Homeschool Planning - What's in my Planning and Records Binder? (And a whole bunch of FREE downloads for planning!)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Only awesomely geeky homeschool Moms will ever read this post with interest, so let's just all geek-out together and I'll get all excited to share my organizational binder with you and you can at least pretend to be all excited along with me.  *chuckle*

No, honestly though, there are actually quite a few of you lovely Mamas who ask me about organizing our year and how I do it.  Well, some of my organization changes over time but one thing remains - I ALWAYS have a Planning and Records Binder.  In fact, I've saved mine from every year of our homeschool journey and they are such cool reminders of all the wonderful times together learning and growing!

The yearly binder is like my go-to resource for what we're doing and where we're going.  Also, what we're accomplishing!

This year, I am trying desperately to simplify my planning.  This means trying to reduce the amount of time spent planning weekly by being efficient at the beginning of the year and also careful with my time management throughout the year.  Right now I'm in the heat of the 'being efficient at the beginning of the year' part of this equation.

First of all, I have to say that PLAN YOUR YEAR has been a huge help to me this year.  I feel like my planning is more precise, makes more sense, and has gone deeper than in many past years.  I love all the resources that go along with PLAN YOUR YEAR and all the printables!  We are using tons.

We are also using all the Morning Time resources to plan.  I LOVE Morning Time... it is a huge part of our homeschool and takes up a good chunk of my planning time...  read my post about Morning Time here.

PS. I will be doing a whole post about this year's Morning Time plans coming up next week.  *smile*

SO... this year for planning, I will have my Morning Time Binder (I'll explain more in the next Morning Time post), my Homeschool Planning and Records Binder (what this post is about), and also just a basic At-A-Glance daily day-timer.

PS.  For those who are wondering - this is not my yearly plans post.  I have one of those coming where I will cover everything we are planning to do for Term 1.  I hope to have that up sometime next week.  *smile*  This post is more about what it is in our binder.

The best way for me to start planning is to print out all the planning sheets I hope to fill in.

I have a huge post about how we plan our own Charlotte Mason-inspired plans that you can read RIGHT HERE.  

In that post, I talk about how planning your own curriculum is just really a process of filling in a lot of 'blanks'.  Well, the forms you use will give you the blanks that need to be filled in.  That's why I feel it is important to consider having a planning binder and using forms and sheets that will help you figure out what you're doing and where you're going in the upcoming year.

Having said that...

I am so tired of over-complicated planning every Sunday evening before the next week of school. 

 This year, I'm doing most of my planning now so that I already know what books we are reading and resources we are using.  This is not set in stone and this is not that type of planning that says what we will do every day of the year (think curriculums like Sonlight...).  No, this is more of a bird's eye view that is planned out enough to not require much weekly fussing.

Morning Time is easy, we just follow our binder that I've pre-prepared and follow along in the open and go resources we are using.  (I'll talk more about this in the Morning Time post next week!)  

Our Family Loop (more about the Loop below) is also fairly easy to just pencil in what we'll do that day.  So, no more printing out complicated and time-consuming weekly schedules.  I am only using a simple daytimer to do my daily planning!  (I bought it at Staples for $20.)

So, basically, all I have to pencil in is 1 Morning Time subject specific to that day (ie: Music and Composer Study or Art and Picture Study), and 1 Family Look subject specific to that day (ie: which reading we are doing for history).

*Cue the chorus!*

The only thing added to this is, of course, is the kids' Individual Studies which I write out in their Spiral Bound Notebooks.  I will have to pencil in their daily tasks into those books - but that only takes 5 minutes per night.  

A peek at the sub-headings for my Planning Binder.

So, here's what's in my Planning Binder:

Planning Pages from Plan Your Year include: 

Visions and Inspiration page
Goals Worksheet (one per child)
Course of Study (one per child)
Curriculum Resources (for all of our family studies and then one sheet per child)
Block Schedule Planner (this is still in theory... but it is in there to motivate me to try Block Scheduling and I think this would work well for plugging in a Nature Study unit or a Five in a Row book in the middle of the Term)

You can see my review of Plan Your Year right here.  It is honestly a great resource - one of the best I've seen for planning homeschool.

Plan Your Year Homeschool Planner

It took me a LONG time to narrow this down and I'm still changing it as we go... but oh, friends - know your vision!  It changes everything...

After many years of homeschooling - I'd never really done anything like this before.  It is powerful to actually write out your child's strengths, things to improve, and yearly goals you have for them (or they have for themselves).  This helped me TONS in narrowing what to work on with each child in their individual work rotations.

You use this sheet to map out the specific resources we will use. There is also a Course of Study page which helps you figure out which 'subjects' the child needs to do and at what frequency.  From there, you plug in the resources on this page shown above.  (Yep, Pam Barnhill is an organizational genius...)

Our Loop Schedule for Family Learning this year.  We call it our Family Loop time.  Each day we cover just ONE of the Loop subjects and we cycle through.  This flows with the Loop that is already presented in the Simply Charlotte Mason guide for Modern History, Epistles and Revelation.  I just wanted to add in Nature Study, so I created my own look to make that happen.

I'll probably use this for Blocking in some Five in a Row and some NaturExplorers.  

Planning and Info Pages from Simply Charlotte Mason include:

I keep a copy of these Over-view Charts for reference.

The Plans for My Year print-out found on this page.

The yearly plans for whatever era we are covering.  This year, we have the plans for Modern History, Epistles and Revelation.  (A full review is coming soon!)

My Homemade Documents:

For Family Loop/Family Learning:

Plans for Family Learning/Reading (one per term, so 3 copies)

Our Living Book List by Month (one for every month, so... lots!)

Reading Log for recording the books we've read (I have done these and they are so awesome to look back on... however, if you are doing the monthly Our Living Book List, then it is a bit repetitive to do the reading log as well.)

Living Literature  List - for penciling in all the books you hope to read this year.

Monthly Nature Study Planning Page

Handicrafts and Home Skills Planning Page - I use this simple chart to pencil in the handicrafts and home skills I would like to focus on each month.  This is not part of our Loop or 'curriculum', so to speak.  These are activities and learning that is going on all the time but that I am quite intentional about.

Individual Child's Planning:

Individual Suggested Reading List - Okay, so, this page is meant to be a place where you can write down a bunch of the titles you hope to see your individual child read this term or year (or both).  I have one prolific reader who is CONSTANTLY asking me, "Mom?  What can I read now?!" and I am scrambling to find a great book for him.  This list helps me pencil all the titles in ahead of time.  It is not REQUIRED (we actually have no required reading in our home for many reasons... a post on that coming later this month...).  This is a suggestion list.

It's amazing though, the power of suggestion!

This simple document can be used to sketch in what you hope to cover in Nature Study throughout your year. This year I am using a combination of NaturExplorers and Exploring Nature with Children (review coming) to pencil in our topics.  I made Nature Study part of our Family Loop instead of Morning Time this year to help encourage us to really embrace more Nature Study and learning about God's amazing world.   A link for download is at the bottom of the post. 

A couple more files for you....  *smile*

Forgive the photo - it is just a capture from my computer screen... but this is a great little file to use for planning some Handicrafts and Home Skills stuff.  These are areas I often forget about.  Hence why my kids are approaching 10 and 12 and can't fold a towel. *cough*  This is not part of our 'curriculum' in the Loop, Morning Time, etc. but it is something we do throughout the year for fun and for basic family learning.

Alright.... So, I'm literally going to write an entire post about this document.  So many Moms struggle with where to ever START when it comes to choosing books for their family.  This document can help you plan.  There are suggested areas of reading (genres, historical fiction section, hero stories, books we've always wanted to read, interest-led titles, etc.  This is meant as a plan/goal list... not necessarily a record.  You can put checkmarks beside the ones you do read if you choose.  

Other Random Stuff:

Booklists by year for easy access to quality living book suggestions (Like THIS one from SCM, the yearly free-read suggestions from Ambleside, and THIS one from
Narration Helps/Suggestions
Grammar and Language Arts Helps and Print-outs for reference
This Shakespeare planning outline from SCM

This year we are also planning to row 2-3 books from Five in a Row that we haven't rowed yet.  (Yep, still rowing!).  For our planning, we will use the files I've created - they are all available for FREE right here.

FREE Planning Downloads:

Plans for Family Learning 

Our Living Book Lists (Monthly)

Living Literature List (for help planning which books you would like to read)

Reading Log 

Nature Study Planning Page 

Handicrafts and Home Skills Page

Individual Suggested Reading Page

Love to you all, hope these files are helpful as you plan a wonderful year of RESTful education in your home!!!

Read the World - a few Living Books for North America

Friday, July 22, 2016

Hi friends, and happy weekend.  It has been absolutely scorching here this week and will continue that way for the next several days.  We have been SO blessed to swim in lots of friends' pools!  (Hooray for mooching everyone else's backyard pools instead of having our own... ha!)

So, we haven't had tons of time for reading aloud, but we did fit in a few books this week for the North America week.  I have to chuckle though because if I were to take photos of ALL the living books we've read set in North America - the post would be endless.  We have read hundreds over the past couple years.

Included here are simply the titles that I easily found from the Give your Child the World book.

By the way, honestly... be sure to check out Jamie's book, Give your Child the World.  Many of the titles in the book were available at our local library which makes me very happy!!!  Hopefully you can too!?

So, this post serves as a reference and maybe even an inspiration for finding GREAT living books set in North America for further reading, learning, and exploration.

Interested in following along with Read the World?  Here's the link to the main Read the World page.

And, here are the links to the North America pages:

Read the World North America
Growing Up in Canada  (yaye, my home and native land!!!)

Alright, so, my 11-year-old son read King of the Mound this week and really enjoyed it.  He just picked it up on his own and devoured the book in a day or so.

We didn't read them THIS week, but this year we read both Johnny Tremain and Elijah of Buxton and, to be honest, both are among our favorite read-alouds of all time.  AMAZING living books.

We've read all the books in the photo below.  I actually really like the "An I can Read Book" titles.  They are meant to be readers, but we often just read them aloud together.

This week we also really enjoyed Brothers at Bat.  My kids were especially interested since we had just gone to a good friend's little league game and hosted a whole pile of kids for a relaxed game of baseball at the park down the street.  This is a fascinating book about the true story of the all-brother baseball team that became famous in the 1920s/30s.  Great living book!

Have a great weekend, friends!

Coming up next week - posts about this years homeschool plans, Morning Time planning, and Read the World Middle East!

Notebooking: Spiral Bound Notebooks VS. the Binder System {pros/cons and my experiences...}

Thursday, July 21, 2016

An entire post comparing Spiral Bound Notebooks to Binders might be a bit homeschool-geek-ish (at best) but, hey, it IS relevant.

If you are going to commit to Notebooking, the style of Notebooking you use will make a huge difference on your year and potentially even on the success of the Notebooking itself.  Often times methods gone wrong can kill the overall philosophy.  (You know what I mean?)

So, for those of you who have asked me what style of Notebooks I think is best - this post is for you.  Well, actually, I don't think I'll answer which is best - I just plan to chat about the pros and cons of various options and our experience with each.  Sound good?

And YES - there are other options for Notebooks.  For instance, you could file everything away in a file folder, you could also use a hard cover, bound notebook... um, I'm sure there are other options.  For ease, I'm comparing the two most widely used Notebooking Systems for this post.  *smile*

If you have been following any of my Notebooking posts, you'll know that this past year, we used pre-made Spiral Bound Notebooks in our homeschool.  I made them myself by taking a stack of new 81/2 by 11 inch regular printer paper to Staples and having the paper spiral bound with a clear front and black back.  Easy as that - $5 a piece and we were ready to go.

They looked like this:

Here are some of the PROS of Spiral Bound Notebooks:

Spiral Bound Notebooks appeal to the senses and make GREAT keepsakes.

These Notebooks feel pretty, look pretty, store away pretty, have pages that turn in a pretty way - they are just nice to touch and feel.  This makes them enjoyable to use and appealing as a special book your family will want to hold onto for years to come.

AND - this is pretty much the biggest part of Notebooking - so this 'pro' weighs about a ton in the column of 'pros' for Spiral Bound Notebooks.

See, one of the wonderful things about Notebooks is that they do become a child's own book of what they have learned and experienced.  Once a child fills a Notebook up with all their beautiful pages, you will never (ever) want to throw it away.  Some children will become quite attached and look back at their Notebooks from years past, remembering and enjoying.  (Our daughter does this!) 

These Spiral Bound ones make them so much like a 'real' book.  They sit so beautifully on the shelf and are lovely to flip through with double sided sheets and that lovely sound the pages make as they turn...  yep, I'm a geek, I know.

If you purchased more fancy, expensive ones from Michael's or something - the ones with the hard backs or enforced book-binding, they would be even prettier!

They encourage the kids (and YOU!) to just let go and get creative.

Because you can't really micromanage how the information gets put into a Spiral Bound Notebook - it's easier to just let it go and throw the pages in.  This makes for a really eclectic, creative, fun flow to the books.  One page will be a Composer Study page and the next will be a sketch of the Underground Railroad.  It's fun to just let it flow naturally.

It also captures a chronological movement through the school year, which has its benefits as well.

The pages stay put.

Pages that are bound stay where they are, as apposed to pages in binders which can easily rip.

You'll want to fill them up.

So... here's what I've found - when I have an open Notebook, filled with loads of lovely empty pages waiting to be filled for the year, I'm much more motivated to do Notebooking with the kids.  We have this Notebook - it can't be half-full or not used at all!  So, this kind of Spiral Bound Notebook does motivate us to get to work on our Notebooking pages.  And this is another HUGE one for me as I need that motivation, Mamas!

Here are some of the CONS of Spiral Bound Notebooks:

If you are working with an 8 1/2 by 11 Notebook, it just might drive you nutty.

Here's the thing.  Every single time you print a Notebooking Page, it will be on 81/2 by 11 (standard) size paper.  So, every single time you need to put it into the Notebook, you will need to trim it up so it will actually fit (because the page you a pasting it into is the same size).  This sounds so trivial, but after about 500 pages, it gets kind of annoying, friends.

This could be avoided if you buy a Spiral Bound Notebook with pages bigger than standard printer pager size.  I just wasn't that quick on the draw at the beginning of last year...

There's no ability to move things around once they're in there.

Once we taped or glued our pages into the Notebooks - they were staying.  So, you can't really shift things around at all which leads to this point...

There is little to no ability to 'organize' content.

For Moms or kids who have a strong need for content to be organized into categories - Spiral Bound Notebooks might be a real challenge.  It is nearly impossible to organized your Notebooking Pages effectively in a Spiral Bound Notebook.  By this, I mean - by subject.  You could try, but it might be a disaster.  You would have to guess where you might end up at the end of each 'subject' section - which is nearly impossible.

You will be wasting paper if you are adding printed Notebooking Pages to the book.

It actually started to upset me that for every page, we were using 2 pages.  It just is such a waste of resources.  Because we almost always used printed pages, we would print it, cut it to size, then tape it into the page that was already there.  Just time intensive and resource intensive... but yes, pretty.  *wink*

It's hard to know how many pages you will need at the beginning of the year.

We ended up with like 100 pages too many in our books.  Our kids didn't care too much and we are just going to remove them extra pages and use them for scrap paper.  BUT, I think some children would mind and might feel they didn't 'finish'.  It is also a bit of a waste of paper since they sheets are beat up from months of use in the book and can't really be used to anything worthwhile.

So, after a year of using Spiral Bound Notebooks, I'm in love with Notebooking but a little iffy on how to move forward.

We are considering using the Binder System, though, I still have a strong pull towards the beauty of the bound Notebooks... *sigh*  A Homeschool Mother's problems, eh?  

I've seen that Debra Reed often uses binders - so I figure they must have some major benefits.  *wink*

Neither method is right or wrong, they are just different.

Alright, so, "The Binder System" is just a really fancy way to say we're going to put all our Notebooking Pages into a Binder.   I know, it's super advanced.  

Our Binders would look like this:

We've used the Binder System for Notebooking in the past several times for Five in a Row studies and it always worked well.  As I mentioned above, the binders never look as pretty as the Lapbooks or Spiral Bound Books but they are efficient.  They do the job they are meant to do quite well.

For our Five in a Row Binders, we actually put every Notebooking Page in a clear page protector and stored them that way - it looks pretty at the end of the year but is pricey in page protectors!

Here are some PROS of the Binder System:

They are super easy to acquire and can be cheap if you want them to be!

I've seen binders for 50 cents at Thrift Stores that are brand new.  I've also seen super fancy ones at the office store for like $25.  But they are everywhere - easy to find and easy to gear to your price-point.

You can organize information quite efficiently and easily.

This is kind of obvious.  I mean, it's a binder.  You can open and close the rings as much as your heart desires.  So, you can easily organize things any which way you choose.  We are planning to use dividers and have all our Notebooking pages together and then separate things like Writing, Dictation and Spelling, etc. by dividers.

You can move pages around as much as you desire.

Notebooking Pages can easily be shifted when you have use of an open and close ring.  I know my kids will enjoy the ability to move things around as they choose.  You can also take one out or stick one in wherever is needed.

There is no pre-set number of pages to fill.

I recognize that for some children - seeing a pre-bound book filled with 200 pages could be very overwhelming.  That's a LOT of pages to think about having to fill with writing, creativity, you name it.  Especially for the reluctant Notebooker - just the sight of that thick book is enough to overwhelm.

The nice thing about Binders is that you can choose how much you put in up front. You can add only a few pages or none at all and just put them in as you complete them.  This might work better for certain personality types.  *smile*

You can add other 'subjects' in the binder along with Notebooking pages to keep everything together in one place once the year is done.

Alright, so now that I'm at the end of this year, each child has a little pile of random cheap notebooks they've used for various language arts subjects that I have no idea how to store.  

It kind of looks like this -

They can't be bound into their yearly Notebooks and they are just so easy to lose if left loose. So,  I shove them into the back of the Spiral Bounds, which looks sloppy and is sure to come apart once we simple move them.

Binders would natrually allow you to just plop all those additional lined-paper notebooks in with the Notebooking pages, thus, keeping everything neatly together and reducing the chances of losing anything!

Mind you, my heart is telling me that we don't NEED all those extra spiral bounds if we are just efficient with Notebooking and add everything in there!  Hmmmm....

You can slide in page protectors for Lapbooks, Art Projects, etc.

Binders are just easier for 'storage' than Spiral Bound Notebooks.  If you do a lot of art projects with paint or pastels that you want to save a binder will be an easier place to store them in page protectors.  Also, if you add Lapbooks to your year, they can by stored in page protectors within the the binder as well.  *sigh*  I just love the idea of having somewhere to keep EVERYTHING together, which was a challenge this past year.

You could still potentially bind your work in a Spiral Bound Notebook at the end of the year.

If you really wanted to, you could store your Notebooking Pages in your binder in page protectors and then take them all out and bind them together along with special writing projects, etc. at the end of the year.  I don't think I will do this - but you could!

Here are some CONS of the Binder System:

They are kind of ugly, especially on a shelf as a 'keepsake'.

I don't know. They're binders.  Even if they are pretty binders - they still scream 'school' to me.  So, they definitely don't appeal to the senses the way the nice Spiral Bound books do.  Annnnd, as I mentioned above, this is kind of HUGE.  Because the whole heart of Notebooking is to encourage kids to create something beautiful.  Something they are insanely proud of - something they want to store on their bedroom shelf for years to come.  Binders don't quite fit that category, in my opinion... and this is a big deal for me.

You may not be as motivated to 'fill up' your Notebook.

As I mentioned in the 'pros', this is also a BIG point (especially for me!).  I don't know about you, but there is something about a blank book full of pages that motivates me to fill them up.  Without the pages before me, I might not have quite as much motivation to really spend time doing lots of Notebooking Pages to fill up their Notebooks.  I might fall into the trap of having them do more worksheets or busy work instead of utilizing Notebooking to its fullest...

The pages are most likely to rip/fall out.

They are binders.  They are notorious for having pages tear or fall out over time.  So, this could be a problem with a lot of use and/or over time.

When it comes to the 'how' of Notebooking - it really is up to you as a homeschooler. You decide what works best for your family and, hey, you can always switch it up if you don't like it!

The most important thing is this - you are engaging with learning in a way that awakens the mind, heart, and soul and brings your family closer together.

Peace and Love!

Don't forget to check out my other Notebooking Posts -

How we Implemented Notebooking into our Homeschool Year

Simplifying and Enriching our Homeschool with Notebooking -Part 1

Simplifying and Enriching our Homeschool with Notebooking -Part 2

Spiral-bound Notebooks for Planning

And also, my Notebooking/Lapbooking Board on Pinterest!

Notebooking Pages Free Membership

(This post contains Affiliate Links)

How we incorporated Notebooking into our Homeschool Year {a look in our Notebooks and some thoughts for successful Notebooking}

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


It's Summer!

And it's my Birthday today...  *does dance*  I'm turning 33 and feeling SO happy and young at heart and full of life and energy... God is good to me, I am SO blessed friends.  I feel the best I've ever felt and look forward to this year with great joy and anticipation!!!   To celebrate today,  I'm filing my house and backyard full of the amazing kids in my life and having a little party with them - yep, just me and 9 kids... you'd think I was turning 12 with the way I like to 'celebrate'!  Haha...

But, oh, how I love the season of ice cream cones, freezies, pool parties, water balloon fights in the backyard, s'mores around the fire, a house and van flooded with laughing kids, and warm nights at the neighborhood little-league baseball game... *sigh*  It's bliss.

Buuuut... it cannot last forever, dear friends.

So, amidst all the loveliness of care-free Summer days, I'm plugging away (just like so many of you, I'm sure) at planning for this coming year of homeschooling.  *smile*

And a BIG part of my planning has been contemplating how we will approach Notebooking this year.   

Notebooking has always been a part of our homeschool but in the past few years we have been much more intentional about it.  Especially this past school year when we starting using Notebooking for a lot more of our 'work'.

To see what got us started last year, check out these -

Here are some of my past Notebooking Posts:

Simplifying and Enriching our Homeschool with Notebooking -Part 1

Simplifying and Enriching our Homeschool with Notebooking -Part 2

Spiral-bound Notebooks for Planning

So, we actually created our own Spiral Bound Notebooks for this past year.  They were created with simple white paper (printer paper) and were given a clear plastic cover and black plastic cover.  I paid about $5 each to have them bound.  So, basically just a huge stack of white paper bound together for the purpose of filling up throughout the year.  (There's a photo just below...)

I have several thoughts about this method of using a blank spiral bound book which I will be sharing in the next few days when I compare the idea of using spiral bound books vs. binders for Notebooking.  (Yep, I'm actually writing an entire POST about Binders VS. Spiralbounds... and y'all know you nerdy homeschool Moms will read it...).  *wink*

The main idea?  It worked - but there are things I wasn't thrilled with.  This year, we will try the binder method and see which we prefer come the end of THIS year.  Hey, might as well shake it up a little, right?  Gotta live on the edge when you're a homeschool Mama...  *wink

How we used our Notebooks this year:

Alright, so I started this homeschool journey with a a vision for as little 'busy work' as possible and as much 'real learning' as we could get in. For me, this meant focusing on quality vs. quantity and depth vs. surface for recording their learning.  This is what drew us to Lapbooking when they were younger.

I have always longed so much for the kids to create something, through the learning process, that would be meaningful.

I wanted them to invest their time and energy into something tangible and special.  Something we'd actually want to save and look back upon in the future.  So, this has ALWAYS been a part of our homeschool but this year specifically, we decided to plunge into Notebooking more seriously.

I signed up for and started browsing the thousands of pages available and started getting really excited about where this could go.  I also go lost on Pinterest with all the free Notebooking pages and resources available out there!  (Seriously, it's awesome!)

We used Notebooking in so many different ways this year - and truly, the options are endless for most students.  And I had kids that LOVED it and kids that were reluctant to it - but they all ended up with great final products at the end of the year.   It really is up to your own creativity and your child's personal interests and learning style.  Each of my children have Notebooks that are quite different but all reflect their learning journey in wonderful ways.

Basically, whatever we were learning about and reading about - we tried to add some element of it to our Notebooks.

Some of the Subjects we Notebooked:

  • Literature - the kids Notebooked about the books they were reading and enjoying. This included oral narrations, written narrations, drawings, sketches, thoughts, quotes, timelines, historical notes, etc.
  • Scripture and Bible Study - We LOVED using the amazing Notebooking pages from Bible Road Trip.  (Read my full review here.)  We also used simple scripture as copywork on pretty Notebooking Pages and also just on simple sheets which we added in later.
  • Music/Composer Study and Artist Study - We printed Notebooking pages from and used them to write out oral narrations of what we'd learned about the artists and composers we were studying.
  • Poetry - This is such a lovely and EASY thing to add to your Notebooks.  I have some home-made FREE Poetry Notebooking Pages coming your way very soon. It's simple though - just pick a poem, use it for copywork in your Notebook, add a photo or drawing, and you're done.
  • Writing - We put our finished compositions into our Notebooks as well.  My daughter often added little drawings along with them or printed out pictures to go along with the stories.

The best way to show you how we used Notebooking this year is just to open up our Notebooks and let you have a peek inside. 

So, here you go - a billion photos of this year's Notebooks (with a little bit of commentary where I thought it was needed/helpful).

Please, please forgive me for some of the photos being fuzzy/off color.  Pieces of white paper are about the hardest things in the WORLD to get good photos of for some reason.  I did my best!

What our Notebooks looked like at the beginning of the year.

What they looked like at the end of the year.  *smile*

A Bunch of Alex's Pages (he's 7):

On the right are some of my pages that I created to go along with Charlotte Mason Geography!  I can't wait to share them with you all... now I'm motivated to get them done.

Some of Simon's Pages (he's 10/11 here):

Bible Road Trip page on the left and some home-made Proverbs copywork on the right.  I used the Web-App on to create them.

One of the things my son EXCELS at is Lego.  I mean, this boy can build.  He mostly creates things completely out of his imagination or using pictures and then completely creating the Lego design on his own.  (Like his Taj Mahal and other famous bits of architecture on the right.)  We decided to take photos of his Lego creations and add them to his Notebook.

A Bunch of Audrey's Pages (she's 8/9):

More Notebooking Pages I created to go along with Long's Elementary Geography.

This is an example of oral narration turned into a written narration.  The child can orally narrate while you write down what they say - then they can use that as copywork for a Notebooking page.

From our Five in a Row study of The Tree Lady - page on the right is from

Home-made poetry copywork page. These are life-savers when I have nothing prepared for copywork.

More Notebooking Pages we've created that were previously uploaded:

These Life-Cycle pages are also from

My son's pages from the I AM CANADA series.  I absolutely LOVE these.  He orally narrated, I typed.  Then we put together visually pleasing pages to reflect his learning.

Typed oral narration.

Basic Draw Write Now lined page.  We use these like CRAZY for younger learners.

A 7-year-old's oral narration.

An example of a bit more creative oral narration - we created a newspaper article.

Home-made poetry pages.

Charlotte Mason Geography

A Couple Questions You've Asked about Notebooking:

Do I have to have a membership to to Notebook properly?

Of course not.  You don't need a membership to anything to Notebook.  However, having access to thousands of Notebooking Pages at the click of a mouse is a HUGE benefit when you are planning to implement Notebooking on a regular basis in your home. is by far the BEST site I've found for Notebooking.  The insight and inspiration that Debra offers as a homeschool Mama of many is wonderful.  The pages and good quality and plentiful (I've yet to run into many things that I couldn't find a page for...!)

So, the answer is - no, you don't need any kind of membership to truly embrace Notebooking.  There are tons of free pages on Pinterest and all over the internet.  You can also create your own if you have the time/ability.

What is awesome about having a membership though is the ease.  The convenience of having access to any and everything you will likely need is worth a TON.  I always try to think of what my time is worth to me.  If I had to spend hours making out own pages or getting creative with how to Notebook different topics -I wouldn't have time for other things (like writing this post!).

Yep, it is an investment, but if you are serious about Notebooking - I think its worth it.  There are actually a bunch of sales coming up at the end of this month too... like this one -

Back-to-School Membership Sale

"Do you print out all the Notebooking Pages ahead of time?"

No.  And yes.  Ok, it depends what you mean by 'ahead of time'.  Wait - this is a loaded answer.  *sigh*

I didn't print CERTAIN Notebooking Pages much more than a week ahead. This is because I'm notorious for changing my mind about what we are doing within our homeschool and what we will Notebook.  If I were to print tons of specific Notebooking Pages at the beginning of the school year with the notion that we would certainly complete all those specific pages - I'd be probably wasting a WHOLE lot of ink and paper. (I've done this before, trust me!)

So, by this I mean, Notebooking Pages that are specific to one topic or person or idea.  So, I would probably not print out pages and pages months in advance because I'm not even sure we will get to those specific topics. You know?

But I would look at our week ahead and think about what would be great for Notebooking - then look for appropriate pages and print them out at that point.

The only exception to this is basic Notebooking sheets (generic ones that can be used for anything) and also copy work pages.  For example, I had a pile of poetry copy work pages that my daughter could choose from at any point throughout the year.  This was helpful for her, since she actually enjoys copywork and went through them rather quickly.  I also had lots of blank notebooking sheets that fit the format for Draw Write Now, that my son could grab and use whenever he was doing copywork.

"What *didn't* you include in your big Notebooks?"

Well, we didn't include Math because we use Teaching Textbooks which is done on the computer and in a pre-coiled math book.

We also didn't include dictation/spelling and grammar type work.  These were all done in separate notebooks of their own.  (Simple, cheap, 5 cent ones that I really regret using!)   In hindsight, I kind of regret this system thought because now I have all these extra notebooks kicking around that I don't feel right about throwing away but I also don't know what do to with them - but it is a bit inevitable, I think.  It would make more sense to have a binder to fit them into and keep them along with all the Notebooking Pages....

I will also talk about this with the binder vs. spiral bound notebook post. *wink*

"Did you ever notebook with a 6 year old? She doesn't know how to read or write yet.  I know my 8 year old son will eat this up I'm just wondering if a notebook will be a bit much for my 6 year old daughter. I'm picturing her notebook filled with drawings and the beginnings of words and copy work. Which excites me..."

Ok, so, the question here is - will Notebooking work for younger children and have I ever done this.? 

The answer is - YES and YES!  We have been Notebooking since the beginning of our homeschool journey when my kiddos were just 5, 3, and 2!  (Wow, seems like so long ago...!)

The way we started with Notebooking was with Lapbooks.  I will be writing a post soon about how we used Lapbooks with our preschoolers and very early Elementary-aged kids.  It was super fun and very successful. We still get out their old Lapbooks and enjoy the memories.  We often used Homeschool Share to find free, wonderful Lapbooks for all age levels.

"Do you incorporate lap book pages or other printables? If the child isn't particularly fond of or quick with cutting, do you pre-cut pages and small pieces to be used? How many pages do you use for each study? Do you incorporate the FIAR notebook builder? Do you have a different notebook for each subject or just everything in one for one child until it's full? Your notebooks have been on my mind as we try to navigate them right now. We are just starting them and I'm wondering if I'm overdoing/overthinking... "

This question makes me smile because it sounds JUST LIKE ME.  Yes, we often overthink everything as homeschool Moms.  Because there are so many of you who have littles and are starting out, I will be doing on a post specifically about starting Notebooking with Lapbooking.

As for a couple of the other questions - I can answer them now.  We used ONE Notebooking for everything that we wanted to add into the Notebook this year. There was no rhyme or reason as to how they were put in - we just inserted and tapes/glued them in as we went.  The number of pages for each study varied greatly depending on what we were doing.  For Five in a Row Notebooking, we would do maybe 5-6 pages, but for Composer Study, we would only do one page.  It just depends. 

We do incorporate Lapbooks, yes.  Though, we haven't too much this past year.  I actually hope to use Lapbooks again this coming year.  When the kids were younger, yes, I pre-cut the pages and the elements because it saved a TON of time and frustration.  (smile)  More on that in a coming post about Lapbooking!  To see a bunch of our past Lapbooks, click on the Five in a Row posts to the right of this post.  We usually did a Lapbook with every FIAR study.

Are you interested in learning more about Notebooking?  Here are some of the 'Helpful Links' I've shared in the past from

The Doom and Gloom of Homeschooling (Part 1)

Are you experiencing burn-out?  Has homeschooling become more of a chore than something you enjoy with your children?  I love how Debra expresses the transparent truth so many of us live - homeschooling is HARD but there is hope.

3 Homeschooling Myths that Trapped Me (Part 2)

Here Debra talks about the traps that held her - "I just need to find the right homeschool method", "I just need to find the right homeschool curriculum", and "My homeschool just needs better time management."

Can any of you relate to believing these lies?  (I can...)

Victory over Busywork, Boredom, and Burnout (Part 3)

Narrations and Notebooking are a winning combination, this post discusses the whys and hows.

Tutorial #1 - Change Your Mindset

What is busy work and how is it hindering your homeschool?  Identify the busy work and set it aside...

Tutorial #2 - The Glue that Makes it All Stick Together (Narrations)

What are narrations and how do they benefit the homeschool?  This is a super detailed post covering all things narrations.  (This site is seriously so amazing...!)

Tutorial #3 - Time for Notebooking

This is an AWESOME post that covers questions like, "What is Notebooking?" and also shows a typical day with reading, narration, and notebooking.

Copywork and Notebooking

A great post all about how to implement copywork into Notebooking.

Notebooking with a Structured Writing Plan

This article includes tips on how to approach writing within a Notebooking structure.  This is very Charlotte Mason friendly, so, of course, I love it.  This post talks about the importance of Oral Narration, how to approach Copywork and and Artwork.  It also touches on the movement from Oral Narration to Written Narration and how to develop from sentence writing to paragraph writing within the Notebooking method.

Language Arts Notebooks

Ideas for using Notebooking for Language Arts (copywork, poetry, etc.).

"Our Story" Video from Debra Reed

If you are feeling tired, burned out, exhausted of the grind of homeschool curriculums and methods that aren't really working - you need to watch this video.  (Or, rather, listen to it...)  Some super inspiring words from a Mama of 10 here...

Some snapshots of a few more of the Notebooking pages we've created in our homeschool:

You can also follow my Notebooking Pinterest Board where I'm always trying to add helpful links to free Notebooking pages and resources:

Follow Cassandra's board Notebooking and Lapbooking on Pinterest.

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