Notebooking Unschool Style

Willa, at Every Waking Hour, brought up notebooking in her post Snow and Settling In. She said:

I would like to start them on a bit of very relaxed notebooking — after reading Cindy Rushton’s book and looking through my closet with the older kids’ notebooks and other bits of memorabilia. We never did it in a big way, and in fact I would have said at one time that we DIDN’T notebook at all but I see that I do it constantly and have since I was about 11 or 12, and my older kids started even earlier — especially Clare. I have notebooks and little books of hers going back to when she was about four. Then we got so busy that I just never took the time to do that kind of thing with Kieron and Sean. Plus I think I read too many things that made notebooking sound schooly and structured — it put me off the idea. But the way we used to do it was just collect little bits and pieces of things and sometimes, make them into a book. We had a book about snails and one about a beach trip we took, with narrations from all the kids (even Sean who was about two then), and many little Lord of the Ring booklets.

So many bloggers talk about these notebooks. So many bloggers talk about a lot of diverse projects, and I often feel like I’m not doing my part for my children. So, when Willa was describing getting the notebooks going again, just the way she described it, made me think of my children’s notebooks. Only, I had never heard of the term “notebooking” as an actual activity. I assume it is taken from one of the homeschooling styles . . . classical? Charlotte Mason? Waldorf?

Anyway, every year I buy a huge stack of one theme notebooks and let the children take however many they want, when they want, to do as they want. My oldest, starting sometime around 8-9 years old, seems to always have a notebook of some sort to record all of his ideas, or sketch pictures, or make his lists. At almost 20, he still has his notebooks. I always share one of the front covers of one of his notebooks at my workshop about right-brained learners as an indication about how much is going on in their heads at any given time. It was entitled, “My book of things I need to write down but don’t want to get lost”.

Abbey always used hers to write short stories and poems. Eventually, again around 8-9 years old, she began to keep an official journal. It started off as descriptions of her day to day activities, including what she ate for breakfast. As she got older, it changed to the addition of recording her dreams. She has a very active imagination that apparently comes alive in the night. She and Eric would spend hours sharing their dreams with each other in vivid detail. They often became fodder for stories. Still later, she added spiritual moments and thoughts, her deepest emotions and ideas, as well as her feelings as she grew.

Eli used his notebooks to doodle in, particularly drawing three dimensional shapes, logos, and mathematical patterns. He would also explore various math concepts such as doubling a number until it was 20 digits or so, graphing in algebra, or writing numbers as high as he felt like going. Lately, he might draw train track layout plans, rollercoaster designs, or other such engineering type stuff.

For a good couple of years, I carried around a five-subject notebook to record any and all ideas I might have for schedules, autism intervention ideas, homeschooling needs and/or ideas, lists, responsibilities, housecleaning and chore ideas, menu and cooking ideas, and whatever else I needed to try to organize in order to keep our home and lives running smoothly. I didn’t record it in any order, but would randomly find a blank page and start jotting down. That is so not like me, but it was literally used as a scratch paper to sort out any of my floating ideas, or to assuage my need to feel like I had a “plan”, even if I never put it into action.

So, that is our idea of notebooking. It is personal to each person. Almost two years ago, I did buy one of those fold and learn type of activity books that you put together on a topic using file folders folded up into a book form. It was on bats because I thought Alex might like it. It still hasn’t been compiled and used. As I hear others talk about these types of projects like notebooking, I can sure feel inadequate. The way our rhythm exists in our home, I just don’t know how I would even introduce such a thing. So instead, I guess I will be content to encourage each child to come to their own “notebooking” by making the notebooks available and see what emerges.

5 responses to “Notebooking Unschool Style

  1. How neat to hear about your unschooling notebooking. This is quite similar to what I was trying to describe in my post, but hearing the details of another family is interesting. “My book of things I need to write down but don’t want to get lost” — LOL — that’s what I would call my present notebook if I had thought of it : ).

  2. I like this idea of notebook. But whenever I read posts about note-booking, I get a completely different picture. And I don’t think the term comes from one of the styles of homeschooling, I think it is from scrap-booking. But I might be wrong. I don’t do scrap-books either. Nor photo albums. Random notes is much more my style.

    You have also made me think that I shouldn’t be so resistant to Tigger’s requests for pretty notebooks. She has a bunch of different sizes and none really has much in it but I suppose if I let her have a bunch of different ones a use might emerge.

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  4. Cindy, I pretty much do the same thing. (I love the idea of formal, pretty notebooks, but – like you – I don’t find that it flows with our rhythm at this time). I buy loads of spiral notebooks (especially around the beginning of the school year when they’re cheap). Sarah goes through a prodigous amount of notebooks for stories, lists, notes, writing ideas, and all sorts of other things. James doodles in his (usually creating fantastic monsters) and draws cartoons. I even gave my 2-year-old a notebook to “write” in. She seemed very pleased. I always have several notebooks for jotting down notes, ideas I pick up in reading and whatever else comes to mind.

    This post was fun to read. It offers such a vivid glimpse into your family’s life. I always enjoy your blog.

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