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    by Mike McHugh

Journal Writing for Home Schoolers
Date Posted: January 31, 2008

Over the last several years, newspapers, magazines, and television programs have been warning about the dangers of stress. Many of these sources suggest, with a respectable amount of support documentation, that the root cause of the rise in the number of people with hypertension disorders and clinical depression is chronic stress. Assuming that such viewpoints are true, many Americans, including those who are involved in home education, need to develop an action plan to significantly reduce the level of stress in their lives. But how can this be accomplished when the mere pursuit of a full and active life naturally exposes people to stress on a regular basis?

It is hard to argue against the position that the simple process of living life is stressful. Christ himself taught that “…In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) The reality that stress is unavoidable in a fallen world should lead folks to ask: “How can I properly cope with the stresses of life so that they do not overwhelm me or damage my spirit?” For many people, including home school students, part of the answer to dealing with stress is to develop an outlet for expressing their innermost frustrations/concerns in the pages of a written journal. Quite often, the simple act of expressing or “venting” one’s thoughts or feelings about the issues of life can bring stress levels down considerably.

The act of writing a journal can also provide a multitude of benefits beyond stress management. At this point, however, we will begin to look briefly at the process of how to begin a journal. The first issue that must be considered is how one should define journal writing. In a manner similar to a diary, journals begin by recording on a regular basis one’s experiences and thoughts. In addition, journals often include reflections on what has taken place, as well as remarks regarding the significance of certain events.

Now that we have outlined a basic definition of journal writing, we will proceed to consider the practical steps that are needed to be successful.

Step one: Purchase a book or ring binder that has blank pages to write on. Many office supply or stationary stores offer items of this kind that are designed for journal writing. If possible, purchase a journal book that gives you the option to identify each page or section with the date/time of each of your journal entries. It should also be mentioned at this point that some people prefer to store their journal entries into a portable hand held computer known as a “palm pilot”, or on a laptop computer.

Step two: One of the few rules of journal writing that should not be broken is to make sure that you organize your thoughts by date and by subject on a consistent basis. Quite often, you will want to be able to reference something that you wrote weeks or months before, therefore, it is vital that you take the time to properly identify each journal entry. Use an organizational structure that works well for you, even though it may be unorthodox.

Step three: Develop a standard outline for each journal entry based upon a series of basic questions that you think are beneficial for you to address. For example, you might begin by asking:

  1. Who were the people involved in the situation or event you are describing?

  2. What was the issue or topic that was being considered, and what, if any conclusions or recommendations were made?

  3. When did the meeting take place, and what dates were mentioned during the conversation or proposal?

  4. Where did the discussion take place, and what locations were mentioned?

  5. Why did the situation or issue arise, and why was it important?

Step four: If you are a Christian, you should also consider adding in remarks on a routine basis regarding what Scriptural principles you believe are relevant to a particular situation. You could also include suggestions to yourself, concerning things that can or should be done to promote the Kingdom of God in light of the situation you are describing. Your journal can also include remarks concerning those issues that need prayer!

Step five: Make every effort to record your journal entries on a daily basis, before the details of an event become cloudy. Include enough detail in your remarks to enable you to be able to reference and comprehend them several months after you first penned them. Do not avoid putting down information in your journal simply because you may not have the time to make all of the spelling or grammar corrections that are needed.

Step six: Relax and enjoy the experience of reflecting deeply on the issues that have affected your life. Remember, journal writing is not done for the purpose of impressing anyone!

As previously mentioned, the act of journal writing can provide many benefits. In the case of home school students, it can be a wonderful means to encourage them to develop the vital habit of writing on a daily basis. Journal writing can also help young people to clarify their thoughts, for events seem to become clearer when students take the time to record the details of a situation. Journal writing can also help young minds to be more objective, for when students sit back and read their own remarks they can be more like a third-party examining a matter.

If you have never made the effort to help your student learn how to write a daily journal, now would be a good time to begin. Your home school student may not immediately recognize the benefits of journal writing, but in the long run, he will find the process to be highly rewarding.

Copyright 2008 Michael J. McHugh

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Biography Information:
This column is written by the staff at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois. As a pioneer in the homeschool movement, Christian Liberty ministries has been operating a full service, K-12 home school program for over thirty years and a Christian textbook ministry (Christian Liberty Press), since 1985. The mission of Christian Liberty is to provide parents with quality, affordable educational products and services that will enable them to teach their children in the home and to train their children to serve Christ in every area of life. A more extensive explanation of the CLASS home school program can be obtained at www.homeschools.org.
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