I have found several advantages to using lapbooks. Lapbooking helps break a topic down into related, manageable bits. Take the topic of butterflies and moths, for example. The lapbook could have mini-books covering butterfly and moth anatomy, the life cycle of each creature, habitats where they can be found, camouflage, insect characteristics, how to tell butterflies and moths apart, the story of silk, predators, how they eat, and even bug jokes. Start with a simple fold shaped like a butterfly’s wings. On the outside your student decorates it to look like the wing of their favorite butterfly. Learn interesting things like what the 3 body parts are called, what a proboscis is, what the antenna look like, and how many wings a butterfly has. One fun way to do this is by catching a real butterfly and observing, or using a book with photographs. Inside the wing book the student can now record information they remember or even draw a butterfly and label the parts. Learning about moths anatomy follows a similar pattern. In a spinner, made by using a brass brad to fasten two circles together with a window cutout on the top circle, a student can draw the 4 parts of the butterfly life cycle, with labels. Another would be made for moths. Next it is story time. Tell your children the story of silk, how the Chinese discovered that the Bombix Mori moth, or silkworm, spins a cocoon of silk. Describe how that silk is harvested, spun, and made into cloth, and that the secret was held by the Chinese people for many years. What plant does the silkworm eat? After telling the story have your children write all they remember into a mini-book, perhaps one that is shaped like a book.
Can you see how combining stories or hands-on experiences with lapbooks helps cement information? First the child hears the story or experiences a topic. They think about it. Next a child physically creates something to record what they learned. This item folds, slides, spins, or moves in some way. Last a child can play with the lapbook they created, show it off to family, or teach the stories back to younger siblings. In other words, they study their ‘notes’ in a fun way.
I want to share how you can get started lapbooking. Remember as you read the following, there are many ways to fit lapbooking to your family. I will explain several options, all of which I have tried and used in my family. I’m sure there are more ways creative homeschool families can adapt lapbooking, and I would love to hear any you discover!
For each of these starting points you will need some basic supplies: paper, scissors, something to write with, something to color with, glue, and a lapbook base like a file folder, notebook, or posterboard. For most options access to a printer is needed as well.
Starting Point 1: Home-Grown Lapbooks
Let’s go back to the basics for a minute. Choose your topic. Grab a piece of paper and fold it in half. Now draw and cut two or three shapes along that fold, making mini-cards. If the topic is butterflies and moths you may cut out a butterfly, a cocoon, and a book. On the butterfly shape write “Butterfly Bodies”. Inside goes a labeled drawing of a butterfly or facts about their bodies. Inside the cocoon shape a student can write how to tell a cocoon from a chrysalis, and which creature makes them. The book shape is where they record the story of silk, as we discussed earlier in this post. Each of these can be done by a student of any age, though younger students may need help with cutting or writing.
Home-grown lapbooks are made entirely from your own imagination. The great advantage to this starting point is you can begin today! Choose a good book or topic and start creating. A step up in technology for a home-grown lapbook is to print clipart from free sites online to use in your mini-books, or to create the mini-books on your own computer.
Starting Point 2: Free Internet Resources
Another wonderful option is visiting free sites online to print a variety of mini-books. The first variety on a site such as Homeschool Share is printing out ready-made lapbooks for free on topics others have shared. You will find lapbooks for history, science, music, and more. I’ve seen alphabet lapbooks for preschoolers and chemistry lapbooks for high schoolers. Google “free lapbooks” and you will discover many possibilities. Some companies that sell lapbooks offer a free lapbook on their site to try.
What if there is not a lapbook on the topic your child wants to study? I have yet to find a lapbook on insect collecting, the Articles of Faith, or Latter-day Prophets (all topics my children would love to lapbook). This is where those free sites have become a gold mine. Look for the section of free templates (HERE is Homeschool Share’s). These are blank mini-books of every shape and size imaginable. Simply download the PDF file and print. Your students add text and pictures on their unique topic.
Starting Point 3: Buy a Lapbook Kit
I put this last because it costs the most money and is not the only option out there. We started lapbooking with starting point 1 and have since used both starting point 2 and 3. We still use all the options I listed. If you want a lapbook ready to print and use with your student, and do not mind spending money to get one, look for lapbooking companies online. Two I can recommend are Hands of a Child and Knowledge Box Central. Buying a kit can be a lifesaver! I have used purchased lapbooks the month after giving birth to babies #4 and #5, when I needed something fun for the kids to do while I snuggled the baby. I have been able to buy a lapbook for an interest my children had that I simply did not have time or energy to create on my own.
Whichever route you choose, give lapbooking a try. My children have been lapbooking for four years now. We have used them for portfolio reviews in my state. Even better, my 3rd grader can still tell you all about topics we studied in K, 1st, and 2nd because she enjoys playing with her lapbooks. The way we lapbook changes with the month, but we enjoy each one.
You can drop in and visit Tristan and her family at their homeschool blog, Our Busy Homeschool.