When we first started homeschooling,a Book of Centuries was one of the first things we implemented in our curriculum. We love the concept so much – we still use them today!
I have learned a few things along the way. I share these insights with you in hopes you’ll benefit from my past experience.
I first discovered them when I was researching Charlotte Mason’s teaching. Charlotte recommended that history be taught in chronological order, which makes sense since so much of what happened was based on cause and effect. Essentially, as we learn about people and events in history – either through readings or documentaries – we record them on the appropriate pages in our Book of Centuries.
When we add a person to a page that already contains someone or something that occurred in the same century, our brain makes a connection. “Oh! Beatrix Potter lived at the same time as Theodore Roosevelt. The Boer War and Boxer Rebellion were happening at the same time!” A Book of Centuries is the perfect tool to make those mental connections. Making these connections for ourself has a deeper impression and last longer.
Getting Started with a Book of Centuries
When we first started, the kids and I each had our own Book of Centuries. I downloaded the Basic Book of Centuries template from the Simply Charlotte Mason website and we set up our timelines in a 3-ring binder.
As we read about different events and people through history, I printed images onto sticker paper and we sat down together to adhere them to the appropriate pages. I would then ask that they write a short sentence or two summarizing the event or accomplishments of the historical figure. We would also color code each event by outlining each image – a different color for each continent.
While my daughter was as engaged as I, my son was too young. He managed putting the stickers in his book but would soon become distracted and would fail to write the sentence as instructed. Additionally, we would often struggle to stay current with our history reading. After we completed the four volume series of Story of the World, we slowly began to drift away from our Book of Centuries.
Recently, I opened my Book of Centuries and began to revisit the people and events that I had documented over the years. My daughter came to sit beside me and she expressed interest in revisiting this process. Our books had become a great companion and record of the fascinating people we had met through our texts, living history books, and documentaries.
Looking back, I should have compiled a family Book of Centuries when the kids were younger. I have since learned that Charlotte’s students didn’t receive their own until they were about ten years old. During the younger years, we should have collaborated together and it would not have been so overwhelming to my son.
As we have begun to revisit our timeline books, I was delighted to get the opportunity to review Dorling Kindersley’s (DK) Timelines of History and Timelines of Science. Produced in association with the Smithsonian Institution, these excellent timeline reference books are filled with striking photography, infographics, and illustrations. Each edition is a fabulous addition to a home library.
Timelines of History is by far one of the best books that DK has published thus far. It is a stunning visual chronology of the events and people that have defined our history, providing a clear picture of our human past and the events that have changed our world. For anyone who is fascinated with history, this is a must-have. It is a great reference for students and teachers alike with a passion for understanding the past.
Timelines of History is over 500 pages long with full color on every page. I love the timeline at the bottom of each page; a great quick-reference tool that allows us to more accurately place events and historical figures on our own Book of Centuries.
DK’s companion text, Timelines of Science, is another excellent reference book. However, as scientific discoveries are shown chronologically, unrelated topics are sometimes presented together. This can be confusing to some readers if they are not accustomed to this approach.
The book is organized in six main sections based on the era of scientific discovery,
- Before Science Began (including advances made by Greek medicine);
- European and Islamic Renaissance;
- Age of Discovery;
- Age of Revolutions (including Faraday’s experiments);
- Atomic Age; and finally
- Information Age (including a discussion of global warming).
Like its companion, the main component of Timelines of Science is the timeline that runs along the bottom of each page. The upper part of each page contains related pictures and illustrations as well as brief descriptions of the advances noted on the timeline.