Take the timeline, for instance. I’d read books with timelines in them; I’ve written books and articles with timelines in them. Timelines are really helpful. But to teach my kids to make their own timeline? That opened up a world of options. Really, I wasn’t prepared for all the ideas. There are whole companies that just specialize in timelines!
‘No big deal’, I thought. Our primary curriculum, Tapestry of Grace, doesn’t even recommend using timelines until the dialectic stage. That’s around Middle School age. So, I had plenty of time to think. (I really like the idea of the scrapbook-style timeline for the middle school age – it’s easily stored, and can be saved forever).
My kids had other plans. One of our boys is extremely analytical. He loves to memorize, plan, and absorb. His favorite book is an atlas. His second favorite book is a timeline that unfolds to 15 feet in length (The Wall Chart of History, James Ussher). Our enterprising child wanted to make his own timeline. In fact, he was quite insistent.
It seemed like a good plan, and my husband supported the idea, so we set out to find a fun, elementary-level timeline. We happened to have open wall space over the boys’ desks in our family room, so we decided to make posters.
We bought two of those tri-fold poster boards that are found in any craft or office store. These are large, and we have space on the wall, but they fold, so we could have just as easily stored them in the closet. Using a large T-square and a yard stick, I divided the boards horizontally into 5 sections, and drew 4 lines straight across with a permanent marker (on the last picture, you can see where I started to divide the poster into 4 sections – because I’ve always been spatially challenged).
The four lines gave us one line for each of our years of study (Tapestry is a four-year history plan). I labeled the beginning of each line with the year each Tapestry year-plan begins with, and the end of the line with the end date. For Tapestry of Grace, our first line is from 4004 BC (The estimated date of Creation varies by scholar, so I chose the one that fit best for us.) to 476AD (The Fall of Rome). The second timeline is from 476AD to 1800AD. Line 3 is 1800 to 1900, and line 4 from 1900 to 1215 (just after we’ll be done with all four years).
I divided each line in half, then each half in thirds (making two more lines). So, there are 7 dates on each timeline. You could always continue to divide the time up. That might be wise, as I do have to help my kids estimate where their dates should fall. More dates may be helpful to children.
After that, we handed the kids rulers, colored markers, and let them go to town. They pick the dates they feel are important, so the timelines are really an expression of their passion for whatever they’re learning. My goal was to work on the timelines every Friday, but really we do them about once a month. It takes an hour or so, and we have fun – popcorn, praise music, and a floor full of books. If I was more consistent, we’d be spending maybe 10 or 15 minutes for the week.
The top two pictures are of my 3rd grader’s timeline (started in 2nd grade). He’s our analytical one, and enjoys the making of the timeline. He also really loves having my undivided attention during the process. He gets to direct me to locate the given information, and help him place the date, wield the ruler, etc. In short, he’s in charge. Eureka!
Below is the timeline our now-2nd-grader, started in 1st grade. His dates are sparser, and he’s far more opinionated about which events make the cut. He doesn’t care for many of the “pagan” events, and is much more dogmatic about placing Church history and biblical events. The reign of King David, his favorite biblical person, was first on the chart. His timeline is peopled with pictures and symbols, as he is our artist. I’m allowed to help him locate the proper placement of dates on the line, but he can hold his own books, ruler and pens, thank-you-very-much.
Overall, this is a fun project for our family. At first, I balked at the idea of covering the last remaining wall in our primary living space. However, the charts have been a fun conversation piece, and the boys take great pride in the fact that their learning is important enough to display for all to see. I don’t know that we’ll leave the timelines on the wall until the end of time, but for me they’ve become a testament to the hours and hours we’ve spent reading about God’s great story in the fabric of history. They remind me that our boys are learning important lessons, and that our time spent is worthwhile. They’re a visual chart of the work we’ve done, and of the work remaining in this 4-year cycle. Really, they’re one of my favorite projects. Not bad for under $10.
Does your family keep a timeline? What does it look like? (Feel free to share links!)
~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is a freelance children’s writer with a love for God’s Word, history, wisdom and small people. Her work has appeared in magazines including Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr., Pockets, Devozine, Keys for Kids, in Cobblestone Group’s FACES and Odyssey and in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters.
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