I have been quite enamored with Laurie Bestvater’s book, The Living Page. There have been many quotes that have given me strength and clarity as I think on towards the next school year. The way that Bestvater has explained Charlotte Mason’s principles in accordance with notebooking has made me see that this might be what we need in our days to help with certain learning challenges that we have in our family.
The quote that struck me the deepest was “the notebooks are tools for supporting the learning process of persons rather than products in and of themselves… our goal is not beautiful notebooks. The emphasis is not on the product but the formative process.” (pg. 63.)
My children are not great at drawing or any of the other artistic components. We gave up on nature notebooking a few years ago because Emma kept grumbling that her drawings were horrible and that she hated sketching. I listened to her and let her give it up. In fact, we all gave it up because none of us were good at sketching. I see now that level of artistic talent does not matter in a nature notebook nor any other kind of notebook. It’s not what the finished product looks like but, rather, it is what the person goes through as they are putting things into their notebooks.
The main benefit of notebooking is increasing attention. When a child is sketching a plant, he/she needs to pay close attention to the details of that plant. She needs to focus on all of its parts, on how the flower is attached to the stem, how many stamens are in that particular plant/flower. Focus on detail is needed for drawing. So is it needed when the child is copying out a passage in their commomplace book. As they are reading from a particular book, they need to pay close attention to how the author uses words, description and literary devices to pick out the passage that they will copy into their commonplace book. Whatever they put into their notebooks, be it a calendar of firsts, poetry notebook or Book of Centuries, they need to focus, to concentrate on what they are doing.
Not only is concentration a benefit of notebooking but so is choice. The child is to choose what they will sketch into their nature notebook, what poem they will copy into their poetry notebook, what date or artifact they will insert into their Book of Centuries or their Map of Centuries. It is all their choice, their decision. In a world where children are told what to do, when to do it and how to do it, this piece of autonomy in their education can be a breath of fresh air.
These are the two main reasons why I have decided to implement the notebooks: to offer choice and to instill powers of observation and concentration. The key about these two things is that it will not come about in a blink of an eye, rather it will take time as these things come about through the process of doing.