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Top Five!


Making Books with Children

Are you looking for new ways to make learning flow?
Want something tangible to show for your Homeschool Journey?
Making Books with Children may provide some ideas that will help you!!

Click here for pictures of our journals and book making projects.

Click here for ideas for Teens making books & How to Use Whatever Happened to Penny Candy notebook ideas!!

     This month I am going to share with you some fun, educational ideas to bring your learning all together in a neat package.  For years I have talked about doing journals, notebooks, books etc with your children.  This month I am going to share more on those ideas.

     For those who have never done a notebook or journal with your child, let me explain.  Notebooks and journals are just wonderful places to house all the "stuff" you learn about.  If you make a map of the Civil War battlefields and then write a story about one of the battles you can put these items into a notebook (and even in clear plastic page protectors inside the notebook) for neat keeping.  You can add to your notebooks throughout your study and at the end of your study you might have quite a compilation of written work, maps, drawings, collages, little "homemade manipulatives" that Dinah Zike shows how to use, etc on a variety of subject areas - yet all within your main theme of study.

     This is very similar to putting together a portfolio.  Some school districts require this.  It is just a way of tracking visually what your child has learned.  Notebooks are really quite impressive when finished because they show a cumulation of vast study on one subject.

    So why do a notebook, book, journal etc?  I stumbled upon this concept about 10 years ago.  I purchased Valerie Bendt's 'Creating Books with Children'.  We happened to be studying the Pilgrims, Indians and the First Thanksgiving.  I had my oldest son (then 6 or 7 years old) tell me back the story of the Pilgrims.  We had read many books on the subject, so Robbie's narration was a wonderful usage of rich vocabulary.   Using Valerie's book, we put together a 'real looking book'.  Robbie colored and drew pictures to go with his story line.  I typed the story line he narrated into nice pieces for each page.  The finished product is a treasure to me today.   Since that time we have done notebooks - both the three ring binders and the spiral bound art type books, journals and so many other neat things.  One year using Bendt's 'Creating Books with Children' and some other ideas, we put together a book on Geology that was loaded with pop-ups that the boys designed.    It's been fun and those books are something I can't part with.  I've parted with many homeschool items through the years.  But not those!

     Sometimes we get stuck doing "work sheets" or "workbooks" or the "Questions" at the end of a chapter.  And sometimes even our children just want to 'know what to do so they can hurry up and finish it up and run outside for playtime'.  However,  studies really do show that that type of learning does not stay with a child.  The more senses a child uses to learn the better retention.   At the end of your study, you shouldn't feel like "whew that's done what's next to conquer".  Instead we should look back and feel good about what we've done and the great fun we've had with our kids.  We should also look forward to all the new fields of knowledge that we can choose from in the future.    There is not one workbook that I have saved from our oldest son's homeschool experience.  He doesn't really care about them and I surely don't!  But those notebooks and books - well, they are treasures of the times we've spent together.  It's fun for us to go back and re-enjoy them now with his younger brothers.

     About the time that I found Valerie Bendt's books, I also discovered Dinah Zike and her "Big Book of Books".  That was like a gold mine of neat ideas.  There were hands on manipulatives that I could quickly put together for all types of learning experiences.  Those ideas were just springboards for more ideas that came to me.  I remember when we started our "Backyard Field Guide".  It was such fun.  We'd draw flowers or birds or cut them out of old magazines or unwanted books.  It seems the more we explored and studied the more ideas we came up with to keep them together.  I realized that I couldn't make a "real looking book" with every study because they were alittle time intensive.  But, I knew I could take all those good ideas and put them in a notebook or other portfolio type collective place.  And that is what we did.  Oh, not with every study.  Like all homeschool families we'd get bogged down and off the beaten path and need to come back to old tried and true "that works" system of creating some sort of book or notebook to house our learning adventures.

     Through the years, nothing has worked as well, nor been as fun as creating some sort of book with my children.  I've tried other things from time to time.  Always, I come back to this.  And I come back because this is the method that gets my children the most involved in thier own learning.  Let me illustrate with our current theme of study.    Right now we have dived into a wonderful study of the ocean world.  We've read some wonderful books on whales, whale biologists, dolphins, sharks, coral reefs, ocean life cycles, water cycle, tides and tide pools, and so much more.  From those books we have created many hands on learning manipulatives and written work.  Using Dinah Zike's Big Book of Books and Big Book of Projects we have made little "booklets", lift the lap booklets, match books, dial books, question & answer books etc.  We have done some written work, created ocean scenes, graphed the water of the oceans to see which is the biggest, organized the sizes of Whales into a flip up book, made a vocabulary tab type book and a myriad of other things.  We store these in Zip Lock bags to put into a notebook or other like book at the end of our study.   On our recent trip to Cape Cod we were able to go on a Whale Watch with a marine biologist.  He generously shared his time with us and really educated us on things you learn best when you can see first hand and touch.  We've created little booklets and manipulatives from our trip that are becoming part of our "end of study" book.

     Every day we work on some new aspect of the ocean. Some days we spend more time than others.  Some days I read more than others.  But each day we do something.  The boys have retained more information from this study than I even expected.  I believe that this is because they are physically drawing, writing, creating, cutting, pasting, making everything they learn into something tangible in some way.  They've measured the house over and over and compared it to the whales length.  Learning in this way has helped them to make the information they've gleaned their very own.

     I am sure you wondering how you have time to do all this.  It is a time commitment.  However, we don't always do a lot of hands on "stuff" with every single study or even every single day and some times we work on the same manipulative for days on end.  We do more some days and some studies than others.  And we don't do this with every thing we are studying at the same time.  For instance, while the boys are enjoying putting all this Ocean Information into tangible manipulatives, we are also reading through a great older book on the founding of America and it's Liberty.  I don't expect the boys to do a lot of hands on "stuff" with the history - we read this in the evening with the whole family just before worship time and discuss it.

     Creating these books with your children is a gift of your time.  There may be periods in your life that you just don't have time to do a lot.  I understand this only too well.  But during those times - just do less.  Also, making books, is not an extracurricular activity.  This becomes your curriculum.  The final product is your "portfolio".  It is the culmination of everything learned put into a wonderful visual aid.   You can't look at this as something you try to stuff in "after the school work is done".  This has to be the school work.  Honestly, it is the best school work.  Your child will get into this much better than rote workbooks.  He will really prize his work. Oh, maybe not at first.  But stick with it.  The final product will really be something he will treasure when the study is done.  And it really is something to be proud of.   Working hands on in this way your child will learn sequencing, communication skills, writing, vocabulary, phonics, reading, spelling, researching, math, social studies, science and real life skills that will be needed in future years.  Basically he will be learning how to learn.  With this basic concept he can learn anything!

     So how do we do all this.  Well, lest you think we live in a big home where there is a lot of room for projects, let me assure you we live in a smaller home than most people do.  We're trying to remedy that, but needless to say we've never had a lot of space.  I found at the Family dollar for $4 each a draw type plastic filing system.  You can stack them on top of each other. These drawers can house all the different types of colored paper, card stock paper and the ziplock gallon size bags to fill with your children's ongoing work.  The other drawers can house glue, stickers, stencils, scissors, pens, pencils, magazines and old unwanted books that can be cut up for illustrations for your study and more.  This takes up just a little space and because they stack your child will have a place to put everything neatly and organized.  I like a neat home yet I realize that my children need access to materials to create with - this has solved that problem.

     You can purchase colored paper at Office Max or other like businesses.  It may seem that you are spending a bit to get started.  However  $100 worth of 15 or so reams of paper will last forever.  You can work off those reams for year or two or more.  If you have family members that ask what to get you for homeschool or gifts, tell them you want:
Colored reams of paper
Card Stock paper (in many colors)
Large File Folders
Art supplies (colored pens, pencils and markers, tape, glue ect)
Old nature type magazines and like books that can be cut up

     My mother is always wanting to help us with our homeschool supplies.  This is something that she can pick up easily.  Just don't get construction paper.  I've never found it to be user friendly. It tears easily and fades quickly too.  Use paper from an office supply store or walmart that you can buy in reams.  At Office Max, I found one ream that had 8 different colors in it.  That was a great situation because then we could really spice up our manipulatives with many colors of paper without having to buy large reams of each individual color.

     Through the years, I've also used stickers, scrapbooking cut outs and papers and so much more.  I just pick things up when I see them on sale and keep them for future use if not needed right away.  I've also found post cards to be a real asset to making books.

     If you've wondered what to do with all the neat little manipulatives and mini books and projects you've made either on your own or with Dinah Zike's Great Science Adventures books, you can put them into notebooks or other types of books.  Recently, I came across a brand new book by Tammy Duby.  Tammy and her husband run Tobins Lab.  Her new book called "The Ultimate Lap Book Handbook . . .Plus other books to make with children" is very similar to books we have completed over the years.  I am always looking for new ideas and ways to do books.  Tammy has coined the term "Lap Book".  She takes a large colored file folder and folds it a funny way and this becomes a book that she glues all her manipulatives in.

    There is no end to the ways you can create books - they can be simple or complex.  They can be made with heavy card stock paper, file folders, notebooks, spiral art notebooks, journals or make a "real" book with Bendt's 'Creating books with Children'.   Your final product will be a fantastic book that will not only house all the "stuff"  you've created and learned together, but it is a memory of those times you've spent with your child.  And, if the School Supervisor wants to see what you are learning - who can refute such a product as a 'book' full of content and rich in learning real life and real stuff?

    Mom (and dad) take time and really consider where you are going with your homeschool.  Consider if 10 years from now what you are doing will have any impact or meaning for you or your children.  If you are in a rut and are stuck in the textbook/workbook mode, can I urge you to take some time and really consider and pray about doing something more meaningful with your child?  You know, it will seem you just aren't zooming through the material that a text book may contain. Don't worry about that.  For each book, notebook, lap book or whatever you put together with your child, there is a wealth of knowledge gleaned and stored and treasured.  However, how much of each workbook is really remembered after it is completed?  Very little!

     I used to say, "I just don't have time".  The Lord really worked on my heart to show me that I have time for everything else that wedges it's way into my life.  However, it is easy to say to our children "Not now" or "I don't have the time".  Why do we do that to our families?  My oldest son is just about done with his homeschool journey.  It was just yesterday we were curled up on the couch reading book after book and making viking ships, collecting leaves, tramping through the woods, cooking meals, making bread etc.  The home sure got messy through our many educational travels together.  But I wouldn't trade a minute of it for any other way of homeschooling.  God asked me to homeschool my children. He hasn't asked me to be the coordinator of the church's next great seminar.  God has placed these children in my hands for just a few (very few) short years to teach and enjoy.  Enjoy your children, parents.  Whatever is keeping you from the most whole hearted commitment to your children needs to be cut off.  Take time to work with your kids. Enjoy them. Love them. Create with them.  You have these years stretched before you to learn so many things, please don't allow any curriculum publisher, friend, homeschool group, or family member to intimidate you into using stressful materials.  Teach your children how to learn and how to express what they are learning and when they are gone from the shelter of your wings - they will know how to learn and how to share what they have learned.

     Thanks for listening.  This is good advice for me too!!

Still Looking for more specifics?
The following is from our November 2003 Newsletter Article:

Journals & Notebooks & Books Revisited   

 This month I have gotten a few emails asking more specifics on making books and journals with children.  Some wonder how and if to do it with older kids. Others aren't sure how to do it with younger kids.  And a few are concerned that they don't have the artistic talent to put a book together.   I thought I would address some these fears.
     Honestly you do not have to have a college degree in art to put a notebook together.  It is true someone with a natural flare for art will dress up their "school" work without any effort.  However, notebooks aren't for that purpose - though they can be.  Notebooks and book making are just places to house the work you have completed.  For instance, you might write about the Declaration of Independence and then around the written work you might dress it up with small pictures of the men who signed it.  Wondering where to get those pictures?  You can use books, post cards or whatever you have available.  Older books that you don't want may hold many great pictures that can be used to make your notebooks come alive.  I've learned to recycle older books or books that are falling apart.  I tear out pages of things I can use and throw away the rest.  You can also use magazines and the Dover coloring books.  I've used the copier even to make one copy of something out of a book for our notebook.
     If you want ideas for making journals and books, get your hands on books about making books.  There are several that you will find in your library.  Many will be too intricate and time consuming for homeschool purposes - but you will get ideas.  Put your hands on books that help you make books too.  I mentioned several last month: Dinah Zike's books, Valerie Bendt's book and others.  I forgot to mention Barb Shelton's book "My booklet building Book".  Actually this is a great book - because all you have to do is make copies of the pages (and as many as you like) to make your own books on many different themes.  This is wonderful for use with young children ages 3 or 4 to 10.   This book will get your started and before you know it you'll have your feet completely wet and you'll come up with many of your own wonderful ideas.
     Whatever you do, just enjoy it.  Don't try to be so crafty you have to stay up til midnight each night making your masterpiece.  Notebooks and books are just great places to house what you are learning.  And learning should be fun.

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