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How to create the best timeline for the homeschool classroom

Use a timeline in your homeschool classroom
Use a timeline in your homeschool classroom
J. Helms

Professionally made timelines are available for use in homeschooling. Some are in book form so the child can page through the years. Some are in compact poster form with the line doubling back on itself several times to conserve wall space. Some are a straight line, but condensed in "slower" parts of history like all of B.C.

None of these is the ideal way to teach a child an accurate relationship of time and events through the years. A timeline should be just that- a continuous straight line that is proportional throughout (a year is a year is a year) to give a feel for the flow of history and the time it took to happen.

It's all about perspective. Children feel like everything began with them so a timeline will help put that natural egocentrism into a correct perspective. There are children who are more literal minded, hands-on learners. They will not comprehend time in book form or with condensed portions at all. Taking a child like this and standing with them at the beginning of time and walking with them along the wall through time is an excellent way to help their comprehension of the abstract passing of time.

Construct the timeline by purchasing a roll of butcher paper at an office store. It does not have to be great quality, just big. The roll should be two to three feet high and at least ten feet in length.

Next locate the best spot for it. If you have a homeschool room then dedicate an empty wall. If you homeschool in the dining room then look to an out-of-the-way hallway or a basement wall.

Make your timeline as long as space will allow, ideally six to eight feet. Hang the paper with the center at your children's eye level. Draw a single line across the length of the middle. Add a bulletin board border along the edges for a decorative finishing touch.

If you are homeschooling from a Biblical perspective then date the left end with 4000 BC for the creation of the world. If you are not using a Biblical model then label your timeline based on the start of civilization.

Label the opposite end 2000 AD leaving a few inches of space after that for our current time period. Then divide the whole line by equidistant bold thousand year marks, then 500 year marks. Post 1000 AD insert 100 year marks. Add additional marks later as needed.

Before you begin formal studies with your timeline have the children put in their birthdays, along with mom and dad's and the grandparents'. The kids will get a kick out of seeing how squished everybody is at the end of the timeline. Again, this is teaching proportion and perspective in relation to the whole body of time.

The obvious application is to use the timeline with History class. Through the years of schooling you will go through Ancient World History, Modern World, United States and PA History. All major events should be recorded.

Children can create their own figures to populate the timeline. Alternately, a number of companies sell timeline figures that can be used with your homemade timeline. Older children may prefer to just write the information in without the pictures.

Many other subjects lend themselves to contributing to the timeline. Science, Art and Music are loaded with famous people and their inventions or masterpieces--record them. Classic reading books with historical settings or their authors are added to the line.

All the children in one family use the same timeline and use it throughout their schooling years. The line will become more complete every year. Recall of events is reinforced by the physical act of recording them and the visual reminder of seeing them repeatedly. An historical event does not occur in a vacuum and the children will begin to see this clearly in front of them. This inexpensive aid will have a huge impact in the child's understanding of the world around him. Each timeline will be individual to each family, can be as elaborate or as simple as they choose, and will forever connect the dots in the understanding of perspective in the flow of time.

For more information see this How-to Guide


  • Lisa K. 5 years ago

    I am so visual so this approach is helpful to me. I never "got" history as a kid-I don't think it was put into any perspective for me (or explained well and in a manner that would interest me) so I think this is a great way to show kids what happened when, and what else was going on at the time especially. This way they can get a perspective on events and world history in general.
    So that we don't use wall space (not my style of decorating the house!), we have done one event per index card, then taped them together side by side (if we needed more space, we taped another card under the topic card). Obviously, you can tailor the way you do this project so it works for you. Some people put theirs in a binder, where every page you turn is a 50 or so year period and you flip through-whatever works. You can put pictures on each page since you have so much space.
    The possibilities are endless and are based on what you need at the time. But the visual impact of this will help the kids lear

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