These are unprecedented times, and while everything is unprecedented for kids (woah! School is starting! A vacation! Wow! A bike!) this is really a wild time, and it’s been a nice break from all of the craziness to see Caleb’s perspective on our days.
With school out, you may also be in various stages of homeschooling or starting to think about homeschooling your kids, and I couldn’t recommend having them start a journal more highly. It’s great writing and drawing practice. If you can do it regularly, daily or every other day, the habit of creating sentences and writing grows stronger, and it’s a wonderful record for a child to look back on years from now.
We’re using the Life Noble Note A5 plain, which I highly recommend—it’s got a lot of pages so it’s nice and substantial, and it also has a very strong binding. The paper quality is also strong enough so that he can press hard with his pencil, use markers and crayons, tape in photos. We’re using the same journal that Caleb kept when we went on our trip to Asia, continuing on in the notebook, and Caleb loves flipping back to see the photos we’ve taped in from the trip. He needed much more help last summer with the writing and drawing, so it’s been fun for me to see his progress.
Sometimes Caleb comes up with something he wants to write about on his own, and sometimes he needs help, and so we brainstorm ideas. He needed much more help a week ago—he had no idea what he did in a day or what he could write about—but now he’s gotten a bit better. Before we begin writing, we sometimes sit and think about something interesting that happened or what was different that went on. We also sometimes brainstorm ways to say something, so if he says “I want to write about how I counted the ink,” we might have a little conversation how he could start a sentence. We’re still practising.
Caleb is five, in senior kindergarten, so he has had some basic introduction to phonics and reading from his junior kindergarten last year and then this year. We are still operating in the “inventive spelling” phase, where he spells words based on how they sound out loud. We do spend a little time on phonics and word rules (silent e at the end of words changing inside vowel sounds like bite versus bit) but for his journal I mostly let him have free reign, and then afterwards, I try and read or discuss with him, and then re-write it in “adult writing.”
I initially thought it might be discouraging for him to think that I was re-doing his work, but it turns out he likes it, and that he is okay understanding that there is a difference between “kid writing” and “adult writing.” When he’s reading his journal to other people, he’ll reference the adult writing.
He does sometimes ask what letter a certain sound makes if he doesn’t know, and I’ll tell him the letter if he’s really stuck. While this is sort of writing practice, I’m not necessarily trying to “test” him on his writing. We celebrate a bit when he gets a tough word right or gets a tough sound right, but for his journaling we mostly talk about what he wants to write about and why, and how it might sound in a sentence, or what picture he wants to draw with it.
I try to be vigilant about not holding on to too much of Caleb’s prolific worksheets and artwork and crafts,* but his journals are truly such a reflection of his thoughts and what’s going on with him during these times, and I think he will really appreciate looking back on them when he’s an adult.
And even for a 5-year-old, taking the time to think about something fun or exciting or unusual is helping him think and reflect, choosing something, whatever it is, to write about.
*Jon says I lack sentimentality, but the truth is that I lack organization