Journaling is a great way for you to help your children learn to enjoy writing. With a variety of things to write about, journaling can be interesting for a long time.
Journaling as a writing curriculum
Done correctly, journaling can be the backbone of your language arts curriculum. With each writing, you can review your child's writing with her. Help her correct misspellings. Help her correct punctuation. Advise her on grammar. Compliment improved penmanship. In areas in which she is struggling, you can help her find some other resources and activities that can strengthen those weaknesses. This way, her language arts learning is more focused than traditional curriculum. Instead of wasting time doing worksheets on things she already knows, you can focus on the concepts she is ready to learn now.
Additionally, journaling is far more enjoyable than worksheets. Your child might complain that worksheets are boring. Give your child the opportunity to choose what he wants to write in his journal. There are so many wonderful and inspiring things to write about. Journaling should be a rich and rewarding experience.
Who should write
It's a good idea for all students to keep a journal. For students who are not yet reading and writing, it will be necessary for you to take dictation from your child. Children love seeing their ideas on paper, even if someone else writes it for him. Have your child dictate to you the things he wants to express. You may want to have him write the first words, but then you can take over from there. Have your child with you as you write for him. Allow him to see how you write. Explain the punctuation you use. Point to the written words as you review what has been written. Do not feel a need to rush your child to become a prolific writer. Don't let an inability to write stand in the way of him enjoying the journaling process. A child who enjoys writing - even a little - will become a better writer than a child who hates to write. Keep the experience positive and powerful!
To start off, choose where the journal will be kept: book, binder, or digital?
Blank journal books are most widely used. They are easy to carry with you and fun to write and draw in. They are also good for adding stickers and gluing in mementos. They are best to do journaling on the go.
Some students enjoy the flexibility of a binder. A student can write on a sheet of notebook paper and then add it only when he is satisfied with it. The same binder can be a great place to keep other schoolwork as well.
Some students prefer to keep a digital journal. These are students who may be ready to type before they are ready to print. Digital journals are not as easy to include illustrations, but photos are fairy simple to add. A digital journal can easily lead to blogging. Blogging is a great way for your child to take an interest in writing well. She will want to make sure she does a good job in her writing in order to make a good impression on her followers. However, I recommend that a blog does not entirely replace the journal. It is important for a student to have a place to write things that are not intended for strangers to read.
To help the journal be more interesting, it is recommended that the student add drawings, stickers, photos, autographs, magazine clippings and mementos to their entries.You may want to carry scissors and stick glue with the journal so you can add a variety of interesting items. The journal should be interesting to browse for years to come.
People tend to want to journal every day, but it is not necessary. The frequency of the journal entries will depend on whatever else is going on. The important thing is to have a writing habit, where writing is a natural and normal part of life.
What to write?
Given all that background, the big questions you may be asking now is, "What should be written in a journal?" The answer is anything and everything. The only thing that's required is the date of the entry. Much more than a daily diary, a journal is for recording many different things. Here are some ideas:
This can be nothing more than a paragraph at the end of each day, to chronicle the the things that were done in that day. It's a good way to keep the writing habit and keep track of a student's schoolwork as well as all the good things that happen in a day.
With your guidance, students can make plans for the future. Starting with long-term goals, you can aid your child in setting many short-term goals that will help them accomplish the long-term goals. This can help your child find more meaning in their work. They are more likely to take ownership in their learning -- even the hard stuff!
A journal is a great place to gather information for a project. The student can just jot down things about the project subject that he finds interesting. He can use a certain color to write these notes so that when it is time to write the essay, the notes will be easy to find. The journal is also a good place to write the first draft of the essay. After the project is completed, you may not want to keep the display portion of the project, but you can take pictures of the display. These photos can be added to the journal.
It is important for students to spend time in nature. Writing journal entries while out in nature is a good way to help students slow down and notice the world around them. Students can write about the things they see. It is not necessary to identify every plant and creature that goes in the journal. A quick sketch and description is sufficient. It's also good for the students to write how they feel when while they are in nature. Students can look up information about the plants and animals they discover later.
All about me
It's a good idea for children to write about themselves. It helps them to introspect and to reflect. It's not always easy to think about what to write about one's self, so here's a list of ideas you can use.
Fireworks are like homework, but more interesting. They are the school activities that light the fire of learning. Each week, Celebration Education puts out a list of fireworks activities that relate to the weekly topic. The students can choose to do the fireworks that are most meaningful to themselves. Many of these fireworks include writing and/or drawing and designing.
As many homeschool families have found, learning is life and life is learning. Students may take a day off from "school," but nobody takes a day off from life. When learning is integrated into life, learning happens every day. Students can keep a journal even when on vacation, on field trips and other outings. They can write about the places they visit and the people they meet. They may even have the chance to write about a culture that is different from their own. On these adventures, they may collect ticket stubs, stickers, autographs, and postcards to add to their journals.
Many families enjoy copywork. Charlotte Mason said,
“Children should transcribe favourite passages. ––A certain sense of possession and delight may be added to this exercise if children are allowed to choose for transcription their favorite verse in one poem or another… But a book of their own, made up of their own chosen verses, should give them pleasure.”
Copywork is a good way to become more familiar with some great works. But like all the other journal entries, the student should decide which passages they copy. Copywork should not be drudgery, but delightful. Share your own favorite passages with your child. Tell her why you like those passages. Give her a background of what makes those passages meaningful. Understanding more about the passages helps her appreciate it and become more likely to want to have it in her journal. She may also want to write her own feelings about the passages.
A journal is a great place to write book reports! Additionally, your child may enjoy keeping a reading log in his journal. The books read could be listed in the inside covers of the journal. Here's a good book report format:
Number of Pages
Type of Book
Summary of Book
Would I recommend this book to others?
Would I ever read this book again?
I hope you feel empowered to start journaling with your child. If your child writes in his journal at least once a week, by the end of the year you will be amazed at the things he accomplished. He will have this journal that he can browse through year after year to reflect on how he's learned and grown over the years. As an added bonus, he will also have something impressive he can share with family and friends when they want to know what he's been doing for school. He won't be pulling out boring worksheets!
- Heather Martinson