Monday, November 23, 2015


     So, I am kinda in love with these things.  I have a definite issue.  It doesn't help that everytime I think, "Ooh, The Thinking Tree should do this!", I literally wake up that next day and there is a post on their facebook page that they have done just that!
     I have also been immensely blessed by seeing how my growing knowledge of these books have blessed and encouraged other as well.
(for more reviews of books individually, click here)

How I began

     I started off by giving every kid a journal based on which ones I thought would be right.  I almost nailed it!  I had two switcher-oo's I had to do but that's it.  Everyone is happy.  I told me kids that we would be using them as a supplement to everything else we are doing and to try and do a little each day as time allows.  This has worked well.  We went to the library, everyone picked a hoard of books and we toted it all home.
CH10 (almost 11) working in her Creative Girls Journal
at the library.  Her favorite colored pencils to use
are the prisma color art pencils!

I am amazed daily at how much my kids are loving this and are enjoying their learning.  They are all pulling their journals out on their own.  It's a very happy thing for them to do.
Working in his Eclectic Learner
journal at the library.
fun schooling spelling journal
      I have entered into their learning as they invite me to color with them and we talk about the things they did and learned that day.  We just relax together and color.  Sounds kinda lame, and silly, but oooh how we are enjoying it!!  Even my older boys, 12 and almost 14, will play down the coloring but then there they are with their books open saying "Hey Mom, you can color this part with me if you like".  I should get a picture because it's quite comical looking with me and at least 6 or 7 kids sprawled out on the floor and I am making sure I color a bit in everyones journal!
      These journals are sooooo much more than coloring though!!!!!  It's a place were each child can track their own learning journey: the books they like, the subjects they are into, the stuff that jumps out to them!  The pages (in no particular order) consist of things like:
  • date/calendar
  • reading
  • color page
  • nature drawing
  • book review
  • logic games
  • math practice
  • picture studies
  • emotions
  • copywork
  • things that inspire you
  • film reviews
  • geography
  • news and events
  • draw anything
     There is enough variety that the learning stays fun and stress-free.  No matter if you use them as the spine of your curriculum or as a supplement, the learning is happening the whole time!

Picking Journals

     This has been a little confusing for me BUT you can not really mess up.  The journals (unless listed otherwise) are for students 2nd grade on up, who have a good handle of reading and writing on their own (even if the spelling and hand writing is not good).  The coloring pages, pictures, writing prompts, and logic games vary a little from book to book, but are more or less the same.
D6 (almost 7) and J8 got the same journals
"1st,2nd, and 3rd grade fun schooling".  They sure think it's fun!
    The instructions are all very short, sweet and to the point.  Options are there to EITHER draw or write, on most things. And most of the writing things are small enough or arranged creatively enough that it doesn't seem like a lot.  So things are easy and varied but not so different that most of the books are fairly interchangeable.

     Everything I have read from the author and other bloggers is to "pick the cover you like", HOWEVER some of the journals have some very specific "labels" on them and this confused me.  It was unclear if they were all the same format with different labels or different formats and labels didn't matter or, something else?  Scratch head.......  (move on to the next section now)

Some journals are "labeled" specifically

     Some of the journals are labeled "asperger/adhd/dyslexic/christian/unschooling/etc" and it can be hard to know what to get when looking at all the labels.   MOST of the journals are designed for everyone, but different labels are used just for marketing, such as "eclectic/creative/unschooling/etc".       That is why you can just pick out the artwork on the cover you like and go with it!  Others though are not as broad, such as the "aspergers" or the "dyslexic" journals.  They have some very specific
A10 using the "eclectic journal".
Reading and writing have not come
easily to him.  He loves the drawing
option and has taken the initiative
to do more writing on his own!
differences in them in order to work best with children who have those unique things going on.  Now, this doesn't mean that you can not use them with kids who don't travel that specific path.  In fact, I have found all the dyslexia stuff to be super helpful with my non dyslexic children!  It's just good to know in light of the whole "pick out the cover you like best" advice.

     Here are some of the differences in the journals:
  • Asperger journal: incorporates facial expression evaluating pages, and a focus on inventions and interesting objects.
  • ADHD journal: has a focus on neatness, fonts and professions.
  • Younger Aged journals: these are all marked.  Usuallu by age like "4-7" or grade "1st-3rd".
  • Christian journals: will have verses and pictures that will reflect the Christian Faith.
  • "Seasonal Themed" journals: the art work and prompts go along with the season.
  • Secular/in general/multi marketing labeled: these would include the rest ;)  Their labels would include things such as "Charlotte Mason", "un-schooling", "creative girls", "adventurous boys", etc.  These journals really have no major differences or "focus".  There are differences of course but they fall under the broader things and you really can just pick a cover you like.  (the seasonal ones could have been placed here too)

H14 loves her "Spring" journal
 So, I guess, when picking out journals, pick the covers you like!  Just know if your child likes the cover on the "Asperger" journal, it will be a little different than if they had picked the "eclectic" one! Eventually I will do a post on which ones I think are better for older or younger kids as there are some differences in the pictures and some do present more "older/younger".  For the most part though, there are not too many differences to make it that big of a deal.
Also, the author just came out with some "grade specific" journals.  I do not have those yet and do not know how they compare.  Eventually I will have them and I will tell you all about them.

Another blogger has a great post breaking them down more.  I thought I would link her up here.  =)

Other journals  from The Thinking Tree

     I have had the privilege of being able to get my hands on MANY of The Thinking Tree products.  Like anything in life, something you love and some things you can leave, and that list will be different depending on who you are asking!
     Overall, I am pretty much in love with everything!  Some of my favorites being:
  • Reading Time:  repeating pages of "mini book" report journal pages
  •  Picturing the Past:  One of the most beautiful art books I have every seen!  Made even better by little journal prompts.
  • Spelling journals:  I have the Spelling Time,150 misspelled words AND the  Fun-Schooling Journal for 5+.  I love the "out of the box" approach to spelling and my kids are all responding so well!
  • Film Study Journal: repeating pages of "mini film" review journal pages.  Great if you add in films often.
  • How to Draw series.
     I have so many different things here that I can not include a review for all of them in one post!  I see lots of blogging in my future on these!  One thing I am really excited about is that I just order the Dyslexia series to use with my NON DYSLEXIC kids!  I think this will be fun and interesting!  I will be starting that in January!

What I love, What I am seeing in my kids, Things I appreciate:

  • The kids really do like them.  Even the older boys (though they play it down).  The kids are happy about the work, like the variety and that they are able to take charge of some of their own learning!  This is "mom not required" stuff!
  • I am learning things about my kids!  For instance: 
A10 is always in his journal.  All of a sudden, he loves learning!
He is using the eclectic journal.
  1.  My oldest son, I think, has mild dyslexia.  He didn't become mine until 4 years ago so there are things I am still learning about him.  He was still in the public school until last year and things were just missed.  It makes sense though, as he also is a slow processor, and (until homeschooling) has struggled in school.  At 13 1/2 he has more or less "grown out of it" and reads and writes fine BUT I had a lot of questions to ask my hubby when I saw that on his math practice page he drew (3d drawings) 3 numbers backwards.  Apparently he had that problem when he was younger and it was brushed off.  Well hello!  As his mom and teacher, this explains a lot about him! 
  2. This same child is MORE COMFORTABLE AND OPEN in his writing when left to consider things on his own and take his time then when feeling pressured by an assignment.
  3. My 12 year old son approaches his coloring like a counseling session lol.  If I color with him, he talks about the deepest things in his heart.
  • Their learning is more varied.  We are using this as a supplement but WHAT A SUPPLEMENT!  I have been super impressed and somewhat shocked by the different things THEY WANTED to learn about.  I am so glad they have this outlet.
  • They can't wait to work in them!
  • They are taking ownership of their learning.
  • My 10 year old son (pictured in above collage) is on fire for learning.  Reading and writing have not been his strong suit and it has been a struggle.  With his journal he feels no pressure and has been applying himself more!
  • The balance is just right between academic and fun!
  • The kids can explore what they want and try different things out.
  • I get to enter in through discussion, coloring with them and spending time looking through their journals.  Just asking questions based on what I see on the page has opened up many great conversations!
  • The are excited to see what the other kids are learning about.
    Fun Schooling spelling
  • Um, hello film reviews.  This might be the highlight of the journal.  Being allowed to watch a short documentary or how-to on one of their subjects!  Plus other kids will watch with the one who is doing the page and then everyone learns!
  • They keep getting more creative.  On some of the blank pages or "do anything" or a coloring page with a blank area in the middle, they all kind of just spaced out.  "I don't know what to do" was heard a lot but a month in and these kids are adding onto the drawings, writing poems, drawing pictures of their family, writing themselves notes and encouraging things.  Sometimes even sad things when something in their day is not quite right.  It's allowing them to self reflect!
  • It's connecting them to the world.  The world news/geography stuff gets them involved with whats going on around them but doesn't overload them.
Enough about what I think though!  What are THEY SAYING??

  • C12b "I like the film study pages because it's interesting to find things related to the books I am reading."
  • A10b "I like all the pages.  I do like the math pages because I draw 3D shapes on it.  They are fun because you can learn what you want to learn."
  • J8b "I like them because there is lots of coloring and the logic games make me think about things." 
  • H14g "It's really fun to do.  When I am bored I work in it because it is so fun to do.  I like being able to learn things on my own personal level"
  • M13g "I like how creative it is.  My favorite page is the film study because you can pick your topic and watch things and then compare that to what you have read."
  • Ch10.11g "I like my journal because I can learn about what I want to learn about."
  • D6.11b "I like my journal because it's fun and I can color cool stuff and learn words and read."
  • E5b "My journal is my school.  I color and do words and stuff.  Fun stuff."
  • JO13b "I like them because they are easy and fun.  My favorite page is the film study because I can watch short videos on what I am learning about."
  • F16g "I am using a planner and it's helping me to organize my time.  I like the creative parts too because I am so visual that I may not remember what I wrote down until I remember what I colored!"
     We could not be happier with these journals!  Do get some for your kids and let me know what YOU think!

(for more reviews of books individually, click here)



  1. Thank you for posting about these journals. I would like one for my son, but I have no idea which one to get. It's hard to choose when the author doesn't have a website or a preview. The Amazon previews are so limiting. My son is 10. A struggling reader who doesn't like school. He's also autistic. HF with ADHD/attention type. We've been homeschooling for a year. I admit to trying too many different things and now I think I want to try a more eclectic approach. I'm not sure. Do you have a recommendation for us.

    1. Hello Rhonda, I am wondering if the "eclectic learner" or the "adhd" one would be good. Both have less coloring pages, are a little more "boy" and I know my very active son A10 would like them. The adhd one has more pages in it that call for focus ex: the "moods and emotion pages in most of the other books give about 20 different "smiley faces" to choose from on how you're feeling. In the ADHD one the "moods" page has at least 50 more comic faces for you to look at and pick. The point is to get the student to "search and focus". Another difference between the two is that the pictures in the adhd one are all a little more... cartoon like. The eclectic one still has more of a realistic feel to it. Just preference things I think. I have not been able to preview the one for autism yet so I can not give a better review of that one. I have also not had the chance to look at her new ones for boys (boys seasonal themes) either. The author, Sarah Brown, is also very helpful and if you sent her an email or posted on her FB I know she would answer you as well. Here is a link to her website for the journals!thinking-tree/c1ni5

    2. Thanks so much. This is helpful, especially the information about moods because we are working on emotions.

  2. Let me also add it would be a supplement. I'm a bit of a traditionalist so we'll transition to eclectic.

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