Journaling in the Time of Covid-19

Six months ago if someone had told me I’d be writing a blog post titled “Journaling in the Time of Covid-19” I would have said, “What’s Covid-19?”

We could all start sentences that way now… “Six months ago, if someone had told me…”

“… schools would be closed for months…”

“… I would not see my parents for months …”

“…. Zoom would be part of everyday life…”

“… a mask would be part of my wardrobe…”

“… people would run out of (WHAT?!) toilet paper…”

Times are rapidly changing and that means we are all having new and unforeseen experiences. There’s no better time than now to be journaling. I have written in diaries and journals off and on since this date:

Friday, June 13, 1975 – I’m nine years old. I got my diary today. I should have gotten it on the 1st of January. But then I never even wanted one.

Not long ago, I shared the following story in a Facebook post:

In February of 1977, I was a fifth grader in Westerville, Ohio when the Energy Crisis coincided with weeks of unusually cold weather. Today I found this diary entry from that very strange winter. We were out of school for two weeks and when we returned, we could not go back to our own buildings. Instead, the district utilized the newest buildings with electric heat, and closed the older ones with big fuel oil furnaces. So we went to school half a day, every other day, in order to allow four elementary schools to use the same building. I don‘t recall how long that lasted. I do recall how unsettled I felt.

Okay, here you go. Straight from the mouth of fifth grade me:

Feb. 1, 1977 – No fair! I really don’t think it’s right. For the past month there has been a gas shortage. It’s awful. The weather is down to 20 degrees below zero and sometimes the chill factor is between 40 and 50 below. Our heat is down to 60 degrees inside. School has been closed for 8 days. Don’t people realize children NEED schooling? More than 1,000 workers are laid off. This is a mixed-up world and I wonder if I have to grow up in such a crazy place.

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Some of my memories of that winter are fuzzy. Some are crystal clear. I remember sitting in someone else’s desk at someone else’s school building. I was glad my teacher was the one standing in the front of the room, and I was happy that my friends were sitting in the desks around me.

I’m really glad I was keeping a diary during that unusual time in my childhood.

Parents, teachers, librarians, anyone with a young person in their life: Gift a child a blank notebook, an empty journal, or even a diary with a lock and key. Tell them to fill the pages.

“With what?” they will most certainly ask. “With words,” tell them. “With words only you can write.”

Then, help them out with this list of questions that pertain to our current world situation.

Do you miss going to school the usual way?

What do like about having school online?

What’s the best thing about staying at home most of time?

What’s the worst thing about staying at home most of the time?

How do you feel about wearing a mask in public places?

Who do you know that has gotten Covid-19?

Are you worried about getting sick? Are you worried about someone you love getting sick?

What do you think it’s like for people in other countries?

What activities have you missed because of the pandemic? How did you feel about missing them?

What have you done to stay busy while at home?

Who do you miss spending time with?

What is different about the grocery store now? The library? The movie theater? The playground? The street where you live? How you and your family go places?

Journal prompts on many general topics are easily found online. Hopefully, they’ll want to write about more than just life in the time of Covid-19. And, hopefully, like me, they’ll find that journaling is fun.

Here’s a bit from Day 2 of my diary-keeping life, 1975 (third grade grammar and all!)

Sat. June 14, 1975 – Lisa doesn’t no how personal a diary is. She wants to no what I write. But, Mom had a talk with her. We staked tomato’s in the garden. The second night I’ve written in my diary – it’s fun! Jackie’s got 10 pups and a knew calf!

Who knows? Forty-five years from now, your youngster could be reading from their first journal. All they need to get started is a nudge from someone who cares. (Thanks to Mom for giving me my first diary and apologies for calling out sister Lisa, who was only a first-grader at the time.)

 

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Michelle Houts
Michelle Houts writes middle-grade, chapter books, and picture books from a restored one-room schoolhouse near her home. She loves reading, mail, hiking, and birds. Michelle visits schools and libraries to share writing excitement with future authors. To find out more and to learn about Michelle's 52Letters Challenge, visit www.michellehouts.com
3 Comments
  1. Nice! Sharing with my kids teachers

  2. I had this same sort of diary, but the five year version with a beige cover. This meant a whopping four lines every day. Same year, though. Great to get this peek into your life, and what Westerville was up to!

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