What is a Classical Notebook?



I shared with you the set-up for our classical notebooks this year, but I realized I may have been jumping ahead.  I’d like to take us a few steps back and explain what notebooking is by answering some common questions about notebooking.


What is notebooking?

Notebooking is essentially a way for students to document and collect what they’re learning in a binder. There are many options for what you can include in your notebook, but since we’re following the classical model of education we keep ours simple. We generally limit ours to maps, copywork sheets, and illustration pages.


Is notebooking classical?

Notebooking is not exclusively a classical construct. Traditional educators will also use notebooking with their students. But since it is simply a way of organizing materials, it’s not the system that needs to be classical but rather the methods used and materials contained within.


How is notebooking different from lap books or workboxes? 

Lapbooks generally involve more bells and whistles, like cut and paste, assembly, and moving parts. We’ve tried this. My boys find this a little tedious and I find it harder to maintain. In addition, we’re trying to hold closer to the classical model of “stick in the sand.” If I only had a stick and some sand, could I teach the same thing? When there’s a choice, choose the simple method. Will I be giving each of them a box filled with sand and a stick? Not today. Today I’ll be giving them a notebook with a pencil. 🙂


We’ve never used workboxes, but from my understanding, you set up a series of workboxes with the material you expect your child to complete that day. Could you set up workboxes with classical materials? Absolutely. Using the same formula as with notebooking, you could fill the workboxes with copywork pages, illustration pages, maps to trace, and even books to read. Notebooks work better for us, because they take up less space and are more portable.


What is a Classical Notebook?


How old should my student be to notebook?

Notebooks allow for so much flexibility that I can see it working for nearly any age. For example, my three year old and five year old both have notebooks this year. Their notebooks do not contain the same things as their older brothers’ notebooks. Do I expect them to do a lot of writing? No. They have notebooks, because they often want to do the same things as their older brothers so I wanted to be prepared. For my three year old, there are letter, number, and shape coloring pages. For my five year old, there are letter tracing and writing sheets, maps, and skip counting sheets. My five year old is enrolled in CC and will be learning the memory work, but not through copywork. He’ll be learning through the music, simple recitation, and fun games.


You can look here to see how I’ve set up the notebooks for my seven and eight year old guys. It’s full of copywork, illustration pages, maps, and a few more things. I think this set-up would work for children all the way through Foundations/ the grammar stage. You could even go this simpler route. As your children get older and enter the rhetoric stage, you can add more layers to their notebooks like book reports on the presidents or a short research paper on the country we’re studying. Because it’s a representation of what the student is learning, it could be more than the memory work during the rhetoric stage.


Is this a necessary component to CC?

Certainly not. Not all CC families notebook, perhaps not even the majority notebook. I think the idea is gaining steam, because parents see it as an easy way for their child to independently reinforce the memory work classically. But, by all means, don’t feel compelled to use it. Use what works for your family and your children.


Did you have any questions about notebooking that I missed? Feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll do my best!











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