Memory Work Notebooks

We started weekly memory notebooks this year for some of my boys. Not because I needed one more thing to do, but for a whole host of small reasons that added up to one solid good reason. Anytime you are tempted to add something to your homeschool life, its important to ask yourself what purpose it will serve. I had to stop and ask, “will a memory notebook serve our learning this year? For us the answer was a resounding yes. This memory notebook serves a purpose.

A few of our reasons…

  1. My eldest is in Challenge A this year and I am his Director. This means the odds of my slipping further and further out of the loop with my younger kids memory work will likely go up each week unless I am resolved to attend to what they are learning.
  2. My second born is, for the first time in his homeschool career, not with his older brother. Not only are they physically separated, but they are no longer learning the same exact material. Following this separation is the fact that its my second born son’s THIRD time through Cycle 3. The temptation to zone out will be high unless he is challenged.
  3. My kids love being in charge of their own notebooks. They don’t like WORKBOOKS full of blanks spaces to fill. They like BLANK notebooks that wait for them with wide open spaces full of possibility. Notebooks are a great way for them to have some ownership over their memory work and the sparks they chase on any given week. It gives them the chance to demonstrate what they have learned.
  4. For years we have been enjoying The Friday Exam. Its one of the highlights of our week. But storing all that butcher paper and filing away photos has gotten a wee bit tedious. The kids are growing up and I needed a way to show individual progress.

A memory notebook serves every one of these issues/needs. It helps keep me accountable and attentive, it provides an extra challenge and outlet for my second born son, it is something my children enjoy doing and it serves as an excellent record of our time together and a natural step up from The Friday exam butcher paper. I am not necessarily adding a new thing, I am revitalizing something we already do to better serve our needs.

This is not something I would do with really young children. This is not something that needs to be gussied up or overly complicated. This is not a hill I would want to die on if my kids were dead set against it. (I have to say that from the outset after what happened with my morning menu idea. The morning menu served very practical purposes in our home but it exploded into something way more complicated than it was intended to be, which is fine for those who love a little fabulous complication at the breakfast table, but thats not how we use our menus).

I would never do this if it needed to be fancy or complicated or something that my kids fought against. No thanks. Like I said, who needs ONE MORE THING?

HOW WE USE THEM

Once a week my two middle boys (aged 9 and 11) pull out their memory notebooks. We open to a fresh page and start recording what we learned this week. First entries are our Foundations Memory work, followed by bits and pieces of our Essentials work. Then we fill in with poems, songs, nature study, anything we learned this week that was especially meaningful to them.

It should be noted that this is not a foreign concept for them. We’ve been using a closing board for a long time now and Friday Exam has been the work of years. They are used to having a discussion at the end of each day where they recall their favorite things from the day. Its a familiar exercise. If this is not something your children are used to then it might take them awhile to go through the process of recalling things they loved throughout the week.

Not everything they write down is serious and scholarly. Sometimes they record field trips, favorite meals or even a good joke. I’m ok with that. I love that RELATIONSHIP is a big part of our home education. If our walk to the pond finds space next to Wordsworth’s Daffodils poem, you won’t hear me complaining.

My youngest son is 7 years old and has special needs. We keep our memory notebook together. He basically has his own mini Friday exam notebook that he can draw in when he wants to or stand beside me and recite what he wants recorded on the days when he needs that extra help. We keep it fun for him and slowly introduce the skill of notebook keeping in stages.

MATERIALS

Find a quality notebook that serves your purpose. I hunted high and low for just the right ones for our family. There are 24 pages (One for each week of a CC Cycle!) and they measure 10 x 12. Paper weight is like card stock. Its spiral bound so it can lay flat while you are working on it. The “Soft cover” is very thick and sturdy (not bendy).

Determine what supplies are appropriate for use in the notebook you chose. If your notebook is not weighted for watercolors, make sure your children know not to use watercolors. Ditto on the marker situation. I provide sharpened colored pencils, drawing pencils, crayons and rulers. It may sound silly, but you need to give your kids a tour of their new notebook and what it can handle and what it can’t to avoid the heartbreak of soggy pages or bleed through.

Some children may want to copy and paste things into their notebook. Pictures from a nature walk or copies of poems from a book. Be prepared to facilitate those requests for them! Teach them to use the copy machine or be ready to make copies for them. Do they have access to scissors? glue? washi tape? Make room for their creativity, especially if that creativity follows the boundaries you set down. (hint: SAY YES!) If you are wanting this to be a chance for more independence or ownership, then give them access to the tools they need to accomplish the goal.

Presence. Be present. Be ready to sit beside them and have conversations. This is a rich opportunity to make connections between areas of learning, to see what your kids are connecting with and to simply enjoy being with them. As much as possible, make their individual notebooks an endeavor achieved within community.

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