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


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 NotebookingPages.com 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 NotebookingPages.com 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 NotebookingPages.com 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 NotebookingPages.com

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 NotebookingPages.com

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 NotebookingPages.com 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.  NotebookingPages.com 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 NotebookingPages.com:

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.

{This post contains affiliate links.}


  • Stephanie

    Soooo many wonderful pages! To be honest, I just scanned your post so forgive me for asking if the answer is there, but do you bind them before or after the work is done? I've seen on other blogs where they use a nature notebook, science notebook, history notebook, etc. so it would seem easier to add the pages as you go with the three ring binder notebooking system, but not so easy with the spiral binding system. Also, what do you use for teaching Bible? Your children shared so many delightful pages, I'm curious what you use. Living books in that area as well, or something more formal?

    • Cassandra

      Thanks Stephanie. πŸ™‚ This year I bound them first. A whole bunch of blank white paper, actually. This coming year we are going to try to binder method instead (I'll be posting about that tomorrow, I think!) The Bible pages are from Bible Road Trip which is FREE! We just followed along with the scriptural readings, to be honest… and plugged in Notebooking pages where they fit in. She has great pages. I did a full review of it right here -http://unplugyourfamily.blogspot.ca/2016/04/a-review-of-bible-road-trip-from.html

    • Cassandra

      Hi Rochelle! Oh, I did like the spiral bound! I thought they turned out to be beautiful keepsakes for our kids. There were some cons to them though, as with anything… I actually did a huge post about this right here -http://unplugyourfamily.blogspot.ca/2016/07/notebooking-spiral-bound-notebooks-vs.html

  • OneMommy

    We tried a little notebooking last year when working on the states. We did it in an alreayd bound notebook, but I didn't like where we placed each state. (We did them in our homeschool group and not in an order I liked.) This year we are starting the states again and moving them into a binder so pages can be moved around easier. I think we are going to try some other notebooking activities as well. I love how yours look!

  • Unknown

    I have been reading your blog for the last few months and you have really inspired and encouraged me that I can do this without following AO. I love your notebooking books too! I did have one question do you spread out your books for as long as AO does? 2-3 years? We will start our homeschooling journey next year and I have been trying to learn as much as I can about the whys and hows. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    • Cassandra

      THank you Samantha! πŸ™‚ I'm so glad I've been able to encourage you in some small way!!! Only by God's grace. I have never (ever!) spread out a book for 2 years. Or 1 year. Or even 5 months. Think of how we read books. I mean, I'm devouring Ann Voskamp's new book because I LOVE IT. It is speaking to me right now and if I tried to spread it out for months, I would lose my interest and also, loose the passion with which I'm reading. Same with the kids. We read through books fairly quickly and if a book is really, really lingering, I ask why and often those are the ones we drop because the interest isn't there. The only books that don't apply here are poetry anthologies, scriptures, and kids bibles, etc. that we do spread out and are reading all the time. πŸ™‚ xo

  • Rose @---}

    Thank you for making this post. I have done some lapbooking and Charlotte mason but I'm seeing that I can't do a lot of lapbooks nor follow the CM schedules I've found online. Then I heard of Notebooking and it seemed a perfect combination of things. Once I realized that I need to create my own way of using CM methodology I felt such a relief. I found this post on Pinterest and well all your photos and Q&As just cemented the ideas in my mind. I felt God must have placed this post in my way bc I feel so much clarify and relief. I'm still working on getting the school system mindset out. I will definitely have a look around this site too.

  • Tanya

    For the notebooks you pre-bound yourself, did you use a heavier paper, or did you just use standard printer/copy paper? If you used something heavier, would you mind telling me a bit about it? I am looking for a heavier paper (lighter than cardstock, though) with a very slight texture to it. If you used anything like that, would you please pass on more info about it? I am having a very hard time finding what I am looking for!

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