Friday, June 29, 2018

How We Make Our Own Notebooks...

I often get questions about my kid's notebooks. Many people want to know how and where I have them bound. Today, I did an Instagram live on our notebooks and the tools I use to create them. Since those videos are only available for 24 hours, I thought I'd make a more permanent record here.

First off, a little history. We've been notebooking almost since the beginning of our homeschool. I found this approach early on after reading several blogs, but the one that I tried to emulate with Riley in 1st grade was Charlotte Mason Help by LindaFay. I think The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise may have also tipped me off on this method.

Very early on, I was hooked! I loved the creative outlet it afforded my kids. And, I loved the record that was left at the end of the year. I found notebooking to be a much better approach to workbooks, especially in subjects like history and science, because it encouraged long term retention unlike workbooks. They were able to keep their narrations, illustrations, diagrams, and mapwork all in one place.

We've tried many methods of notebooking over the years, including hole punching pages for a 3-ring binder, but sometimes the pages would rip out with excessive handling. We've used lined sewn composition books. We've also used blank drawing journals. One problem with a pre-made notebook is page count. I never know how many pages my kids will need each year for their notebooks and I have a guilt complex about not using up all the pages...OCD, I know! We have also tried picking up the notebook where we left off the previous year to finish out the pages, but my kids and I both prefer to keep each year separate so we can see the progression. One other problem is sometimes the kids want lines and sometimes they prefer a blank page. Pre-made notebooks offer one or the other, rarely both. This is where my current method comes in.

I keep a file folder full of misc. notebooking pages on my desk. Some of them I've printed from Others, I've found randomly online. When I can't find exactly what I'm looking for, I create my own. I have a few templates saved in Word that I print when needed. After the kids finish their assigned reading, they pick a notebook page from the file and work through it. The kids know how to use the printer to make copies. They are required to refill the file with a half dozen more copies if they take the last page of that sort.

Throughout the year, they collect their completed pages in a folder. At the end of the year, I bind them. I used to take them to an office supply store for binding, but that added up financially. After doing some research, I found it was cheaper to invest in a binding machine and do it myself.

I purchased a ProClick Binder P-50 from Amazon. It's been a very good investment! I use it to bind the kid's notebooking pages, as well as lesson planners, book lists, PDF downloads, notes from seminars, and whatever else ails me. I also purchase poly covers for the pages I'm binding and of course, the spines. I use the 45 page and 85 page Easy Edit Spines. There were a few times I could have used the 110 page capacity, but I can only find them in a 100-count pack and didn't want to make that kind of investment. I like the Easy Edit Spines because they open easily so you can add or subtract pages if needed. You can buy comb-binding machines, but I would advise against them. From my experience, comb-bindings become brittle and break. I have never had any problems of this sort with the Pro-Click Binder spines.

One last note I'd like to make about our notebooks is in addition to the poly covers, I usually add a title page. On the kid's notebooks that I bind at the end of the year for record keeping, I use regular paper, often photocopying the cover of the resources they used/read throughout the year to create their pages. However, if it's a workbook or some other resource that will have frequent handling throughout the year, I use heavier cardstock for the cover page. This makes it more durable through continued wear and tear.

Overall, I have been very satisfied with my ProClick Binder and am glad I made the purchase. It's been a handy homeschool tool! If you are interested in purchasing, please consider clicking on my affiliate links below. Thanks!


Monday, June 18, 2018

Summer Mother Culture and Schole....

I realized I've been diligently working through reading my summer Mother Culture/Schole list of books, but haven't shared it with you. So, without further adieu, here you have it...

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo - We have tickets to the Broadway Musical in December! I have never attended the musical, or watched the movie for that matter, so I thought it would be fun to read the book before attending. Earlier this spring, I re-assembled my Summer Schole Sisters reading group from two years ago and Les Mis it is. Being five volumes, it's a huge book! We plan to meet every couple of weeks to discuss one volume. We already met to discuss Vol. 1, Fantine, which was incredible! Next week, we will meet to discuss Vol. 2, Cosette. I can't wait! It's so delightful to have a group of friends to read and discuss with. I really do recommend finding your sister(s)!

The Liberal Arts Tradition by Clark and Jain - You may remember this book being on my Mother Culture list a couple of years ago. Sadly, I never made it through. However, my CM Study Group decided to pick it up this spring and now we are already nearing the end, with only one section left. I do plan to post a series of blogs, sharing my notes later this summer on The Liberal Arts Tradition. We've had great discussion!

Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley - This is a book I had scheduled for Riley in her third term. We both started, but didn't get through it so we vowed to finish this summer.

Vol. 1, Home Education & Vol. 6, A Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason - My CM Study group also read and discussed both of these volumes in the past. However, I will be returning to them this summer as I look ahead to our 2018-2019 academic year planning. Oh, and I still need to finish blogging through Vol. 1....ahem!

What books are you reading this summer to re-fill your mama cup? Feel free to share in the comments below...

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Spring 2017-2018 Term Three Wrap-Up and Year End Reflections....

I've been reflecting on particular subjects from our 2017-2018 school year over the past few weeks as I prep for the 2018-2019 year. I love to look back at the end of our academic year. It's always shocking and reaffirming to see what we really did accomplish, as it's not always apparent in the day to day. I also like to do my next year's plan shortly after finishing our current year, while things are still fresh in my mind. I have learned that if I wait, our challenges and struggles become rose colored. This prompts me to plan unrealistically, which ultimately leads to failure. If for some reason I can't plan immediately, I make notes and do Mystie's Homeschool Audit at a minimum. That way, when I do plan, I can be more realistic which leads to future accountability and success.

Today, I'm completing a Term 3 wrap-up post, along with our year end reflections. I will post books read and resources used in Term 3 first. Then I will include some overall reflections of the total year at the end, including our hits and misses. You can see our Term 1 here and Term 2 here.

Year 8

You can find RileyAnn's Year 8 initial Curriculum Preview here. The list below is from Term 3.


Riley finished the AO Year 7 Bible Reading Plan and continued to copy Psalms in Do You Journible?


The New World by Winston Churchill (Chapters 1-10)

Riley also finished the Beautiful Feet Books Medieval History Study. I wrote a post specifically about her third term here...Beautiful Feet Books Medieval History It includes sample notebooking pages.


English Literature for Boys & Girls by H. E. Marshall (Chapters 1-49)
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain


Riley studied the life and poetry of John Keats in Term 3 as suggested in AO Year 7.  She also finished the Prescripts Poetry book for practice with penmanship.


Riley finished Easy Grammar 8, which I had on the shelf. I started using it with Angel, our older homeschool graduate, when she was in 8th grade, but it wasn't a good fit. Riley pulled it off the shelf after discontinuing Jensen's Grammar. She preferred Easy Grammar and did well completing it.


Spelling had been a challenge for Riley throughout her younger years. However, last year, I started her on IEW's Phonetic Zoo and she showed great growth. This year, she finished Level A and began Level B.


Riley completed Pre-Algebra using Margaret Lial's text through an online class.This was her second year of study under Mrs. Perkins and she has grown to love math. At this point, we plan to continue math online with My Homeschool Math Class through high school.

Science/Natural History

Riley finished the AO Year 7 Science readings, of which you can read more about here.

Year 7

You will find Ruben's 2017-2018 Year 7 Overall Curriculum Preview here.


Ruben completed the AO Year 6 Bible Reading Plan.


We read from Famous Men of the Renaissance & Reformation and finished the following historic literature books this term....

Morning Star of the Reformation by Andy Thomson
Crispin: The Cross of Lead by AVI
Joan of Arc by Diane Stanley
Michelangelo by Diane Stanley
The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly
Good Queen Bess by Diane Stanley
Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare by Diane Stanley

What in the World? Vol 2 Middle Ages: Romans, Reformers, Revolutionaries by Diana Waring (audio)

You can read more about Ruben's Year 7 History here and see sample notebooking pages.


The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain


Ruben completed Let's Write and Spell by Mary and Warren Johnson. He also copied assigned verses from Proverbs.


See Morning Time below.


Ruben completed a good part of IEW's Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons, of which you can read more about here.


Ruben and I have been working through RightStart Level C. We have approx. 20 lessons left that we hope to finish this summer.

Science/Natural History

See Morning Time below.

Year 0 (Kindergarten)

I did not do formal kindergarten with Levi. Yet, he some how learned his letters with sounds, how to write his name, and some number skills. We read misc. books. He completed notebooking pages along side Ruben and often participated in our Morning Time. Overall, it was a great year. I was surprised by how much he picked up. You can read much more about his informal year here in Term 1 and Term 2. Levi showed much growth and many readiness skills for Year 1.

Morning Time

In our third term Morning Time, we read from and/or finished the following books...

In His Steps by Charles Sheldon
Ourselves by Charlotte Mason (through page 102)
Simply Charlotte Mason's Picture Study Portfolio - da Vinci
How the Heather Looks by Joan Bodger - We read the first few chapters of this book, but then stopped. The chapters were too long for a one sitting MT read. We may or may not pick it back up in the future.
The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin Wiker
The Elements by Theodore Gray
Macbeth by Shakespeare
Man for All Seasons - we watched the movie version
The Story of Painting by Janson (through page 101)
Grammar-Land by M. L. Nesbitt

I wrote several posts about our Morning Time over the year. You can find them here....

2017-2018 Curriculum Preview - Morning Time
2017-2018 Morning Time Reflections - Six Weeks
Middle School Chemistry in Morning Time
Middle School Introductory Chemistry Wrap-Up

Misc. Fine Arts

Riley, Ruben, and Levi also participated in art classes through a local homeschool co-op during part of Term 2 and Term 3. In addition, we attended the Charlotte's Web musical, performed by our local children's theater.

Overall Reflections

Upon reflection of our year as a whole, each child showed tremendous growth. Riley stated math and spelling are both getting easier for her. Ruben picked up several assigned books and read them on his own. Levi was eager and voluntarily participating. He is very excited about beginning Year 1 in the fall. There is a sense of accomplishment as I look back.

Books we didn't get to or decided not to:

The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges (Morning Time)
The Story of the Renaissance and Reformation by H. A. Guerber (Riley's History)
Lost Tools of Writing (Riley's Composition) 
Secrets of the Woods by Willliam Long (Ruben's Natural History)
School of the Woods by William Long (Ruben's Natural History)
The King's Shadow by Elizabeth Alder

My Hits

I loved reading along with Riley and Ruben! I found book discussions more enjoyable when we read independently and then came together to discuss, rather than me reading everything aloud. It was like having our own book club, which was very much something to look forward to.

Both Riley and Ruben made great progress in math this year!

Vol. 4, Ourselves by Charlotte Mason (Morning Time)
The Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin (Morning Time)
Beowulf by Michael Morpurgo (read aloud to Ruben)
Black Fox of Lorne by Marguerite de Angeli (family read aloud)
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott (read alongside Riley)
Robin Hood by J. Walker McSpadden (family read aloud)
The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly (read aloud to Ruben)

My Misses

I didn't find time to work with Riley on composition. She continued to do independent written narrations, which certainly wasn't all bad. However, as she enters high school, I would like her composition focus to narrow on a few particular types of writing in addition to narration.

Ruben's natural history and science was a little weak. We spent a great amount of time on history, which we both love, as well as writing. However, that didn't leave enough time for some of the science books I had scheduled. Fortunately, Ruben's an avid outdoors man and he loves to tinker. So he does get a broad range of nature study and hands on learning aside from books.

How to Be Your Own Selfish Pig by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay (Morning Time)
Daughter in Time by Josephine Tey (read alongside Riley)
How the Heather Looks by Joan Bodger (Morning Time) - didn't finish
Idylls of the King by Tennyson (Morning Time) - didn't finish
Macbeth by Shakespeare (Morning Time)

Riley's Hits

Beautiful Feet Medieval History
The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean
AO Year 7 Science

Riley's Misses

How to Be Your Own Selfish Pig by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay (Morning Time)
The Once and Future King by T. H. White - didn't finish
Daughter in Time by Josephine Tey
Classical Conversations Prescripts 

Ruben's Hits

The Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin (Morning Time)
Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard Maybury (Morning Time)
Black Fox of Lorne by Marguerite de Angeli (family read aloud)
Crispin: The Cross of Lead by AVI
The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly

Ruben's Misses

How to Be Your Own Selfish Pig by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay (Morning Time)

After reflecting, I have set some goals for our 2018-2019 year which includes me working more closely with Riley on her writing. Also, I will continue to guide Ruben in gaining further independence with his studies. I may lighten his history load in order to add a little more science. Ruben also needs some work in spelling. Levi will begin formal reading lessons. I will also gently begin formal math with him, but the greater focus will be in the area of language arts. Now that I've wrapped up our 2017-2018 academic year, I am ready to focus on the 2018-2019 year! 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Reflections on Ruben's History, Year 7....

Last week, I reflected on RileyAnn's Year 8 History and Science. This week, I'd like to take some time to focus on Ruben's Year 7 History study. At the start of the 2017-2018 academic year, I had a bit of trouble figuring out which books I wanted to use for Ruben's history. However, by the end of Term 1, I had settled on a plan, which I posted about here.

I did continue to use Famous Men of the Middle Ages and Famous Men of the Renaissance & Reformation, both by Robert G. Shearer of Greenleaf Press throughout the year. Initially, I wasn't sure how Ruben would handle these short biographical sketches of so many men from history. But in time, he actually grew to love the Famous Men series! I would typically read one sketch every other day. I also added a variety of living books, some of which were a part of Ruben's IEW Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons, some were suggested in the Famous Men series, and some were books RileyAnn was reading in her Beautiful Feet Books Intermediate Medieval History study. I chose books based on overlap between these three programs and also from years of studying living book lists. The books we read included:

Beowulf by Michael Morpurgo
One Thousand and One Arabian Nights by Geraldine McCaughrean
King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green
Black Fox of Lorne by Marguerite de Angeli
Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle
Cathedral by David Macaulay
Robin Hood by J. Walker McSpadden
Magna Carta by C. W. Hodges
Adam of the Road by Janet Elizabeth Gray
Castle by David Macaulay
Marco Polo by Demi
The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean
The Apple and the Arrow by Conrad Buff
Morning Star of the Reformation by Andy Thomson
Crispin: The Cross of Lead by AVI
Joan of Arc by Diane Stanley
Michelangelo by Diane Stanley
The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly
Good Queen Bess by Diane Stanley
Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare by Diane Stanley

Some of the books I read aloud and some Ruben read independently. After each reading, I requested an oral narration or often times a written narration in the form of a notebooking page. The notebooking pages included a conglomeration of map work, hand drawn illustrations, writing, and coloring pages. We've used the notebooking approach for years and it seems to work and be favorable with each of my kids. Below are some samples of Ruben's pages throughout the year....

Overall, we had a great year in history! I highly recommend each of the books we read. I'm very pleased with the variety of notebooking pages Ruben created. As you can see, I don't correct notebooking pages, but rather work with my students on the side to discover repeated errors in grammar and punctuation. In general, Ruben showed growth in his written narrations over the year, which was one of the goals set for him. We will continue with a similar approach to history in the fall as we move into American History.