Ok, lets chat notebooking today!

We discovered notebooking, also called a narration notebook, a few years ago and it is one of our favorite ways to record our studies. Jodi Mockabee, Nicole Shiffler, and a few others were big inspirations for me to start trying it. Give them a follow on Instagram, they are the best!

Notebooking can be done for any subject and combines multiple subjects into one. While you are learning about one topic, you are using writing, grammar, spelling, art, and more on one notebook page. In our homeschool we mostly use notebooking for our history and science studies. It has been so helpful in reinforcing what my kids are learning and a great keepsake of our school year together.

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Find our favorite supplies for notebooking HERE – Our favorite notebooks, watercolors, line stencil, black pens, and more. We like the 7 x 10 notebooks, or sometimes the large 9 x 14. We also like the mixed media paper (98lb thickness or higher) because we can use any type of art medium without it bleeding through the page (watercolors, markers, oil pastels, etc.)

How we complete our notebook pages:

After learning about a particular topic, by reading books or watching videos, we complete a notebook page. I have my kids draw or paint a picture about something they liked, thought was interesting, or was the main topic. We use lots of different art tutorials on YouTube (Art for Kids Hub is our favorite) or draw from the pictures in our books. After they are done, or while they are coloring/painting, I’ll ask them what their picture (the topic) is about or what is happening. Write down what they say, word for word. It is ok to help them by asking more questions.

After they narrate to me, we read it back and possibly add more details. Then they copy what I wrote down for them into their notebooks. Most kids think faster than they can write, so letting them get all their thoughts out by telling you and you writing it down for them to copy later is super helpful.

For Kindergarten-1st grade I don’t expect them to write a lot. My Kindergarteners usually just write the subject title and then I will write their narration in their notebook for them. Still their ideas and words, just less frustration to write it themselves.

My 1st graders might try to write one simple sentence. My second graders start to write more, but still simple, no more than 2 sentences. Third grade and up, I might have them narrate to me what they learned about so they can get the words out clearly first, but then they just free write in their notebook on their own. You can decide how much or little they should write. We then will check any spelling or grammar to fix.

3 different grade levels: 4th grade on left, Kindergarten on right (He wrote the title, I wrote the rest for him), 2nd grade on bottom

Notebooking looks different for every family and every child. It is the best to use for family studies because it can be altered to each child’s ages and abilities. While you can read and learn about the same topic together, they can complete a notebook page in their own writing level. You know your child’s abilities best, so you can plan what you expect for them for each notebook page, whether it’s writing just the title, one, or two sentences.

To finish off our notebook page, we use black fine tip markers to outline their drawing or painting, and trace over their writing. Once the ink is dry, we erase any pencil marks. This really makes the notebook page look amazing and keeps the pencil from smudging. You can also add a watercolor wash to the entire page (lightly paint the entire thing one or two colors.) Sometimes we do these things and sometimes we don’t, totally just a personal preference or what you have time for.

What to notebook:

You can notebook about anything, but you do NOT have to notebook everything. We usually only notebook main topics we are learning about or something they really find interesting. All of my history guides (American Girl History, Adventures to the New World) use narration notebooks as part of the curriculum. It guides and prompts you each week in the guide on exactly what to notebook, how to do it, or offers maps and printables you will paste into your notebook.

Not all notebook pages are just writing narrations. Some can be labeling pages as well. Sometimes we notebook about a particular science topic, like an animal, or in history about different weapons, jobs, or maps. We draw a picture of the topic and then label its parts. When doing this, I write a “checklist” of the different parts they are going to label on our whiteboard. They can then copy the parts in the correct spot of their notebook page.

Tips and Tricks:

If your child doesn’t like to draw, or fights you on this part, you can look up an image on Google images and print it to paste in your notebook. You can have them search with you and pick a few photos to make a collage instead. You can also look up a coloring page on Supercoloring.com and paste it in their notebook for them to color. This website has TONS of coloring pages for you to choose from; just search the topic in the search bar. I give my kids the option to draw or print a photo. Some days they are into it and want to create, some days they aren’t in the mood and that’s totally fine.

You do not have to complete a full notebooking page in one day! If it is too much for your kids to do in one sitting, break up parts of it. Have them draw, paint, or color the topic one day and narrate what they learned to you. The next day they can do the copywork/writing or break up the writing over a few days. If your kids have trouble following along with copywork sentences, I write what they will copy on a whiteboard. As they copy each word, they can erase the words they are writing so it’s easier to follow along and not get frustrated by losing their place.

If you have a reluctant writer, secretly get their narrations later. Maybe leave them to their drawings and later at dinner that night, or while driving in the car, ask them what they learned about. Take a note in your phone or write it down. Then the next day you have it for them to copy into their notebook. Keep it short if they become too overwhelmed. Just one or 2 simple sentences. You can also make a deal that every other notebook page you can switch who writes. They can write one notebook page and the next one you agree to write for them. You can also let them type their narration too. Being able to use the computer makes my kids excited and more eager to do their writing. Print it out and paste it onto your notebook page.

Notebooking should be simple, flexible, and fun. If they aren’t enjoying it, don’t force it. Maybe there is a different way they learn best or take a break and pick it back up again later.

Additional Resources:

It’s so great to get lots of different perspectives and ideas on notebooking. It is so different for each family! There is no right or wrong way, but here is some additional help and insights from others.

Jodi Mocakabee has a Notebooking Manual you can get if you need more help getting started.

My friend Trisha from Juicebox Homeschool has another great blog post about notebooking you can read HERE.

My friend Brit from The Smitty Fam also has a great post on notebooking. Check it out HERE.

Notebooking has become a staple in our homeschool to record and reinforce what we are learning. It has been amazing to be able to flip back to something they learned and have them tell me SO much more than what they wrote just by remembering the picture they drew or a simple sentence they wrote. There is no wrong way or right way to notebook. Let you children be creative in deciding what they want to draw, paint, glue down, or write. 😊

If you have any questions about notebooking, let me know in the comments below!

Have a great rest of your week!

– Lindsay

5 Replies to “Notebooking”

  1. This is so helpful, thanks for sharing! For the Christopher Columbus study, are you using one of your American girl history units? Do you think the AG history is too “girly” for a group study with boys and girls? Thanks so much for taking time to share this!

    1. The Christopher Columbus unit is part of my new history curriculum, Adventures to the New World. It covers the Vikings, Columbus, Jamestown, and the Mayflower. These are all events before my American Girl History series begins. Those are definitely not too girly for boys too! I have known lots of boys to use it and love it just as much! The stories are full of adventure and always include a boy character as well. 🙂

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