Our School in a Notebook

Not too long ago, I read a great article from a friend on recognizing and recuperating from homeschool burnout.    I’ve had that season in my life, but what struck me in reading through her post this time was a quote from Miss Charlotte Mason:

The object of children’s literary studies is not to give them precise information as to who wrote what in the reign of whom? – but to give them a sense of the spaciousness of the days, not only of great Elizabeth, but of all those times of which poets, historians and the makers of tales, have left us living pictures…

That small nugget reminded me of a brief conversation that I had with a customer who asked me about posts using my Blessed Heritage curriculum.   It occurred to me that when our older two used the elementary curriculum, it was pre-blogging.   Remember those days–the Stone Ages?   Anyway, I thought to discuss how we ‘give a sense of the spaciousness of the days,’ and to share some general information about how we use notebooks.

I sometimes get e-mails that express a concern about a younger child “getting it,” and I have responded, though not nearly as eloquently, about what to expect of younger students when completing literature-based curriculum.    A classical approach that is more memory-focused than Charlotte Mason’s would emphasize the memorization of dates, events, and people.   Yes, your child might impress a few more relatives with rote memorization, but does he understand conceptually what he is saying?   Can he place visual “pegs” in history based upon the stories of the period?   Does he talk in “offline” conversations about the books he read?    That is the value of a leterature-based curriculum, and it is perfectly acceptable that a little one does not “get” every story.  He’s not ready for the AP exam just yet; by the time high school has arrived, and he’s seen American history at least once more, he will dialogue about this spaciousness of days in ways that will amaze even you.   

When our oldest narrated her way through this same curriculum, we used a big box of perforated computer paper in order for her to create her own version of history based upon what we read.   I still have some of that paper in a box that is now a part of our scrap/ recycled paper bin!   But, I’ve upgraded our notebook work with pre-printed pages for all the children.   The problem with my youngest is she doesn’t like to color!   So her book is nowhere near as illustrated as the oldest’s book was, but every now and then I’ll say, “Draw me a picture, and I want it in color.”   So, here are several of my favorites:

We don’t just notebook about our history studies; I splurged on  Live and Learn’s pre-printed foldables for the Apologia elementary series.   With CurrClick’s sale, these were far more affordable than some of my previous lapbook purchases from the same company.

When it comes to notebooking, we didn’t stop there!    On last year, I shared our wonderful notebook makeover, and how excited the youngest was to spruce up her learning in this way.   So one of these notebooks became her current events notebook, where she summarizes a couple of articles that she reads through kids’ sites (see our 2012/2013 Curriculum page for details).   Nothing fancy here in terms of her capturing the jist of the articles, but she gets more handwriting practice and an indirect lesson in sentence structure and readability.

By the way, notebooks aren’t just for little people in our home.    Our son has become quite creative with his pages as well!

And though I don’t take the time to illustrate my work as much as I once did (I’m getting back to it), even I’ve “gotten into the act” of narration in order to have even more meaningful discussions with the kids!


I’ll confess that I’ve gotten rejuvenated after reading a post from Jimmie Lanley, aka the Notebooking Fairy, lists a number of boards that center on journaling and notebooking.


If you are a fan of notebooking or lapbooking, how are you using these tools in your home?

Queen Bees: Social Insects?

This was our youngest dd’s written narration on honeybees as we continued our study of social insects earlier today.  The queen bee’s behavior had a particular impact upon her:

‘Bees take honey from smaller hives.  If the babies are fed royal food [a special diet for the queen’s growth] more than three days [the queen bee] kills them.   On the winter she throws the boys out and they die.  I hate the queen bee very much.  Some of the worker bees sting people who try to intrude their hive.   Oh, and the queen is a royal slob.’

Afterward, we watched “The Bee Movie” while she pointed out all the reasons the movie was inaccurate based upon her lesson.   She’s learning, but large bees, beware of small child in full hate mode!

Crickets in the Fridge

Courtesy of seedvan.com online store

As I sent my dear husband to the tackle and bait shop for crickets, now for the third time (at least) in this season of home education, I couldn’t help but laugh at the hilarious places that science education has taken us over the years.    These crickets, while still alive, will go into the refrigerator.   That leads us into a great real-time discussion about what it means to be literally cold-blooded.    Crickets are also one of the few insects that the kids handle well looking at them up close under the magnifying lens (although the dramatic 8-year-old freaked this round, declaring that she would only look if she could squint).

We’ve also kept mealworms cool.   That was so that the spotted gecko would be well fed.   (‘Course, the gecko enjoyed his share of crickets, too).  We’ll probably see more mealworms once we get the butterfly village.

Other items in our fridge?   Play-doh (in the freezer to show the effects of weather on rocks), and eggs, which have endured all kinds of hardships, and of course the standard baking soda and vinegar.   Explosions never get old.

Speaking of explosions, I’ve blown Coca-Cola sky-high with a packet of Mentos candy.   I’ve spent relative boatloads of dollars on candy that didn’t get eaten, but instead was committed to the making of a cell.   I’ve made ice cream (can’t remember how that tied into Astronomy, but it was good).  Grapes, ice, corn syrup, and canola oil were excellent teachers of density.   Onions were donated to the cause of teaching chemical reactions and human anatomy (but learning to cut them under running water for sensitive eyes was well worth the donation).   Peanut butter and raisins were all too generously fed to the birds as primary ingredients of our suet mix.

I’ve burned myself turning a battery, nail, tape and wires into a magnet.    I’ve almost thrown out my back making a vegetable garden.  Indoors, I’ve grown sweet potatoes and vines in all kinds of water–polluted, slightly acidic, very basic, etc.

I’m sure I could think of more if I had more time and reeeeaaaalllllly put my mind to it.   However, time flies, whether you’re having fun or not, and this has been one of those weeks (hence the lack of posts).     Science has taken our school to some strange and interesting places, sometimes at personal cost.  My mom would lose it at the thought of worms in her fridge.   When I think about it, however, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What craziness have you done in the name of science (or other course) education?

The Wind of Change (to my Door Decor, that is)

We didn’t get the rain, but instead lasted through the windy side of Lee.   When I say windy, I mean wwwwiiiiiiiinnnnnddddddy.    The last of the fake flowers that had become little more than a hiding place for the occasional lizard fell off the wreath that hung on our door.    On a day when I was already feeling rather melancholy, it looked like yet another thing that went wrong for me.    So when I saw Amy Bayliss’s post introducing the “You Made a Wreath out of What?” challenge (including a wreath she made of shower curtains–no foolin’!!), I saw it as a sign.    How very timely!     So I discarded the eyesore old flowers and  thought about how I might use this foundation to create something new.


It occurs to me how attractive this wreath is on its own as I looked at it, but with an off-white door and off-white paint around the front of the house, I’ll take any opportunity to add a spruce of color.     I searched through a number of links that were included in the wreath challenge.   Here are just a few from some ladies out there who put the “C” in creativity.

Easter Dollar-Store Wreaths

 More Wreaths (baby shower, last name, naked)

Paper bags

Coffee Filter Wreath, Coffee filter projects


When I saw this last link, I knew just what to do with the 159 extra coffee filters I had to buy for a 1-coffee-filter science experiment.  So I got started.

This little beauty was the result of folding the filters twice, perhaps with a little balling up to beforehand to give them a more natural, less uniformed appearance.   The brown flower in the middle is a lunch bag, traced from the coffee filters and then put through the same test.


The berry/ pinecone accessory above made me think about our recent Apologia Zoology 1 (Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day) studies and what we learned about nest-building materials–string, cloth, leaves, twigs, grass, etc.   So, in looking around the house and some unused knicknacks I’d bought over the years, I put this assemblage together.  (So proud of myself that I was creative enough to pull out a dinner napkin!).


The girls thought the coffee filters didn’t match this grouping, so my bouquet became a temporary table centerpiece.     With their feedback, some dust blown from the creative part of my brain, a few twist ties, and a pair of scissors later, I came up with this beauty:

Doesn’t she just scream, “Welcome!”