During my years as a homeschooling mom, I have had the opportunity to not only teach my own children but also other homeschoolers in co-op type classes. Doing this has been such a pleasure, but it has also given me some interesting insights to the strengths of homeschooling as well as some weaknesses.
Now don’t get me wrong. I believe that homeschooling is one of the best educational options for your children. My husband and I have homeschooled all of our children from K-12 and are so grateful we did. But the nature of home education creates some interesting situations that all homeschooling families need to be aware of so that they can best prepare their children for college or career situations.
One of the most interesting things I noticed about the students who came to my classes is during our discussion time, when I would give a hint that a specific piece of information would be on the test or when I would write out a chart on the board, I noticed many of my students would just sit there and watch me.
Why weren’t they writing this down? I made sure to stress that it was an important point, and I’m using valuable class time to turn around and write it on the board for them. Why were they just sitting there?
Well, after encouraging them to copy things down as I said them, I began to realize that most homeschoolers had very little opportunities to take notes. Therefore, their note-taking skills were often lacking.
Now why is this important? Well, whether a student is college directed or not, there are many other situations where it is helpful to be able to take good notes. In nearly every career, there are circumstances where recording information is critical, such as in meetings, seminars, and presentations. There is the obvious need for these skills during a college lecture, but it is also helpful for how-to workshops or even church sermons – any situation where you need to weed through information given and write down the important points.
After all, you cannot write down every word that is spoken. Note-taking allows you to refer back to important presented material for later use, and it is much easier if your notes are clear, concise, and organized.
You see, note-taking is a skill that is learned by doing. In order to take good notes, a student has to process the information by listening to it and then determine what is important. He or she then needs to be able to write those points down while the lecture is still going on. Taking too many notes with too many details makes the student possibly miss other important lecture points because he is too busy recording previous lecture information. Yet, if too few notes are taken, some important information may be missed, and the notes may not be understandable when referred to later.
So note-taking is a learned technique. The note taker has to utilize good listening skills, process lecture information, and then write down notes into an easy-to-use personal format. However, don’t fret if you are intimidated by this. Good note-taking can be learned, and there are easy ways to encourage it.
I want to give you several ideas over the next few weeks so you can help your students gain those skills. I’ll try to link the posts together so you can follow along, too.
WHAT IS THE BEST AGE TO BEGIN?
For this post, let’s first discuss the best age to begin building note-taking skills. Once a student is able to write on his or her own, note-taking can begin. Actually, the process of taking notes can begin even earlier, too. The goal is to get children in the mode of summarizing information given to them. So building reading comprehension is helpful. When a short story is read, ask your children what happened in the story. Have them use the words, “first, next, last” in their summary. This helps them to determine the main points in chronological order.
WHERE CAN THEY TAKE NOTES?
Once your kids are able to write well on their own, you can have them read paragraphs or short stories and write summaries of them. Again, this is good practice for them to take a larger amount of information and boil it down into its most important points.
Now, during lectures or in workshops, most teachers will not be giving information in story form. So students need to transition to quickly identifying the key points of a lecture and then writing them as notes.
This, of course, requires your students to be in some sort of classroom situation. Now, I’m not saying you have to put your children in a class. But you CAN look for opportunities for them to listen to some type of teaching. We had our children take notes during Sunday Sermons. They looked for three or four main points that were given, and then we talked about what they wrote during lunch afterwards.
You can also look for educational videos that coincide with something you are already learning about. These can be videos you find at the local library or they can be online videos that touch on specific topics. I recommend that you preview the online ones, but if you look around, you will likely find short videos on practically any topic you desire.
Once they are used to the idea of summarizing information, then it is time to add more skills to their note-taking arsenal.
Stay tuned for more helpful info in an upcoming post! And feel free to leave questions in the comment section.
UPDATE: Part II of the series can be found HERE.