The Valuable Use of Commonplace Books in Homeschooling
In classical homeschooling, we're constantly seeking methods to cultivate wisdom and nurture a love for learning in our children. One timeless tool that resonates deeply with this endeavor is the commonplace book—a cherished companion for scholars, thinkers, and creatives throughout history. But what exactly is a commonplace book, and why is it invaluable in our homeschooling journey?

At its essence, a commonplace book serves as a personal sanctuary of knowledge, wisdom, and inspiration. It becomes a beautiful little space where we gather and collect passages, quotes, and insights from various sources that carry significance to us — books, articles, lectures, and even conversations and personal thoughts that relate to those quotes, books, and articles. Unlike a traditional journal, which may primarily focus on personal reflections, a commonplace book is akin to a curated treasury of ideas that speak to our souls and kindle our intellectual curiosity.

So why do I, as a classical homeschooling mom, find the commonplace book indispensable? Here are several compelling reasons:

  1. Cultivating Intellectual Curiosity: A commonplace book inspires children to actively engage with the material they encounter versus being a passive learner. By transcribing passages and quotes that captivate their interest, they delve deeper into subjects, fostering a profound understanding and sparking a thirst for further exploration while also working on handwriting (if you so desire).
  2. Enhancing Learning and Retention: Studies have shown that the act of writing by hand enhances memory and comprehension. As our children summarize, paraphrase, and synthesize information in their commonplace books, they reinforce their learning and internalize key insights more effectively, seeing connections between different authors, ideas, and concepts.
  3. Fostering Creativity and Inspiration: Commonplace books serve as a wellspring of inspiration for young writers, artists, and thinkers. By capturing snippets of prose, poetry, and ideas that resonate with them, our children cultivate a reservoir of creativity to draw upon in their own creative pursuits.
  4. Promoting Reflection and Growth: Regularly revisiting their commonplace books allows our children to reflect on past experiences, insights, and lessons learned. It provides a space for self-discovery and personal growth as they glean new perspectives and wisdom from their collected entries.
  5. Building a Personal Legacy: Over time, our children's commonplace books become a reflection of their intellectual journey and worldview as they grow and learn. They can serve as a legacy for future generations, offering glimpses into their thoughts, interests, and values.
So how can we guide our children in starting their own commonplace books? The process is simple:
  • Choosing a Format: Whether it's a physical notebook, a digital document, or an online platform, our children can select a format that resonates with their preferences and learning styles. Here are a few I created, but any notebook or artpad will do: Foliage version, floral version, and music version.
  • Gathering Materials: Encourage them to collect pens (I love these), pencils, highlighters, and other tools (even stickers!) to personalize their commonplace books and make the process enjoyable -- encourage that creativity!
  • Capturing Ideas: As they read, listen, or engage with new material, prompt them to draw or jot down passages, quotes, and insights that speak to them. Emphasize the importance of including the source (title/author and page number) and any relevant context to facilitate future reference should they want to reference it again later.
  • Organizing and Reflecting: Guide them in periodically reviewing and organizing their entries, perhaps categorizing them by theme, subject, or relevance if the type of journal or notebook you chose allows for that. Encourage them to reflect on the connections and patterns that emerge, fostering a deeper understanding of their learning and the world around them.
  • Sharing and Connecting: Consider facilitating discussions around excerpts from their commonplace books or encouraging them to share their insights with like-minded peers. Commonplace books provide a rich source of conversation and connection, fostering a sense of community and intellectual exploration.
A commonplace book is not merely a collection of words—it's a treasure trove of wisdom, insight, and inspiration that is as unique as the person who created it. By embracing the practice of maintaining a commonplace book, our children embark on a journey of intellectual discovery, personal growth, and lifelong learning.

Do you have a commonplace book? Do your children have commonplace books? If so, what have you noticed in yourself or in your children through this practice?


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