Notetaking Skills for Homeschool High Schoolers

By request, we are discussing notetaking skills for homeschool high schoolers.

Notetaking Skills for Homeschool High Schoolers

Notetaking Skills for Homeschool High Schoolers

Some teens are born knowing how to take notes. However, many of them need to learn some basic skills so that they can take good notes while in live or online classes. So let’s give them some basics, then each teen can develop their own notetaking style. (Because, after all, there’s not ONE right way to homeschool high school…or take notes!)

Why take notes?

The first thing many teens tell me when we talk about notetaking is that it is going to be boring. Maybe it will be. But how about thinking about it this way. Notetaking is a way to make sure you do AWESOMELY in a course that you have to take anyway. Notetaking is the doorway to academic success for many classes, so boring or not, it is worth it!

Teens will also take notes when they watch movies for Cinema Studies for Literature Learning, so that they can catch themes and important literary details.

Cinema Studies for Literature Learning Full-Year Curriculum
Click image for full description.

Note only that, but they will take LOTS of notes when they do research for their annual research papers. (We will talk in another post about some specific skills for notetaking with research papers.)

If I’m taking notes, am I allowed to also doodle?

Believe it or not, the first question that many homeschool high schoolers ask me is if they are still allowed to doodle if they are taking “real notes”. Evidently, lots of them love to doodle while they listen to the class lectures. I can understand that, doodling is a way of keeping hands busy so the brain can focus on the task at hand (listening to the teacher). I doodle whenever I listen to a lecture in one of the continuing education courses I take for my job as a counselor, and it DOES help me focus!

SO, if your homeschool high schoolers is a doodler, I say, doodle away! But do not forget to take notes also!

Notetaking skills for homeschool high schoolers

Remember, there’s not ONE right way to homeschool high school… or take notes. SO, these are guidelines to get your teen started. They can adapt to their own style as they go.

Prep before class starts, beginning with a title

If your high schooler is working from a textbook and/or syllabus, they will know the topic of the day’s lesson. Have them write that at the top of their paper, along with the date. For instance, if your teen is taking a class that uses 7Sisters Introduction to Psychology text and the accompanying syllabus, the notes for the first week’s class will start with:

**/**/**** (date)    The Brain and How it Works

Set up your paper with a section for the notes and a sidebar section for questions

Most of your teen’s page will be needed for the notes themselves. However, if they have a specific section for questions in the margin of their paper, they will be more likely to engage their notes during class and afterwards.

Notetaking 7SistersHomeschool

During the lecture (live or online/asynchronous), take notes only on key information

Write down the most important information, not every single thing the teacher says. How do you know if it is key information?

If the teacher says things like,

  • “This is important…”
  • “What you need to understand is…”
  • “Here’s what is key about this…”
  • “The thing is…”
  • “This will be on the test…”

Also, write down:

  • Definitions
  • Lists
  • Key names (write the whole name the first time, then abbreviate with just initials after that)
  • Dates
  • Locations
  • The bolded information, definitions or lists on PowerPoints
    • (just trust me on this, I know you will have a copy of the PowerPoints, but the notetaking will help your brain actually learn the information)

Use abbreviations and symbols where ever possible

Do not try to write complete, grammatically correct sentences. Instead, just write key nouns and verbs. Also use symbols whenever you can, such as:

  • &
  • @
  • %
  • <, >
  • +, –

You can abbreviate words like:

  • Because= b/c
  • With= w/
  • Without= w/o

Names can become initials:

  • Sally Jones= SJ

Location names are shortened:

  • Smithville= Smville or Smvl (or make up your own)

So you might write something like:

SJ wrote Welcome to Smvl in 1962

After class, write a one- or two-sentence summary at the bottom of each page of notes

After class, read over the notes. Then write a summary. Your brain needs this in order to digest the material.

Next, ask yourself a few questions about the material in the notes

You could ask yourself questions like this:

  • Imagine you are the teacher. You are creating a pop quiz for the next class time, based on today’s lecture. What kind of questions might you put on the quiz?
  • As you think about the notes, is there something you do not understand? Write that question (that way you can think it through, research, or ask a friend or teacher).
  • Is there something you would like to learn more about later? If you write the question, you are less likely to forget what you want to explore.

notetaking example 7Sisters

After class, type up the notes in a readable format

This may seem like overkill. However, my homeschool graduates who went to college, tell me that typing up their notes was the number one way they got good grades on exams. They learned the material in several different ways:

  • Text and lectures
  • Notetaking
  • Note typing and review

These college students have told me that they never pull all-nighters cramming for exams, because their brains already have digested the information as they go along.


Help set your teen up for success with good notetaking skills! BTW- got questions? 7SistersHomeschool Facebook group is a wonderful place to get answer from the 7Sisters and all the 7th Sisters. (Who are the 7th Sisters? YOU are!)


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Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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