Creating a Family Journal
by Beverley Paine, July 2013
I first came across the idea of family journals in a book by Anna Kealoha called Trust the Children. The idea is to create something we will cherish and treasure for the rest of our lives, reminding us of the richness of these awesome days living and learning as a family together.
Journals are more than a record of what we did and when, they capture our thoughts, feelings and aspirations. They can be more than this too: as Anna says in her book they can outlets for our creative spirits. As well as writing our thoughts and reflections, we can use illustrations to share and remember our experiences. We can gently paste pressed flowers next to poems; collect quotes as well as bus or concert tickets; catch and record snatches of conversations that go with photos; doodle beside our favourite song lyric; monitor the weather; whatever.
Journals are a meaningful way to reflect on our lives, speeding by so fast, getting faster every year. Leafing through the physical pages of a journal, thick with our creative endeavours and artefacts of busy lives is easy and quick to do, unlike scrolling through Facebook or clicking on pages in a blog.
I love journals that are ongoing rather than annual as I feel pressured by empty pages begging to be filled by a certain time or date, but many families collate annual records of their home educating lives. Nothing reassures sceptical grandparents or siblings about the efficacy of home education as quickly flipping through a family journal. Alternatively your journal might be expressly private, a safe place for family members to communicate freely with each other, writing and recording anything they want, in whatever form they want. They might not yet be ready to share their work with others.
An important aspect of the family journal, of any journal or diary really, is that it is a regular activity. Both words - journal and diary - come from the Latin word for 'daily'. Keep your journal on the coffee table or somewhere handy, with pens and pencils nearby. If you treasure and cherish this book your children will too.
Your family journal might double as your home education planning document, with everyone contributing and recording ideas for things to do as they think of them. It might double as a calendar, recording appointments and visits from friends, etc. It might include birthday cards and postcards and special letters. Mindmaps, doodles, daydreams, cartoons and jokes might festoon snatches of everyday life. You might need to rebind the pages and create a new stronger cover as the journal grows!
Children of any age can participate in creating the family journal. Be imaginative and creative. Paste in pictures your little ones have drawn or painted, hand prints and scribbles. These will bring you both joy in years to come.
You can also use calligraphy, scrapbook techniques and materials, crayons and paints to illustrate and decorate journals. Ultimately, though, a journal is about content. A journal is a text we will want
Finally Anna had a list of famous journal keepers: Thomas Edison had enough journals to fill a warehouse! Leonardo da Vinci's journals are famous. Buckminster Fuller created what are probably the most profound journals of the twentieth century. Benjamin Franklin's journals are still widely read. With the meticulous recording of thoughts and experiences much of ancient history would be lost to us. Marcus Aurelius was emperor of Rome from 161-180AD, and the Meditations are a collection of his thoughts, which he wrote down for his own benefit during his reign. They are fascinating, in that they portray the character, not only of the most celebrated Roman emperor, but of a person who has re-evaluated for himself what it means to be alive:
"If thou workest at that which is before thee, following right reason seriously, vigorously, calmly, without allowing anything else to distract thee, but keeping thy divine part pure, as if thou shouldst be bound to give it back immediately; if thou holdest to this, expecting nothing, fearing nothing, but satisfied with thy present activity according to nature, and with heroic truth in every word and sound which thou utterest, thou wilt live happy. And there is no man who is able to prevent this."
Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome,
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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