Just this school year I decided to have my 6th grader start keeping and using a Commonplace book for English.
We use the Charlotte Mason method in our homeschool. My daughter has always done copywork in her English curriculum English Lessons Through Literature. Now that she is on Level Five, the copywork has been replaced by having the student keep a Commonplace Book.
It is very helpful to read with a commonplace book or reading-diary, in which to put down any striking thought in your author, or your own impression of the work, or of any part of it; but not summaries of facts. Such a diary, carefully kept through life, should be exceedingly interesting as containing the intellectual history of the writer; besides, we never forget the book that we have made extracts from, and of which we have taken the trouble to write a short review. – Charlotte Mason
What is a Commonplace Book?
I didn’t know much about what a commonplace book was so I did some research on it and was excited by what I found! According to Charlotte Mason Help.com commonplace books were used by the greatest literary figures such as Shakespeare, Tennyson, Dickens, Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and many more! They did not take a creative writing or composition course, instead they very carefully copied passages from classic literature.
A commonplace book is not a diary of one’s thoughts, but a special notebook for collecting and recording thoughts and quotes that speak to you and that have an important meaning. Keeping a commonplace book in your homeschool is like notebooking with copywork built in. You can learn more about how to keep a commonplace book from the Scholesisters in these videos on A Beginner’s Guide to the Commonplace Book.
My daughter was very excited when I told her she would be keeping her own commonplace book and that she would get to choose what she recorded in it! I loved the way her eyes lit up when I told her she could make this special book her very own.
How to create a Commonplace Book:
Start with a notebook:
I honestly wasn’t sure how my daughter’s commonplace book would turn out, or if she would enjoy it or even stick with it. I knew that we needed a notebook, but I didn’t want to start off with a pricey one, but I knew that it needed to be sturdy.
I decided to get a sturdy spiral bound notebook similar to THIS ONE. I like the plastic cover and that there are lines which help her with her handwriting. I am very proud of her. She is dyslexic and really struggles with reading and writing, but she hasn’t complained one bit while using her commonplace book and enjoys making it her own.
Here are some samples of her work:
Since my daughter is doing so well and enjoys writing in her commonplace book, I plan on ordering her a nicer one when her current one is full.
Here are some that would be great for older students:
Pentalic Traveler Pocket Journal
Essentials Grid-lined Notebook, Large
Moleskine Classic Notebook, Large, Ruled, Black, Hard Cover
Jeremiah 29:11 Two-tone Flexcover Journal
Use special pens and colored pencils:
Gel pens look great to add color to the pages in your commonplace book. Colored pencils are perfect for sketching and for those who enjoy doodling. If you have nice handwriting and love calligraphy you may want to use nice fine tip pens in your commonplace book.
Here are some of our favorites:
How to keep and use your Commonplace Book:
Commonplace books can include:
- copywork of literary passages
- favorite quotes
- author notes
- Bible verses
- sketches and more
It is nice to follow a schedule so that you don’t forget to write in your commonplace book. If you create your own schedule you can schedule it in after daily reading time or during English. In our English Curriculum writing in the commonplace book is scheduled each week. In each lesson there is a reminder to write in it with suggestions to use a poem, Bible verse, work of literature or a writing model. I love the reminders that are built in each day and the different suggestions to mix it up, but you can use it however it would best suit your child.
Sarah is a wife, daughter of the King and Mama to 4 children (one who is a homeschool graduate)! She is a an eclectic, Charlotte Mason style homeschooler that has been homeschooling for almost 20 years.. She is still trying to find the balance between work and keeping a home and says she can only do it by the Grace of God, and Coffee!