Notebooking: A Creative Kid’s Favorite Way to Homeschool

Notebooking is a great way to learn that incorporates many different elements, such as written narration, drawing and sketching, labeling diagrams, drawing maps, and more – all in the student’s own words. Notebooking allows creative students to excel and provides an opportunity to document learned material in a customizable way. Notebooking is a creative kid’s favorite way to homeschool!

student writing in a homeschool notebook with text Notebooking - A Creative Kid's Favorite Way to Homeschool

What is Notebooking?

Notebooking is basically journaling. Your student’s notebook will have a written element and a visual component and will be a compilation of important things in the form of written narrations, sketches, and more that document what has been learned.

You can use the notebook approach to accompany living books for a blend of a Charlotte Mason style homeschool. You can also use notebooking for any subject area, such as science. To learn more about notebooking, keep reading.

Notebooking Approach

Notebooking is a unique approach that is totally opposite from textbook learning, worksheets, and busywork. If you have a student who is bored using your science curriculum, consider homeschool notebooking.

Notebooking works for the early years, elementary, middle school, and even older students. It can work for a single student or a large family. Notebooking is flexible and can be done with children of all ages!

Are you ready to transform you children’s education?

Eliminate Worksheets and Tests

The notebooking approach encourages your student to put what they are learning on paper in a variety of ways, whether through open-ended question prompts, written narration summarizing learned material, or drawing what they see in their minds. It’s an excellent way to capture important information, and there are no wrong ways to notebook.

You could even completely eliminate worksheets and tests from your homeschool – think how happy it would make your children to switch from boring busywork to homeschool notebooks!

Completed Notebook Pages
Notebooking pages completed by a student using a Notebook Companion™

Customizable and Creative Individual Notebooks

When you are teaching multiple children of different ages, it’s easy to use the notebook approach in your homeschool. All you need are good living books, someone to read them to your children (yourself or an older child), and a Notebook Companion™ or blank notebooking pages.

Encourages Creativity

Notebooking will allow your children to express themselves as individuals in their own way and will create a scrapbook of sorts on a per-subject or per-topic basis. It’s easy to use notebooking for science and history, as well as geography. With some creativity you could even use it for other subjects like grammar and language arts.

Show What You Know

Notebooking allows you to SEE what your kids have learned and perhaps even discover something they really enjoyed learning about that you can expand upon. Before we started notebooking I truly thought I was failing in my homeschool. My child was unable to get answers correct on worksheets and tests – forget tests. She failed them. All of them.

When I put a notebooking page in front of her she was able to summarize what she learned through written narration, almost as if she was copying it from the book! I cried, for real; there was a huge difference!

It was as if a door to her creative brain had been opened. Notebooking allowed her to use her creative skills as an effective tool to write and draw from her own thoughts about the book or text. It was amazing to see her thrive for the first time since preschool and kindergarten.

Notebook pages completed by a student
Notebooking pages completed by a student using The Notebook of Beasts

How to Start Notebooking

If you’d like to get started with notebooking, you can chose one of our Notebook Companions™ that has open-ended question prompts to encourage written narration, places to draw maps, label diagrams, and sketch objects from the book. They are a great tool for homeschoolers, and the easiest way to transition from worksheets.

Here are a few of our bestselling Notebook Companions™

Alternatively, you can use a blank notebooking template that has boxes and lines and just let your kids loose.

Introduce Notebooking to Your Student

A great way to introduce notebooking is to read a book or section in a textbook and then use oral narration so you can make sure your student was able to comprehend what was read. Then you can give them a notebook page to capture written thoughts about the most interesting thing they learned. As you progress with notebooking, you can have them write more information, but easing students into this new style of learning will be easier if you don’t overwhelm them the first time.

You can use plain notebook paper, a blank notebooking template, printable notebooking pages, or a page from a Notebook Companion™ to get them started.

Choose a Subject or Book

Do you have a copy of a great nature book, like Nature Anatomy?  Have your student read a section, and then use a notebooking page to document what they learned. They can record facts that they learned, sketch an animal they saw in the book, and more. Let them get as creative as they’d like to; the goal is to instill a love of learning in them!

A nature notebook is an easy way to expand upon nature study, and get started with a notebook journal.

Using a Textbook, Such as History

You may want your child to use a history curriculum. We enjoyed The Mystery of History. We started out using the worksheets, quizzes, and tests. That’s the same year that we discovered that style of learning wasn’t working for us. After we chucked all the worksheets and kicked the tests to the curb, we broke out notebooking pages. It was when we first discovered notebooking; and it changed everything for us!

The light in my daughter’s eyes told me all I needed to know; we were going to stick with notebooking for every subject we could, all the way through high school! It was the best way for her to show me she was actually learning. Her notebooking journals became keepsakes that were easily stacked in a pile and filed away for her homeschool portfolio.

Notebooking for a Unit Study

If you are doing a unit study, notebooking complements it greatly. Grab some great books about your topic, read them together as a family, and then allow your child to be creative in documenting what they learned. It’s a creative way to get the most out of a great book. You’ll be amazed at the information they recall as they put it down on paper in a way that makes sense to them.

Notebooking with Beginners

If your child can draw and orally narrate back to you what they have learned, you can start notebooking with them. You may need to ask your child questions and write down what they say if they don’t have the ability to write it for themselves. They will have a blast drawing what they see in their minds, and their notebooking journals will be a treasured keepsake for years to come.

worksheets and coloring pages of animals in the forest completed by a student
Notebooking pages completed by a student from our Sounds of Nature Notebook Companion™ Series for grades K-3

As younger students progress with writing abilities, notebooking will be a familiar form of learning for them, and they will know what to do. You could also use a Notebook Companion™ specifically for younger children. We have Beginner’s Notebook Companions™ for grades K-3 that incorporate drawing, narration, coloring, and matching. 

Putting Notebook Journals Together

You may be wondering what supplies you need to create a notebooking journal. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to do this, so customize it however it suits your family best. We printed our notebooking pages, three-hole punched them, and stored them in a ring binder. This allowed us to be completely creative. As my daughter got older, it was easy to insert essays, maps, and more into the binders.

When we use Notebook Companions™ in our homeschool, we print them and get them spiral bound. The reason we do this is because the notebooking pages are already created to go along with a specific book, and we’re not likely to add additional pages.

What to Add to a Notebooking Journal

There are all sorts of creative ways to customize a student’s notebooking journal. If you are using a three-ringed binder, it’s easy to insert extras. Here are some of the common pages and key components you will find in a student’s notebook:

  • written narration
  • artwork: drawings, paintings, collages, etc.
  • maps: Bible maps, historical maps, geographical maps, etc.
  • timelines
  • field trip notes and pictures
  • creative writing assignments
  • graphic organizers
  • magazine clippings
  • paper crafts
  • brochures
  • essays and research papers (as they get older)
  • book reports
  • copywork
  • vocabulary journal pages
  • poetry
  • charts and diagrams
  • photographs
  • and more!

Think scrapbook; that’s a great way to envision a creative and customizable notebooking journal! Make the components of notebooking a personal preference of your student.

There’s No Right or Wrong Way to Notebook

Unlike worksheets and tests, notebooking doesn’t have an answer key. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Since notebooking encourages creativity and individuality, your children may record totally different facts on their own pages, even after reading the same book.

Notebooking encourages out-of-the-box thinking, and you’ll want to steer clear of requiring specific things to be detailed if you are using a blank notebook template or a sheet of blank paper. If you would like to use question prompts and boxes that provide space to draw specific things from the text, consider our Notebook Companions™, which are a great transition from worksheets to notebooking.

How Do I Grade a Notebook Page?

You may be wondering if you need to correct or grade student’s notebook pages.  A notebook page is not an essay or a research paper, and you don’t want to mark it all up with a red pen. The idea is to encourage students to learn a ton, record facts they have learned, and allow them to ENJOY it! You can save grading papers and critiquing writing skills for when they are doing a composition assignment or a grammar lesson.

Notebooking is an Affordable Approach to Homeschooling

Notebooking works well for ANY budget (or no budget at all). Since you don’t need anything more than a piece of paper and a book, you can utilize your library and a blank notebook. If you are looking for something that can help squeeze all the educational content out a a good book, a pre-made Notebook Companion™ is a great option.

In Conclusion

If you need to change things up in your homeschool because what you are using just isn’t working (or causing stress and tears!), then notebooking may be just what you need to bring joy back into your learning. Notebooking can ignite an interest in topics like science.

Remember, you don’t have to get fancy with notebooking, starting with a regular spiral notebook and blank papers can work just as well as a blank notebooking template. Notebooking success is simply watching your students enjoy learning!