Why I Love Notebooking for Middle School
“Look at this page! Remember this?” my older son said to his younger brother as he admired the page before him. On the page, you could see a beautifully colored bird along with a few facts about the animal. We enjoyed this time of year, looking at their notebooks and remembering all that the year had held. We had discovered notebooking a few years back, and it has now become one of our favorite things about homeschooling.
“Do you remember the song it sings?” continued my son. His younger brother said that he did and they both attempted to mimic the bird call that we had listened to many months ago. Even I recalled the very day that we studied that bird because of the vivid picture before us.
What Is Notebooking?
“Notebooking” is a term you will hear in the homeschool world and it is getting more and more popular. Notebooking is actually a form of homeschool scrapbooking where the student gathers and keeps all different kinds of things about the lessons that they have learned and they keep this all in a notebook. This can be done in a variety of ways and is completely customizable with any curriculum.
It allows for focused and more meaningful learning and eliminates busywork. The child is able to give their time and attention to exactly what interests them and what they have learned rather than doing the exercises that the worksheet before them chooses.
How Does It Work?
There are two styles of notebooking. The first way is to use a simple composition notebook and write and paste into it. The second way is to use a binder that you insert pages into. There are many great websites that offer customized notebooking pages for this option.
When the child is finished learning about a concept, there are usually worksheets for reinforcement and questions, quizzes and tests to evaluate lesson retention. Notebooking takes the place of these by allowing the child to connect with the parts of the lesson that were meaningful to them and giving them a place to express this.
Children remember what they connect with and were a part of and they can tell you about every single page in their notebooks with amazing accuracy. This works far differently than tests and is a great tool for assessment and review.
My children usually write about what we learned, draw pictures or maps, or cut and glue different images or things and write notes about them. They have done charts and labeled images as well.
Our notebooks have included photographs of projects and experiments, timelines, drawings from their imagination, and collections of leaves and flowers.
Why Choose Notebooking For Middle School?
Middle school is the perfect time to do notebooking. Middle schoolers are independent and creative and this is an excellent opportunity to teach them to really think for themselves. Notebooking allows the child to personalize the lesson making it relevant and memorable to them.
1. Easy to individualize learning
Middle schoolers want to express themselves and notebooking gives them the opportunity. They love sharing with you what they have learned and they love putting things in their own words. While not everyone prefers the same way of communicating back to you what they have learned, everyone can find a way that suits them.
Some kids like to draw or paste pictures or take photographs of learning experiences. Others use words to journal their thoughts on a lesson or retell what was learned. Some kids will use charts and graphs or maps to communicate what was learned.
2. Easy assessment of lesson retention
I like notebooking because it eliminates busywork and just “cuts to the chase.” There are no worksheets, there is just the child recalling and emphasizing what meant something to them in the lesson. After viewing my child’s work, I can immediately tell if they understood what the lesson was trying to teach them or not and if there was anything that they missed.
3. Great Record-Keeping and Portfolios
At the end of each school year, there is always one last looming detail to consider. It is time for the daunting task of choosing samples of the kids’ work and trying to decide which pages to keep. Notebooking not only allows easy record-keeping but makes beautiful and personalized portfolios for each child to treasure.
4. Great Confidence Builders
While notebooking makes record keeping a breeze, there is also another reason that it is a great tool for the middle school years. As lessons become more and more difficult, kids can get overwhelmed and discouraged easily. It is encouraging to middle school kids to see how far they have come at the end of the year. When they can look back and see all the progress that they have made and can easily remember the information on the pages, they begin to realize what they are truly capable of and this can be a real confidence builder to them.
5. Can Be Used for a Variety of Subjects
During the middle school years, kids usually start branching out and exploring a variety of subjects. Notebooking is a great way to document the time spent on these new adventures. We have used notebooking for history, science, geography, art, nature study, character building, Bible, and creative writing. The possibilities are endless. I suggest starting with one subject and giving it a try. Your middle schooler is sure to jump in and start enjoying themselves right away.
Whether you’re just starting middle school or are in your last year, it’s always a great time to start notebooking your homeschool journey. I consider it one of the most effective learning tools for this age. With some adjustments, you can successfully continue it right on through high school, as well; but that’s a story for another day.