Note-taking tips for homeschoolers

Note-taking tips for homeschoolersWritten by Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Homeschooling has many undeniable benefits. It offers one-on-one personalized instruction, flexibility, and an unparalleled opportunity to tailor courses to each student’s needs. However, there are some areas in which it can fall short if we’re not intentional about creating opportunities.

Public speaking isn’t the most effective when the audience is your mom, your siblings, and the dog. Backyard versions of playground games like Red Rover leave a lot to be desired.

Note-taking is another skill most of us need to be intentional about teaching. After all, it’s not like most homeschool moms stand in the middle of the living room or dining room and lecture the kids all day.

Unless they “forgot” to do their chores. Again.

When they go off to college, attend meetings at their future jobs, or even while doing their independent work while still homeschooling, kids need to learn to take good notes as part of developing good study habits.

When my kids were in middle school, we used the Victus Study Skills program. I highly recommend this quick but effective course. We completed it the first week of school that year as part of our easing-in process.

I’ve taken what we learned using Victus Study Skills and expanded it with some of my strategies for teaching note-taking to offer you these simple note-taking tips for homeschoolers.

Where can homeschoolers take notes?

Because they probably don’t spend much time in lecture halls, you may wonder where to find note-taking opportunities for your kids. I bet you won’t have to look as far as you think. Try these ideas:

Church. Church makes an excellent choice for taking notes because note-taking helps kids focus, keeps them quiet and occupied, and provides great practice for learning what to listen and watch for. I have a small spiral-bound sketchbook for my sermon notes. I do a cross between art journaling, creative lettering, and plain old note-taking.

Co-op classes. Most middle school and high school students need to get in the habit of taking notes during co-op classes (or online classes) anyway. The classes offer a more traditional classroom approach which likely includes lectures. The instructor probably shares facts beyond those found in the students’ textbooks, so it’s essential for kids to learn to take good notes.

Watching videos or listening to podcasts. If your children don’t attend co-op classes, let them practice taking notes while watching videos or listening to podcasts. The videos may be documentaries, teaching DVDs, computer-based classes or even movies based on events you’re studying.

Watching the news or student news. Do you include current events in your homeschool studies? If so, encourage your students to take notes while watching the news or reading the newspaper or a magazine.

While reading. Students can also take notes while doing their independent work at home. Teach them to read with a notebook and pencil handy or use a highlighter if they’re reading a book they can write in. You might also want to encourage them to take notes while you read aloud.

Note-taking tips for homeschoolers

What should students listen or watch for when taking notes?

Once you figure out where your student can take notes, you need to teach him what to listen or watch for. Some examples include:

Repeated phrases. If the speaker repeats words or phrases, they’re probably important. Write them down.

Written words/phrases. If a speaker writes a word or phrase on the chalkboard or blackboard or it’s displayed on the screen, write it down. If your student is taking notes while reading, teach him to pay attention to boldfaced or italicized words along with headings and subheadings.

Emphasis. If a speaker emphasizes a word or phrase with his voice inflection, write it down. When reading, emphasis can be seen in boldfaced, italicized, or underlined words.

Names and dates. Names, dates, and events are almost always important.

What are some simple note-taking tips?

Finally, teach your kids to employ a few simple note-taking tips, such as:

Use shorthand. Kids don’t need to learn actual shorthand but teach them to develop their own system of symbols and abbreviations, rather than trying to write down entire phrases. For example, they may use @ for “at,” b/c for “because,” or w/ for “with.” They may also want to use illustrations instead of words.

Basically, tell them text-speak is fine for notes, but not for formal writing.

Review notes. Teach kids to go back over their notes at the end of class or the end of the day. Make sure that everything they wrote makes sense while the details are still fresh in their minds. Have them flesh out their notes with any other relevant details they remember.

Rewrite notes. Rewriting notes helps cement the information in a student’s mind and allows them to add additional details. It also ensures that they can actually decipher their hastily scribbled notes when it comes time to review for tests and quizzes.

Note-taking is a skill easily incorporated into your homeschool day with just a little practice and intentionality.

Have your kids had the chance to learn to take notes?

About Kris

Kris Bales is the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest voice behind Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She and her husband of over 25 years are parents to two amazing teens and a homeschool grad. Kris has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. She also seems intent on becoming the crazy cat lady long before she's old and alone.


  1. Great suggestions! I have been wondering when/how to teach my boys this skill. Thanks. Pinned.
    Mother of 3’s latest post: 50 Things to do This Spring and Summer With Middle School Kids

  2. Rebecca says:

    Great suggestions! Starting to think about this stuff as my kids getting into the middle grades.

  3. Holli-Marie says:

    You suggest Victus; which components does a homeschool need? Specifically, do I need any of the PowerPoints or Videos while teaching my kiddos?? Thanks!

  4. This is such a timely post for our family. My older two, 11 and 13, just started taking notes during out history reading. One of them LOVES trying to record everything. The other will write the words I insist he write and nothing else.

    Oddly, it’s the one who writes nothing who retains the most. :-/

    Brilliant idea to have them take notes at church. Something this mama could benefit from too!
    Rebecca Grabill’s latest post: The Secret the Gluten Free Community Doesn’t Want You to Know

  5. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for this article. Our daughter is in fifth grade and I’m homeschooling her for the first time. The note taking at church idea is wonderful. We also watch a lot of mysteries, so I can start having both of us take notes about the crime, suspects, etc. Although I was a whiz-bang note-taker in school, I was a bit stumped about how to teach her this valuable skill. Thanks, again.

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