Q & A: How Much Time Should Notebooking Take?

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Tanya asked a fantastic question in a blog comment that I decided to answer as a blog post.

Q: Question

“About how much time do you devote to notebooking (especially if you’re starting out with almost 11, 9 and 6 year olds)? It can take us the better part of a school day, and that seems too long.”

A: Answer

The real answer to this question is the dreaded “it depends.” [Don’t you hate that answer? I do. It’s not really an answer at all when you want something specific.]

geo notebook

There is no concrete answer to how long notebooking should take you or how much time you should devote to it. You spend as much time as it takes. Some days it may take only 15 minutes to complete a notebooking page. Other days it may take half an hour or more to do one. Other times, notebooking may take the form of a series of pages complete with illustrations, minibooks, and maps. That could take 90 minutes.

It’s impossible to assign a time because notebooking is so flexible and children are all so different.

Also, consider your purpose for notebooking for that particular day. Are you wanting a quick narration of a daily lesson (short) or a more thorough review of an entire unit (longer)? Are you using the notebooking page for a composition assignment or a test (longer still)?

Another factor is your child’s experience with notebooking overall. If you are still guiding your children with questions and helping them to organize information, the notebooking process will move more slowly. This may well be your case, Tanya, since you say you are “starting out.” Realize in that case that you are making a valuable investment in your children’s education and future independence. Keep going!

With all that said, if notebooking is taking the better part of a school day, maybe you are doing too many pages each day. In my eBook Notebooking Success, I give suggestions for the number of notebooking pages to assign each week. Obviously, these are flexible. But they give you a general starting point for setting your expectations.

  • 1st-3rd grades:  2-3 notebooking pages per week
  • 4th-6th grades:  3-6 notebooking pages per week
  • 7th-12th grades:  6 or more notebooking pages per week

In my own homeschool, we notebook for almost every subject, but we don’t notebook every subject every day. We may do a math page on Monday, a history page on Tuesday, and two science pages on Friday. If we made notebooking pages for every single thing we studied, my daughter would burn out very quickly and school would drag on all day long.

Readers, please feel free to answer Tanya’s question with your own advice. We can all learn from each other here.

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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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Paige Reply

“we notebook for almost every subject, but we don’t notebook every subject every day”

I completely agree with this, right on! We mainly use notebooking for history and science with an occasional art or music one thrown in for good measure. Some of our notebook pages take 5 minutes and some take 20 min, but we try to do only one notebook page per day.

Staci Reply

We have just started incorporating notebooking – I love it!!!! I like to use it for information I want them to retain and/or review, so we too do a few pages per week, but not every day in every subject – just when it feels like it is time to document some stuff we have been learning or when it fits. Like when we did the human body, we did notebook pages as we reviewed each body system.

As we are just starting out – I have a question – anyone know of a good place to get dolphin notebook pages? Having trouble finding some to fit what we are doing. Thanks in advance. Staci

    Jimmie Quick Reply

    Staci, Dolphin pages are in my queue. I hope to get them up next week.

Angie Wright Reply

This year is our first to actually step forward and ask the boys to write about what they are learning every day. I’m not asking them to keep a detailed learning journal of every fact, but enough, that in March, we’ll be able to look back and see where we’ve been. More writing than lapbooking, less writing than daily essays. It hasn’t taken long, honestly for the 14 year old, just a few minutes a day, by the time he is writing down, it is quite familiar. The 11 year old takes longer, sometimes an hour, but his is more art than writing. I agree with pages for each subject, but not all subjects every day.

e-Expeditions Reply

Great advice. I agree, a lot of it depends on the student–some love writing and organizing ideas, other… not so much. 🙂

Nadene Reply

I want to develop the skill of writing short narrations after a reading, but we vary the type of narration. It doesn’t always have to be written notebook pages.
Because I combined my 12-year-old and 9-year-old on the same curriculum this past year, I made allowances for different amounts of writing on the same basic page. I found that my younger child enjoyed writing in small foldable minibooks (because she needed to ‘fill less space’) and my older child happily wrote directly on her page and used the minibook pictures or headings to embellish her page. (Here’s how we combined our notebook and minibook pages.)
This year I paced the progress according to my older child and helped my younger child “keep up”. This was sometimes stressful for her, but in previous years I paced according to the youngest and gently eased the older along. Grace and variety seems to be the key to keeping the notebooking flowing.

Tanya Reply

Hi Jimmie! Thanks for answering my question so thoroughly! I am ashamed to say that I didn’t see the answer until today (blushing). However, as an update, we have been trying to do more notebooking: my oldest has more information (partially because of her age and partially because of her personality!). Some days the pages are brief bullet points of information, sometimes it’s a drawing, sometimes it’s a longer written narration. I cannot say that we do as many as you recommend, but we are trying to make it work for us. Thank you for all of your advice, helps, freebies. It is truly a ministry you have!

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