Wednesday, June 29, 2016 {TOS Review}

If you've homeschooled for any length of time, you've probably heard of the idea of notebooking.  Then all the questions start.  How do you actually get started?  How do you cover every subject through notebooking?  How do you grade it?

Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews
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If you're like me, you found, but maybe didn't know enough about the Lifetime Membership or Notebooking in general to make the plunge.  I'm here to tell you now, if you notebook in any capacity, it is worth it.  If you're wanting to shake things up and let your child's assessments be more student-driven, it is worth it.

What Is this Notebooking Thing? was created by homeschooling mother of ten, Debra Reed.  It was her effort to reduce boredom, frustration and busywork, and free up her children to learn in a way that would meet their learning needs better.  This website has great tutorials and tips for getting started with narration and notebooking, which is especially useful if you're new to either concept.  Oh, and of course it is FULL of notebooking pages of every variety.  She has them for every subject.  She has them with regular lines and primary lines, with all kinds of boarders and pictures.  She has them with no lines, but spaces for drawing instead.  She has some that are more like coloring pages.  She has it all.

The major categories include:
Any Study
Famous People
Fine Arts
Lang. Arts

The Any Study pages are just general pages that can be used for anything.  If she doesn't have a specific topic you need, or you're in a hurry, grab one of these.  The rest of the categories are divided up into multiple subtopics, so there's quite a bit to explore.

How to Notebook
Oh, let me count the ways!  Really, there's no right or wrong way to use this resource.  You can use it as a supplement to any curriculum.  You can use it to replace standard worksheets within your curriculum.  You can use it instead of curriculum, as they would work well for interest-led learning or unschoolers who just want to pick a topic and see where it leads them.  Notebooking works wonderfully as a form of narration, so as a {relaxed} Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I've found a couple ways this works well for narration.  Young students can draw their narrations.  Older students can draw and do a copywork passage, or a short written narration if they are ready.  Parents can write out the child's narration for them for kids who can't write well yet.  It's really versatile.

So, how have we used it during the informal summer months?  Emory wanted to learn about Cheetahs.  I read from an animal encyclopedia and he drew on a Cheetah page, found in the Mammals subsection of Science, while Elliott drew and wrote some facts on his page.

We've used Any Study pages to accompany our read-aloud books.  Below was from Who Is Stan Lee? by Geoff Edgers, and we were on the chapter about when he created Marvel.

This particular page was the "handmade boarder" but there are many style and color choices for the Any Study pages.

I printed out several of the simpler pages from the A-Z Animals file for Eleanor when she went through her Big Red Barn phase.  There are a lot of A-Z categories, and plenty of pages with minimal lines and more drawing space, as well as pages with no lines so she can have a whole page to color and draw "school like the boys," in an age appropriate way.  I think we went through at least a pig, horse, and cow.

I also have so many ideas for future studies when we dive back into our curriculum.  For history, the new curriculum we're trying encourages notebooking, so I plan to use this website extensively!  I know we'll be learning about a few different explorers and their journeys, so I'm going to print some of the maps from the Geography section.  I'm also planning to use a variety of the Famous People pages as we study them during history.  I'm creating our own introductory chemistry curriculum, with a branch of study on geology, so we'll use the experiment pages, and probably some of the nature study pages, and scientist pages.  I know some of the animals will line up with preschool themes for Eleanor this year, and I'll be poking around to find other simple pages for her.

There have been a few less-common topics/people I've wanted, but I can make do with the non-specific or Any Study pages.  There's really an endless supply, and I feel like this is a resource that definitely works with the growing/maturing homeschooler.

I did notice some things not included that I would have expected--for instance, Father's Day is included, but Mother's Day is not.  Obviously the more general pages can be used for any topic, but I found that one in particular odd.  I would also love to see Field Trip pages.

I really like the depth of content available, but the website can be visually overwhelming for me.  Before I log in, it feels cluttered with the dark text boxes and the popups and social media sidebar and such.  Once I log in and actually go to the Member Center, it cleans up quite a bit, but then I see quotes from customers everywhere, which is a little distracting to me.  However, the website itself is very easy to navigate, and I like the pop of green to break it up once I'm logged in.

Everything is clearly labeled, though I admit to completely overlooking the Search tab for awhile.  I guess I'm used to stationary search bars at the top or bottom of websites, and this Search tab disappears as you scroll.  The Search feature is a necessity though, and handy, because something may not be in the category where you expect it--Benjamin Franklin isn't under Famous Scientists, but you can find him in three other areas.  Or, you may want to see all of the available pages for one topic.  For instance, Bats are located under A-Z animals for letter B, and  under the Mammals section of Science/Nature Study.  Depending on why we're studying Bats and which children I need it for, I like being able to access all of the available resources quickly to see which pages are most applicable.

The only issue I have is with opening the PDF files.  I prefer PDFs to open in a new browser tab so I can automatically see it, but these do not. They automatically download, then I can open them in the browser.  If I have a lifetime membership, I'd rather not download everything, and just access them later when/if I need them again.

Final Thoughts
Overall, I am very impressed.  The thing about Notebooking is that there's not really a wrong way to complete the page.  It's not about fill-in-the-blanks or multiple choice.  Instead, it allows the child to make their own connections and express their thoughts any way they want.  It's open-ended and child-centered, while still providing tangible proof of learning and portfolio fodder, if you need it.  The Lifetime Membership provides you with more resources than you could possibly ever use.  This is a quality resource and well worth the investment, since Lifetime Membership also includes everything that gets added to the website in the future.  If you are considering the membership, you can check out the FREE RESOURCES first to get a feel for the variety of content available.

Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews

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