Looking for a way to cut out busywork, but still add some hands-on learning to your homeschool routine? Allow us to introduce you to notebooking projects.
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If there’s one thing I discovered over our years of homeschooling the four kids, it’s that we learn best with hands-on projects. Me, included!
Incorporating activities and projects provide that extra attention to detail on a topic or an outlet for creative juices to flow. It also offers a way for the child’s artistic ideas to shine or, at the very least, continue to develop. Like any muscle, creativity needs a chance to be exercised, even for the child who may be put off by it in the younger years.
Or, if your child is anything like my granddaughter Esther, creativity and imagination are bursting at the seams, and there just never seem to be enough opportunities to let it out! Notebooking provides a wonderful way to capture that imaginativeness and artistic expression.
Even so, there are times when we can feel inundated by 3-D projects, dioramas, or projects of all sizes. Or maybe you’re just not into the Lap Book scene, but do like creating occasional projects. This is where notebooking those projects comes to the rescue!
What Exactly ARE Notebooking Projects?
Notebook projects are pretty much what they sound like—projects that end up in a notebook or a 3-ring binder if extra space is needed. Notebooks can be built on a topic of study or as a more general portfolio, such as across a school semester.
By creating a collection in a binder, your child can create a keepsake that he will be proud to share with family and friends. He can take it out on occasion to flip through and recall lessons learned in the past, further cementing details of the topics as he is reminded of them. He can also see how his skills increase over the years, both artistic as well as in penmanship and grammar.
What to Include in a Notebook
Projects can consist of a variety of ideas, as long as they can be flat enough to keep from being damaged between pages. Among those ideas include the following:
Lap Book Projects
If you are not familiar with lap book projects, these are small paper activities that contain a brief amount of text or bulleted points that pertain to a specific topic.
Lap book projects are usually held within a file folder that has been folded in a way to create a portfolio that generally opens from the center. It contains flaps and panels displaying many projects throughout. To instead include a lap book project in a notebook, the project can be adhered to a piece of colored cardstock, then three-hole punched to include within the notebook.
There is an endless amount of lap book project styles, such as layered books, pockets of cards or items such as stick puppets, and those with movable elements such as wheels to turn or sliders with pull tabs.
Say, for example, you are studying Ancient Egypt. You might have a multi-page layered mini-booklet on mummification that shows the title on the outside. It would then open to the outer sarcophagus, turn again to the inner sarcophagus, another with the mummy, and yet others with canopic jars and the tools used.
Maps & Timelines
Maps and timelines are often helpful not just for history, but for a variety of topics! You could create these while studying inventions and have a timeline of inventors and their creations.
The timeline can be created with multiple 3-hole punched pages that are all attached to the rings, or with the first page punched and inserted, and multiple other pages cut a little narrower and taped side-by-side, creating an accordion fold that can be extended out to view as a whole.
Of course, when we think of notebooks, we tend to think of essays and research reports, and although they can certainly be included, notebooks are a wonderful option for housing creative writing of all kinds! You can include newspapers with articles written by the child on the topic of study. It could also have advertisements and pictures, want ads, and just about anything else you’d find in a newspaper.
Other creative writing ideas include stories, poems, plays, and journals. Should you desire to make a journal, newspaper, or booklet and do not wish to hole-punch it, you can create a pocket on a cardstock page that can be inserted to hold the activity.
You may be asking, “What about the larger, 3-D projects that we spent so much time on?” It can be heartbreaking to throw away that diorama that your child worked hard at!
This is a time to take photographs of those treasures. You may want to have your child hold the project, or stand next to it, and perhaps have her write a bit about it. Make a collage of photos on a cardstock page and include the description your child wrote.
There are basic games that are easily included in a binder, such as puzzles or word searches, but there are also several games that can be created using a piece of cardstock as a game board.
You can even create a larger game board by taping two pieces of cardstock together and folding it down to store in the notebook, but opening it up to 11”x17” when ready to remove and play. You can store markers and game cards in a small manila envelope that is also hole-punched and kept in the notebook with it.
If your topic of study includes foods you will be making, include the recipes in the notebook. And don’t forget to create a page with photos of the children making the food… or eating it!
Many subjects lend themselves to drawings or paintings, as well. You can either adhere the art to a piece of coordinating colored cardstock or slip the artwork into a protective sleeve to display.
A scrapbook page is basically a piece of cardstock that has a variety of things adhered to it that would be contained in a regular scrapbook.
If you go on a field trip, include the brochure of where you went, the admission stub or ticket, or anything that reminds you of where you went. You might also want to add photos of your trip and notes of what you did while you were there!
How to Get Started Notebooking
It’s not hard to begin creating a notebook! All you need are some basic things, such as a three-ring binder, a three-hole punch, various colored cardstock (or just white if you prefer), page protectors if desired, and glue sticks or double-sided sticky tape to adhere your treasures to the pages.
And don’t feel like you have to include everything you’ve done—sit with your child and pick and choose the best items that she likes and is most happy with.
Creating a notebook of this kind is something that is built up over time, so don’t rush it! Or perhaps you might want to collect all your projects in a box and put together the notebook at the end of your study. Either way, your child will be proud to display it when all of her work is completed, and it will be a joyful memory of lessons learned for years to come!
Amy Pak is an 18-year homeschool veteran to four and a “Maimy” to seven grandkids. She is also the co-owner, illustrator, and co-author at Home School in the Woods, a family-run history company known for its historical timeline figures and hands-on history studies. You can read more of Amy’s writing on her company’s blog.