How to Use Notebooking in Your Homeschool + Benefits You’ll Love

Using notebooking in your homeschool is an effective way to encourage independent learning and emphasize creativity.

Drawings are strewn over the desk.

A stray crayon litters the floor.

A field guide about birds lays open to the page about cardinals.

The above is a common sight around my house. My children all love to draw. My middle boys especially enjoy creating books. So when I read about using notebooking in homeschooling, it seemed a natural step for us to implement in our homeschool.

How to Use Notebooking in Your Homeschool

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What is Notebooking?

In homeschooling, notebooking is simply a way to document learning. Children can use this method of assessment to creatively show what they have learned in various subjects.

10 Benefits of Notebooking:

  • Notebooking is flexible and can be used with any grade. Preschoolers can have an alphabet notebook, while high schoolers can create massive portfolios of a semester’s worth of research and work.
  • Many different learning styles lend themselves well to notebooking. It’s especially useful for Unit Studies, Charlotte Mason, and Classical methods of learning, though they can easily be used with any and all methods.
  • It is versatile and used in any school subject.
  • Children will have a sense of ownership in their work. They will take pride in the hard work they put into their notebooks.
  • Notebooks can be as elaborate or simple as desired.
  • Notebooking can be quite inexpensive and doesn’t require much space to store.
  • It inspires creativity as children design their notebooks with the information they learned.
  • Notebooking is a perfect use for portfolios required by some states.
  • The use of notebooking to document learning is an effective alternative to written tests.
  • Notebooking requires higher levels of learning, including reading comprehension, evaluating, analyzing, and creating.

When to Use Notebooking

Notebooking can be used in many different subjects for a variety of projects. Below are just a few ideas to get you started.

  • Nature Study: Nature Studies are a great way to give notebooking a try in your homeschool. Give your children a composition book or blank sketchbook, or even a blank piece of paper, and send them outside to document one thing they see.
  • Science: Notebooking is a great addition to any science curriculum. For example, students can use diagrams to draw parts of a flower, describe animals they’ve learned about using illustrations, and even describe experiments they’ve performed.
  • History: Use notebooking to showcase written narrations. Students can also research historical people or events and notebook their findings.
  • Geography: In geography, students can use notebooks in a country or state study. They can also draw and label maps and geographical features in them.
  • Composer and/or Artist Studies: Document information learned about the composer or artist being studied. Your children can also find pictures of the composer or artist online to print out and attach to their notebooks.
  • Math: Notebooking in math?! You bet! Notebooks can be used in math to show how to document what your children have learned. For example, they can show long division or to create a multiplication chart.
  • Literature: Many uses of notebooking can be used in literature. For example, your child can use them to create book reports. They can describe and illustrate examples of literary elements. Author studies can be documented through notebooking as well.

So you can see that you have lots of choices when it comes to using notebooking in your homeschool. You do not want to do all of these at the same time though! Just choose one subject to start with, and then once your kids have the hang of notebooking, add in another subject. You really only want to do one, maybe two, subjects of notebooking each day.

writing in notebook

How to Get Started with Notebooking

As with most things in life, it’s easiest to start small. Don’t require your kids to make elaborate notebooks in every subject. It’s much easier to start by making it easy enough that it’s something your kids can do daily, or when you cover that subject.

For example, say you are going to start notebooking with a nature study. I really like the blank sketchbooks with paper thick enough you could paint with light watercolors. Then every time your children go outside for their nature study, encourage them to bring their sketchbooks with them. An alternative is to bring something inside to draw instead.

Once you are ready to move onto another subject for notebooking, you could try a core subject, such as history or science. Your children can use notebooking to share their written narrations with you. Or they can delve deeper and research an historical figure or science topic and notebook their findings.

What supplies do I need to get started?

For narrations, I really like the composition notebooks because the pages do not tear out very easily. Additionally, blank computer paper or lined writing paper can give your child complete creativity to document their learning and can be combined in a 3-ring binder or 3-prong folder.

In addition, you can find pre-made notebooking pages online. The Notebooking Fairy has many choices of free notebooking pages. I also really like using the plethora of pages available at Productive Homeschooling. A variety of free notebooking pages can be found on the site, plus you can also purchase individual bundles for specific themes. Those are perfect for nature study, history, ABCs and more.

Notebooking Pages & More - Productive Homeschooling

My Favorite Notebooking Supplies

Composition Notebooks

Pros: Composition books have a lot of benefits when used for notebooking. They are small, easy to find and fairly inexpensive, especially during Back to School sales. The pages are already lined, which allows for neater handwritten entries. But children can still illustrate over the lines and pictures can easily be glued on as well. The pages are bound, so you won’t have loose papers all over the floor. Not that my kids ever let papers fall to the floor. But you know, in case your kids are messy, completely unlike my own. 😉

Cons: The biggest con I’ve found using composition books is that there isn’t flexibility with adding in additional pages once the book is complete. It’s hard to add in a page between two completed pages without needing to use tape or stapling.

3-Ring Binders

Pros: Three-ring binders are also fairly inexpensive and easy to find. Unlike composition books, they are extremely flexible for adding or deleting pages. You can add premade pages, blank computer paper so kids can have complete control over the finished look, or just lined paper.

Cons: However, binders also have a couple of negative aspects. For one, they can be bulky and sometimes the rings don’t hold the paper in perfectly. Also, since the papers aren’t bound, they can find their way to the floor instead of into the binder. Or so I’ve heard…my kids always put everything away where it belongs. Ahem…

Supplies for Writing and Decorating

You’ll also want to make sure to have plenty of fun supplies for your children to use in whichever type of notebooks you choose. You’ll want writing utensils such as pencils and pens, colored pencils, crayons and markers. They might need glue (gluesticks works best) or tape to attach pictures and maps. Scissors are necessary to cut out those items. These can be kept in each child’s caddy, or combine all of them to be used at one time in a shared basket.

How We Are Notebooking This Year

Still Have Questions?

What if my kids don’t like writing?

The great thing about notebooking is that it doesn’t have to consist only of writing. Your child might add a timeline to a history notebook. They can draw a detailed picture of a flower, labeling its parts in a science notebook.

Your child gets to include what they want in their notebooking. It doesn’t have to just be all writing. And really, that would be pretty boring anyway! Drawn or pasted pictures, maps, timelines and diagrams make each notebook unique and fun to create!

How Often Should My Kids Notebook Each Week?

How often your children notebook will depend on the subjects they are using the notebooks for. For example, my kids will be writing history narrations in their history notebook at least once a week. However, there may be weeks when they study an historical figure or event in history that will require another day of notebooking.

You don’t want notebooking to become a chore, so you’ll want to find a nice balance. That’s going to look different to each homeschool family, so you’ll want to figure out how often notebooking will be needed in your situation.

How to Use Notebooking in Your Homeschool

The Last Thing You Need to Know about Notebooking

Just as every homeschool looks different, every notebook will look different as well. That’s the beauty of notebooking! Each child’s notebook is a reflection of their learning, which will make each notebook unique. And that, I believe, is the biggest benefit to using notebooking in your homeschool. Your child gets to take ownership of their learning.

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