but they are also excellent spaces to hold graphic organizers, post diagrams, or paste brochures, etc., from field trips. This is also a great opportunity to teach children how to capture notes such that they aren’t simply copying for copying’s sake.

Expense. Any homeschool parent looking to save a penny or two would be attracted to notebooking, and I am no different. Have a notebook (for less than $0.50 during back-to-school sales) and a pencil? Then you have everything you need. There are, however, companies like Notebooking Pages who sell pre-printed, artsy pages. I would find when the kids were younger that the designs helped them step up their handwriting and artistic game to make their work as presentable as the page itself.

Appeal to multiple learning styles. I will readily confess that my initial attraction to notebooking as a potentially tool in our homeschool was its visual effect. A visual learner myself, I am immediately drawn to shapes and bright colors–one of the reasons I don’t get out too much at homeschool conventions. And much as I predicted, the older two took to notebooking like fishes in water. But our youngest is far more kinesthetic in her learning style, and I wasn’t sure. What I noticed fairly quickly, though, is that she picked up more information when her hands had something (preferably, something quiet) to do. So, we delved into lapbooks and foldable manipulatives as a way of keeping her hands busy while she listened. Even as a teen, she writes or doodles as I read, and as long as she stays focused, I am okay with that.

If you Google “notebooking,” you might find hundreds of articles and illustrations. As with many tools that easily lend themselves to artistic abilities, your first task will be not to get overwhelmed. Just begin writing, learning, and enjoying a technique that might serve you well the rest of your homeschool life.

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