Lapbook planning tips

My children loved doing lapbooks and  we quickly figured out some practical tips to prevent overwhelm and to maximise our studies with other activities.  Here are some of my tried-&-tested practical lapbook planning tips ~

Often when printing out and cutting out the lapbook minibooks for your new lapbook , you will have heaps of booklets, papers, cutouts which may cause you and your children to feel overwhelmed. 

Print out the table of contents or index with every download and file this with the lapbook instructions.  If your lapbook printout doesn’t have an index, draw up a list of each minibook theme, or the topics or chapters covered in each minibook of the lapbook study along with a short description of each activity.  You can download my free lapbook planner below.

Whether you download a lapbook or make one for yourself, it helps to print out the lapbook planner or index page so that you have a birds’ eye view of your core topics, sub-topics, minibooks, relevant websites, videos, songs, recipes, hands-on activities and any other downloads as well as the time you plan for each minibook or topic.  Here  is  the  index  I used for my planning my Ancient Egypt Lapbook.  (You  can freely download  the Ancient Egypt Lapbook)

Here is my Pearl Harbour lapbook organiser  which outlined additional websites and sources used:

For more complex subject such as World Wars, it helps to draw up basic vertical timeline and mark the dates for all the most important events.  This helps to follow the course of events chronologically as well as plan the lapbook layout.

We always pasted all the minibooks into the lapbook before we started so that we did not waste time searching through a packet of minibooks to find the relevant one for the day.  You can read all about this in my post Time-saving tips for doing lapbooks. I must add here that my children often pasted their minibooks where they felt it best fitted and not strictly according to the suggested layout and it never was a problem.

We duct-taped along the spine of the lapbook and punched holes in the duct tape so that they were on hand in our files or ring binders.  (Read how we assemble and duct tape our Aesop lapbooks here.)

We stored each child’s completed lapbooks together in a file folder as seen in the photo below.  (Read all about how we stored our lapbooks and notebook pages here.)

Here is my lapbook planner page  free download (available in .docs or  .pdf versions) to use for your planning ~ Lapbook Planner or Organiser (MS Word.docs) or  Lapbook Planner or Organiser (pdf)

My children loved doing hands-on activities so I always extended our planned lapbook time to provide a wide margin for the spontaneous learning activities or additional enrichment.

Please do not ever rush to finish anything!  Take your time and aim to include the “extra” additional studies and hands-on activities!  These will bring your lapbook study to life!

Blessings, Nadene

How do I fit lapbooks into our day?

A reader recently asked me ~

I love the idea of doing lapbooks, but I just don’t know who to fit them into our day.  Can you please share some practical ways we can include lapbooks in our homeschooling?

Let me first quickly explain what a lapbook is ~  A lapbook is usually a folder containing a collection a number of little folded booklets called minibooks all focused around a theme/ topic/ book/ or project.

What I love about lapbooks is that all the little minibooks are little mini-lessons!   Each minibook covers its own topic, which essentially is a stand-alone narration or lesson.    So simply, your children write (or dictate) their narration for the specific topic in the specific minibook and you’ve done your lapbook lesson for that day.

Another reason my kids love lapbooks is that the minibooks are small!  Children don’t feel intimidated facing a large, blank notebook page which they felt they had to fill with lines and lines of information.  Instead, the small booklet seems as if they just need to note a few details and they start writing without too much stress.  Surprisingly, these little booklets can hold a lot of information!  I usually ask for 5 full sentences with at least 8 facts.  Even young children following a Charlotte Mason approach can easily recall these facts and easily fill a minibook.

Many minibooks have an illustration or image on the front of the booklet.  This helps children remember the facts of the topic, so they feel more confident.

Lapbooks mean that your project/ theme or topic is already prepared.  All the minibooks are all the little lessons, and the lapbook planner helps you keep track of the lessons.  I’m very practical and developed a wonderful time-saving tip in organizing all these little booklets before starting the lapbook ~ We print, cut, fold and paste all the minibooks in the file folder and everything is ready, on hand when we do our lapbook.  This is a huge help because kids don’t have to first cut and fold, or sort through a bag of booklets searching for the correct minibook before settling down to write.  They simply open their folder and browse for the relevant minibook, open it and start writing.

Some moms mentioned that their children were afraid of making mistakes in a minibook already pasted in the folder.  I recommend children first write out their narrations in rough draft, or copy a dictated narration, or trace over a penciled narration.  At worse, you can always paste a new page over a spoilt minibook.

We normally only do one lapbook at a time for one subject, but sometimes we have 2 running, one for History and maybe one for a Science theme or Bible project.  Start with your first lapbook on its own and gradually add other activities once you and your children get used to the schedule.

My older children loved to combine minibooks with notebook pages instead of using the file folders.  This works just as well and is simple to prepare – I created notebook pages with the lapbook theme as a header and left space for the minibook.  the rest of the page was lined or blank, as needed.

So what does each day look like and how do we fit in our lapbook lesson?  

Our school days are fairly short – just a few hours per day.  Here’s an example of our schedule for our 3 children – a junior primary, middle schooler and junior high child, covering the same core.

  • Bible time together = about 10 mins
  • Seat work or 3R’s = each does Maths, Spelling, Handwriting and Reading = about 15 minutes per activity and I move between each child to help with work or listen to reading etc.
  • Tea Break and a few minutes to run outside or jump on the mini trampoline.
  • Story time = Core or main reader with all the kids together on the couch or under the tree.
  • Narrations or Lapbook or hands-on activity = about half an hour. Each lapbook minibook is a lesson and so we usually do one minibook per chapter =about half an hour. Some narrations take longer and the kids work over several sessions while I keep reading. Other times I stop reading and we use that time to work on narrations or writing.
  • Lunch break
  • One more subject after lunch = look at my Themes for the Week. This is where we fit in all the extra subjects like Nature Study, Science, Fine Arts.   Many days my children work to complete this before lunch so that they have a full “free” afternoon.

That’s it in a nutshell.  Hope this helps you and I trust that you and your children learn what works for your family and enjoy lapbooks as much a we did.

Please pop over to my Lapbook Page for all my free lapbooks, templates and tips.

Blessings, Nadene

Google Calendar Planning

Earlier this year I shared how I use Google calendar for homeschool planning.

I want to emphatically declare that it was a huge success!

Not only was it quick and simple to plan all the school days, holidays and exam dates, but each child had their own calendar which helped me keep track of their work and their schedules.

My eldest wrote her matric and had a very strict schedule. After 11 years of fairly flexible homeschool scheduling, this was quite an adjustment for both of us. She has her own Gmail account and could get access to her own calendar on the desktop computer. I plotted out when her portfolio assignments had to be couriered to the marking department before the deadline dates. Also I added moderation dates, extra lessons and, most importantly, her exam dates. Because she wrote her exams at an exam centre in town, we had to book accommodation for some weeks. With Google calendar on my smart phone, I could easily confirm our accommodation bookings while in town.

For my youngest child, I did all my detailed planning in the beginning of the year and added details, websites, images, uploaded files and downloads to the description box for each event, sometimes fleshing these plans out a bit more as we went along.

I rescheduled some lessons if we fell behind with a quick click and change of dates. Some lessons I simply deleted (… sigh … we didn’t do it all …), but most the plan worked! Her calendar is now my record of work!  How nifty is that?

My middle child wrote Grade 8 this year. Her curriculum was fully planned and so I used Homeschool Tracker (HST) to record her exam and term marks. The HST program is quite complicated and I can only do the very basics. (I should have stayed with the free Homeschool Tracker Basic download … and buying the full offline HST program is one of my few homeschool purchase regrets …)  Despite my limitations, I typed in her subjects and exam dates for the year and entered her marks when done. It worked very well, and I printed her term reports and sent her mark sheets away with a click of a button.

For those clever moms that can plan and record using HST, my hats off to you! It is a brilliant program … I’m still just not brilliant enough to figure it all out!

Google calendar is a very versatile tool. You can add and change, delete and amend with no training. It is a wonderful platform on all the computers and smart phones.  It keeps the whole family, including dad, in sync. I am definitely going to continue to use it for our homeschooling!

As we enter 2014, I want to thank all my readers for their kindness and compassion and friendship.

May the Lord bless you and your families and fulfil all your hopes, prayers and plans for the New Year!

Blessings,