My kids have no idea that what they’re doing is educational, that it’s helping them advance their writing skills, that we, the parents, are peeking into the corners of their minds. They just think it’s cool we’re passing around a black and white composition book, each taking turns jotting something down, then determining who gets it next.
It all started with my plan to keep Joey and Danny writing over the summer but not pushing an activity that seemed anything remotely like school. Then, I was hanging out in Danny’s classroom one morning just before second grade ended for the year, and Danny delivered me a note. He was all smiles as he handed me the folded paper, which read, “When are you leaving?” I posted this little snippet on Facebook later that day, and my lovely friend Kim commented that it reminded her of passing notes in high school. Aha! We’ll pass notes at home, I thought, but we’ll use a journal to keep things organized.
On June 6, I wrote on the very first page of our book:
Welcome to the Donaldson summer family journal. When it’s given to you, all you need to do is open it, read it, write something, then pass it on to someone else in the family. Be as clever as you wish with what you write. It can be a story, a note, a thought, a question, a poem — you decide.
Next, I wrote the first entry for John, a lover of music:
Name the artist and song that match these lyrics: I used to be a lunatic from the gracious days / I used to feel woebegone and so restless nights.
He jotted down his answer:
“No More I Love You’s” by Annie Lennox
Then he wrote something for Danny:
What is one goal you hope to accomplish this summer? It must be a physical or mental challenge.
Do 15 pull-ups and push-ups.
Then the book moved on to Joey, then back to me, then Joey, then Danny, then John — you get the drift, right?
Almost two weeks later, and we’ve got 20+ pages of good stuff in our journal. John has listed 10 things that make him happy, Danny has completed math problems and sketched some rockin’ animals, Joey has written an adventure story and drawn his dream house (complete with snack room and solar panels), and I’ve revealed my favorite food (fresh fruit) and described something funny that happened to me (I once threw a bowling ball backwards, and while it was not funny when it happened, I can chuckle now).
What I like best about the project we have going is my boys’ willingness to participate. No arm twisting necessary, they’re just game, and I love that. Now, if I could just trick them into happily reading, I’d be set.