Keeping a Journal While You Explore
Homeschooling allows us to make the most of the learning moments we encounter in our lives, including our exploration of the world around us, both natural and man made. We record our adventures in a Field Trip journal each time we do our exploring. This allows us to reflect and process our experiences, practice our narrative writing and create a memory book we can look back at later.
A field trip journal is like a Nature Study Notebook but for field trips. I heard a talk from Holly Giles at a homeschool convention that helped me understand how easy keeping a journal can be. We use it to write down what we remember and learned when we are doing school out and about in the community. The directions are simple. After we return home, or sometimes in the car, I pass out the notebooks and they write about what we did. They must include the date and location. Now that everyone is older we write 3 details about what we did, which is a great natural introduction to paragraph writing.
I took the idea and made it our own. When we did our learning away from home, I took notebooks. When we completed our activity or experience, I helped the kids write or draw some thoughts in their notebooks. While they are writing we are able to talk through and discuss our experience as a family. The kids can ask questions and I can get ideas for activities at home to continue their interest. I also get a peek into what they found most important and take away from the experience.
Building Writing Skills
We have been using the journals for a few years now. Initially they were filled with drawing and dictations they gave me to write down when the kids were emerging writers. Now that everyone is older I ask each child to write 3 details from the experience. They are learning to write a paragraph and don’t even know it! Their opening sentence is where we went or what we did. They choose their own 3 details, and i don’t tell them what they should be. Their conclusion is their opinion of the experience.
As you can see from one of their recent journals what they remember isn’t always positive. Our co-op went to a Maple Tree Grove during sugaring season the day he wrote these honest comments. We came home and wrote in our journals and did our math for the day. It’s fun to see what stands out to the kids on each outing. For the sugaring, it was the cold weather we endured as we hiked through the grove.
Recently we took a big road trip as family and our journals came along for the ride. 3 of our stops included rich, hands-on learning opportunities. We visited our first foreign country as a family during a cruise. And on the road trip to the port we visited a National Park and Space Center Houston. Our cruise stop in Mexico was a great cross-cultural experience as we walked to the town square and read the signs and observed the differences from what our town looks like. The conversations that followed our visit to the Space Center led to a change in our science plans when we returned home. We turned that study in to a newspaper and quoted the kids journals in our review of the Space Center.
What are you waiting for? Grab a notebook and start keeping a journal. It can be what you found on your walk around the block or a visit to the local donut shoppe. It’s up to you and don’t forget to keep it simple.