Leaving a journal legacy: Beyond “Dear Diary”

by | Jan 23, 2017 | Writing & Journal Prompts

Leaving a Legacy Journal: Beyond Dear Diary

Journaling can be the perfect activity to engage students in the writing process.

With no demands for extensive planning or revision, journals can chronicle your children’s maturing abilities, interests, and attitudes. A journal allows the creative student to unleash a host of ideas about current pursuits and future dreams.

As a journaling veteran, however, I caution you to beware, lest your kids start wandering into Dear Diary territory!

Emotional Diary . . . or Purposeful Journal?

A writing devotee by age eight, I entered the realm of embarrassing revelations when I turned thirteen. Soon, several diaries overflowed with my adolescent emotions, self-critiques of my personal appearance, and many internal debates.

Dreaming of a future marked by literary fame, I shielded myself from the awful truth: most of my “dear diary” entries were, at best, reserved for a shredder (or a bonfire, if my future self were to take a dramatic turn of mind)!

I knew better. After all, I had proudly worn my teen-volunteer badge at homeschool conventions and taken copious notes on myriad subjects. I still remember the afternoon session taught by the scholarly Miss Katherine Dang. In crisp tones, she admonished her audience: “Don’t keep a diary. If you don’t want anyone to read it, you should never write it down.”

In theory, I agreed with her wisdom. In practice, I allowed myself to fall under the deceptive charms of Fresh White Pages and Exquisite Binding.

Looking back, I wouldn’t say my time spent in self-examination, goal-setting, and introspection was wrong. Yet now I confidently follow and promote the principle of writing for a purpose, even in our personal lives.

We choose to homeschool in order to create a family legacy and impart a cultural and spiritual heritage. Therefore, we ought to write—and teach our children to write—with the forward-minded intention of leaving a legacy. Parents and students alike can create a journal legacy filled with snippets that future generations will learn from and thoroughly enjoy.

Create Character Sketches

The best journaling practice I’ve discovered is creating character sketches. How many people come into our lives for a season, only to move on or pass away before we’ve taken time to capture them in words? How many brothers, sisters, friends will grow up and change before we’ve reflected on the wonder and beauty of their earlier seasons of life?

Each of us becomes a fuller, richer person for having crossed paths with a spirited daughter, sympathetic teacher, insightful grandfather, or iron-sharpens-iron friend. Their image, their words, and their effect on us ought not to be forgotten.

So find a quiet place, and invite your children to join you. Choose a new pen and a bright, fresh page. Close your eyes and think of someone who touched your life last year, last week, or this very morning, perhaps, writing your impressions of:

  • A child’s peculiar gait: the way he runs up to you out of breath and full of laughter, or the way he rambles with hands in pockets and head in the clouds.
  • An elderly aunt’s odd speech habits: the outdated expressions she uses on Sundays, or the pet names she bestows on each family member.
  • A brother’s endearing  facial expressions: the puzzled wrinkle of his eyebrows as he wrestles with a math problem, or his unconscious mouth-puckering at piano recitals.
  • A mother’s deep impression on you: the day she cried over long-forgotten photos, or the night she soothed your fever and sang you to sleep.

Defer Perfection

Remember, journals are for sketching, with plenty of rough edges but a wealth of heartfelt truth. You can fill in the sketch with color and details later, perhaps when you complete a WriteShop lesson.

If you do write your novel someday, you can sweat and strive to paint the perfect masterpiece, with every nuance of character in faithful hues of light and shade. For now, relax. Smile. Breathe. Your journal is becoming a goldmine of those unforgettable moments you’ve shared with remarkable, everyday people.

Don’t forget that you’re one of them.

Daniella Dautrich is a homeschool graduate and WriteShop alumna. A happily married writer, mother, and homemaker, she blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com



  1. Greta Mitchel

    I keep a diary!:) I think it’s alright to have an embarrassing volume from childhood. Men and women from the past kept diaries, and now they are have historical significance. Who knows, maybe our “embarrassing” teenage diary will too! 😀 Your teacher’s comment, “Don’t keep a diary. If you don’t want anyone to read it, don’t write it down,” made me sort of angry. That is the safe route, isn’t it? But sometimes you need to get tumbling thoughts out of your brain. Despite my disagreements, I love your blog and will continue to be a frequent reader! Best wishes to you and your blog! 🙂

    • Kim Kautzer

      Hey, Greta! Thanks for taking time to share your perspective and for your kind words about the blog.

      I’m a personal fan of diaries—mine go way back to childhood! Daniella, the author of this post, also kept diaries. But even though diary-writing can be cathartic, it doesn’t necessarily mean we want someone to read our angst-filled pages. Many people spill their hearts and souls into personal journals thinking, “I’ll throw these out one day so no one will ever come across them.” Sometimes they get around to it, sometimes not! The point of the quote from the conference speaker is to keep your thoughts to yourself if you don’t want anyone to read them later. I think there’s value in keeping a diary, but some people just feel better taking the “safe route,” and that’s okay too.

  2. Lisa Ehrman

    I love the details you described, and how it’s so inspiring to us to journal. Thanks for sharing this lovely post at Together on Tuesdays :

    • Kim Kautzer

      So sweet of you to take a moment to jot a note, Lisa. We love planting seeds of inspiration!

  3. Mother of 3

    I love this post! You always have such great ideas for inspiring children to write. Thanks for sharing with us at Together on Tuesdays!

    • Kim Kautzer

      Thanks for your always-encouraging comments!

  4. Kim

    How fabulous, Beth! Hope your workshop is a great success. {Love your website, by the way!}

  5. Beth Cregan

    Love this post and it’s very timely as I head out today to present a workshop about keeping a journal. We might just do a character sketch! Thanks for the great idea.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.