One way to get your kids to write, and actually enjoy it, is through journaling, just writing for a short amount of time every day. If done well, kids may not even realize that you’re trying to get them to write!
Benefits of Journaling
Journaling is a simple writing exercise that provides many benefits for all ages and writing levels. Here are just a few of the potential rewards:
- Build Writing Skills: Writing daily will build writing skills as your kids practice putting together sentences, wrestling with word combinations, spelling words, and choosing punctuation. They may even ask you for vocabulary words (“another way to say ___”) or whether something they have written “makes sense.”
- Establish a Love for Writing: Kids who journal daily may develop a love for writing. They often find that they like expressing themselves, having an audience (for their writing, or for their reading if they later read their journals aloud), or illustrating their writing, etc.
- Increase Mindfulness: Kids who use journaling to reflect on what is happening in their lives may develop attitudes, awareness, clarity, and other benefits of mindfulness.
- Start a Lifelong Habit: Journaling can be an activity that kids carry through to their adult lives. Many adults who journal started as kids, maybe took a break, and continued/returned to journaling as adults.
Helping Kids Journal Effectively
If you present journaling the right way, your kids won’t mind writing. They may even ask to do it! These are some suggestions to help make journaling work:
- Make Writing Sessions Short: The longer you ask your kids to write, the more the activity will feel like school. Make the writing sessions brief and limit them to once a day.
- Provide Choices: Kids love having choices, and this alone can make or break the activity of journaling. Let your kids choose what to write (maybe by giving several options), where to write, what they want to use as a journal, how they want to write (i.e., with a pen, pencil, marker, crayon, tablet, or computer), etc. If you have artistic children, encourage them to illustrate what they write.
- Create Fun Journaling Environments: Journaling does not have to take place at a desk. Have your kids journal on a porch, under a tree, during car rides, or anywhere that they find inspiration. Have the journal be part of their daypacks when enjoying fun kid activities.
- Model Journaling Yourself: Show your kids that journaling is an activity that you can enjoy, too. Share a journal you have completed, or write along with your kids. Begin each day by writing a list of things and people for which you are grateful. See how much better you feel and share that positive feeling with your kids!
Types of Journal Entries
There are many methods of journaling, so consider what you know about your kids and then choose the best type. You can also vary the methods of journaling to keep the experience interesting. Here are several kinds of journal entries that may make writing an easier sell:
- Log: Have your kids keep a daily log of their activities. This can be a fun memory book later, especially if they add illustrations. Encourage your kids to include as many details as possible and to share their reactions to the daily activities.
- Diary: Have your kids reflect on each day, or write about their thoughts and feelings. This is a more private type of writing, and should remain so, but it’s still writing. There are many emotional benefits that can result from writing in a diary as well.
- Communication: Have your kids write to a particular audience (even you!). You can even write back after a certain number of journal entries. For more creativity, have your kids write to their favorite character, sports icon, etc.
- Prompt-Led: Give your kids a series of prompts that change daily/weekly and offer choices. For example, a weekly list may include writing to their own nose, writing a story about an elf on the moon, and describing their dog to their neighbor’s cat. Have fun with these!
Using Journals to Build Writing Skills
You don’t want journaling to feel like schoolwork. However, you also don’t want to waste teachable moments. How can you design journaling activities and use completed journals to build writing skills? Here are a few suggestions:
- Design Targeted Journaling Activities: Perhaps you notice that your child writes very simple sentences. Challenge him/her to write some sentences with at least a certain number of words. If you notice your child’s writing doesn’t include a lot of adjectives, have your child describe their favorite playground. Take a writing challenge, and turn it into a fun topic or prompt for journaling.
- Have Them Read Aloud: Ask your kids if they want to read their journals to you (and to each other). Sometimes, kids get so excited about sharing their stories and accounts of their summer activities that the thought of eventually reading aloud motivates them to write more.
- Follow-up with Fun Activities: Notice what writing challenges are occurring, and create some fun skill-building activities to help with those challenges. For example, if your child has difficulty with spelling, use sidewalk chalk to practice words (and then have him/her draw the pictures). If your child has trouble with parts of speech, toss a ball back and forth, each of you listing a verb every time you throw the ball.
- Keep a Record of Challenge Areas: Even if you can’t address writing challenges right away, make a note of areas to target once homeschooling starts again. You can always use a completed journal to teach formal lessons later.
Writing can cause a lot of anxiety for kids, especially if they struggle. As a result, writing may be one of the last activities your kids will want to do. However, it’s always a great time to casually maintain and build writing skills. The trick is to make writing enjoyable and get your kids hooked, and journaling may be one way to do just that!
Additional Resources on Homeschool Journaling