Q & A: Should I Correct Errors on Notebooking Pages?

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da vinci picture book and notebooking

I received an email from Melissa that reflects a common concern for notebookers.

Q: Question

I just started incorporating notebooking into our homeschool right before our Christmas break.  When I read what my children (ages 14, 11, 9, & 7) write, I often encounter spelling and grammar errors.  On a writing assignment, I would correct those, but I’m not sure if I should be correcting them here on a notebooking page.

I am considering putting all their notebooking pages into a book at the end of the school year, so I hate to mark them up with red pen.  I wondered if you have any words of wisdom on this topic.  I hate to make them hate notebooking by being nit picky; however, when my son keeps spelling the same word wrong, I’m not sure what to do.

Thank you so much, I appreciate your blogs and have learned so much from you!

A: Answer

totally understand the dilemma here because I experience it daily. How much should I correct and how much should I let go? And if I do correct it, how should I do that?

You don’t want to nit-pick. But you want to have certain standards of excellence.

Since I mainly use notebooking as written narration, checking out my narration page is a good starting point to understand the whole foundation of notebooking.  From there you will find a link to this very pertinent article  Narration Problems: The Written Narartion is Full of Mistakes. I also wrote on this general topic here at the Notebooking Fairy in How Good is Good Enough? Also this issue is thoroughly addressed in my eBook Notebooking Success.

I do not correct every single error in a notebooking page.

Correcting Errors on Notebooking Pages

When I say correct, I mean point it out so that my daughter can fix it. I don’t ever make red marks on her paper in the sense of “grading” a paper. Merely hunting down the mistakes is not my objective. Whenever I mark errors, my goal is for Sprite to correct them and to learn from her mistakes.

My daughter knows that spelling errors, capitalization errors, fragments, and run-ons are not going to be accepted. They must be corrected. Always. You will have your own, age appropriate list of non-negotiables.

A notebooking page full of red marks would be very ugly and disheartening. Instead, my checking her paper is normally done in one of these two ways.

1. Verbal corrections

Sitting side by side, I read over her notebooking page, telling her what words are misspelled or other minor errors. She corrects as I point them out.

2. Penciled marks

I make small proofreader’s marks in pencil. Often I will make a small mark in the margin, alerting Sprite that there is an error of some kind there but not telling her exactly what it is. Other times I circle a problem spot.

Either way, she can fix her errors directly on the notebooking page. If she uses pencil, this process is much easier, but sometimes she insists on using pen. I allow her to choose since she knows that she will have to fix glaring errors with correction fluid.

I never allow a page to make it into the notebook with marked but not corrected errors.

Big Errors

Quick fixes are easy enough with small errors, but big structural issues in the composition (unnecessary repetition, omitted ideas, awkward sentence structure) are another matter. In that case, I point them out but may not require a re-write. It really depends on what my expectations were for that particular assignment. If this notebooking page was a narration for a single daily lesson, I usually let it slide. If the narration was something “bigger,” say a wrap up of an entire book or a writing assignment, I may ask for a re-do the next day.

Factual errors are another issue altogether and are not allowed. If they cannot be fixed easily, the entire notebooking page must be redone.

Preventing Errors

If I anticipate a notebooking assignment may have lots of errors, I may have my daughter write a draft or an outline before writing it onto the notebooking page. Other times, we orally outline what she will include. I may offer her a word bank of difficult to spell words.

You may want to warn your children ahead of time with your standards for the particular notebooking assignment. If they know ahead of time that you are going to require the correction of any misspelled words and punctuation errors, that may help them focus more on those particular things. And of course, encourage easy correcting by having lots of pencils on hand.

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Jimmie Quick

Jimmie is now a veteran homeschool mom. Her daughter Emma is a student of the sciences at a large university in Illinois. Her guide to notebooking—Notebooking Success—guides you through notebooking: what it is; how to use it; how it fits a Charlotte Mason, classical, and textbook curriculum; tips for getting the most educational value from it; and much more. It comes bundled with several bonuses, including a small set of generic notebooking pages that can be used with any topic.

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Nadene Reply

When I first started homeschooling, I constantly used my “teacher’s” red pen and stars and marked everything. Applying Charlotte Mason’s approach released me from this. Narration is how the child expresses their understanding on paper and I do not mark or grade their pages in red pen anymore. However, my kids still want stars and comments, and high school assignments must be graded, so I have found some ways to do this ~
1. Use pencil to indicate errors – like you do 🙂
2. Focus on grammar or spelling and indicate mistakes in the first few paragraphs only.
3. Make a small paper ruberic with mark allocations and staple this to the page. (for e.g.: Spelling:5, Grammar:5, Style:5, Content:10 =Total:25)
4. Write specific good comments focusing on what the child accomplished at the end of a narration, tell them what still could be improved.
5. Write notes in my records of glaring weaknesses or errors and focus on these with Language Arts studies and dictations. Correcting errors on someone else’s writing is an excellent tool!
My kids use tipex (white out) to correct mistakes because they feel proud of their work. I want to nurture that! And when they page back through their old notebooks they notice their mistakes anyway!

sara Reply

GREAT question, great post, great comment! This is really helpful! Thanks as usual for the wonderful insights!

Julie Reply

Since our girls are a bit younger (2nd and 3rd) we often use notebooking for oral narrations where I write them and then they copy. This is something to think about, though, as we get into them writing it instead of copying.

Aisa Montero Reply

To avoid too much white out for mistakes on her notebook, I simply taught her some typing lessons, and then I let her write her narrations on the notepad of the computer, I point out the mistakes, and let her edit it once or twice or until she figure it out, then when she exhausted out what she knew, then that’s the time my help comes. Then when it’s good, then she will copy it all out onto her notebook. or mostly I am the one who copied it because its too much for her to write down everything since she has copy work, transcription and dictation as well to write on for her daily lesson.

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