Se7en do School Journals…

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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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:

  1. 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.
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  3. 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.

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  5. 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.
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  7. 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.
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  9. 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.
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  11. 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!

  12. 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.

39 Replies to “Se7en do School Journals…”

  1. Thank you for all the ideas, very inspirational. Organization would really make things less overwhelming…oh, but you should see the heaps on my desk! I like the journal and research tips and especially the reminder that children can help write out all sorts of things, even grocery lists. Hope you have a good weekend!

  2. Hi K, Unfortunately for us I need to be prepared to keep things moving otherwise we would just lie around and read our lives away. Not a bad way to go I reckon! Glad you like the shopping lists, I am sure I can think of more sneaky ways I have used to get a reluctant writer to write. Thanks for the great post idea! You have a good weekend yourself!

  3. I am grateful for the great ideas and for the reminder to aim for real learning! Thanks for a great post!

  4. I clicked on expecting to find a post on The Very Hugry Caterpillar, who celebrated his 40th birthday yesterday!!! Eric Carle has quite an interesting site (and a blog that I haven’t checked out yet!!) there were all sorts of events all over the world yesterday in celebration.

  5. do you do lapbooks? And if so, how do they work? And, either way, what’s your take on them?

    THANKS! 🙂

  6. I really like seeing your examples. I do something similar with my younger two and they love it. My older two think I’m nuts.

  7. Hi! I discovered your blog on the Sonlight blogroll a few days ago. I have really enjoyed reading through your ideas and learning from them. There are a lot of great nuggests of wisdom here that I can use! I love the idea of trolling the internet the week ahead & preparing ideas for your kids’ journals. Thanks for taking the time to share so much great information.

    I lived in Kenya for five years but never got to visit South Africa. I always wanted to… maybe I’ll still make it there someday!

  8. Hi T, I don’t do lapbooks myself, I think if I was doing a unit study type school I would certainly do them more – and I find lots of resources for them and from them on the web that we use in our journals. Frankly I find them to be busy-work cutting and pasting and coloring that will require far too much attention and direction from me. I have found you can linger on a lap book type project long after the topic is over and they loose their relevance then. My kids are two or three pages max on a topic and onwards and upwards. Which is why I like that Sonlight repeats the info again and again through the grades. Also, if I child is obsessed with a topic a lap book is never going to cover it. For their passions they need hard core reference books and relevant outings. If they are not passionate about a topic then a lap book could bore them to death and I can see myself doing a whole lot of projects all on my own while they kick a ball in the driveway. Have a great rest-of-weekend!

  9. Hi C, Nice to hear from you! I don’t think its occurred to mine to think I am nuts – regarding anything!!! I might be in a certain amount of denial… they have no idea that this isn’t part of everyday out the file, in the Sonlight Box school. I must say we spend more time making journals than any other school so this really is their education. Cheers then, have a great weekend.

  10. Hi H, Nice to meet you! Always nice to meet a fellow Sonlighter! I am glad you are enjoying our school posts! Myself I love surfing the web, so in the name of school it’s even better! I popped over to visit your blog you have some very cute kids!!! Have a Good Weekend!

  11. Hi, I have loved reading your blog, and I like having my kids do journals too. Just one question – do you require something to be added into history and science journals every day?


  12. Hi L-Oz, Everyone does something in their general journal everyday. For my little guys we probably do science and history journals on alternate days. The older guys need to do a little something in it most days otherwise it can get overwhelming to catch up. Should we get behind – yes it can happen! Then I make sure they at least get notes on or surrounding their timeline stickers. But usually 15 minutes a day in each one is sufficient to keep them up to date with what they are reading. Thanks for asking, and I am so glad you are enjoying our blog.

  13. Thanks for addressing the journals, I’ve been waiting for this post! As a fellow Sonlighter I was wondering if you allow your kids to work in the journals while you are reading aloud or is this work in response to a reading? It seems as though my little guy can multi-task during a reading but it drives me nuts because it seems rude to me. What’s your take?

  14. Hi J, I’ve been meaning to post on journals a long time and just never ever got to it! My kids do listening when I read to them! There is no quiet activity (what are people talking about!) when there are half a dozen kids milling around. As soon as my kids do anything else while I read the noise level gets louder and Louder and LOUDER until I am yelling the reader at them. So we don’t do anything else except listen – then at least I feel like I have their attention. My kids don’t quietly color – they interact out-loud with whatever they do. I have seen people suggest quiet Lego’s while they read – wahahahaha I am rolling on the floor laughing… they should try and read while a couple of kids dig in the lego bin. No, my kids sit quietly with me and listen! Maybe with one kidlet listening it is different but we don’t have a one kidlet situation here!

  15. This is so very creative! I love the variety w/n the journals! I do not homeschool (yet–as my children are 2 yrs and 9 mos) but someday–sooner than I realize–I will be desperately reading your blog for more ideas! 🙂
    Any thoughts on a preschool curriculum? That would be helpful to me right now, as my daughter can recognize most of her letters, sing the ABC song, is learning the sounds, loves to listen to books, and can count to 12 by herself.

  16. Hi B, We use Sonlight, always have always will!!! I think when your kids are tiny the best thing you can do is read, read and read some more! Don’t worry about letters and numbers and so on – they have plenty of time to learn those and you have the best opportunity now to give the widest possible experience base to work from! Really just enjoy them it goes so fast!

  17. Do you find it works best to do journals in a hardbound book, a looseleaf binder notebook, or something else? Lillian

  18. Hi Lillian, hardbound books work best for us!!! I have tried binders but pages quickly get ripped and lost and so on… So our journals are very like scrap books and hardback books seem to be strong enough to take whatever comes their way!!! I do keep all their journals and have a growing shelf of school journals for each kid – I think they will provide great memories in years to come. Have a great weekend…

  19. Thanks for answering all my journal questions. I am excited to add this in to our school! One more question about the main general journal. Do they have different sections for all the different categories, or do they just do what comes next, whether it’s bible study, a book review, art appreciation, etc? This seems like it would fill up fast, but I can also see not having too many different journals to do. Also, if they have a worksheet to add in, do they just cut it out and stick it to a page? Thanks, and have a wonderful Sunday, Lillian

  20. Hi Lillian, no problem. Right now they have history and science journals and art sketchbooks for art history because we are doing a lot of it!!! Otherwise we have general journals for language arts, printed out worksheets, bible stories they color, book reviews, little math tests, pamphlets they find interesting… they fill up about two of these a year. They are a really nice collection and cross-section of their school time and usually end up packed to the brim!!! Hope you have fun journalling…

  21. Hi, How do you do the timeline figures? Is the SL Book of Time their History journal, or another type book? Do you always get big books with lined pages? Thanks, Lillian

  22. Hi Lilian, Really any books will do! I usually get lined books because I can buy them in bulk… Otherwise I could probably do a whole sticker post… but meantime we stick as we go in their personal journals. They see it as a reward for writing up. We do have a Book of Time and it is in a disintegrated state after a number of children using it … and we are in the process of starting over. I always buy double stickers – one for the book of time and one for the kid’s personal journal… Watch for a post!! Enjoy the weekend…

  23. Thanks so much! I am trying to streamline what we do as well as make it more creative and fun for my girls, so this helps a lot! We have a huge SL order on the way (two new cores plus updates to two others), so Box Day is coming soon. I’ll look out for the journal post. Hope everyone is feeling better very soon. I’ll be praying for your dc. Thanks! Lillian

  24. I know this is an old post, but it’s still so GOOD! I love your freestyle approach to notebooking. (You call it journaling, but I call it notebooking.) Wonderful!

  25. Hay Jimmie!!! I am so pleased you stopped by!!! So glad you like our note-booking!!! It is my favorite part of school to see their journals fill up!!! Have a great week!!!

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