Notebooking for the Large Family

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Notebooking for the Large Family |

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From the moment I opened the pages of Pocketful of Pinecones, I was enthralled with the idea of notebooking.

The story is beautiful and inspiring, and I wanted so badly to be “that mom”, but I was a notebooking flunky.  Although I tried and tried and tried, I never could implement notebooking into our homeschool successfully.  I ended up with a shelf full of half-hearted attempts, always left behind because they never turned out as lovely as I envisioned.

While in Omaha at the Teach Them Diligently Convention, I ran into Caroline from The Modest Mom and listened as she gushed over the sessions led by Jeannie Fulbright.  I had never heard Jeannie speak, so I decided I’d try to get to one of her session.  However, the only one left was on notebooking.


But hey, I’m a notebooking flunky.  Surely I could stand to listen and learn.  Maybe, just maybe, I’d hear something that would unlock the mystery of successful notebooking for me.

That day, in that huge auditorium, I heard the one thing I needed to hear.

Notebooking doesn’t have to be perfect.

Jeannie said to have the children write what was important, not necessarily what I think should be on the page.  My notebooking attempts had been more about me than the children.  I wanted them to look the way I thought they were “supposed” to look.  It was frustrating to me and my children!

At the conference, Jeannie had the audience try a notebooking exercise.  She read from one of her science books (Apologia Elementary Science – which I HIGHLY recommend!), and then we wrote down everything that stuck out to us from the reading.  Do you know, 2 months later I can still list many of the facts I learned about Orcas that day?!

I was sold!

But, wait a second…
I have a large family.

easter family photo

Is notebooking even possible for a large family?

Yes, it is!  BUT, you have to do things a bit differently, and you have to let go of certain expectations.

First off, time.  I’m not going to lie to you, notebooking takes time.  Jeannie spoke on how the modern American education is an inch thick and a mile wide.  Children don’t dig deep into a subject because we don’t slow down long enough to allow for that.  Homeschooling, by its very nature, allows us the opportunity to slow down and dig deep.  Notebooking is one amazing tool that can help us teach our children to dig deep, and give our children an education that is more than a blur of facts and figures.


Once I gave myself permission to take the time to notebook, I needed to address another real issue with notebooking as a large family…

How to manage all those notebooks!

I had visions of one huge bookshelf bursting full of notebooks for each subject and each child.  Totally not feasible!  So, I sat down and brainstormed.

I started by creating a list of every subject we did that I thought would lend itself to notebooking.  My list looked like this:

Five in a Row

Then, I considered which subjects could be combined because of overlap.  Since we do Tapestry of Grace, I felt I could combine History and Literature since most of our literature conicides with our history lessons.  We also always do missions right after Bible time, so I put those together.  Additionally, I decided my oldest two children would not notebook for their science, so I would only be notebooking Science with my younger crew.

Then, I decided which subjects could have all the children in one notebook to save space. I ended up putting all the Five in a Row stuff in one notebook (if you sign up for emails from them, you get FREE pages that work really well with notebooking!), and all the Bible/Missions stuff in one notebook, and all the little kid science in one notebook.  So, that breaks down like this:

Bible/Missions – 1 notebook
History/Literature – 2 notebooks
Five in a Row – 1 notebook
Science -1 notebook

5 notebooks = TOTALLY DOABLE!

The final question I had as a large family homeschooling mom was where to find notebooking pages that would not create more work for me.

My answer came from another large family homeschooling mom and her site:

I have gotten freebies from her site, but I decided to get the LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP and have access to thousands of pages!  PLUS…when you buy the Lifetime Membership, you get to use The Notebook Publisher that allows you to create your own pages!  I’ve used this to make pages for our studies on C.S. Lewis & William Bradford (I used photos from the internet and the lined pages provided in the publisher).  Having these resources at my fingertips has been wonderful!

I’m planning to write more about our notebooking adventures throughout the year, but I’d love to hear more from those of you who have used notebooking in your homeschool!

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16 Comments on Notebooking for the Large Family

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16 thoughts on “Notebooking for the Large Family

  1. Well, I haven’t exactly done notebooking before because I kind of have an aversion to doing anything crafty with my kids. And notebooking seemed way to complicated for me. But, I just ordered about 12 different notebooking sets from currclick last weekend. (I have a problem with moderation) I really needed to be reminded that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Looking forward to whatever else you share on this! :)

    • It’s been hard to let go of the perfectionist tendencies, and I don’t really like a whole lot of crafty stuff either (notice the lack of such things on my blog 😉 ), but this was so doable once I told myself it didn’t have to look a certain way.

  2. I’ve loved your site for a few years now but I’ve never commented. I recently discovered the email update option and have loved, loved getting them in the mornings! Thanks for the amazing encouragement. I do have one question… What is Five in a Row? Forgive me if you’ve already covered this elsewhere, but I don’t remember coming across it. Thanks, Amy! (And by the way, your family picture is beautiful! What a houseful of blessings!)

    • Five in a Row is a “curriculum” using real books that you read to the children 5 days in a row and do activities to go along with the book. We usually only do 4 days because we have a 4 day week, but we are loving it! You can go here: to read more about it. PS – love the concept behind your new blog! :)

  3. This is perfect. I was just sitting down this morning to do some school planning. Notebooking was something I wanted to research. Your article came at just the right time. I am so grateful when the Lord answers prayers for wisdom in such a clear manner.

  4. Here’s my question: what is the difference between notebooking and lapbooking? We have done quite a bit of lapbooking with our younger ones.

    • Notebooking consists of pages that I put in page protectors. Lapbooks, as you know, are file folders. The notebooks are more of a “flat” record of what the children are doing. We do both. :)

  5. My question is “What age would you begin notebooking?” I have three that I will be starting in Kindergarten so I’m not sure if this would benefit them or not? Or should I wait until after I’ve taught them how to read and write? I know this probably sounds silly that I’m even asking, bu

    • I am doing it with everyone. For my non-readers/early readers, we are doing a lot of pictures and dictating. I like to think of it as a way to job their memory about what they are learning. So, we paste pictures and write words and draw our own pictures, etc to help us remember. :)

  6. Hmm…well that was a kick in the pants I sorely needed. Thank you!

    I really WANT the Manlings to do some notebooking….but I WANT it MY way. *CRINGE* I’m a borderline OCD, slightly neurotic, never-going-to-be-cured Grammar Nazi. I write for FUN. Like, NOVELS. For FUN!

    Needless to say, I think I frighten my sons to death when I start mentioning “writing assignments”. It’s hard to keep up with a mom who loves to put words on “paper”.
    I’ve been feeling the underlying discontent a lot lately…and I don’t want to ruin our homeschooling because of “notebooking”.

    SO. I took a step back, did a lot of reading on Charlotte Mason over our vacation, and even though the “narrating” idea scares them to death too (my third Manling is the quiet one), we started with some of that…and then I’ll have them start jotting some stuff down in a month or so…once they’re a little more relaxed with it.

    I’m going to keep this post very firmly in mind when we get to that point–it’s THEIR work…not mine.

  7. Help me more understanding Notebooking for a large family. I have 5 in school and will be schooling 5 more. Each child has between 3 – 5 notebooks each? Can’t I use a 2 inch binder and have sections? oh dear I didn’t think this through…that’s a LOT of notebooks!

    • No, you don’t have to do that many. Combine as many as you can. I could actually combine the kids’ history too if I wanted, but I decided not to.