Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Notebooking

I meant this comment to be in response to one of our comments below, but I wrote too much so I'm placing it here. I hope it is useful to you.

The notebooks are an extremely valuable part of the PA method. In fact, I wouldn't hesitate to say they are at the very heart of what we do. Notebooking is not just something we have our boys do--we also use the method in our personal studies.

I used the method while working on my Master's degree at a local Christian University. Although the University is a Christian university and the faculty and administration honor God in what they do with their students, they are not unusual in the fact that they do not practice the Principle Approach. In the beginning of my program I received many amused comments when I walked in with my binder and hole puncher. I chuckled with them, and simply told them that I used these tools because of my own inadequacies. I do lose things if they are not attached in a binder. That's just how I am. The most amusing thing was to watch them watching me. As the course of study began, I would listen to the professor and read the course syllabus to determine how to set up my dividers. I would quietly go about setting up my notebook as I listened to the course introduction. Then my notebook was my tool throughout all my studies. I chose key words from the courses to define and research in key word studies--outside of the professor's assignments. I asked questions. Lots of questions. In fact, my advisor once told me that professors had been discussing me--warning one another about me. They would tell each other that I was really nice if they just gave me time--'she simply asks a lot of questions; don't be intimidated.' That really struck me as funny. If you know me personally, I'm really soft spoken and I love people. I never dreamed the word intimidating and Michelle Heidemann would be used in the same sentence!

What happened next was really interesting. I was very successful in my work at the University. In fact, my thesis was even published on a secular educational research engine even though it was about Biblical reasoning in learning. About halfway through my course of study people started to ask me if they could borrow my hole puncher. I noticed that they had binders of their own, and they weren't laughing anymore (they didn't bring hole punchers though. I think they knew they could use mine). [I was also a homeschool parent with an education background taking classes with Christian public school educators. They, in the beginning, felt I was a bit of a 'traitor'.]

I share that story because I took the method into a situation that wasn't set up for it and used it anyway--kind of like Daniel in Babylon (although this is a wonderful university and was very flexible in allowing my to tailor my degree toward my own needs, and I met some wonderfully Godly people and challenging professors). Doing this made all the difference in my success.
It is important to not be rigid in your selection of dividers. The 4 Rs (research, reason, relate, record)do need to be utilized for successful learning; however, it isn't necessary to call your dividers that unless it works well for you and/or your children (find what works best for your children; it may not be what works for you). I will give you our dividers for the year if you promise not to be rigid with them either. Just use them as an example.

History:1.Foundations2.Timeline3.Key Individuals4.Key Events5.Key Documents6.Research (includes notes)7.Quizzes

English:1.Foundations2.Orthography3.Grammar4.Composition5.Speech (Elocution)6.Syntax
Literature:1.Foundations2.Bible as Reader (BAR)3.Poetry4.Shakespeare5.Quizzes(then a divider for each major work studied)


Mathematics1.His Story of Mathematics2.Foundations3.Principles (mathematical laws here)4.Notes5.Homework6.Tests

Science1.Foundations2.His story of Physical Science or Meteorology (the boys are taking different branches)3.Experiments4.Study questions5.Tests

Logic1.Foundations2.His Story of Reasoning3.Notes4.Essay5.Tests

Economics1.Foundations2.His Story of Economics3.Notes 4.Homework5.Tests

My teacher notebook:1.Calendar2.Gabe (place for records)3.Michael4.Lesson Plans5.Resources and bibliography...I will probably add more

I have a binder for this course as well:1.Reflections2.Word Studies3.Research4.Ideas for instruction (an application area to what I do with the boys)Then, since I also use if for a couple of other studies I have a couple more dividers in the back for those.

I hope this is helpful. Let me know if you have any questions.


Michelle Heidemann said...

I forgot to mention I also have a divider for overviews in my teaching notebook.

Ashley said...

Hi. I've been meaning to contact you for awhile. I live in the Colorado and I'm wondering if you know of a PA homeschool group in the Denver area. Not sure where you live...but I would LOVE to find some like-minded people families to explore with. Just checking in. Thanks so much!

Michelle Heidemann said...

Hi Ashley...I live south of Denver (between there and Colorado Springs). I do have another friend who is starting to dabble in the Principle Approach. Other than that I have many supportive friends whose children are already grown, but they believe in what my husband and I are doing and they support us in prayer. There aren't that many of us; that's for certain. But I'm hoping that will change. I may be involved in a once a month coop south of Denver. I'm not yet certain, but I'll let you know. I should know something by next week.

Michelle Heidemann said...

If you want to meet just the two of us sometime, maybe we could do that at least.

Eric said...

Michelle, We've just found your blog and I'm soaking it up. We will be starting with our oldest NEXT year in kindergarten. She's just turned 4 1/2, but I'm planning ahead. I have so many questions for you, but I'll refer to your subject matter here.
In this age of technology, is it important for the notebook to be a "hard copy" item or can these things be on computer and handheld devices, etc.? Wasn't sure if it's just how its always been done or if there's a specific reason to have them filed in actual notebooks.

yhwh6640 said...

When writing my own ideas or my definitions in my own words, I would jot down a brainstorm of ideas just to get them down on paper and then organize them. This can get messy. Is the notebook meant to contain all the scribbles and every scrap in the formation of a more eloquent idea, or just the final draft?

Danika said...

Katherine Dang wrote an excellent article in Jim Rose's Guide to CHOC, page 138-143 of the Notebook Methodology. Try to get your hands on this teaching! I taught my children from this teaching on the Notebook Methodology the first day of school. It took us 2 hours of discussion to move through the information, reasoning, and relating the entire time. It set a firm foundation for supporting my "walls," my expectations, and their self-government to be self-learners this year. No one will willing think on their own if things are always done for them. The Notebook Approach challenges the teacher and student to "Be stil, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

Danika said...

Alex - I suggest not keeping all your scribbles, but your final draft. If you keep orderly notes, include those as well. When I first started notebooking, it was difficult for me to know what to discard and what to keep. As you grow in the methodology, you will become more discerning, keeping only the best. "Whatever you do in word or deed, do as unto the Lord...Colossians 3:17 ~ Danika

Michelle Heidemann said...

Computers are great, but I really prefer the ability to handle pages. I'm not saying that notebooking couldn't be done on the computer, but I do think it's important to all children the chance to handle paper and tactile organization. I even had one high school student's mom tell me the process had even helped her son in keeping a more organized room.

The last time I was at Stonebridge (the flagship school in the country for this approach) I learned that they didn't even introduce computer until jr. high for this very reason. They wanted the students to learn to handle the physical organization first. [This could have changed since].

I have really come to value the method myself. It organizes my thoughts as I study. I even used the method in my graduate work.

The notebook method is a key component. Start slowly and build as you go. The curriculum guides help a great deal as well. Trust me--don't discount this portion of the method to be something unimportant.

[Yes, it will also help you with all your little notes. You could establish a divider for those. Then you'll always know where they are.]

We'll be doing a whole portion of study on this for our self-directed study here as well.