by Terri Johnson, author
(www.homeschoolingabcs.com) - dedicated to helping new homeschoolers gain the
confidence and the necessary skills to successfully teach their children at
To Notebook, Lapbook or Scrapbook
That is the Question!
Indeed, the holidays are over and now is the time to get back to normal schedules, schoolwork and activities. Some
of you may use a gentle approach, easing your way into the normal routine. Others of you may jump in with gusto,
feeling as though much time has been lost over the past month. I tend to jump back into the school routine with
both feet on January 3rd, dragging my children with me. I must remind myself that no time has been lost - the
children have learned, although not from a textbook. They have learned about family, traditions, and relationships.
They have learned what it means to love and to give and to accept in return. They have learned patience and
gratefulness. Let us not forget the lessons of December because of the rigors of January. Slow down, take time and
enjoy the homeschooling journey together. Perhaps the following article will give you some ideas for capturing and
remembering these fleeting childhood days.
Take a moment and think about all the school work and projects that you have completed with your children over this
past year. . . in fact, over all the years that you have educated your children at home. Now think about how that
work has been documented or displayed. If you are like me, you probably have a box or two of filled-in
There may be some satisfaction in a stack of completed workbooks, but apparently not too much, for when Grandma and
Grandpa come for a visit to our house, it is not the workbooks that the kids dig out to show their accomplishments;
it is their journals and notebooks, lapbooks and projects. These are the “books” that the children take pride
Making books with children is an effective way to cement and document their learning. It also becomes an effortless
review tool. Your children will want to go back and look through their books-by themselves, with each other, and,
of course, with their favorite relatives. They will read again their entries, reinforcing this knowledge and
shifting it into permanent storage banks in their brains. These facts will make it past the short term memory
centers. In fact, this learning technique holds a great advantage over fill-in-the-blank workbooks for long-term
learning and information retrieval.
Home-made educational books fall into four basic categories-journal, notebook, lapbook and scrapbook. There are
distinctions with each type, but there is some overlap between them as well. Any of these books can be made on a
shoe-string budget, or they can be made quite expensively. They can be elaborate in their design or very simple.
The key is that you stay within your budget and that you use your creativity and that of your children.
Let’s look at a description of each type of book, what subjects it is ideally suited for, and a list of recommended
materials to get started.
A journal holds the compilation of a child’s thoughts, reflections or research on a given subject. It is usually a
blank book or spiral bound book that contains either lined or unlined paper. Generally, the child starts on page
one and works his way through the book until the subject has been exhausted or he is ready to start on a new
A journal is ideally suited for:
· Prayer journal
· Bible study notes
· Daily journal of meditations
· Vocabulary / Spelling words and definitions
· Nature study
· Scientific research
We have used journals throughout our home education process. We have used them most often for nature study, using
Charlotte Mason techniques and suggestions. Some good books and articles for learning more about journaling in your
homeschool would be:
Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax
A notebook is a collection of loose sheets containing various types of information assembled together to form a
cohesive “story”. Generally, these are 3 ring notebooks with divider tabs to sort the subject matter that has been
placed into it. A notebook can be filled with drawings, narrations, maps,
reports, lists, timelines, etc.
A notebook is ideally suited for:
· Chronological history study
· Language Arts
· Science study / experiments
· Timeline of events
We have assembled many notebooks over our seven years of home education. Our history notebooks are by far our
favorites to browse through. The children have included their drawings, maps,
narrations, and book reports into these simple and get cherished binders. We have used view binders so that they
can insert a cover sheet into the front under the clear plastic overlay. Some good books and articles to read on
the subject of notebooking include:
The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer
A lapbook, also known as a shutterbook, is a file folder which has been opened onto a flat surface. The two tabs
are then folded into the center where they meet and form a window shutter effect. The concept is that mini books
are attached to the inside holding various information which your child has collected and learned. A lapbook can
contain games, vocabulary words, pictures, maps, recipes and clipart. You are limited only by your imagination. This is an excellent
hands-on project for younger children.
The term lapbook is relatively new (“Lap Book” trademarked by Tobin’s Lab), but as I look back I realize that we
have been doing similar projects for many years. We did many unit studies in the beginning and recorded much of the
information that we studied in file-folder books. We also created several math games that used a file folder as the
game board. I recently reintroduced this concept to my children because it had been a while since we had produced
something like this and they loved it! They put together a Viking lapbook which contained drawings, maps, book reports, vocabulary words, and a recipe for Viking bread (which, of
course, they made!). Here are some good articles, books and websites to visit to get more information on putting
together your own lapbooks:
Big Book of Books by Dinah Zike
Creating Books with Children by Valerie Bendt
List of materials to get started:
· Folders (regular or legal size)
· Writing tools
· Variety of paper (colored, index cards, etc)
· Glue / glue stick
· Stickers / rubber stamps
Scrapbooking has become a very popular hobby in recent years. There are scrapbooking stores, books and magazines
popping up everywhere. Most people consider scrapbooking as mom’s creative outlet, but it can also be a wonderful
educational tool. These are generally created in a pre-made scrapbook album which you can find at any arts and
crafts or scrapbook store in your area.
Older students, in particular, may get greatly excited about documenting their school work in a scrapbook format.
This is a fun and sociable activity when all the supplies are pulled out and your children get to use their
creativity. Here are a couple good articles to get you started. But be careful, you might get hooked!
Creating books with children is an enjoyable process and gives everyone involved a sense of accomplishment. These
are memory building activities and good motivators as well. My children are much more receptive and even enthused
to complete their project or paper when they know that it is going into the notebook, lapbook or scrapbook. Their
work is usually done more neatly as well. And for what more can a homeschooling mom ask?
Enjoy those learning moments!
Terri Johnson, along with her husband
Todd, has been teaching their children at home for 16 years. They also run a publishing company - Knowledge
Quest, Inc. - producing history and geography materials for the homeschool marketplace. This past year, they
have started two online classes - Homeschooling ABCs (www.homeschoolingabcs.com) - dedicated
to helping new homeschoolers gain the confidence and the necessary skills to successfully teach their children at
home; and Upper Level Homeschool (www.upperlevelhomeschool.com) -
encouraging and equipping homeschooling parents to stay the course even when their teen enter high school and to
finish the race strong.