Tuesday, March 04, 2014

"The Living Page" Book Discussion #3 - Types of Notebooks

I have been reading The Living Page and following the posts at Wildflowers and Marbles - last week's reading was about various types of notebooks used by students of Charlotte Mason.  As our educational environment so far here at Hycliff Academy has been largely along the lines of a Charlotte Mason-style education, I have been interested in learning more as we continue along with the goals of an authentic, lifelong, non-busywork kind of schooling style for our family.

It would seem from the reading that many kinds of notebooks were mentioned as being educationally purposeful in a Charlotte Mason education.  last time we looked at the nature notebooks, I was reminded and inspired to make more time for nature sketching, to provide access to good materials, and to do it myself as an example for the children but also, just because it is so good to just sit and create!  Drawing, painting, writing - all things I loved before I was a grown-up - are activities I would love to be able to revitalize in myself while at the same time fostering a love of in my children.

The notebook that got the most attention in this section of The Living Page was the commonplace book.  This is a place to write down inspiring or beautiful words of others.  I like to see it as a reference to look back on as a reminder of important life goals.  Older students were to keep these based on what they personally wanted to add to them - what they found inspiring or worthy of remembering long-term.  In a guided way, i have begun this practice with my children, and it will be exciting to see what they choose to do with this as they are older.  More on the children's use of this notebook further on in the post... first, a glimpse at my own notebooks:

My notebook of quotes to inspire me in raising my children

This is the first page of my education/parenting-themed commonplace book.  Anything I read related to how I envision our education or important reminders of how to nurture and raise these young human beings is copied here.  I like having separate themed notebooks for specific quotes - if I am reading an educational book, I can have out my educational notebook.  If I am reading a Catholic source, I will have out my...

...Catholic Faith quotes notebook. This is a small-paged notebook and so far it contains quotes from various saints and Popes.  And, of course, some G. K. Chesterton quotes! 

There is some crossover here as well... for instance, G. K. Chesterton may have written something I want to keep regarding simplicity or the home, so this would go into my third themed commonplace book (not photographed here), the one titled, "Minimalism, Homesteading, and Natural Living."  This notebook is going to be a combination of a commonplace book - that is, containing quotes from others - as well as an organizational notebook (referred to in The Living Page as "The Enquire Within" or Household notebook) in which I make personal lists and notes about reorganizing for a simpler life.  I am thinking checklists for target areas of the house: what is needed, and what needs to be donated or tossed out, in addition to some simplifying lists such as basics like:
* recipes for our household cleaners, detergents, etc.
* lists of staple food items in our home, with an eye towards basics, whole foods, frugal yet healthful choices
* a list of basics regarding recipes: some things we make over and over such as yogurt, granola, chicken stock
These are just some of my ideas for this notebook... I am imagining something that can be passed on so that when my daughters are 34 year old mothers wondering what that standard soaked bread recipe was, they can find it again!  And there is something sentimental and beautiful about preserving family recipes in my own handwriting.  How special it would be, for instance, if I had my grandmother's cookie recipes written down in her own writing!  As we move towards more and more electronic ways of archiving things, this is an art that is being lost, in my opinion... although digital ways of keeping organized can be so useful.  My husband has been saying we should put all my recipes into Evernote, making them so easily searchable, and I think that is a wonderful idea!  The writing down of recipes would be reserved for some standard, repeated recipes, the ones we find woven into our days as a real part of our lives and not just ones I made three times ever over a 20 year period.

Now, just for fun... this sort of notebook was not mentioned in The Living Page, but I am wanting to work on this more.  I have kept a list of milestones for each child, yet I have only managed to make a beautiful "baby book" for my oldest daughter.  I have blog posts and notes in the margins of notebooks on cute things they did or said, and I want to compile these into one simple place.  Each child now has a noteboo, and I need to play catch up in looking back and finding all these things they did or said, important dates, etc., and record them into these notebooks.  Once I am caught up, it will be easy to just jot down a new memory or phrase spoken by each child in her particular notebook.  I have begun with a page of my first child's pronunciations of early words, pictured above.  The days are fleeting, and jotting down a little snatch of something here and there will preserve some of these memories into a keepsake for the future.

Another notebook mentioned briefly in the book was a Travel Notebook.   I love this idea, and while it was explained that Charlotte Mason herself kept these notebooks, her students may not have... however, the art of keeping records and observing beauty around them may have inspired them to keep this sort of notebook in the future.

I realized that I have kept various travel notebooks over the years... the one pictured above is my infamous Waffle House Logbook, in which I used to make an entry for every different Waffle House restaurant visited and record details about each visit.  This was a high school/college notebook for me that branched out of my earlier practice of taking a napkin from each location and making notes on the back of it.  A small single notebook is more easily contained than loose napkins!  

Before that, I had a "Trips to Florida Folder."  My family would often visit relatives in the St. Petersburg, FL area, and I began keeping a record of various landmarks we'd see on the drive there and back, which then branched into a list of what restaurants, hotels, and gas stations were located at each exit, which towns where near which exits and the order they would come in - so it was also a geography study of sorts.  And hey, since I still have this folder of notes from my childhood, if you ever need to know what gas stations were located at exit 52 off I-75 in south Georgia in 1992, you know who to ask! ;)  I briefly kept a book where I recorded trips taken by my husband and me, where I noted locations of various "See Rock City" barns we saw, another Southern phenomenon that those who recognize the Waffle House might be able to understand!

The value I can see in this kind of note-keeping beyond geography is simply the art of observation.  Noting differences in various places, observing changes from year to year, and being attuned to one's surroundings are all things that can come of this as lifelong habits.  There is also a simple joy in keeping personal records that can then be looked back on.

Now, on to the children's notebooks and how they fit into their education so far...

This is my oldest daughter's "Favorite Quotes" notebook.  It is a binder in which she keeps copied quotes from books we are reading.  Whatever sparks her fancy.  As part of her daily work, she has to spend seven minutes doing copywork - that is, handwriting practice, yet so much more than handwriting is that she is also learning grammar, sentence structure, spelling, vocabulary in context, and doing all this by copying phrases that she makes a personal connection with from the best authors on noble subjects.  She's not copying quotes from Captain Underpants or whatever the latest junk kid books are.  So far, this notebook includes Anne of Green Gables, Trumpet of the Swan, and the Happy Little Family series.

So far, I have guided what she puts in these books by telling her to choose favorite poems or favorite quotes from anything we are reading.  I type it into the Startwrite handwriting program I have and then print it out for her with lined pages.  Then she copies it as perfectly as possible and keeps it in either the quotes or poetry binders that she has.  Sometimes she will want to design a cover for a poem and make it into a little book, which so far she has kept in the pockets of her poetry binder.  Sometimes she illustrates these poems or quotes and sometimes not.  

Something new to me in The Living Year is that for young children, choosing a favorite section of a poem rather than the whole thing might be better.  It may stick in their minds more, be more meaningful, if they choose just the part that speaks to them the most.  We have been doing whole poems up until now.  I would think if the child loves the entire poem, then there would be no problem working on a few minutes each day until the whole thing is copied into the notebook.  But I am going to suggest choosing a favorite few lines or stanza and see where that takes us.

Just a humorous note my daughter added to the back cover of her poem.  I love that she added "out of a book" lest anyone think it was her original work!
Some samples in cursive from 2nd and 3rd grades
How I began this habit of copywork notebooks for the children...

We have really enjoyed using ideas from Elizabeth Foss's "Along the Alphabet Path" for Kindergarten.  My five and six year old students have learned to recite short, four-line poems on saints and virtues that begin with each letter, and we have used those to learn letter formation.  We begin with tracing made on Startwrite, and when they feel ready and I note that their fine motor skills are developing well, they can move to actual copying, focusing on forming letters neatly and correctly (like starting at the top line and not the bottom).  

I compile their traced and copied poems into their Alphabet Path storybook, which contains all the stories for each letter along with any drawings they have made of the saints and fairies for each letter or any related coloring they have enjoyed.  Above is some of my current K student's first tracing work, and below is a more recent page where she copied a poem line for line for the letter K.

That is a little about our various notebooks... up next in the book is a section on history notebooks and charts.  These are mostly recommended for older students, so I may not be posting about it, although the information will be very useful to me in the upcoming years as we delve more into history, which I really want to make sense to my children and for them to grasp the order and cause and effects relationships contained within it, as well as the place our faith has taken as it has intertwined throughout the last 2,000 years of history.

Linking up!

Wildflowers and Marbles