When my kids start school I get them a big fat counter book for all those loose bits and pieces that do not belong in actual workbooks. We called it The Journal and so begins their school journaling journey.
But the journals got too fat too quickly and were stuffed with too many goodies to believe!!! So now we separate them out and everyone has three journals and these are pretty much their school diaries…
- History: In here go any history notes they make: maps, goodies gleaned from the internet and their timeline figures.
- Science: Science Notes they make from what they read for the day: definitions and pictures of things they have seen: notes, diagrams and photos of science experiments. And any observational science pages or nature notebook projects they may have done on loose sheets get stuck in too.
- General: In here go their language arts, their dictation which we actually do as copy work and any writing they do for free-writing and poetry, art or music appreciation. In these books go their Bible Study Notes or pictures they might do as well. As well as book reviews and reports from their readers.
As they fill up I pop them on a shelf and we start the next one – its a running record of their school life.
When it comes to journals here are se7en things that I have discovered:
- For different kids you need to have different expectations. The joy of homeschooling is that your kids are individuals and not part of a pack. So while mine are all at different ages and stages I have different expectations of what they put into their journals. One kid I can print out a ten page document and he will cut and paste and create something. If give the same thing to another kid they might trim the ten pages and pop them in one after another and think/hope they are done.
- I don’t expect perfection at all. The only time I expect perfect handwriting is when they do hand writing. Perfect spelling when they are doing spelling: I have an awesome speller, an awful speller and some sort of phonetic code writer… I take what I can get! And they do get better naturally! They only time I expect perfection is when they are doing copy work, which is why we don’t do dictation. I want them to write down the correct thing first time rather than write down the wrong thing and then correcting it. I just think if you start off writing the wrong thing then that’s what sticks in your mind.
Also keep in mind, that If you have a kid that loathes writing – like lots of kids(!), then do most of the writing for them. I expect my little kids to do their copywork and then they get aspects of their journal writing to do: maybe just the title, maybe just a sentence building up to independence. Just because they are home schooled doesn’t mean they are going to varsity next week. If you are worried that your child is not getting enough writing practice then appeal to their strength… my worst writer loved writing shopping lists – he wrote them all.
- I want their journals to be scrapbooks of their learning and I want them to enjoy putting them together. So if it is a drag for them I have missed the point of it. ALso I don’t want them to regurge what they have learnt back at me in their journal but rather to explore an aspect of what they have learnt in their own way. You have to find resources that appeal to the individual in them and that appeals to the way they express themselves. There is no point in giving a coloring page to a boy who likes to draw from scratch… there is everypoint in giving a wordsearch to a kid that loves word games! There is no point in asking for them to write three facts that they read in history if they are a natural cartoonist… but you can ask them to make a cartoon of what they learnt.
- Sometimes they want to do things that don’t go into a journal easily, like baking or making a dinosaur diorama then we photograph the project, print and stick. Or one fellow is really techie minded, if he wants to make a video of an aspect he has learnt fantastic and we will take a photo or two of the process.
- I need to be prepared with ideas (I stock ideas up when I prepare for the week ahead). If I say: “Lets see what you learnt today and lets write something in your journal,” then it is just not going to fly. If I say did you know this about a famous person and I have an article you can look at. Or when we read that poem this morning it made me think it would be fun to do a watercolor painting of what you were thinking.
- When I prepare for the week ahead and I slide their weeks schedule into their file I scan through the work they will be looking at in the next week and I make a list of keywords in my journal. Usually there is a famous person, a book review, something scientific, a poet or poem. From there Google is my friend. Now a word of warning, if you just type in the keyword you will be lost in a sea of boring boring adult biographies or scientific documents. Remember this is meant to be fun!!!
So I do a search for any number of following:
- Keyword printables – Mr Donne’s history is fantastic.
- Keyword worksheets – Time for Kids has great worksheets.
- Keyword images – this week I did seed dispersion with my grade K guy – brilliant.
- Keyword for kids
- Keyword activities for kids
- Keyword maps – great for plotting routes and labeling.
- Keyword unit studies – you find lots of projects here.
This is my keyword list for next week – messy I know, but it is a working document!
Google searching usually takes me where I want to go. Don’t reinvent the wheel, if someone has done a project relating to a book you are reading for school, you will be sure to find it. Often just typing in a book title or author will take you to a brilliant website. Don’t if you are doing Columbus try and generate your own projects there are a bazillion out there – use them!
- It’s not all about work… when we start our day we always spend some time doing fun stuff, free writing or painting or drawing. For topics just use your life. You can search Google for writing topics for kids and there is no end to results you will get…
The sort of topics I do with them are:
- Leave a weird question in their journal for the morning: If you wake up living under the sea what would you eat for breakfast? If you were the size of a pin what would you wear?… They love this, I don’t know why – it just tickles them!!!
- Stick a magazine picture in their journal and ask them to elaborate: Sometimes they just draw on it, sometimes they write a whole story.
- Poems: Kids have no fear… write a color poem or a word poem…
- Photos: Put an old photo in their journal and ask them what life was like back then – you get some real gems in this one!
- Something unfinished: Print out a poem or short story and ask how it ends.
- Use their school topics: If you were a “famous person” tell me something about their lives. If you were a moth what would your favorite occupation be. If you lived in outer Mongolia what would you do in your free time.
- Every now and then I slide some reality in and ask them what they would like to do on the weekend, next year, twenty years from now.
I can see this one topic is a whole post on its own, but I am sure you can think of a million more ideas for this project yourself!
Finally these are their journals and a record of their learning so let them fill them in… If you find yourself desperate to fill in their journal and you are printing out way too much stuff for them then get your own journal – get your own topics that you want to write up and go for it… Or like me make supper while they work alongside you at the kitchen table!
That’s it – Have Fun Journaling. Feel free to ask questions because I am sure there are lots of things I have forgotten to mention!!!
I popped this post onto the Works For Me Wednesday Site – go and have a look there for all sorts of tips on absolutely anything.