Not all notebooking pages are created equal!
Here’s a truth: workbooks/worksheets with pre-selected questions which can have only one answer are to learning what salt is to food–a little dab is welcome, but in larger amounts kills all taste and makes the meal horrible!
I was brought up to believe that a good student studied a chapter, answered the questions, and then took a test, and this was the way I began homeschooling my own children back in the late ’80’s. Our first son was very intelligent, and he was also quite compliant, so when I sat him in front of a set of texts and workbooks, he dutifully filled in each and every blank space.
I can vividly remember seeing him rest his head in his dear, chubby hand as he labored over page after page. In his sighs I could hear the struggle he was experiencing between the need to please me and the pain of the tedium he was experiencing.
Thank God I learned about the Charlotte Mason method! I was so happy to turn my son loose with a good novel and a Big Chief pad, directing him to narrate each chapter. I still have copies of what he wrote, along with a novel about Lafayette that includes his name scrawled in pencil on the first page. Allowing him to take each chapter and glean what was important to him personally seemed like bliss–and it was so short and sweet that he had time to pursue the other interests in his life so that today he is still well ahead of his peers.
For me, the Charlotte Mason method is at the heart of good notebooking. A good page should have structure to build good habits (which was one of Mason’s cornerstones), but should also give an opportunity for a child to make the learning of a subject or theme his/her own.
For instance, there are some notebooking pages I would never consider using with my own children, ones that include questions that have canned answers, or that have the spaces for graphics already filled in. I know these types look so very “polished” and professional, but they are not open-ended enough, in my humble opinion.
Truth is, learning is a very subjective undertaking. Each person is imbued with a God-given uniqueness which keeps him/her from seeing the universe through the collective lens.
What I think of when I hear a poem by Robert Frost may be very different from what you think, and vice-versa. Why then do we require that each child learn the same things from the same material?
It is a given that some children need more structure than others, and that some are more creative than others. This is why it is good to have slots that are designated for certain types of information, such as a direct quote from the reading, a hand-drawn map (the best way to learn geography, no matter how crude the attempt), or a place to give a bulleted list of the main ideas. Even if a child is reluctant to draw, searching for the right graphic, having to print it or copy it, then cut and glue it, label it, etc. gives multiple opportunities for reinforcement.
The pages I am sharing today are greatly open-ended, but they may need some labels for the different areas, which you have the freedom to choose!
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