I’ve seen a lot of discussion lately about making timelines in your homeschool, and I have a confession to make: I am a timeline flunkie. Well, actually, I am a reformed timeline flunkie.
What made me a timeline flunkie? My inability to commit to a timeline…I am a perfectionist (and I have a type B personality – but that’s a topic for another time).
I’ve tried timeline after timeline. I’ve put them up on my wall. I’ve bought strips to put up on my wall. I’ve made strips to put up on my wall. I’ve spent lots of money on beautiful timeline books. I’ve color-coordinated my timelines so that each different type of person is noted with a different color – scientists were green. Musicians were blue. Historic figures were red.
But what do I do with someone who fell in more than one category? And how do we notate people anyway? Do we put a line from their birth date to their death date? Sadly, I even criticized my daughter for her inability to write in my expensive, purchased timeline book with handwriting that met my standards. I decided not to spend any more money on timeline books if it meant I damaged my children’s self-esteem.
So I started making timelines. This is wonderful! Such flexibility! But this begs another question: How many years on a two page spread? A hundred years? 50 years? 25 years? A decade? Ugh! More decisions!! But through all my trials, here is what I’ve learned:
It really doesn’t matter.
How you make a timeline doesn't matter. Actually doing it is what matters. #homeschool Click To Tweet There’s nothing magical to any type of timeline. Putting timeline figures on a timeline helps your students understand what events happened in relation to others.
What artists were alive during the Civil War? What was happening in China while the Israelites were running from Pharaoh? What battles took place during WWII? How far apart in time were they? Putting together a timeline is also a great review. What? You don’t do your timeline every Friday? Me, either. Some years I just get to it once a month. Or once a semester – and then it’s review. I hold up a timeline figure, give the name and ask my children who can tell me about it. Whoever can tell me about it gets to put it on the timeline.
Now that I’ve given you freedom, you still have decisions to make.
Here are a few ideas for timelines that we have used in our homeschool over the years. This is not a list of what is right or what will necessarily work for you. It’s simply some ideas to get you going.
4 Ideas for Making Timelines
- Sewing board timeline a la The Mystery of History. This works GREAT for us. But with a twist. I turn the sewing board horizontally, so it can be free standing. I give each line a century. This works so well for us – lots of space for what we’re studying, and I don’t have to find somewhere to hang it. I use duct tape to make my lines. I have also used ribbon. Or electrical tape. Or a Sharpie. Use what you have.
- Notebook timeline. When I do this, each student gets their own. Then I have to have/keep track of three sets of timeline figures – one for each student. But they each get to color them in, and that’s a bonus. I have made my own timeline template. With this template, I can make a two page spread fifty years, a hundred years, or a decade. Right now we’re using All American History. I am choosing to make each two page spread fifty years until I get to the 1800’s. Then I think I’ll make each two-page spread a decade.
- People timeline. I put people on their death years. I decided that people make more contributions closer to the date of their death than their birth.
- Color-coding timeline. With my older students, if I really want to color code, I’ve learned to keep it simple. Sometimes I have them mat the figure on colored paper. Sometimes I have them take a colored marker and draw a line across the bottom of a figure – red for people, blue for events.
Those are just some thoughts on how I have made it work in my home. Now you can go and make it yours!
// This article originally appeared on Bright Ideas Press.
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