Form I: History Timeline

I mentioned in my last post that we use tools to help make our history lessons come to life. One of which is Keeping a Timeline. I was asked by several how it is done. Here is a breakdown of how we use it. 


There are several ways to make a timeline. But I realized that the simpler it is, the better.

Before my son started year1, I searched for samples of history timelines. I encountered several blog posts with colorful pictures of figures from history, hung chronologically on a string. It was pretty. And it inspired me to implement it as well. So, I downloaded black and white pictures of every personality we encountered in our readings from Philippine History, English History, Church History, the Bible, and assigned Biographies. My son would simply color it and hang it on the string. But for some reason, it ended up being another “busy work” activity that did not add value to our learning. It’s probably because much of the work was done for him already. I was the one who searched for the pictures, and all he had to do was color it. No real connection. 

“..if the figures and dates are pre-printed or already selected for the child’s insertion on a ready-made timeline, hasn’t some mind other than the child’s really done the connecting, selecting, and most of the sorting? It seems likely that there will be less attention and interest paid to this sort of timeline than to the personalized one Mason has envisioned, and hence less connection and retention. With a pre-printed or parent-chosen model, at best the child uses his scissor skills and finds the appropriate century to insert the cutout.”  -  The Living Page, Laurie Bestvater

Drawing timeline

And so, I searched for a simpler yet more engaging way of doing it, and I came across Kathy’s post about how she implemented theirs, and it was perfect! 

I immediately took out the stringed, busy-work timeline and bought a simple black binder. I called it his Visual Timeline.


Son does his usual narration after he reads the assigned chapter. His narrations often leads to Grand Conversations of sorts. Then, he opens his Visual Timeline Binder and draws what he thinks should be included. The pages are slowly filled with his illustrated thoughts. 


(After reading The Living Page by Laurie Bestvater, I am reconsidering the divisions of the timeline. I am not sure if dividing it into centuries is better than time periods. Thoughts?)

I’m not sure if our current timeline in Form I (years 1-3) represent what CM envisioned. I’d like to think that it is preparing us for the more complex Book of Centuries in higher Forms. But given Charlotte Mason's principles about keeping such, I think we have somehow hit the spot. It is flexible, student-produced, personal, child’s own connections, and functions as another type of narration. More importantly, my son treasures it; often looking through his drawings and remembering events or people he read about, and slowly sees the bigger picture unfold. 

In year 2, we added another layer of Timeline Keeping. I printed out columns divided by centuries on card stock and taped it together on the sides with regular clear tape, making an accordion style timeline. Here, my son simply writes down names or events that he encounters. This is tucked along with his Visual Timeline in one binder. I give him the freedom to either draw or simply write down an event or person.  

Timeline accd

"Let the child himself write or print, as he is able, the names of people he comes upon in due order, in their proper century. We need not trouble ourselves at present with more exact dates, but this simple table of the centuries will suggest a graphic panorama to the child’s mind, and he will see events in their time-order.” - Charlotte Mason


I’d like my kids to keep their Timeline Binder for the whole of Form I. By end of their 3rd year, I am sure that this binder will be filled with a lot of memories from Great and Not-So-Great Men and Women in History. In Form II (year 4-6), they start keeping their own Book of Centuries. 

"Once Intellect admits us into the realms of History, we live in a great and stirring world, full of entertainment and sometimes of regret; and at last we begin to understand that we, too, are making History, and that we are all part of the whole; that the people who went before us were all very like ourselves, or else we should not be able to understand them. If some of them were worse than we, and in some things their times were worse than ours, yet we make acquaintance with many who were noble and great, and our hearts beat with a desire to be like them.” - Charlotte Mason




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