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      We began using journals a year ago. I kind of borrowed ideas from  different sources as I went along. Basically, though, we started doing this after severe frustration with workbooks. It started when my oldest was reading the Pathway readers. He loved them. Well, he did love them until I managed to squelch that love with the accompanying workbooks. Needless to say even after I took the workbooks away - he would have nothing to do with the readers until years later when his younger brother was learning to read from them. As I looked at the workbook and textbook questions, I remembered my own school "daze" (spelled correctly for how I remember my History and Science classes). I really wanted something better and different for our children. Something fun. Shouldn't learning be fun? I thought so. I read books & articles by Charlotte Mason, Dr. Raymond Moore, Ruth Beechick, Diana Waring, Karen Andreola, Valerie Bendt, Rob and Cindy Shearer and others. As I read, I realized that not everybody did everything exactly alike but that there was a general trend - a distaste for that which took the wonderful world of history, science and "good" books and degraded it into something someone else had eaten and digested and regurgitated into "knowledge" worth knowing. It hit me full force why I hated school as a kid and why I barely passed history. Which by the way I passed because my roommate in Highschool had read the "North and the South" to me. Now I wouldn't recommend reading that for a history book- but because she did read it - I got the gist of the time period and passed the history test. Remembering my history test helped me realize that facts and data and information can be learned in a better way. So in came Journaling! Well sort of . . .When my oldest was 6 years old we were reading about the pilgrims. We read many many books. He just loved this story so we found several "stories" and he started drawing pictures. I came across Valerie Bendt's "Creating books with children" and "For the Love of Reading". I am forever indebted to this sweet woman. Well, we took Robbie's pictures and he dictated to me a story of the pilgrims. Following Bendt's guidelines we created a beautiful hardcover book that is completely Robbie's. Now 14 years later it is a true keepsake for Robbie and our family. This past fall, our two oldest boys were studying geology and made a Geology Pop Up book and we used the "Creating books with children" guidelines to put it together. It is really creative with the neatest pop ups and text written by the boys about earthquakes, volcanoes, Devil's Tower, the layers of the earth etc. To me, this tells me they are learning and retaining what they learn. And the artwork with pop ups. Impressive! I spoke with Valerie Bendt on the phone one day a few years ago and was sharing with her that I'd like to do a "book" of things we are learning as we go. Complete with pictures, dictation, art, charts, clipart, poems ect. She encouraged me suggested I look into Creative Memories for ideas. I did. I researched scrapbooking. So, I developed what has worked for us and is a blessing to. Currently we are using for Science Considering God's Creation and Felice Gerwitz's "Creation" Unit studies as jumping points and adding and deleting as fits our family. Each of our boys have their own Science and separate History Journal and we have a smaller family Backyard Field book journal we are also making of things around our area (birds, fish, trees, flowers ect). Into the Science Journal goes some of the completed pages from the Considering God's Creation, dried leaves & flowers we have gathered and pressed, pictures of projects, dictation on the different things we read or learn, scripture texts, vocabulary and this past fall we found a paper wasp nest that we took apart to learn about and we put some of the "paper nest" flattened out into their journal with dictation from the research they did on this and notes on where they found it. Their History Journals include some really neat things. We read alot in our home, especially when it comes to history. Last year we started with the explorers and worked our way through the Viking, explorers, and on up American history till now we are thoroughly enjoying the Revolutionary War. The boys love the stories we read. We have read from the Childhood of Famous Americans: George Washington and are locating Ben Franklin, Martha Washington & Crispus Attucks to read. We have also read from the Landmark Series:Thirteen Colonies, Landing of the Pilgrims, and we are starting the one on George Washington and we have others we are going to read before we finish. This is really interesting for the boys and me too. I finally understand the events of history more clearly. We also are reading books by Esther Forbes, Alice Dalgliesh, Ingri & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire, Kate Waters (this are beautifully illustrated), Margaret Pumphrey, Edwin Tunis, Elizabeth Speare, Peter Spier, Jean Fritz and many others. These are the "textbooks", I guess you could call them that. For more Revolutionary ideas see the bottom of this page. From these books we draw pictures of events and people and the boys dictate stories I type them out and we paste these into their journals. We put datelines, maps and all kinds of neat things in here. For instance, when we studied the vikings (and check out the gorgeous books by John Clare, Fiona MacDonald, DK & Usborne for this study) the boys had their grandfather help them make a wooden "viking" boat, I helped them make a wide stripe viking sail and the boys sealed their boat with waterproof stuff and sailed it on our pond. They spent hours on this project and sailing it on the pond. Of course, I took a picture of this accomplishment and in it went into their journal. I have also found old magazines and older workbooks that have great clip art pictures that we use to dress up their journals. But you can use anything. Many pictures can be matted with colored paper (kind of like you do for pictures in a Creative Memory type Scrapbook). This just makes the pictures and artwork stand out even nicer. And the stickers and rubber stamps coming heavily on the scene these can dress up dictation and research papers nicely.I purchased the Beautiful Feet History Guide and I used that for ideas too. I took the time line which we don't have room to put up yet and made a copy of the pictures to put in their journals to spice up their dictation. We are also working on copying the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow "Paul Revere's Ride" to put in their journals. Recipes we used and other things go in here too. This is their "workbook". Unlike fill in the blank type workbooks these are their thoughts, projects, stories, maps, pictures, charts, experiments, and ideas. In other words, I know they have "thought" about what we have studied. They may not remember every exact date, but they know the time periods and they know how to find the information if they need it. I want my children to be able to think through what they read and learn and understand it not just to be able to fill in a blank for a few minutes and then "who cares". Now, this isn't to say there isn't a time and place for workbooks, of course there will be. But they are tools and shouldn't take the place of "learning". Journaling can be used for other subjects too. Like music, art, math (check out the link below to access math unit study type ideas), geography (though, I include this in our History), Bible Study and so many other things. And there are so many encouraging reads out there to get you going. But Valerie Bendt's book "For the Love of Reading" will get you going. Another good book is "Any child can write". And Karen Andreola's articles are great idea stretchers. But remember everything you read has to be prayed over and used to the best advantage for "your" family. No two families are exactly alike and each has to slightly adapt things to work best in their situation. We hope this gets you started and that you will enjoy journaling as much as we do. And remember by journaling you are including not only the subject (like history, for example) but art, music (at times), Home ec (cooking), photography (maybe), poetry, writing, research skills, reading comprehension skills (dictation), thinking skills and many other skills that we probably don't even realize our children are learning. So it is pretty comprehensive. And so much fun too!! We don't stress the journal to the point of exhaustion, though. It is a beautiful tool and keepsake of what we are studying and the fun we have had gaining knowledge. If you'd like more information on the American Revolution - there is another homeschool mom, Linda Rioridan, who has a great site and has a page on American Revolution study too. She has also put info on dictation, math unit study ideas, and other great ideas - A must stop in for a visit place.

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