Write it down.
That was the instruction at the end of the first chapter in the book I was reading. The chapter had been full of ideas and possibilities. So much so that my head was spinning with different images and options.
But when I read those words, encouraging me to take a little time to record my thoughts and discoveries, I dismissed them. No need to do that, I thought. I’ll sort them out in my head.
You can guess what happened. It’s still a swirling mass now, days later. But the swirl is not so big, for, sadly, some of the pieces have flown away. The rest is still a nebulous cloud of thought. Nothing organized. Nothing concrete. Nothing tangible.
There’s something helpful about recording your thoughts and discoveries. Getting them on paper somehow makes them more tangible.
Recording what you’ve learned helps you
- slow down and observe even more,
- wrestle with concepts until you can satisfactorily put them in your own words,
- remember what you read or saw,
- discover more relations with other ideas.
Recording your discoveries is another useful tool for self-educating.
Tool #4: Record Your Discoveries
Charlotte Mason provided many opportunities for her students to record their discoveries and observations. All of them can be useful to a student of any age:
- Writing notebooks—to collect their narrations, transcriptions, dictations, and grammar discoveries;
- A book of mottoes—to highlight favorite quotations and passages from literature they had read;
- A Book of Centuries—to create a personal timeline and help them form relations between historical people and events;
- Nature notebooks—to showcase their observations from nature;
- Math notebooks—to record the math principles they had discovered with guidance;
Notice the key words in those descriptions: “their,” “favorite,” “personal,” “observations,” “discoveries.” Notebooks for self-education look very different from the workbooks most of us grew up with in our school days. Notebooks designed for self-education are not about finding and copying the correct word or phrase from the text to fill in the blank. They do not tell the child to color in a picture that someone else drew or to cut and paste figures that someone else put together. Those actions require minimal mental engagement.
Instead, the kind of notebooks that offer the best tool for self-education are blank. They become what the student makes them as he assimilates the material for his own and records what stood out to him, what he thinks is important, what he wants to remember, what he discovered for himself.
Such notebooks are a treasure. They become a personal reflection of knowledge that is life-shaping.
If you want to self-educate, get in the habit of recording your discoveries.