How to Incorporate Charlotte Mason Notebooks in Your Homeschool

 Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) was an Anglican British educator who pushed for a shift from a utilitarian education to one based on living ideas. One of the hallmarks of her educational method was the keeping of notebooks in which students could record their observations, preserve meaningful quotes from their reading, keep scrapbooks or collections, and make a Book of Centuries to organize historical data. This is intended to not only be a school practice, but a life-long practice, one which teachers (or homeschooling parents) are invited to take part in along with their students.

In The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason, Laurie Bestvater explores the various types of notebooks Charlotte Mason used and how we might incorporate them into our homeschools.

Nature Notebooks

In Nature Notebooks, one may observe and paint what is observed in the great outdoors. Children and adults are encouraged to write their own notes about the observation. Older children and adults might also want to keep lists of the plants / wildlife observed and when, using common and Latin names if so desired. A scrapbook of finds may also be kept, where flowers and leaves might be pressed.

Book / Calendar of Firsts

A Calendar of Firsts is related to the Nature Notebooks and may be kept as part of one or as a separate activity. It is a record of the first time things are seen in nature each year. For example, when the first crocus and robin are seen in spring.

Copybooks / Commonplace Books

Copybooks provide the opportunity to practice handwriting while allowing children to record passages that they feel are important from their reading. They might choose to record poetry or mottoes or music lyrics.

A Commonplace Book is more of a reading diary in which readers may record any passage on any topic that they wish to remember.

Travel Diary

This could be used to record memories from actual trips, but it could also be used for the study of geography, incorporating maps and interesting information about different countries.

Timelines, History Charts, and Book of Centuries

These tools allow students to view the interconnectedness of history. A Century Chart can be made on a single sheet of paper with 100 squares (one representing each year) in which a student can record important things that happened in a given year. A Book of Centuries is intended to be a life-long effort in which a learner can record important events that they learn about. It is not meant to be a record of everything a person learns, but rather a framework to places people and events in their chronological setting.

One need not feel the need to incorporate all of these into one’s homeschool or one’s life, but they can be useful tools for helping to learn, organize, and remember information. Laurie Bestvater covers these all in more detail in The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason as well as offers examples. If you are interested in learning more about any of these notebooks, I highly recommend this book.

There are also some examples of Charlotte Mason notebooks at Afterthoughts.  

Author: Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, editor of "Today's Catholic Homeschooling", is the mother of two biological sons and one adopted daughter. She is in her fifteenth year of homeschooling. She has a B.A. in History and Fine Art and a Master's Degree in Applied Theology. She is the author of "The Crash Course Guide to Catholic Homeschooling" and "The Fruits of the Mysteries of the Rosary". She blogs at