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To Notebook, Lapbook or Scrapbook...

That is the question!

Dear Friends,

Indeed, the holidays are over and now is the time to get back to normal schedules, schoolwork and activities. Some of you may use a gentle approach, easing your way into the normal routine. Others of you may jump in with gusto, feeling as though much time has been lost over the past month. I tend to jump back into the school routine with both feet on January 3rd, dragging my children with me. I must remind myself that no time has been lost - the children have learned, although not from a textbook. They have learned about family, traditions, and relationships. They have learned what it means to love and to give and to accept in return. They have learned patience and gratefulness. Let us not forget the lessons of December because of the rigors of January. Slow down, take time and enjoy the homeschooling journey together. Perhaps the following article will give you some ideas for capturing and remembering these fleeting childhood days.

  Take a moment and think about all the school work and projects that you have completed with your children over this past year . . . in fact, over all the years that you have educated your children at home. Now think about how that work has been documented or displayed. If you are like me, you probably have a box or two of filled-in workbooks.

There may be some satisfaction in a stack of completed workbooks, but apparently not too much, for when Grandma and Grandpa come for a visit to our house, it is not the workbooks that the kids dig out to show their accomplishments; it is their journals and notebooks, lapbooks and projects. These are the “books” that the children take pride in.

Making books with children is an effective way to cement and document their learning. It also becomes an effortless review tool. Your children will want to go back and look through their books–by themselves, with each other, and, of course, with their favorite relatives. They will read again their entries, reinforcing this knowledge and shifting it into permanent storage banks in their brains. These facts will make it past the short term memory centers. In fact, this learning technique holds a great advantage over fill-in-the-blank workbooks for long-term learning and information retrieval.

Home-made educational books fall into four basic categories–journal, notebook, lapbook and scrapbook. There are distinctions with each type, but there is some overlap between them as well. Any of these books can be made on a shoe-string budget, or they can be made quite expensively. They can be elaborate in their design or very simple. The key is that you stay within your budget and that you use your creativity and that of your children.

Let’s look at a description of each type of book, what subjects it is ideally suited for, and a list of recommended materials to get started.


A journal holds the compilation of a child’s thoughts, reflections or research on a given subject. It is usually a blank book or spiral bound book that contains either lined or unlined paper. Generally, the child starts on page one and works his way through the book until the subject has been exhausted or he is ready to start on a new journal.

A journal is ideally suited for:

·        Prayer journal

·        Bible study notes

·        Daily journal of meditations

·        Vocabulary / Spelling words and definitions

·        Nature study

·        Scientific research

We have used journals throughout our home education process. We have used them most often for nature study, using Charlotte Mason techniques and suggestions. Some good books and articles for learning more about journaling in your homeschool would be:

Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax

A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola

A Pocketful of Pinecones by Karen Andreola

List of materials to get started:

·        A blank book or spiral bound notebook

·        Writing tools (colored pencils, pens)


            A notebook is a collection of loose sheets containing various types of information assembled together to form a cohesive “story”. Generally, these are 3 ring notebooks with divider tabs to sort the subject matter that has been placed into it. A notebook can be filled with drawings, narrations, maps, reports, lists, timelines, etc.

A notebook is ideally suited for:

·        Chronological history study

·        Language Arts

·        Science study / experiments

·        Timeline of events

We have assembled many notebooks over our seven years of home education. Our history notebooks are by far our favorites to browse through. The children have included their drawings, maps, narrations, and book reports into these simple and get cherished binders. We have used view binders so that they can insert a cover sheet into the front under the clear plastic overlay. Some good books and articles to read on the subject of notebooking include:

The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer


List of materials to get started:

·        3 ring binder

·        notebook paper

·        plain paper

·        hole punch

·        sheet protectors

·        divider tabs

·        stickers and art supplies


            A lapbook, also known as a shutterbook, is a file folder which has been opened onto a flat surface. The two tabs are then folded into the center where they meet and form a window shutter effect. The concept is that mini books are attached to the inside holding various information which your child has collected and learned. A lapbook can contain games, vocabulary words, pictures, maps, recipes and clipart. You are limited only by your imagination. This is an excellent hands-on project for younger children.

A lapbook is ideally suited for:

·        Unit Studies

·        Literature or book studies

·        Science projects

·        Math games

The term lapbook is relatively new (“Lap Book” trademarked by Tobin’s Lab), but as I look back I realize that we have been doing similar projects for many years. We did many unit studies in the beginning and recorded much of the information that we studied in file-folder books. We also created several math games that used a file folder as the game board. I recently reintroduced this concept to my children because it had been a while since we had produced something like this and they loved it! They put together a Viking lapbook which contained drawings, maps, book reports, vocabulary words, and a recipe for Viking bread (which, of course, they made!). Here are some good articles, books and websites to visit to get more information on putting together your own lapbooks:

Big Book of Books by Dinah Zike

Creating Books with Children by Valerie Bendt

List of materials to get started:

·        Folders (regular or legal size)

·        Writing tools

·        Variety of paper (colored, index cards, etc)

·        Glue / glue stick

·        Stickers / rubber stamps

·        Clipart


            Scrapbooking has become a very popular hobby in recent years. There are scrapbooking stores, books and magazines popping up everywhere. Most people consider scrapbooking as mom’s creative outlet, but it can also be a wonderful educational tool. These are generally created in a pre-made scrapbook album which you can find at any arts and crafts or scrapbook store in your area.

A scrapbook is ideally suited for:

·        An alphabet or number book (preschoolers)

·        Current events

·        Family tree

·        Field trips

·        Science experiments

·        School related photos

·        History timeline

Older students, in particular, may get greatly excited about documenting their school work in a scrapbook format. This is a fun and sociable activity when all the supplies are pulled out and your children get to use their creativity. Here are a couple good articles to get you started. But be careful, you might get hooked!

List of materials to get started:

·        Scrapbook album

·        Acid-free paper

·        Card stock

·        Glue / glue sticks

·        Gel pens

·        Scissors

·        Stickers / Rubber stamps

·        Pressed flowers

Creating books with children is an enjoyable process and gives everyone involved a sense of accomplishment. These are memory building activities and good motivators as well. My children are much more receptive and even enthused to complete their project or paper when they know that it is going into the notebook, lapbook or scrapbook. Their work is usually done more neatly as well. And for what more can a homeschooling mom ask?

Terri Johnson is the homeschooling mother of five children. They began homeschooling when their oldest daughter started kindergarten eight years ago. She and her husband Todd operate Knowledge Quest, a small publishing company that produces map and timeline products. She would love to hear from you. Email [email protected] or visit their website at


Consider some of these products for your notebook, lapbook and scrapbook projects.

Blackline Maps of World History on CD-ROM

Blackline Maps of American History on CD-ROM

History Through the Ages Collection of Timeline Figures on CD-ROM

Wonders of Old Timeline Book

Wonders of Old Timeline on CD-ROM

We now have our individual map sets and timeline book available as download files for immediate use!

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