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Timeline in a Box

You know timelines can be a very useful thing in homeschooling, but there are some of us homeschoolers that just have no idea how to go about making one. Here is a great idea from     Debra Anderson     . I think I might give this one a try myself.

Timeline in a box:

When we were still fairly new to homeschooling, a friend suggested we begin a perpetual timeline that would grow right along with my son, now sons.  It was one of those advice nuggets I’m so glad we heeded.  This timeline has been a tool we’ve used continually each and every year, it’s simple to implement, and it’s both versatile and portable.  Here’s how we did it.

We purchased an ordinary card-file box from the office supply store along with big packs of blue, pink, green and purple colored index cards.  I made a key and taped it to the inside lid of the box for reference. Each of the four card colors was designated to a category: Distant Past is blue (Creation to 1500 A.D.), Past is pink (1500 to 1950), Recent Past is green (1950 to 2004) and Present is purple (which was 2004 at the time). You can change your designations if it suits you. 2004 was simply when we began this.

Each time we study a certain event we put the year (or the specific date if we know it) in the upper right hand corner of the correct color card.  On the left side of the card we write a simple explanation of the important occurrence.

I let the children file them in order.  Once filed, I ask them to pull out the three cards that come before and after our new event.  We read them to get some perspective on what was going on in the world at about the same time.  This sometimes makes us curious to know more and we find ourselves chasing some fun rabbits while we thumb through more and more cards.  That’s the gist of the process.  Simple, right?

After several years now, our box is now delightfully full.  We continue to add to it and use it over and over again in several different ways:

  1. Looking through it we enjoy recalling all of the time we’ve spent together studying various histories and inventions.  It gives us a little sentimental review on nearly everything that we’ve covered in our home school.
  2. When we’re doing a specific study we can make a customized timeline.  For example, when we studied the Presidents of the United States, we rolled out a length of butcher paper and taped each Presidents’ tenure card along the middle of the sheet in order.   We left space between them in order to note what other events happened during their term.  This simply gave us a different lens through which to interpret our timeline. When we were done, we trimmed the tape off and slipped the cards back into their cardfile home.  Therefore, there are no huge timeline charts adorning our walls or doors for more time than necessary.
  3. We’ve interspersed white index cards throughout our box containing events in our State’s history.  At a glance, we know what was happening in Colorado at the same time the combustible engine came about and the Statue of Liberty was unveiled.
  4. At times, my young boys have filled the cards out serving as handwriting practice.
  5. I’ve been known to dump a fistful of cards onto the floor and had my kids put them all back in order again.  It’s a great sequencing practice and figuring out that B.C./A.D. order switch is very important.
  6. We’ve used them for charade review games.  Choose a certain era and have them pick a card to act out.
  7. Naturally, our Present section is instantly outdated, but it’s still a valuable portion. First of all, at a glance they can see what has occurred in the years since they were young.  It’s a personal history section that weaves their lives in with the story of the world and I’ve found that they feel very affirmed seeing their life events among things of such importance as Presidential elections and World Series winners.  Secondly, when I have them do autobiographical writings they can refer to these cards for writing prompts and write about their interactions with lunar eclipses and the rumblings of Mt. St. Helens in our old backyard.

Of course, you don’t have to use this method in order to have an effective timeline, but there are several things I like about it.  One, because I don’t like living in a schoolroom I have a readily available tool that is not doubling as home décor.  Two, it’s something the boys create and interact with personally, rather than a prepackaged item they have no connection to.  And three, on our most insane days, I have proof that we’ve really accomplished something all these years.

I’ve seen other fantastic timeline ideas at curriculum fairs, in my friend’s homes and here on Heart of the Matter Online. Whatever you choose, make sure it can grow with you and build on your child’s knowledge year after year after year.

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