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Lapbooking Versus Notebooking

Updated on September 28, 2016

What is the difference between lapbooking and notebooking?

Lapbooking and notebooking are both popular among homeschoolers now. I will take you through some basic characteristics of each and hopefully answer these questions:

  • What are these learning methods?
  • How are they similar?
  • How are they different?
  • Which one is best for my child?
  • Can I mix them up into something new?

photo credit

Lapbooking & Notebooking

They are both excellent ways to document learning! One may suit a particular child better than the other. Evaluate the features and limitations of each, and choose the best fit for your homeschool situation.

Basic Lapbooks

A picture is worth a thousand words, so if you're not sure what a lapbook is, take some time to look at these lapbook examples.

Common Features of Lapbooks

Lapbooks are as individual as the students making them, but here are some common characteristics of most lapbooks.

  1. minibooks or foldables -- small books with interesting folds and flaps that just beg to be opened.

  2. all minibooks focus on a central topic

  3. minibooks are affixed into a file folder (or cardstock) folded into a shutterfold

  4. lapbooking offers the opportunity to be creative with colors, folds, graphics, drawings, etc.

  5. lapbooking is highly graphic -- lots of images, drawings, shapes, colors, and pictures.

Standard Notebooking Pages

Common Features of Notebooking

Notebooking is very flexible, so a notebook can contain most anything! But for the sake of explanation, here are some things most people could agree that notebooking commonly has.

  • Sheets of paper, three hole punched and put into a binder or a pre-bound notebook of lined or unlined paper.

  • Text is written by the student.

  • The page has graphics of some kind-- drawn by the student or pre-printed on the page.

  • A notebook could very broad -- history, science, poetry, nature, 5th grade, etc.

  • Notebooking is highly text oriented -- lots of written words with graphics to complement them.

  • Notebook pages can be narrations from your child's reading, copywork, maps, quotes, poems, images cut from magazines or printed from the Internet, drawings, and writing assignments.

Combining Lapbooking and Notebooking - the best of both worlds

What if you want to use both? You certainly can! You can do lapbooks for some topics and make notebooks for others.

Or you can mix them up by putting elements of notebooking into a lapbook or by putting minibooks into a notebook!

Some people call this mixture "lap-n-note."

Ways to do this:

  • affix minibooks to cardstock and file in the notebook. Visit Notebooking Pages for some beautiful free templates to help you do this!
  • use sheet protectors to hold minibooks in notebooks
  • put the entire lapbook into a three ring binder
  • poke holes in notebooking pages and use brads/paper fasteners to affix them to the lapbook
  • attach the front of a 3 pronged folder to the back of a lapbook; put your notebooking pages into the folder and you minibooks in the traditional lapbook shutterfold.

See these posts below for more ideas and great photos!

Mixture of Lapbooking and Notebooking

Here are photo examples of combining both lapbooking and notebooking.

Zuni pot minibook inside a notebook.


Notebooking Success eBook - A How to Manual for Notebooking in Homeschool

If you want to learn more about how to use notebooking in your homeschool, Notebooking Success is a wonderful guide.

Written by a homeschool mom who has used notebooking for many years, Notebooking Success shows how to use notebooking to promote learning and retention. There are specific suggestions for different grade levels and for using notebooking with several styles of homeschool.

Which one should I use?

When choosing which to use -- lapbooking or notebooking -- here are some things to consider.

  • Lapbooks are generally more suitable for smaller projects that will have a definite end to them, for example a unit study (the orchestra, volcanoes, or the rainforest) or a time period within your history curriculum (Colonial America, Ancient Greece, or New World Exploration).
  • Notebooking, on the other hand, is often used when a topic or project is more ongoing and will have more related documentation.
  • Many people transition from lapbooking to notebooking as their children age.

Some people think that lapbooking fits a more creative child. Certainly, lapbooking does offer a lot of chances to be creative with colored papers, fancy folds, and artwork. But notebooking can be equally as creative. But if your child despises cutting, pasting, and drawing, you may want to avoid lapbooking or modify it to limit how much of the "crafty" part the child himself has to do.Some homeschoolers find certain topics lend themselves better to notebooking or to lapbooking.

The bottom line is that you won't know until you try. So, attempt a bit of each one and choose which one best suits your children.


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