Teach homeschool teens to write for a purpose by leaving a journal legacy

by | Jan 23, 2017 | High school, Teaching Homeschool Writing

Journaling can be the perfect activity to involve homeschool teens in the writing process while teaching them the importance of leaving a journal legacy.

With no demands for heavy-duty planning or revising, journals can record their maturing abilities, interests, and attitudes. A journal allows the creative student to pour out their thoughts about current passions and future dreams.

So as a journaling veteran, I’d like to share some tips. Hopefully, these ideas will keep your middle and high school kids’ writing from venturing 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, my diaries overflowed with adolescent emotions, self-critiques of my appearance, and my many internal debates.

Because I dreamed of a future marked by literary fame, I denied the awful truth that most of my “dear diary” entries were best reserved for a shredder—or a bonfire!

I knew better. After all, I had proudly worn my teen-volunteer badge at homeschool conventions and taken tons of notes on scores of subjects. I still remember the session taught by the scholarly Katherine Dang. She admonished the audience not to keep a diary. She said, “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 let 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 my personal life.

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 meaningful memoir.

Parents and teens alike can create a journal legacy! Fill the pages with snippets that future generations can both learn from and enjoy.

Teach homeschool teens to write for a purpose by leaving a journal legacy of memories and character sketches for future generations.

Create Character Sketches

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

That’s why my favorite journaling practice 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 siblings or friends will grow up and change before we’ve reflected on our relationships while they’re still fresh?
  • What opportunities have we missed to record the snapshot moments or quirky traits of different friends and family?

So find a quiet place, and invite your teenagers 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. For starters, perhaps you could write 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 uncle’s odd speech habits: the outdated expressions he uses, or the pet names he calls different family members.
  • A sister’s endearing  facial expressions: the puzzled wrinkle of her eyebrows as she wrestles with a math problem, or her 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.
  • The faithful dog who completes your family: the way he’s always up for a game of fetch, or his habit of sleeping in the laundry basket.

Set Perfection Aside

Remember, journals are for sketching out ideas. There will be plenty of rough edges around that wealth of heartfelt truth. Later, your teen can fill in the sketch with color and details, perhaps after describing a person, place, or pet—or narrating a personal experience—in a WriteShop lesson.

When your kids write that Great American Novel someday, they can strive to pen the perfect masterpiece with every nuance of detail. For now, help them relax, smile … and breathe. Their journals are becoming a goldmine of those unforgettable moments about life experiences and observations of remarkable, everyday people.

Daniella Dautrich is a homeschool graduate and WriteShop alumna. A happily married writer, mother, and homemaker, she loves making memories with her family.



  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.


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