Tag Archives: tracking 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!

Tracking History

There has been a flurry of discussion in the Charlotte Mason community lately on how many streams of history Charlotte Mason had her children reading at the same time – Emily at A Delectable Education has uncovered some progammes from Charlotte Mason’s schools indicating that they were following 3 different strands of history at a time. We know that Ambleside Online follows two strands at a time and other curriculums do a variety through out their plans. The point of this article is not to take a side (if one has to take a side 😉 ) – it is to discuss how it would be possible to track these various strands without messing all the events and people up in your mind.

In a recent discussion of Charlotte Mason’s Volume 1 on the section of history (pages 279-295), my CM study group was talking about the visual recording of history studied as recommended by Charlotte Mason. On page 292, she wrote about the need for keeping a general overview of the centuries so that the “wide knowledge of history” the student is reading can be kept in its proper place in the overview of history. She gave a definite way of doing this by making a Century Chart (explanations on how to make one is found on page 292 in the “Dates” section.)

This sparked a discussion of how and when to use the various time-tracking notebooks Charlotte Mason had her students use. The following definitions are the ones I have gathered through my reading of books and blogs (please note that they may be subject to change as I continue to study and learn about them.) 😉

A timeline of the current course of study was kept on a poster by the desk/table where they were reading. This was the more interesting – and could be quite detailed – aspects of the culture/wars/people through the years. This is handy to keep events straight in your readings. This could even be in a notebook I carried with my readings.

A Century Chart was a chart as described on page 292 – a list of the centuries with an extremely brief notation of MAJOR events that occurred throughout history. This was a quick way to orient yourself when reading new books – often you find yourself wondering what else was going on during this time frame. This would be a more permanent fixture in my school room – like along the wall above my maps. To me, this is as vital to reading multiple strands of history as a map is to reading about an army conquering the world around them.

A Book of Centuries was just that. A book that has one side of a two page spread with lines on it and a blank sheet for drawing. As I understood it, CM schools took their children to the  British Museum where they would find a particular time to really look at artifacts and things on display from that era. Then they documented or drew things they felt were most helpful, interesting, or progressive in the story of man in their books. These would be life-long pursuits and were in nice hardback books.

As you can see from these ideas, they are distinctly different, with different purposes.

How do you track your history?   

Leave a comment and tell me!