The practise of keeping a Commonplace Book can be traced through the ages from the birth of writing and the creation of scrolls and books. Today the art of commonplacing continues through apps, blogs, photo records, and the good ol' paper and pen notebook. It's a fascinating history and the trail shows that keeping a Commonplace Book is not something just for academically inclined students. It is a practise for all of life and for every lifestyle. I think this universiality of the art of commonplacing is a key reason why it so valuable as part of a home education life and a valuable practise for our teens to develop as a daily habit - for life and learning. May I also say commonplacing is invaluable for parents as well. It's never too late to try something new.
In its simplest form a Commonplace Book is a place to record quotes from your literature readings that inspire, challenge, or ignite something within you that you want to meditate upon and remember. After keeping such a book for a couple of years you will be able to reflect back upon your quotes and notes and you will remember what was happening in your life at the time, why that quote mattered, what you learned from the idea and how you put this into practise. You can reflect on the question of whether that quote would have the same impact on you today? This process is a very natural part of your personal learning journey.
Three Steps to Commonplacing with Teens
As part of a teen's life of learning, keeping a Commonplace Book is a natural and simple record of what they have read, what they are thinking about, what they find interesting, and what matters to them. If the habit of copywriting has been encouraged in a teen's childhood then the art of commonplacing is a natural development from copywriting. Alternatively if a teen is new to this way of learning at home, diving straight into commonplacing is a gentle introduction to active reading, questioning, and thinking about ideas, concepts, and information. It's about them and what they are connecting with.
A next step to developing the art of commonplacing is thinking about quotes from literature that illustrate a theme, perspective, or question the teen is exploring. This is something that works especially well when studying works of literature and delving deeper as a teen thinks and discusses questions and themes they come across. Here a teen would record a quote they believe fits with the theme or question and make a note explaining how the quote connects to the theme or question.
A commonplace declamation expands on the idea of connecting quotes from literature that illustrate a theme, perspective, or question. A commonplace declamation is a useful practise for quotes referred to in a discussion of a work of literature or an essay based upon a topic from the work of literature. A commonplace declamation begins with explaining the context of the quote (what is happening in the story leading up to the chosen quote), a copy of the quote and its reference page/chapter, and finishing with a defence of why that quote illustrates the topic and the point of view the student is exploring/defending.
A Guide: A Project
Something I am currently working on is this Art of Commonplace guidebook. Drawing from my experiences of commonplacing with teens and using commonplacing as part of our portfolio samples for the HEU, this guide will give an overview of commonplacing, how commonplacing is an excellent companion to learning, commonplacing notebook pages to get you started, and tips for using excerpts from the Commonplace Book as HEU work samples for highschool.
This is my gift to you.
Contact me to receive this Art of Commonplace guidebook as a free pdf.
Available from July 1st 2017.
When the raft began to take shape and lay there among the warships,
golden and fresh with ripe bamboos and green leaves,
the minister of marine himself came to inspect us.
We were immensely proud of our vessel as she lay there,
a brave little reminder of Inca times among the threatening big warships.
But the minister of marine was utterly horrified by what he saw.
I was summoned to the naval office to sign a paper freeing the Navy
from all responsibility for what we had built in its harbor,
and to the harbor master to sign a paper saying that,
if I left the harbor with men and cargo on board,
it was entirely on my own responsibility and at my own risk.
~ page 65 ~
Here the raft is finally completed by the men and the marine officers of the naval base came to inspect the finished product. These same officials, who were initially intrigued and supportive of the idea of the expedition, now held grave concerns at the wisdom and success of this expedition. Suddenly the 'experts' gave their opinion and gave grave advice on what they saw as the vital flaw in construction that would see the demise of crew and raft, and there were many 'vital flaws'. The men were left discouraged but determined. Here we meet some prejudice of new vs old techniques and technologies. Here we meet some prejudice of what we know vs what is different.
'Are your parents living?' he asked me.
And, when I replied in the affirmative,
he looked me straight in the eyes and said in a hollow voice,
full of foreboding:
'Your mother and father will be very grieved
when they hear of your death.'
~ page 65 ~
This sounded bad but, as we stuck to our guns,
we were given a Bible as a present to take with us on our voyage.
~ page 66 ~
This last quote made us laugh as it stuck us as a comical gift in light of the foreboding in the minds of the 'experts'. Reasoning with the explorers did not convince them to give up their plans. A hopeless expedition needs a Bible.
The theory and the plan of this expedition had to work through many discouragements and difficulties from the beginning. But Thor met each one head on and worked through them. This moment was important was because the raft is finished and they are finally going to begin the journey that will truly test their theory. And themselves.
These passages interested us because at such a momentous occasion in a project, journey, career, or life choice, the encouragement and vision of those closest to us and the project at hand matters. It is at those moments where we face the risk of the choice now before us. And many of those around us can only see problems and failure. Thor and his men stuck to their original plan. Risky yet so very encouraging.
At this moment we find ourselves hoping the Kon-Tiki expedition is successful. Here is an underdog we want to back.