Thursday, March 31, 2011

The 'Journal' Blog

I am a homeschooling mom.   I have been at it now for a coon's age, and we are pretty comfortable in our methods and our abilities, but there is always room for improvement.  I spend a fair amount of time looking for better, more interesting, more efficient ways to educate my children.  I seem to be slipping steadily further out into unschooling as we go along.  I don't hold to the theory that there should be no structure or restrictions and that everything should be child led and interest driven.  Interest is key, but I think it is necessary to cultivate interest in different things.  If my child led all of his own education he would probably study games and snacks!  He needs a bit broader interest spectrum, and I can guide him in that.  I believe structure is necessary.   Simple or complex, there has to be structure. 

I do not believe everything needs to be the same for every child.  Each of my children responds differently to different things.  They all learn in different ways.  I do not believe every child has  to have stacks of textbooks and workbooks and test pages and quizzes.  I believe that if a child learns to learn, and learns to love to learn, he will learn and he will understand what he has learned. 

I am a poor salesperson.   If  I do not have confidence in what I am selling I will not be able to convince you that you should have it.  I want to satisfy my own need to understand why things are important to know before I teach them to my own children so that there is some underlying passion present. It helps me create that atmosphere of interest and I can 'sell' it.  For instance, I think teaching my children "the three 'R's" is necessary.  I also believe that logic and reasoning is more important than simply teaching them facts and figures and acceptable answers for them to commit to memory.   Citizenship, character, integrity and honor come before many things that state sanctioned schools teach such as P.E., music, art, or theater.  That is not to say my children wont receive any instruction in those areas, but it is to say that the emphasis will be on the other more important ones.  I believe in this, strongly.  My kids know that, and they receive it.  

I said all that to say this: I saw that some of the kids at the public high school were using journals, but I disregarded it, thinking that I would hit the highlights of it in high school English class someplace along the way.  I misunderstood its purpose. For a long time I thought it was little more than a glorified planner.  I was wrong.  This is something that I have not taught my children to the degree that I think they need to know it.  I have been looking into journaling.   

I decided the time had come to research it and teach it to my children.  I have come away from my time studying its merits with a new understanding.  It is horribly underrated.  There is tremendous value in keeping a journal. I hope I still have the time to impress on my kids the importance of it.  

Through a journal you can experience the many benefits of writing on a regular basis. Here are just a few of them:

Who couldn't use a little more discipline?  Whether doodles and sketches or intense times of purposeful writing, whether weekly or daily, a commitment to journaling on a regular basis will establish a dedicated routine and contribute to a more disciplined life.  As you grow into a life of journaling your level of discipline will grow as well.  

There is a wonderful sense of self-fulfillment and satisfaction when you write something you are happy with.  There is also great satisfaction in looking through a journal and realizing that with the passing of time you have gained in skill, or knowledge or understanding in some area, or in accomplishing a certain goal you had laid out for yourself.  Many times they are things that could have gone entirely unnoticed without a written record. 
Keeping accurate accounts: 
We always think we will remembered what we planted in our gardens, and where, or which materials we set aside for which projects.  We always think we will remember which child said what, or which year some event happened.  The truth is, we don't.  The memories get foggier as the years go by.  Whether it is a progress journal for a garden, a child's learning journal, or a historical journal such as a chronicle of your own daily life, a journal will keep it all straight!  Your family will thank you some day.

Organizing or clarifying your thoughts:
When I am emotional, confused, excited, distracted, overwhelmed, or if I just have too many projects going at one time, journaling helps me see things in black and white.  I can gain some perspective and clarity.  I can gather my thoughts and organize myself.  Sometimes the results are so dramatic that I can find solutions to problems almost immediately just by seeing them written down.    

Goal setting:
A journal can be a very valuable tool in tracking your progress from day to day.  The very act of writing it down can help keep you motivated, too.  An example would be a Bible reading program.  Writing down your progress as well as what you may have learned from your daily reading can be a record of goals as well as achievements.  A prayer journal, a weight loss or exercise journal, a child's yearly home school journal, any plan or goal you make can be recorded and followed in a journal.  Over time many discoveries can be made about your accomplishments or your shortcomings through the process of journaling.
You can learn a lot about yourself by journaling.  You will see and understand things not only as you write, but also when you go back later and read what you have written.  You can begin to see patterns and recognize thought processes and habits that you were never aware of, both positive and negative.  You are going to become more aware of your own thoughts and feelings.  
Greater understanding:
There are so many areas to gain greater understanding in when journaling.  You will learn about the craft of writing and being a wordsmith as you progress, and grow more proficient in grammar and composition through practice and habit.  You will tend to do more research as a result of topical journals.   You will expand your skill and style as you progress and experiment with new ideas while journaling.  

Comprehension and observation skills:
Writing changes your understanding of things.  The very act of articulating what you have experienced makes you think harder, analyze things, contemplate, and find depth in an ordinary situation that would have been overlooked in the mundane business of the day to day had you not stopped to write it down.  Over time it will help develop a habit of seeing things in a more meaningful way.    

This is only the beginning!  I believe that journaling is an important skill to learn and to teach to my children.  I never learned it in school, and actually I found it pretty intimidating.  I can't really explain why.  I think it had something to do with feeling like messing it up would be unredeemable.  Like the artist's fear of the blank canvas, it seemed like a mysterious thing, "a journal," and I wasn't sure what it's purpose was.  Now that I know I can not stress enough the importance of teaching it to our children.  It's never to early or too late to begin journaling!  I'm sure that opening our children's lives up to journaling at an early age will be a benefit to them for the rest of their lives. 


Loretta said...

I can't agree more. The best thing my dad could have ever left me was 20+ years of his life ... journaled. I may not have him to answer questions but I certainly have a greater sense of who he is & through his writing, I've come to know & love him even more.
I've kept journals for each of my children, since I found out I was pregnant with them. I slack at times. I need to get more serious about writing in them again ... as well as in my other journals!

Representative said...

I didn't. :( I didn't see the need, or didn't know where to start, what should be in one... as if there were a prescribed way to do one. I bought some cheapo theme books to start with. But start I will!!