Update on Work Journals in the Homeschool Environment

Well, I don't have a picture-packed post of the kiddos this time. In fact, I don't know that I have more than a small handful of pictures of what they have done. We have been very busy, though. It has been almost 2 months since I wrote my first post about using work journals in our home. In the last few weeks, we have seen the results of sticking with it and consistently keeping up with our new system. My little class of five - well, the three of them who are using the journals - are really blossoming under this system of accountability combined with work journals.

So, although I didn't get to capture all the work we've been doing (because I have been so busy with them!), we have our journals as proof! I thought I would share a few progression pictures with you, to show the journey so far and where we have come from where we started.
When we began, I gave them a few days just to write down what they were doing, and left them open-ended opportunities to choose whatever they wanted, without any direction on what I wanted/needed them to do. I wanted them to get used to have the work journal as part of their day.

This is a snapshot of their journals from the early days:

Miss Priss - this was actually two days of work for her. Not much looks to be accomplished, but it may have been that she just didn't write it all down. Regardless, you can see the apparent need for accountability.

You can see the same with Hoss' first day of journal entries.

LM seemed to have a little more to write in, but in reality, the work that needed to be getting done wasn't getting there. If I didn't suggest it, it wasn't happening.

Then, I talked in this post about bringing back our pocket chart for use as an 'Expectation Chart'. They were given very simple expectations to complete by the end of the week, specified only by subject name. We spent a couple of weeks doing that, showing them that there are things I expect them to do, that our days aren't without the need for some stability and order.

Here is what those days brought us:

Miss Priss immediately began improving on her work load. 

This is Hoss' journal entry a couple weeks in to working with journals daily. A big improvement on only having two entries the first day! :) If you notice the words *test* and panic -don't :) We don't have 'tests' as you would in a traditional setting, but this was the week prior to getting his tonsils removed, and only four weeks out to their state testing. Because I knew that he would be down for at least a week after the tonsillectomy, I was trying to prepare him for what his test format would be like, with some test samples that came in a workbook from a local store here. 

I was very pleased with the changes I saw with LM as well. Her cursive style of writing here is atrocious - she definitely wasn't taking her time with it - but the content of her work was getting much better, and has continued to improve. 

Then, I made the expectations more specific. I explained that I had these specific expectations for them to complete every week. I wanted them to decide what days they expect themselves to do them, bringing in a personal accountability as well, and teaching them to have a larger view than just the day itself. I told them they were responsible for keeping themselves busy. They are allowed to move an expectation to the next day if needed, if all their work doesn't get completed for whatever reason, but on Friday what isn't done must be complete. We don't carry any work over to the next week, because I would forget, they would forget, and I like the beginning of the week to come with a clean slate. Here are some current pictures of journal entries from the last couple of weeks:

This particular day, Miss Priss decided it was a great idea to work ahead - all on her own, not of my suggestion. So not only does she have her daily expectations on there, she also has extra expectations that she didn't actually set for herself until a later day that week. I know that rings very similar to a *check-it-off-the-list-and-be-done* method - I don't want you to be confused. She did still do work on the day that she had tried to work ahead for, and some were things that weren't part of the basic expectations. I was pleased to see, though, that she figured out that she could work diligently and reap the rewards of not trying to wait until the last minute - that's an important thing for a child to learn and carry over to adulthood. 

This is a picture of Hoss' journal. I chose it to show the method we use for when there are expectations that need to be carried over to the next day, and this is proof of him working ahead as well. The first three works written down were actually completed two days prior, the same day that Miss Priss was working ahead. Then the next two works were actually ones leftover that he didn't complete from Wednesday, though he did work ahead on others. There were stars in front of them, and when the work was complete it was erased. Another note on his work - he has Golden Beads written down. He is at a point where he really doesn't NEED the GB work at all, both with his age and mastery of some other concrete-to-abstract work, but he is using it as a way to practice multiplication of larger numbers in to the thousands. He is working on the concept of it, so is doing the same work with the Golden Beads, Stamp Game, and will soon be doing it with the Dot Game as well. I am trying to make sure the process is well grounded before teaching him abstract multiplying. 

You can also see that I allowed for a substitution. This particular day was a Friday, and he got to the end of the day and was discouraged to see that he had worked hard, and had forgotten his grammar work. So we looked over and I told him I'd let him trade the extra reading and history for grammar that day. The concentration and dedication to working and holding themselves accountable for their expectations has been my goal - I think the proof is in the pudding.

LM's journal entry from the beginning of this week. 

I have spent many days reminding them to keep up with their work, write everything down, even beginning to have them record what they do (or sometimes, what we don't do) on days where we don't have a specific work time. We have a four day school week, with one day spent dedicated to having our library time. They now are encouraged to record even this. I don't want there to be a gap in the days in their journal, except for the weekend. If we don't do school for whatever reason, I want them to record *No School* for that day, so that when we look back, all days are accounted for, no matter what happens on them. This article written at Montessori Trails and the comments that followed it are what encouraged me to have them begin keeping track of each day, no matter what we do. I don't think it hurts to have good documentation, just in case it's needed (although, if you read the comments on the article, I also agree that you shouldn't provide more than necessary, and leave room for someone to infringe on your rights as a homeschooler. But that's another subject - one that was best covered already on that post!)

I would love to hear if anyone else had the same struggle to finding what worked with them (and if they had to change it often, depending on the child) and what you did to make things go smoothly in your home! :)


  1. It certainly sounds like this method is working for you all now! In VA we also have a testing requirement and I hate it. Luckily my oldest ( The only one to take the test) did just fine. The material was really easy, and he figured out the "work-book-style" format. Since then, and since reading more books by Montessori herself, getting advice from classroom teacher Montessorians I've moved away from the list of expectations. It just wasn't working for us. If my child decides to plan something out on paper, I do this a lot, then I'll assist. But I find that for us, a list just adds pressure, and tunnel focus, and turns out to be more about what I want them to do, and less about what they want to do. I am fine if they want to explore something in-depth, to the exclusion of all else. I know then to remind myself a million and three times not to panic, and when that child comes up for air and needs a transition to be there with an appropriate lesson that can gently direct them to another subject.
    Great post, and glad to know that this is working out for you!

    1. I love the phrase "Come up for air and be ready with a transition to another subject!" That is really, really good advice that I will remember. I don't know if this will stay working well for us forever, although I am thankful that it is working right now! :) Thanks for stopping by, and taking the time to comment! :)


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