How Good is Good Enough?

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aesop notebooking pages

Aesop Study

No one is perfect, but we certainly should have expecatations of quality work from our children’s homeschool assignments. My daughter’s recent study of Aesop is a perfect example of how the expectation for quality work plays out in notebooking assignments.

She read Aesop’s fables and this webpage about Aesop’s Fables. (To give you some reference, Sprite is in 6th grade.) I asked her to fill out this free printable Aesop notebooking page from Notebooking Nook. Before she wrote, I asked her what she should include on the notebooking page. In her answer, she left out some key ideas which I pointed out to her. I gave her some reminders such as dividing her information into paragraphs and leaving margins. She said she was ready.

But when I looked at her completed notebooking page, it was a disaster. She had some very convoluted sentences, lots of spelling and capitalization errors (in ink!), and no paragraph divisions. Back to the drawing board. I pointed out what was good about her narration and also what needed work.  Pictured below is her second attempt. She attached the image from Betsy’s freebie onto cardstock.

aesop notebooking pages take two

Ouch! No margins.

The problem is that this page had no margins whatsoever. (See my red marks?) And all the information was jammed into one big paragraph. Not acceptable. Sprite was somewhat irritated that I made her do it yet another time. But it was worth it. The next day, she produced this final copy.

aesop notebooking pages

Third time is acceptable.

This page is not perfect. But it is good. It is acceptable. My hope is that requiring her to correct her work will create more careful work in the future.

Knowing what to require from your children’s notebooking pages can be difficult. Their writing should reflect the spelling, grammar, and mechanics lessons that they have studied. If you deliberately reminded them of a specific vocabulary word to include or some layout element (like margins), those should certainly be included.

When  implementing notebooking in my homeschool, it is an organic process. The final notebooking page is often a second or even third draft. What are your expectations with notebooking? Do you ask your children to redo pages with major problems? What kinds of errors do you allow on their notebooking pages?

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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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Barb-Harmony Art Mom Reply

I don’t know that we ever rewrote any notebook pages. We started using written narrations along about 3rd grade and they were not even close to being a polished product. Trying to think back…I would usually pick one or two things to look at each week from their written work. I would tell them ahead of time that I was going to check spelling or capital letters and then I would try to focus on one aspect at a time. This seemed to help them be more comfortable with their writing because they did not need to think of too many things at one time as they worked.

Of course, as they grew older and matured in their writing I expected more from their notebook pages. Now as high schoolers I will occasionally see some major errors but I never have them rewrite them. We do “spot” lessons if the error is seen too many times in a writing piece. I still don’t expect them to be a polished product but a tool. In their formal writing pieces I definitely have them rewrite until it is perfect….not too much grumbling anymore, especially since we use a word processor and it does not mean a total pen on the paper rewrite.

Teacher/Mom Reply

This is an ongoing problem in our homeschool. None of my students takes any pride in their work, nor do they strive for excellence in any sense of the word. Their one and only goal is to finish the assignment and turn it in to get mom off their back. I have been beyond frustrated. I do often require some assignments to be redone – but others I do not. It often creates more of a headache than it is worth. I realize that this is a heart issue more than anything else. And it is one that I am thoroughly tired of dealing with. Prayer is the only option that I have left. God must give them the desire to strive for excellence on their own.

Angie W. Reply

I am mostly working on penmenship right now. Yesterday we did a notebook page on Galapagos Islands, and my 7th grader’s writing was horrid. Right now, it isn’t so much of ability – but enjoyment. Teaching them to enjoy the writing. The time spent at the paper. Teaching them to enjoy what their eyes see at the end result. One thing I have seen with my oldest, is the idea that writing it is just a step. It gets thrown away, or filed in a box, so it doesn’t have meaning. I am working on enjoying the creating part of the writing and drawing a bit more, and taking time. We are still moving from Lapbooks to Notebooks, so they are used to doing a rough draft, cutting it out, and glueing it on the page.

Nadene Reply

Well done to Sprite for perservering and improving her notes each time! Writing is such a complex activity! It is really disappointing when they forget their grammar or layout rules.

I agree with Barb’s approach. It works well when we remain vigilant and encourage our children to remember the basicseach time they write.

Practice really does make perfect. And some notes do not need to be perfect. It is good to have clear objectives and keep working at them until our kids master these skills.

My youngest is just beginning to write on her own and I try not discourage her by being technical. I just want her to get her ideas down on paper. But with my middle schooler, I may mark all the grammar in her notes and only some of the spelling (perhaps only the first/ last paragraph) so that she do not feel overwhelmed. I may ask her to just rewrite the first or last paragraph and include the most important corrections.

I think that typed notes on the computer are completely different – it is easier to correct everything without the major work of writing it out again.

Michelle Reply

I agree with both Barb and Nadene. I don’t think I have ever had my kids rewrite a notebooking page. I do take note of grammar/spelling mistakes so I know what we need to work on. My daughter has recently started writing her notebooking pages in pencil so she can easily fix small grammar errors without marking up the page. I would point out the mistakes to her and she would immediately want to correct them, but you can’t really do this if you wrote in ink.

I also read each page for quality of content and we discuss any issues. Notebooking pages for us are not formal writing, but the lessons they are learning in their writing curriculum (IEW), spelling and grammar are expected to be carried over as much as possible to their notebooking pages. I do allow more freedom and am much more relaxed with our notebooking pages than formal writing. Formal writing requires sometimes several rough drafts before the final draft is ready to write.

Learning to write well is definitely a process that happens over many years of practice. Notebooking pages for us is a basic means to practice, practice, practice.

My son is in third grade and really struggles with his handwriting. It takes him forever to write out 5 or 6 sentences. I have started letting him orally narrate his notebooking page to me as I write it out for him, and then he will type it up. It makes it much easier to make corrections to the page!

I do think however that if a child turned in a notebook page that was just thrown together with really bad handwriting, lots of grammar and spelling mistakes, and a lack of content I would not hesitate in having them write the page again.

Mary Reply

I learn so much from your site! This discussion is interesting, because I could see myself doing just what you did with your daughter. We are notebooking more and more, (a lot of ancient history now) and I see the benefits in so many ways.

My daughter recently said she lived to write but hates the physical act of writing. How do I help her with that?? I would be curious to hear your thoughts.


Belinda Reply

Great post, Jimmie, and kudos to Sprite for hanging in there. I have had my kids rewrite some things when I was REALLY disappointed in the quality of their work. I think two rewrites would cause a mini-revolt! My experience has been that once one of the kids has rewritten his/ her work one time, I rarely have that problem again. (smile)



Cindy Reply

I’m hopping through all the inspiration blog network blogs today. I am *definitely* inspired! Notebooking isn’t something we’ve tried much. Can’t wait to dig in and see what you have here! :0)

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