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.
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.