Tag Archives: illustrating history

Composition Notebooks: Narrating, Organizing Papers, and Record Keeping at the Same Time

When I first started homeschooling, I used 3-ring notebook pages for my girls to record their school assignments on. It didn’t take long to decide that was a mess – the notebooks were huge and took up so much space on the table, they wore out quickly,  they took up a ton of space on the book shelf, and worst of all, the papers would tear out and be messy.

On the suggestion of a friend on the SCM forum, I decided to try using composition notebooks instead. They cost less than a $1, they are compact, they are small, they do not weigh a lot, and little hands can easily maneuver them about. I also made the executive decision that there were not going to be as many notebooks, so I combined history, geography, and science in one book since often it is hard to separate them. My younger girls officially started “real” school in 2014-2015, and I made them their own notebooks. We filled in the last pages of them last month, and what an unexpected treasure they were.

These are the actual notebooks. They span from August 2014 to March 2017. School years are separated by sticky tabs.

These are a couple of the science entries:

Some History entries:


I finally started dividing pages for multiple entries as well:

We also have separate notebooks for their Bible Studies:

As I was filing them away in their portfolios, my husband and I spent some time looking through them. It was particularly gratifying to me as we did because my youngest daughter kept looking over our shoulders, explaining what each page and drawing meant. I learned several things that night:

  • We are doing work and progressing, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the day-to-day trenches.
  • That knowledge was a very great blessing to me as I have struggled with my health at the beginning of this school year. (I am doing much better now. Still have issues, but I can function again!)
  • Narration works. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it doesn’t always have to be “pretty” and “perfect.” Drawing, writing, speaking, acting: it all adds up and makes incredible differences in the ability to remember things.
  • The kids love to see and think about the things that they know. What a great refresher course for them, too!

Illustrating History

Charlotte Mason has a lot to say about how to study and track history, and in true CM fashion, she even detailed some ideas for narrating history. In Charlotte Mason’s Vol. 1 Home Education in the section on history (pages 279-295), she says: 
“Let the mother (teacher) beware: there is nothing which calls for more delicate tact abd understanding sympathy with the children than this apparently simple matter of choosing their lesson books, and especially, perhaps, their lesson books in history. ” (page 290)
“Imagination does not stir at the suggestion of the feeble, much-diluted stuff that is too often put into the children’s hands.” (page 294)
“History readings make admirable material for narration, and children enjoy narrating what they have read or heard. They love, too, to make illustrations… Children have the same intellectual pleasure as persons of cultivated minds in working out new hints and suggestions…they tell the tale directly and vividly.” ~ page 292
Illustrations by the Children (AKA Drawn Narrations): I was so glad to read this section on page 292. We have been using this as a form of narration for years, =) Drawn narrations give children a way to hear, organize, and express detailed ideas without pressure and is a welcome relief to both mom and kid from the “tell me what I just read” line.
I have my children draw a picture of the history lesson, science lesson, scripture story, etc. Occasionally as they tell me the story, I write what they tell me so that they can also see that writing the story is important, too. It makes them feel that they “own” the story. I also find that those written notes help to remind them of the whole story – and they make great additions to a portfolio for the records. 😉
A friend from my CM Study Group shared how her family has chosen one literature book (read once a week) that they draw a picture for each time. By the time the book ends. they will have illustrated each chapter. That would be an awesome way to read a history book.
Playing At History:  Charlotte says:
“they play at their history lessons, dress up, make tableaux, at scenes; or they have a stage, and their dolls act, while they paint the scenery and speak the speeches.” – page 294
“Let a child have the meat he requires in his history reading, and in the literature which gathers naturally round this history, and imagination will bestir itself without any help of ours; the child will live out in detail a thousand scenes of which he gets the merest hint.” ~ page 294-295
My girls have done all of these things and we’ve had so much fun over the years. They are rich in imagination, full of laughter, and creates the type of memory we are seeking in our pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty.