Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Copywork, Narration and Notebooking

We’ve been doing copywork and oral narration since we started homeschooling in 2010 and we’re planning on starting notebooking in the fall. In case you’re not familiar with the terms, let me explain:

What is copywork?

Copywork is what it sounds like. The child copies a passage as-is in their own handwriting. When they’re beginning writers, you start with simple things (name, address, phone number, etc.) and can progress to whole paragraphs. We started with regular notebooks and then went to Mead’s RediSpace notebooks to help my boys learn proper spacing in print. Now that they’re progressing to script, they’re still helpful.

Copywork is beneficial on many levels. It can cement an idea through repetition, it exposes a child to proper grammar and syntax and tons of other benefits as well. Copywork was one of the first things that we started with when we began homeschooling, and it still features today in many different guises. We often start our school time with copywork of some sort and then go on from there.

What is narration?

Narration is ‘telling back’. Basically, the parent/teacher reads something, or discusses something, then the child tells the story or passage back. You can facilitate the narration by asking questions like, “What do you remember about what we just read?’, or “Name 3 things from this paragraph”. You can help your child organize his thoughts by asking what happened first, second and last. Oral narration precedes written narration; Charlotte Mason recommends that written narrations begin around 10, however you know your child best. My oldest is 10 and we’ll be starting written narration (in small doses) this fall.

Here’s a nice how-to on narration from Charlotte Mason Education. I also found a nifty article from Mozart & Mud Pies on difficulties with narration. This applied for my oldest and the verbal cues to imagine the scene helped tremendously.

What is notebooking?

While I’m sure there are a hundred different definitions to notebooking, the way I see it is basically a collection of copywork, narrations, dictation, artwork, research and more, all on a particular topic. You can go into a topic with the intent of notebooking it, or a notebook can serve as a landing ad for your child’s work on that topic. One of the most awesome and inspiring examples of notebooking style homeschooling is Jimmie’s Collage. Every time I go there, I find something else that I want to try with my kids.

If you’re into lapbooking, you can easily combine notebooking; either with pockets or brads to keep papers bound into your lapbook. My kids do a fair amount of copywork and writing in their lapbooks already, so we’ll just continue adding more as we go along.

I found some great links on notebooking here.

Since my last post was on the sometimes value of worksheets, it got me thinking about the alternatives to them. I thought I’d post my thoughts.

Basically, I think I might have gotten a bit lazy. Worksheets are easy and pretty basic. I am considering working with the boys over the next few weeks to assimilate their math work over the last few months into their math journals. In looking through the worksheets though, while they certainly did the work (in one form or fashion), those types of worksheets are entirely unsuited to notebooking. The worksheets we’ve been using have been more broad-subject types, which is good in some ways, but bad for delving deep into a subject or topic for notebooking.

One of the advantages that notebooking has over worksheets is that the kids actually write more, especially when narration is part of it. The kids can write their own thoughts instead of merely answering questions. I think that it will be a challenge to get LBB to write, so we will probably work on dictation and copywork (he’ll dictate, I’ll transcribe and he’ll copy) until he gets the hang of it. I’m not planning on starting PeaGreen with written narrations until he’s 10 or so – another couple of years, yet – but we are going to start notebooking with him, too.

Putting together a good notebook – helping the kids – will be an experience for me. We’ve gotten pretty good at lapbooking, so I see notebooking as an extension of that; the next natural step. I’m looking forward to the challenge!

I’m curious, do you notebook? What are some of your favorite resources?




4 responses

  1. Aly from Virginia

    Looking forward to using those big notebooks we bought a year ago!
    I always look forward to reading your posts, they are the first thing I open to read in my inbox. My hat is off to you and your fellow homeschooling bloggers — you guys are my daily vitamin!

    June 1, 2011 at 5:11 am

    • Oh, yes… we always have a stack of journals and notebooks just waiting for new projects. I always enjoy breaking one open 🙂
      Thanks for commenting, and thanks for the compliment!

      June 1, 2011 at 7:14 am

  2. LOVE copywork. I wanted to like notebooking, but it didn’t work for us. I realize now that even though she was writing well, she was just to young to organize her thoughts on paper in this manner. So we’re sticking with copywork (especially as we switch to cursive this year) and maybe some very simple written narrations, then try notebooking in another year or two.

    June 1, 2011 at 6:52 am

    • I’m kind of afraid that the same thing will happen with LBB (9). We’re going to work on his oral narrations this summer and see if I can help him learn to organize his thoughts better. He’s ADHD, and one of the things I read/learned about ADHD kids is that they have no internal dialogue.

      We’ve worked on that endlessly with multi-step instructions; I think that the same techniques may help him with thought organization for writing. Many of his writing assignments in the past few months have been ‘how to’ papers, detailing step by step instructions, He’s gotten better at them, so I am seeing progress, which give me hope!

      If he’s not ready though, we’ll put it off for a few months and try again later. I want him to succeed!

      June 1, 2011 at 7:13 am

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