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Journal Writing in your {Catholic} Homeschool

JournalingAre you having trouble getting your children to write stories or writing in general in your {Catholic} homeschool? Why not introduce journaling into your day? It is really a simple addition to your day which won’t add much more time and the rewards from it are priceless!

Morning transitions from breakfast to school time are a snap this year since I instituted morning journal time for my children in grades K, 1, 3, and 4. It has become part of our routine and schedule as well, making it a breeze to clear off the table and get excited about starting the school day and writing!

Not only does journaling encourage a great transition into our school day but it also instills a love for writing, for staying on topic, and also a good way to get ideas organized on paper without the stress of their work being formally graded. For the younger children they get to draw and begin labeling pictures, they also dictate the words   they would like to write. Sometimes I write it for them other times, I write it in highlighter or lighter marker so they can trace the words and in turn practice handwriting! The older children get a chance to practice putting sentences together and spelling words as best they can. I do not formally check for spelling errors (no red marks in their journals) but do guide them to spell words as best they can.

Another reason to do journaling each morning is to allow them time to draw a picture to go with their words.  This is important because it helps your child match picture with text which is an important reading strategy.  So them writing then drawing pictures to go with their writing helps them develop this important reading skill.  I have a child who does the opposite because he is a visual learner, he first draws a picture then he writes about it in detail because the more detail in their pictures the more they have to write about.  This was a child who hated writing so allowing him to draw first has helped him write better and learn to love writing.  This is why I really love using Mead’s Primary Journals since they have space at the top to draw a picture and at the bottom for writing.  In hindsight, for my fourth grader I should have gotten a journal with more lines and less drawing space but that is on the plans for next year.  This is what it looks like:

mead primary journal
Mead Primary Journal cover

 

This is what the journal looks like on the inside.
This is what the journal looks like on the inside.

 

Journal prompts might be easier than you think. The key is to keep it simple. The neat thing is to see the younger children develop their prompt into something simple and the older children take it a step further and make it more complex. Be smart about prompts and use the material your children are working from in other subjects! Is it a feast day? Why not incorporate it into your journal prompt? A lot of days I als do what I call free journaling, which means the children can write about any subject they like. They love free journals days and get very creative! Shhhh! Don’t tell them they are leaning about history, math, science and religion while journaling…and you might even pick up some prompt ideas from free journal days, your children might surprise you.

Journal prompts are not necessary but they do help.  Your prompt can be open ended or it can ask a question. I have taught my children to borrow from the words on the prompt.  This helps them stay on topic and also builds their vocabulary as I try to use bigger words in the prompt.  For example, if the prompt is: “What is something amazing you did this summer?”  Their entry would be, “Something amazing I did this summer was….”   Here is a list of thirty-one FREE journal prompts to help you get started, that is a whole month’s worth of prompts!:

1)  What is something amazing you did this summer?

2) What is your one favorite subject in school?

3) In your free time, what do you like to do?

4) What is your favorite song and why do you like it?

5) Today is the feast of Saint Michael, what do you like about him?

6) I woke up one morning to the sound of _____, I felt _____ because…..

7) I went to the museum one time and suddenly…….

8) My favorite thing we did this weekend was….

9) I love Fall because…..

10) Helping around the house is important because….

11) My father/mother is _____ because…..

12) I love learning about All Saints!  My favorite saint is ____________ because….

13) If I were President, I would….

14) I am afraid of ________ because…..

15) There is a dinosaur living in my closet….

16) If I was invisible I would…..

17) I am really good at….

18) Sharing with others is important because….

19) When Our Lord Jesus walked on earth, He….

20) My favorite room in my house is…..(why?)

21) When I grow up I want to be…….

22) I love my grandmother/grandfather because…..

23) Father _____ is a really ______ priest because……

24) Something that makes me really happy is…..

25) My favorite song is _____________ because…..

26) My favorite hobby is ____________ because…..

27) Where would you love to go to next Summer? why?

28) If I won $1,000, I would use it to buy……

29) If I could fly like a bird, I would go to…..

30) Write a letter to your mom/dad.

31) If there were no televisions, internet or video games, what would you do with your time?

These I just wrote off the top of my head.  At first prompts were not so easy for me but once I got into it, I could come up with a long list of prompts.  Here is my son who is six writing to the prompt, “I was in a museum looking at a _____ when suddenly….”

I walked into a museum and suddenly....
I walked into a museum and suddenly….

 

This next example is one I worked with my four year old, yes he is four and loving school (unschoolers don’t lynch me, lol).  We were working on this as a journal entry and it turned into a fun writing assignment.  The prompt was, “If my bed were a _____, and I were an ______ in it, I would ________ into __________ like _____________.”  This came from a fun poem we read the day before.  I wrote some of the words and the ones underlined he traced my words which I wrote in a highlighter.  here is what it looked like in the end.

If my bed was a

 

In summary, there are at least five reasons, if not more, as to why daily journaling is beneficial in your {Catholic} homeschool:

1) it is a great way to transition into school.

2) gets the children’s creative juices flowing.

3) it allows them a calm activity first thing in the morning.

4) it helps them practice their spelling.

5) it allows them to practice writing and handwriting.

 

Do you already do journals in your {Catholic} Homeschool?  What are some of the prompts you use?  What do you like about it?

 

 

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10 Steps to Selecting a {Catholic} Homeschool Curriculum

Selecting a curriculum can be a truly overwhelming task each year for homeschooling mothers.  So many times I have said to myself, “if I could see that book, I’d know if I want it!”  Right?  Then you hop online look through blogs of perfect homes, with perfect mom teachers, that have the perfect school rooms, and then there is Pinterest…then you are headed to Confession, jealousy is a lousy sin.  No seriously, is it not just frustrating?  😀  How do these women just *KNOW* that’s the right Math book?  Why did it not work for *MY* child?  🙂  Well, here’s why:  There IS NOT one set curriculum that is perfect for everyone.  There I said it.  So here’s another secret that lady that introduced you to homeschool forgot to mention, the beauty of homeschooling is that you are able to create a custom curriculum that is beneficial to *YOUR* family.  What works for another family may not be the best fit for another, or *gasp* what works for one of your children may not work for another.    Okay, so now lets take a deep breath and investigate how these ladies on their blogs look so with it.  I confess many times I have said, “when I grow up I want to be just like Jessica from Shower of Roses.”  Don’t laugh, I have said it..even to her. 😀

Over the years our family has tried a variety of things – ranging from being an eclectic homeschooler, to using a complete curriculum package to creating things to use, and it has morphed into a combination of pieces that we now use together as a family and components that we use individually to round out the various subject areas.  So how do you decide what is the right fit for your family/homeschool?

10 Steps to Selecting a {Catholic} Homeschool Curriculum:

  1. Think about your educational philosophy or teaching style. There are several methods of teaching, depending on the method that both you and your children are comfortable will also determine which books you will select for your homeschool.  There are several homeschooling methods to pick from, if you haven’t you might want to look back at our previous articles in this series.

  2. Consider your children’s learning styles. Every child is different in their learning approach and may process information differently. Some pieces of curriculum are tailored to meet the needs of various learners, so this is very helpful to know.  Some children will need a particular style of curriculum to help them succeed.  Again, weighing in what homeschooling method you have selected would be helpful.

  3. Write down and decide on the educational goals have you set for your children and family. This is another area that is important to look at because you want to have a long range plan in each subject so that you feel confident that you are meeting these goals.

  4. Do you have a spending budget? This is really important and I strongly advise setting a budget and knowing your spending limits.  Start off by making a list of the books you select and then finding out what their retail rate is.  It is important to think long term within your budget.  If the book fits your needs and you can reuse it with subsequent children, it’s a long term savings!

  5. What subjects can your children work together in? Some families focus on specific grade levels and books while other families work on certain subject areas together as a family. Subjects like Science and History are great examples of working as a family on a particular topic with varying expectations depending on the child’s abilities. This will help you save money as well.

  6. What works for your current life situation? There are some programs that are more labor-intensive than others, searching for living books when you are about to give birth to baby number six and all your children are eight and under might not be a realistic goal.  Do not set yourself up to fail by doing this.  Also, if you cannot afford certain programs do not put so much pressure on yourself.  I have seen families with financial burdens homeschool for almost nothing.
  7. Do you have access to a good library system?  Before you start spending money, check your local library.  A lot of times they carry those wonderful books and you can reserve them ahead of time and even have them delivered to your local library.  Sometimes you can go to the children’s section and make suggestions on certain books.  Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of times they are willing to purchase these recommendations.
  8. Have you asked others for their opinions?  Warning.  This is a great thing with this day and age of technology BUT the warning comes in not becoming overwhelmed with so many suggestions.  There are groups on Yahoo and Facebook that can be gem or a burden, if you ask a curriculum question in a group, take the good from what others suggest.  Do not be afraid to ask questions you will find other homeschooling mothers who have become experts at certain curriculums and can be very helpful.  You can also visit a homeschooling conference near you to listen to speakers and also get to see the books first hand.
  9. Did you check your own bookshelf?  Starting with what you already have saves you time and money.  Sometimes we homeshcooling moms might pick up a book that was on sale, or someone gave us and forgot about.  {I know it never happens to you, but it does me.}  You should also make a list of the books you own and keep this list handy so that you do not purchase duplicates of books you already own.
  10. Have you checked out SWAP groups or thought of borrowing?  Once you have selected a product you like, it is much easier to buy things used or online.  Yahoo Groups has a group and so does Facebook Groups where you can post WTB (Want to Buy) and ISO (In Search Of) threads looking for a used book to avoid paying retail.  You help another homeschooling mom and she helps you save money.  Oh, also, if you have books you don’t use anymore, SELL THEM!  They don’t need to be collecting dust on your shelves.  Sometimes, you can even borrow books from other families.  There is a family at my church that has a son in 11th and 9th, I have a son in 10th, I give her my books for her 9th grader, she gives me her books from her 11th grader.  We both win!  🙂

With all that said, there are times that you find out part way through the year that something you thought would be perfect just isn’t. Sometimes you discover that curriculum is just not working. The tweaking involved in the process, and while it’s frustrating – it’s ok, and good. The first bit of homeschooling involves a learning curve where you are discovering your areas of comfort in teaching and your children’s learning grooves.

So with all that said, I have spent the last six weeks in the arduous task of getting my children’s curriculum together.  As we enter our fifth year of home education, I am finally feeling pretty good about all of our curriculum selections for our children.  We will have a kindergartner, second grader, third grader, and a tenth grader, oh yes, and of course our little tag along three year old toddler.  I don’t promise this won’t change one more time, because it might, and it’s okay.  But as of now, this is our 2013-2014 curriculum selection:

Frequency: Daily

 


Grammar {Daily}

Spelling {Bi-Weekly}

Writing {Daily}

Reading ~ {Daily}

Kindergarten Core

For the bulk of our year we will be using 26 Letters to Heaven by Sarah Park as our core. Technically Noah is kindergarten this year, although he is academically ahead in a few areas, so we are adjusting things accordingly.

Phonics ~ {Daily}

Handwriting {Daily}

Frequency: Daily

Frequency: Twice a Week


Frequency: Twice a Week

Art {Once a Week}

Music {Bi-Weekly}:

All Children:

Latin {Bi-Weekly}:

Spanish {Bi-Weekly}

Electives for our High Schooler (in addition to Latin, Art & Music):

 

 

Other articles in this Raising Saints Homeschooling series.