Student Notebooks: It FINALLY Clicks!

Feb 16

Student Notebooks: It FINALLY Clicks!

Today I want share a post from two wonderful homeschool mothers. Last week Quinn and Jenny came to visit with me about helping American Heritage Schoolwith some homeschool related projects. They are relatively new to homeschooling and very eager to learn and help. While they were here, they spent some time walking through a few classrooms and talking with teachers. They were like kids in a candy store; taking pictures, notes, and mentally recording ideas for the one room school houses of their own. Following this visit they went home and put one idea to work, which they blogged about below.

At American Heritage School we are more concerned with impact than anything else. We love to see families incorporate the ideas, tools, and resources we’ve found so enriching and enlightening in education.

Thank you Quinn and Jenny and for your desire to share!

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Recently Jenny and I had the opportunity to tour American Heritage School to learn more about their faith-based education strategies and the distance education programs they are developing. We were able to walk through classrooms, sit in on a bit of teacher lectures and look through some of the students’ binders.
The whole “student binder” concept blew my mind. I know it’s a relatively simple idea and I almost feel silly now to think that I didn’t think of it on my own before, but I’m SOOOOOO grateful to have seen how American Heritage does their student binders because it completely inspired me and our homeschool will NEVER be the same.


Prior to implementing binders, my visionary, chaotic nature was ruling our roost. Anything we worked on during homeschool time was set in piles in various spots in our house because I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. Art was especially problematic because I LOVE encouraging my children to do art, so we have a LOT of their artwork that gets piled around the house, too.

Another primary issue is that because of this hectic style of homeschooling I was constantly feeling like our homeschooling wasn’t as effective as it could be. My kids were definitely learning, but our motivation waxed and waned too irregularly for us to create much predictability. I’ve heard of many homeschool moms say that there’s a time when your homeschooling feels wild but then it finally clicks and you find your groove.

Homeschool binders helped me find our groove. This one simple thing has impacted our household dramatically! My kids are excited for homeschooling each day and eagerly show off their binders to anyone who will sit with them long enough to see them (they’ve showed each other their binders multiple times, going through them page by page… so sweet!).
The concept behind the binders is that having children record what they’re learning will assist them in retaining the information, as well as seeing their progress. The binders are divided by tabs for each subject we’re studying. I probably should have gone with the packages of 8 tabs, rather than 5, but we’re making the 5 sections work just fine. Each of my children have all of the same 5 tabs: Writing, Math, Science, History and Art.

My children are all different ages and at different levels, so some of their work differs, but overall I teach these 4 subjects in a core format, spending individual time with each child as needed so they can learn the concepts they’re seeking. So far this has worked really well for us. For example, for math, each child works on a similar project, but at a different level (Tate works on subtraction, Claire works on addition and Norah works on counting).

I’ve used heavy cardstock to make dividers under some of the tabs. For example, under “Writing” we have 2 dividers for “Copywork” and “Stories” so their work can be organized. I’m going to do the same with Science, having dividers for each section of Science that we’re studying (we’re finishing up our Zoology learning today and Monday and will be moving on to Astronomy).

As a quick sidenote, I use the American Heritage Kindergarten Science Curriculum and have LOVED it so much because every lesson shows God’s hand in science. They have also done a great job at taking concepts that are big and making them very digestible. My kids LOVE Science because of this.

Now our homeschool time is much more easily structured. My kids love completing an assignment and then being able to put it in their binder. I can see how these binders are going to be treasures for each child every year.
Where is the evidence of my elementary education? In a cardboard box stuffed in a closet somewhere at my parents’ house. I assumed my childrens’ work would be kept “safely” the same way, but am thrilled about using binders. Now all of their artwork and projects can be kept in one easy-to-access place.

Best of all, each day feels like we’re actually progressing in our learning. I can easily see and measure where we’re at. I can use various curriculums as desired for each subject. I can supplement each subject with activities and worksheets that I like from anywhere and it all fits together and makes sense in their binders.

Hallelujah. I’ve been enthusiastic and committed about homeschooling, but now it has finally clicked that I CAN do this! At last I feel fully confident that I can provide an incredible education for my children. Woot! Woot!
It reminds me of this scripture, “…by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise” (Alma 37:6).
This small and simple concept of homeschool binders has brought about a great transformation in our family’s learning and I will be forever grateful for American Heritage School for the idea!

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