“We write to taste life twice—in the moment and in retrospect,” wrote Anais Nin, author. And she would certainly know—she kept a journal for over 60 years.
I can empathize; I’ve kept a journal consistently since I was ten years old, and I can’t say I’ve ever regretted it. It has been priceless to be able to look back over the years and read about what I was thinking and feeling and how much I have learned and grown.
Parents and teachers have long recognized the personal and educational benefits of journaling for children. Journals can take a variety of forms, but here we’ll just look at four basic types: the personal history, the learning log, the reading journal, and the gratitude journal.
- Personal history: This is one of the most basic purposes of a journal—to provide a personal life history to look back on and learn from. Kids can begin writing about their lives almost as soon as they begin to write, and early entries can be some of the most treasured (and hilarious!) to read back over later. Very young children can draw pictures and write about them or dictate entries to a parent or older sibling. Do your kids have “juvenile blank journal syndrome,” where they don’t know what to write about? The Journal Jar is one solution. Write prompts on slips of paper and place them in a jar, drawing one each day to write about. Giving topics can help kids get started and narrow down their focus a little faster than they would if they had just been given the charge to write about anything. Check out more personal history journal prompts at GraciousRain. The prompts are geared a little bit towards adults, but many can be easily adapted for children. Or you can try these prompts from Teaching with TLC instead.
- Learning Log: Journaling can have a purely educational purpose as well, providing a more holistic means to document and evaluate learning. Take, for example, the Lacelle family’s homeschool journal project. The Lacelle family reads and studies books together on different subjects, and the children dictate back to their mother what they have learned. She types it and pastes it in their journals, and then they decorate pages and take pictures and create projects to go with it. The children are not only reporting on what they have learned, but are taking more ownership for it and creating a resource they can use to look back on.
- Reading journal: A subcategory of the learning log, the reading journal can be used to develop reading comprehension and critical thinking. Homeschool mom Jimmie gives some great tips for reading journals in her article, including helps for the less-than-enthusiastic student. One particularly helpful tip is to provide a bookmark with reading questions for readers to think about as they go along and write down answers to.
- Gratitude journal: Gratitude journals can be one of the simplest and most meaningful types of journals. In a little notebook, have your children write or draw a picture of something they are grateful for every day. We are blessed with so much, and especially during this holiday season, we should give thanks to God for all that we have and are. Keeping a gratitude journal can help to cultivate a lifelong spirit of gratitude.
Journaling in all its forms can be a very worthwhile and fulfilling activity, and one of the most beautiful things about it is that it can be adapted to meet individual needs. I am grateful that as a child I kept a journal—it has become one of my most prized possessions. So take heart, parents; even if your children complain about journaling now, they will most likely thank you for it later. Happy writing!