Have you ever had one of those products where, after you get it and use it the first time, you slap your forehead and say “Why didn’t I do this sooner?!?!?!” That is how I felt after the very first time we incorporated notebooking with a study we were already doing using pages from the Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership at NotebookingPages.com.
In all seriousness, I had looked at NotebookingPages.com quite a bit over the past couple of years and thought something along the lines of “Well, I think I would like it but the girls? Not so much.” The reason I thought that was they did not respond well to writing from prompts. They’d do it but it would not be their best writing. I thought that was what notebooking was about. I was wrong. And I am so happy that I was!!
NotebookingPages.com is pretty unique in that you aren’t just tossed in there with a whole lot of notebooking pages and no instruction. You can do it that way but it isn’t recommended and you will certainly do yourself a favor if you take advantage of the tutorials that are offered. There are a series of tutorials that walk you through getting set up and understanding what notebooking is really all about. **Hint: it is NOT prompted writing, though it probably can be. That is key for our family.**
Notebooking is writing down the key information in what you are studying. It is not busywork; in fact – this replaces a lot of what we would often include in a study, like a workbook or worksheet. But it is rather the student putting down on paper, in their own words, what was important about the topic. We followed the tutorials very closely and WOW! did it create an almost immediate change in the way the girls processed information.
I’ll walk you through one of the first pages we created. We read a chapter in a book about the medieval times. After we read it out loud, I grabbed a white board. The girls then brainstormed ideas about what was important and stated those things verbally with me writing them down on the board. After they ran out of ideas for what needed written, we talked about it a little bit, clarified any words that might not have been understood, and put things in order if that was important. Then I gave them the pages they had chosen for the topic and asked them to write down the important things. I don’t think at any time that they all chose to write down everything that was on the white board because they didn’t all think the same ideas were important. And that is okay! Here is what two of the girls produced their first time out of the box with this product (Miss J had just broken her arm so while she did the work, it is not very readable, especially when scanned into the computer so I’m skipping hers for now):
So, we are doing this same process with some of the “fun” history and Bible that we are working through this summer. But, this has been such a hit that the girls are constantly asking if they can print a page to write about what they just read in their free-time reading. The girls have written pages on:
- Ancient China
- A favorite Bible verse
- various history readings
- Roman and Greek gods and goddesses
- a book summary
- Joseph Stalin
- and there are plans for many more!
Very few of these were inspired by me telling them that they needed to do a notebooking page. Most of the time, I would be asked to print off a particular page for someone because the reading had already been done and she had been so interested in it that she wanted to write it down so she could remember it. Truly.
We have set it up using the suggestions on NotebookingPages.com. Each child has their own 3-ring binder to keep their work in. I have a teacher’s notebook. In it, I have placed copies of the catalog for the categories that we have used so far. A catalog is a set of pages with thumbnail images of every page available in a given category. So far, the girls have gotten the most use out of the blank pages for any topic. It has allowed for good personalization of the pages.
When one of the girls is ready to write, she grabs the teacher notebook and finds the page she wants a copy (or four!) of. We pull up the site and print off the pages. With that, the giggly girl is off to write about her topic. Truly. That simple!
There are catalogs on the site for a wide variety of topics. Our favorite category so far has been the Any Study category because it allows for so much personalization.
Let me share with you some of what I overheard my girls saying when grandma was here recently. They proudly grabbed their notebooks and shared with her all of the work they had done. They were excitedly describing things they had learned, the pages they had written and justifying why they had chosen the information. They were so proud! So, overheard:
“You can print out the ones you want.” – Miss J
“It’s like a mini-essay. You get to explain it in your own words. I really like it!” – Miss L
“I like telling about stuff that I’ve read. I like telling about it myself. I don’t like answering questions someone else has written. I like telling it myself.” – Miss E
And for the win? “I need to work on mine. I have eight topics that I am working on.” – Miss E
The freedom provided by this method is astounding. I am honestly sad that I didn’t try this sooner because it has transformed the attitude around here. The transformation was immediate. (Note: I do think that following the tutorials had a lot to do with it because it kept me from giving too much narrow guidance and helped me elicit the thoughts from the girls for them to transfer to paper.) From improved comprehension to improved writing skills and handwriting (especially for Miss J now that she is out of the cast on her writing arm!), NotebookingPages.com has changed how we are doing quite a few things in our homeschooling journey and it is definitely for the better. To put it in Miss E’s words “I really, really like notebooking!”
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