S9 E18 | Strengthening Expressive Language Skills through Notebooking Your Homeschool Subjects (Shiela Catanzarite)

S9 E18 | Strengthening Expressive Language Skills through Notebooking Your Homeschool Subjects (Shiela Catanzarite)

Show Notes:

God designed receptive and expressive language to work together in a child’s learning. The child takes in and absorbs ideas and knowledge then gives them forth, expressing them through his own unique voice by choosing and combining words in a way all his own. This is why notebooking is so valuable and essential. It gives opportunity to strengthen expressive language skills which are vital to a child’s growth in every area. In this episode, Shiela explores the benefits of notebooking and how through written and visual narration, a child finds his voice and builds his confidence to grow into and express the unique person God made him to be. She gives practical, creative ideas for notebooking through the homeschool subjects and how this age old methodology can bring joy to your children’s homeschool days. Go to Shiela’s website to request her free pdf that accompanies this podcast.

About Shiela

Shiela Catanzarite is an author, speaker, editor, and communication coach. She's a 20-year Charlotte Mason veteran homeschooler and has worked as Jeannie Fulbright’s editor and designer for 20 years helping develop Jeannie’s award-winning Apologia science curriculum and most recently her Charlotte Mason products published through Jeannie Fulbright Press. Shiela is the author of the newly published Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry and is finishing up her second book in the series Living Verse Language Arts in Scripture, to be released spring 2024.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a master’s degree in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary, Shiela has been teaching language arts in some capacity for 40+ years. Her passion remains helping students understand the elements of language and how to use these elements artfully to communicate effectively. Shiela is currently a language communication coach, working one-on-one with students who have language learning and communication challenges. She also writes curriculum for her private middle and high school English language communication classes that focus on writing and speaking.

Both of Shiela's and her husband Bruce’s daughters attended private universities on scholarship and went on to pursue graduate studies in medicine and global business. She attributes their love for learning and academic achievement to homeschooling with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methodology.


S9 E10 | Homeschooling Out and About


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Show Transcript:

Shiela Catanzarite Welcome to the Charlotte Mason Show, a show that discusses Charlotte Mason's philosophy, principles, and methods. I'm your host, Shiela Catanzarite, author of the newly published Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry, and soon to be published, Living Verse Language Arts in Scripture. I'm so thankful you joined me today, and I pray this episode deeply encourages you as you learn more of Charlotte Mason's life-giving methodologies and how to implement them to bring greater freedom, confidence, and joy to your homeschool days.

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Well, hello! Thank you so much for being here with me today. I am really excited to be with you and talk about a topic that is truly unmatched when it comes to your child's learning, growth, and confidence. And this topic is strengthening expressive language skills through notebooking. But before we start, I want to invite you to my ever growing newsletter community. Every Thursday, I send a newsletter out that focuses solely on Language Arts, and I share ideas, and I share mini lessons that you can apply to your children's Language Arts learning. And I always have a fun vocabulary word of the week and feature a writing from my students who are either using Living Language Arts in Poetry, my curriculum, or one of the students that I teach in person or online. And so the newsletter, it's really fun and I would just love to send it to you. So if you'd like to receive it, go to my website, ShielaCatanzarite.com and scroll down to the bottom of the homepage. There'll be a place where you can leave your email address and it'll put you on my newsletter list. And also, please request one of my free resources. I would love to send one to you. You can go to the resources tab and pick one out and it'll notify me that you've requested that. And then I will email that to you.

Well, Charlotte Mason was big on notebooking and if you are a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, you know that. She believed that the child should record his own ideas and observations from all of his reading and learning in the subjects. She also advocated for narration, and Charlotte Mason tells us, "Narrating is not the work of a parent, but of absorbing into one's self the beautiful thought from the book, making it one's own, and then giving it forth again with just that little touch that comes from one's own mind." Wow, what a beautiful way to understand how God designed receptive and expressive language to work together in a child's learning. The child takes in and absorbs ideas and knowledge and gives them forth, expressing them through his own unique voice by choosing and combining words in a way all his own. And this is what notebooking is really all about: It's narrating in written form and many times in visual form, and it's a unique expression of the child's knowledge that is permanent and becomes a cherished keepsake of a child's growth and learning through the years. And you do not want your children to miss out on this, truly. Your children's notebooks will be the most precious memories of your homeschool years for both you and them. And when they're gone and they come back as adults and look through the notebooks, you will be so thankful that you took time to preserve their learning in their own words. It's truly such a blessing.

Well, there are many, many benefits to the methodology of notebooking and to this superior, actually superior methodology of learning. But I want to focus on specifically how notebooking strengthens a child's expressive language skills. But it starts in the mind with the child's thinking and this is where learning begins. After the child receives knowledge, he has to think about what he's learned and assimilate the ideas before he can put them down on paper. Rather than memorize facts and mechanically choose the right answer, the child has to create and put forth the answer from his own mind. And each time a child narrates his learning, he strengthens his thinking skills. And this is why verbal narration is so critical. But when you add written narration through notebooking, you strengthen the child's writing skills, and there are many types of writing a child can engage with through notebooking and we'll explore some of those in a bit. But I just want to emphasize that every time a child writes, he strengthens the language pathways in his brain. So we want to provide ample opportunities for that growth.

Well, notebooking and provides opportunity for not only verbal and written narration, but also visual narration. When a child creatively illustrates his writing with drawings or paintings, he strengthens his artistic skills, which is so important to a child's development. God designed our children to express themselves in many creative ways, and when we deny them the opportunity through rigorous academic demands, we suppress an important aspect of who God made them to be. And like poetry, art lights up pleasure centers in our brains, and studies show there's a neurochemical exchange in the brain that releases positive emotions when students engage with art. So when your children create visual narrations in their notebook, they experience learning as something enjoyable and exciting. Think about giving your children this gift in every subject. What would that be like? While even math to think that they would enjoy learning and enjoy creating around subjects that sometimes seem boring or challenging or difficult. It would be a gift to give them the joy of notebooking their subjects. And so that's what we're going to talk about — how to do that. Ways to do that.

Well, another really important benefit of notebooking is self-education, and Charlotte Mason tells us, "There is no education but self-education." So with notebooking, the child is authoring his own book of learning. He takes in the ideas, owns them, then puts them forth in his own initiative. He's taking responsibility for his learning and the simple act of putting his learning down in words and preserving the learning in a special place is teaching him to self-educate. Like Charlotte Mason says, "We spread an abundant and delicate feast and each small guest assimilates what he can." Notebooking prompts your child to put forth what he's assimilated through written and visual narration. And as your children notebook through the subjects and through the homeschool years, they're strengthening their expressive language skills. They're finding and establishing their voice. They're building confidence as they offer the gift of language, of their words to others. They're bringing forth into the world the unique person God fashioned them to be. And this is everything. And I've seen this over and over with the students I teach when they begin classes with me, they often don't know what to say or maybe what to write because they are in public school system and they're not really given a lot of freedom of expression, so many times they're not sure what to say or what to write, and not only what to write, but how to write it. And yet the more they express themselves through the assignments and through their notebook and find their voice, the more confident and self-aware they become. And as their expressive language skills strengthen, they're able to communicate more effectively and experience deeper community in and out of class. And it's truly life transforming.

And we can offer this same growth and transformation to our children in our own family community through our homeschool. And so I want to emphasize that learning is not really complete until it's expressed, which is why notebooking each subject is so valuable and so necessary. And there are many creative ways for your children to record their learning through notebooking, and I've created for you a PDF with ideas of notebooking each subject. So if you go to my website, ShielaCatanzarite.com and scroll to the bottom of my home page where you sign up for a newsletter, you'll see a place to receive the PDF just by entering your email address, and then I will send it right out to you. So let's talk about some ideas for notebooking each of our homeschool subjects. And I want to start off by recommending using a large blank journal. Well, depending upon the age of your children — if you're starting with young ones, you can get a smaller journal so it doesn't seem so overwhelming, but I would do a large... And you want your journal to be blank to give your children space to express themselves, and also because many children love to include visual narrations through painting or working with markers or thick colored pencils. You want to make sure that you choose a notebook with thick paper that supports different art mediums, like painting. And so you want to start with a high quality notebook, because you want your children to know that their narrations in writing, in their visual narrations and art are so special, and we want to communicate how important they are by offering high quality notebooks and high quality art tools and writing tools to use, so that's always first. And let your children choose the notebook. A lot of notebooking journals come in different colors and different suppliers, so I would have them choose the color that they like and let them just begin to own their notebook in that way.

So let's start with nature. Well, nature notebooks are very popular in the Charlotte Mason circles. And of course with nature notebooks you can engage in drawing and painting, writing and describing. If you're drawing a picture of... Your child's outside and drawing a picture of a tree or a bug or an animal, you can take the opportunity to have them write a sentence or write a description of what they're seeing using adjectives: if it's a living creature, working on the writing, describing how the creature is crawling or moving. So there are many ways that you can bring in some of the Language Arts and writing, as you're doing written narrations of the plant life and the animal life that you're seeing. Even a simple word for your younger students just handwriting, working on the handwriting and writing it neatly on the notebook page with a simple illustration is a great way to notebook. Also notebooking through the seasons and weather when you're thinking about nature: going out at the beginning of each season, finding one tree and drawing it, and going in the next season and drawing it again, the next season and seeing how it changes. Also the weather — many different things that you can do in the nature notebook. Lots of different ways to notebook your child's learning.

What about science? Again, drawing and painting. Drawing animals, painting animals that you're studying in science, writing and narrating. If you're using a science living textbook, go ahead and have the child read and then narrate verbally what they read, and then put the verbal narration as a written narration. This is a really good way to strengthen language pathways. I do this with my students. I'll have them read something, and then they'll have to verbally narrate back or tell back what they've read. And then I say, "Now put that narration in writing." So you're kind of getting the verbal narration that Charlotte Mason says is so important, and then the written narration, and then you can add the visual narration to even further illustrate the learning. So when you have all three layers of that narration, the learning is really solidified and it's so much fun and so enjoyable. So narrating something they've learned in a book, illustrating and labeling. I remember we did science: we did the Flying Creature — Jeannie Fulbright Science when the girls were young and they had to draw a bird, and then they had to label the different parts like the wing and the beak in the feet and that was the... I remember I think that was the first time they engaged with this idea that, we're drawing it and then we're labeling it. We're putting the pointers and labeling each part. So that's a great thing to add to the science notebook. Experiment data. Your children can include in their notebook charts or graphs, or different types of predictions and hypotheses of what's going to happen — write about that. Also include different scientists that they're studying and the scientist's discoveries. They can do a little short narration on the scientist's life and what they discovered. So those are all great ideas for notebooking science.

How about history? Again, drawing and painting, writing and narrating. Same thing: Write up a paragraph on one of the battles they learned about. If they're reading from a book, have them do the verbal narration and then the written narration on what they read. Timelines are great for history. Different historical people and events, important political leaders who showed up in the time period that you're studying, the events that surrounded that. They can again illustrate the event, they can write about it and the inventions that happened during those time periods of history. So again, your children are going to be reading through their living books with their living ideas, and then they're going to be drawing, maybe painting, writing, doing written narrations, timelines, all different ways that they can creatively illustrate what they've learned from their reading.

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How about Language Arts? Again, drawing — if they're studying a certain book or they're studying literature, a piece of poetry — visually narrating that. Marking. Marking poems and marking passages... Such an important part of learning Language Arts. You can do that in the notebook. Writing. Again, writing about what they've read. Narrating. They could also include in the Language Arts notebook book lists: books that they've read, and they can write reviews about those. Vocabulary and definitions, words they're learning, and even story arcs for the narratives that they're reading. Those are fun to include in the Language Arts notebook. How about geography? Again, drawing and painting and writing and narrating. Maps and landforms — They can draw those in the notebook. They can study different important landmarks in different countries and cities, and they can draw those and do a written narration about the history of it. Flags and symbols are great things to include in geography notebook to make it colorful — flags from different states or flags from different countries. So those are all great things to include in the geography notebook. What about an art notebook? Of course drawing and painting again, writing about different artists, reading an art book, art appreciation, the history of an artist and doing a narration on that. You can add in there different color wheels. You can also do history and timelines — the history of different art mediums, like during the time in Paris when they started with the Impressionists and who the people were that started the type of art and where they did their art and the timeline. Lots of ideas for that.

How about handwriting? Well, you can have a separate notebook for handwriting where you do copy work, dictation, transcription. You can include in it print and cursive, and I also recommend calligraphy for older students if they're interested in that. That's a type of handwriting, and it's kind of a lost art, but would be fun to include in your handwriting notebook as they got older. How about a spelling notebook? This is important. Again, drawing and painting, copying spelling words, then writing them. Marking them — there's different ways that you can mark for spelling with the long vowels and the short vowels. Defining the different spelling rules. So spelling notebook is so important. When you're doing the notebooking, you don't want to always be correcting and erasing everything in the notebook. When the child is involved in creating and writing, you don't want to stop in the middle and make a correction. It's a good idea to go ahead and let them finish the creative writing. Then maybe go back and look at a word and point out, "Let's see if we can learn to spell this one correctly." And then you would take the word and you would take it and put it in the spelling notebook. And that's where you would work on seeing the word correctly, looking at it, spelling it out loud, copying a visual correct spelling of it, then covering that word and having them write from memory, marking the word, defining whatever the spelling rule is, then going back to the notebooking journal and having the child correct the spelling once you're certain that he has learned the correct spelling by memory. So that's a good way to do the spelling.

How about Bible? Again, drawing and painting, and writing and narrating. Add memory verses that you can write down and memorize in your Bible journal. Again, maps and timelines of when different people lived and of course the important people in the Bible and events. Math. Math notebook is fun. You can illustrate and label. There are lots of different ways. When I was looking on Pinterest, there's so many fun math notebook page examples. You can go and look at it, but they're very colorful and interesting. Again, you can write and narrate. You can write about what the math concept is. Have your children write out in words what they're learning, different graphs they can create and charts, number lines, anything having to do with what they're learning in math. Charlotte Mason recommended using graph paper, which is a great idea for all of their calculations. Book of mottoes is something interesting that Charlotte Mason really believed in, and it's actually also called a commonplace. And my students, my high school students keep a commonplace. I bought them these really beautiful books, and I actually bought for them dried flower stickers and beautiful papers and different colored pens. And a lot of times the book of mottoes is just different types of collections of quotes and excerpts from books and things that you've read, and so you can keep your book of mottoes to collect and gather thoughts and ideas from reading across all the subjects. But I use mine as a way for creative expression, because my students are in public school and they have very little opportunity for creative expression. And it was really interesting: Last night they came in, my 10th graders came in, and one of the students said, "I got three hours of sleep. It's been so stressful." Because they're going into finals and their AP exams and she was really exhausted. And we were working on some writing and at the end, I told them, "We're going to work in our commonplace book." I try and do it once a month just to keep it special. And I get all the art stuff out and it's more... It is a bit of a scrapbook for them, and I just allow them to choose whatever they want — a quote, a lyric to a song, anything — and it was so much fun. By the end, she was laughing. You could just see that she had relaxed so much because she had the opportunity to creatively express her learning and express herself.

And so the book of mottoes can be strictly just words. But I know when our girls did their commonplacing, they would usually decorate the page and sometimes we would paint. They would do the copy work, of course, copying in the handwriting. They would embellish the handwriting in different ways and make it interesting and beautiful. And you can also include the person. You can include important people. If you have a quote about an important character from history, you can do a visual narration. Sometimes our girls, when they were younger, we would trace. I had tracing paper, and we would trace people when they were young and didn't quite know how to draw people realistically, they would trace. And then they would color that in with colored pencils and we would glue it into their notebooks. So that was a good way for them to create something really beautiful when they were a little bit younger. And so in the book of mottoes, you can include the people and maybe talk about, what were the circumstances as to why that person said this. So there are many different ways that you can make the book of mottoes really beautiful. Of course, the words that you're going to copy in them will be meaningful, but you can decorate the page and you can make it artistic with stickers and with dried flowers and different things — I think I bought them — and put them out on the table and let them choose. And I didn't tell them, you know, they get to choose what they put into their book of mottoes. One of my students, he loves to write and he's created his own mottos. His book of mottoes is all his own work, all his own quotes, which I think is really unique to him and I'm just proud of him for doing it that way.

So these are just some ideas, things that you can include. I really recommend that you have your children notebook every single subject that you do. Some people like to have one notebook for the year and do all the subjects in the notebook, which is one way to do it. I definitely can see the value of that, but I think if you have a different notebook for each subject, then you can keep adding to it through the years. You can keep adding to your timelines, and you can kind of see how the knowledge builds. But the important thing is that your child is authoring his own book of learning, and this is what makes notebooking so special. Your children are taking in all of this beautiful, wonderful curriculum, all these wonderful living books that you've agonized over and spent hours pouring over at the conventions and on the Christian Book and the websites. So you've spent so much time as a homeschool parent, finding the very best living books with the best living ideas for your children to take in. And they're going to receive all that through this receptive language that God has given. They're going to receive all of this learning, but equally, they need the opportunity to express it. Their learning is not complete if they only receive it passively. They have to have the opportunity to think about it and assimilate it and pour over it and come up with concepts and then take all of the words that they know and assemble the words in a way that creates their own unique voice that they can express their learning in. And when you layer the written narration and all the writing with the visual narration, the learning is so much deeper, and then you attach the enjoyment of what the neuroscience tells us that art and visual narration brings to the child. You bring that into the writing, and then the child associate writing with joy, and then the child is fully expressing all of who God made them to be.

And if you get high quality books and you have notebooks, you truly don't need much more than that. I recommend my podcast on homeschooling out and about. I was thinking about this: when you add hands on learning and you do out and about learning, and you add in the notebooking and all the living books and ideas — that is all that you need for a rich homeschool education, truly. When you allow your children the freedom to learn from people out and about in the community, when they have the opportunity to be out with hands on learning, having interesting experiences and travels, and then you take everything they've learned and experience, and you allow them to express it through writing and through drawing and through painting, and to preserve them in these notebooks that they just continue to create throughout their homeschool learning, it is an education that is unmatched. There's nothing that you would be able to ever offer them that would be more fulfilling and more enriching than that.

And so I encourage you, if you only notebook just nature, think about how you might be able to pull in the other subjects. Consider how you might create a math notebook. Consider how you might be able to create a geography notebook. And please get my PDF and look at the different ideas and think about your homeschool and plan for your notebooking. At the beginning of the week, think about, okay, this is what we can put in our science notebook this week. There's so many ideas, and I know you probably can think of way more than what I put here, but I hope that you will really give this a lot of thought. And again, our children were created by God in such unique and special ways, and when we give them the opportunity to express themselves, we help them develop their voice. And when they develop their voice, they become confident to share themselves with the world. And we want our children to leave our home confident in who God made them to be. We want them to know who they are. We want them to have developed their voice and have the ability to articulate their ideas and their heart and their thoughts. And if we give them the opportunity through the verbal narration and through the written and the visual narration through notebooking, the combination of those three things, our children would leave our home ready for all that God has for them. They will look back at a fun homeschool life where they went on many adventures and where they took the opportunity to be self-educators and preserve their learning in beautiful books that they designed and they wrote that they can cherish forever. Well, I hope you have been inspired with some ideas of notebooking through the different subjects. And thank you so much again for being with me today, and I look forward to being with you next time. Have a blessed week.

Thank you for tuning in to the Charlotte Mason Show. If you want to learn more about Charlotte Mason and discover a beautiful Language Arts curriculum that uses her methodologies, go to my website at ShielaCatanzarite.com. There you can find my new blog where I discuss Charlotte Mason's principles for Language Arts, and how to implement her philosophy in your homeschool. Please enjoy my free resource on how to mark a poem. Simply provide your email address and I'll send you the free PDF that teaches a simple, hands-on, Charlotte-Mason-inspired way to bring poetry into your homeschool. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. And while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom to let us know what you thought of today's episode.

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