The Art of Notebooking

If I were to choose one methodology of education that supersedes all, it would have to be notebooking. But what exactly is notebooking? It’s rather simple really.

Notebooking is a Charlotte Mason inspired method of learning that enlists the child’s comprehension, critical thinking, imagination and creativity to author a living book—a living book of their own creation that uniquely displays their knowledge of any subject.

Whether it’s sitting down to write a few words and make a simple drawing about something read or using creativity to design a t-shirt, write a small picture book, pen a poem, create a comic strip, a play, a book cover, an alphabet book, or a commemorative stamp, when children use their imagination to make a record of their learning, they’ll never forget what was between the pages of the book they read.

Charlotte Mason explains it well when describing how her students used creativity to draw a picture of their favorite scene from the history book read to them.

“…the results showed the extraordinary power of visualizing which the little people possess. Of course, that which they visualize, or imagine clearly, they know; it is a life possession.”

I know this to be true. When I recently showed my 28-year-old daughter some pages from the history notebook she created twenty years earlier, she could recall exactly which book she read and minute details about the story just from looking at the page she created.

Notebooking moves the information, the story or narrative, from the short-term memory to the long-term memory. The simple act of children creating something from their learning generates long-term retention of the knowledge that was gained.

Isn’t it interesting that most of us who were traditionally schooled left high school with almost no memory of anything we learned? That’s because the schools used methodologies that were ineffective and unproductive. What methods are those? Worksheets, quizzes, and fill-in-the-blank, multiple-choice type tests.

The problem with worksheets and quizzes is that the children begin to care more about the score they will receive than the actual knowledge they are learning. Worksheet and quizzes hijack the purpose for learning. If the purpose for learning is to score well on a test, we’ve lost sight of the real reason for learning—to know and understand the world we live in.

When I was a child, I followed my grandfather around his garden, listening attentively as he explained how he grew all his delicious vegetables and herbs. I was enraptured by his descriptions. If, however, he had told me there would be a test at the end of his narrative, it would have ruined the experience. I would no longer be interested in what he said for the sake of learning and knowledge. Instead, I would begin to focus on memorizing to score well on the test.

The reason for learning would be hijacked by the upcoming quiz.

Children can never develop a love for learning if we use the worn-out procedures they implement in government and private schools. That’s why notebooking is so superior for a Charlotte Mason homeschool. Our children aren’t being tested on the information stored in their short-term memory. They are being asked to create something of their own making, to author their own living book of ideas and thoughts that will stay with them their entire lives.

The reason children remember so well what was taught before creating a notebook page is because they are thinking about what they learned. They are contemplating it further, using their imagination, developing neural pathways that did not exist before.

This acquired knowledge becomes part of a storehouse of information where connections are made with each new addition. The children begin to understand relationships, question inconsistencies, see similarities in historical accounts, scientific processes, countries, cities and more.

The fact is, children consume workbooks, but they produce notebooks. How much better it would be for our children to be producers rather than consumers. And what our children produce through notebooking is a beautiful expression of their thoughts and the lifestyle of learning that marked their childhood. This is where their love for learning develops roots. Those roots will continue to deepen through high school, higher learning, and career.


The Peaceful Press Elementary Resources use notebooking each week to capture science and history learning. We offer three history cycles that encourage family centered learning with each child notebooking at their own level.

Notebooking teaches a child to think.

One of the most wonderful aspects of notebooking, and one I never even considered through all those years of homeschooling, is the memories it preserves. Memories of those special years of learning together as a family.

Our notebooks are a record, a chronicle—full of delightful illustrations, misspelled words and immense creativity. They are a treasure of the living education my children received.

Even when my children were young, they enjoyed perusing the plethora of artwork and entries bounding from their notebook. It was their own living creation, after all.

Try to imagine a child happily looking at the pages of a sterile workbook they filled in. I’m afraid there would be no delight. No life.

Another benefit of notebooking in your homeschool that I wasn’t aware of when I started using this methodology is how notebooking creates writers. A young child begins by drawing a picture and copying a title at the top of the page.

As each year progress, titles turn into sentences, sentences turn into short paragraphs, short paragraphs turn into long paragraphs and before you know it, your children can easily write an essay on any topic they have learned.

All four of my children, including those who were resistant to writing during writing class, enjoyed notebooking. And all four of my children, even the most reluctant writers, took their writing skills with them to college and impressed their professors with their proficiency.

Notebooking teaches children to write effortlessly.

This amazing educational tool is so easy to implement. Toss out the worksheets and start notebooking. After your children read a chapter or watch a video, go on a field trip, or finish a novel, simply ask them to write down or draw the most interesting thing they discovered. It’s that simple.

You need nothing but paper and some high-quality colored pencils. I put the pages my children created in a three-ring binder inside page protectors. And today, we have all those binders full of their work. What a treasure they are to me!

If you would like some creative ideas for notebooking assignments, go to my website at

I think you’ll find that notebooking, though it does take longer than filling in a worksheet, is a superior method of learning. When your children are gone and you look back, you’ll be so glad you chose to employ notebooking in your homeschool.

And you’ll have a wealth of memories preserved in all the beautiful living books your children created.

Guest post by Jeannie Fulbright, author of the Apologia Elementary Education series which we feature in our new Kind Kingdom Volume 2.

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