We’ve been using timelines in our homeschool from the time our kids were in kindergarten, and our soon-to-be college student still utilizes this method of learning. Seeing everything in context is a great way to “connect the dots” of time. Whether you display a timeline on a wall, keep a timeline notebook, or simply use one-pagers with relevant lessons, the visual and linear nature of timelines is ideal for all learning styles.
Teaching with timelines benefits both student and teacher:
- Timelines give students a visual scope of people/places/events in history.
- Timelines are easy and inexpensive.
- Timelines work with all different types of curriculum.
- Timelines grow with students–one timeline book or notebook lasts through all twelve years of schooling.
- Timelines encourage inquiry learning and strengthen research skills.
What to put on a timeline
We use timelines across all subjects:
- In science, we record dates of discoveries, notable people, and events.
- For literature, we record authors and works. For history, we keep track of events, people, milestones, periods…
- Art and music are also included with dates of artists, composers, movements, etc.
Visual learners enjoy adding pictures, cutting and gluing clip art or drawing their own illustrations for many people and events. If students prefer, they can simply write names, dates, etc. directly on their timelines. As you can see–anything goes. Once more information is added, students start to see connections. Connecting events, places, people, and time is the key to real learning. For example, when kids learn that Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the mid-1880’s, they can also see what else was happening in the world and in the US during the post-Civil War Reconstruction period.
**Above is a peek inside my oldest son’s timeline that he started in kindergarten. Over the years as he’s added more information, the pages have filled up, and he can see things within a historical context. This has been extremely beneficial for senior high school and college dual enrollment as he moves into doing more research based learning.**
Resources for timeline learning
The library is the best resource for timeline learning. Whenever we are studying a topic, we head to the library first to gather materials for delving into our current theme. Our librarian was happy to give us a tour of the library and introduce us to the online card catalog, so now the kids enjoy hunting for whatever they need.
Adam’s Synchronological Chart or Map of History
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Adam’s Synchronological Chart or Map of History is our favorite visual timeline resource. It is huge, with 21 fold-out panels (13″ x 28″ each). First published in 1871 by S. C. Adams, this timeline book starts with biblical creation and goes to 1870. Based on Ussher’s Annals of the World, Adams created this timeline so that students would be able to use these “mind pictures” to form connections with history. Adam’s timeline includes events, people, the flow of nation states, inventions, books, and architecture. As time moves forward, the colored lines increase, offering more and more information about the advancement of civilization.
Adams Synchronological Chart comes with two guides.
One is a key written by Adams that provides descriptions and additional background information about the details of the timeline. This booklet is helpful to me as a teacher, because I can consult it to answer my kids’ questions or to learn a little more about the portion of the timeline we are studying to provide enrichment to my lessons.
The other resource is a teacher’s guide, which is vital both to understanding the timeline and to using it for homeschool history lessons. The teacher’s guide contains hands-on activities, teaching tips, discussion questions, additional overview of the timeline that explains the numerous additional features, and reproducible tests.
Our favorite way to use Adams Synchronological Chart is to spread it out on the floor, folding out the panels for the time period we want to discover. If we had the wall space, it would look beautiful on display. In addition to using the timeline for history studies, we also incorporate it into literature, science, and even fine arts lessons. An example of how the timeline crosses subjects is the 19th panel (A. D. 1300-1600), which includes:
- Inventions: the mariner’s compass, gunpowder, air guns and muskets, playing cards, chimneys and window glass, pumps, the first watch, cannon, hand cannon, Gutenberg’s press, the spinning wheel.
- Wickliffe’s Bible and the Bishop’s Bible
- St. Peter’s at Rome
- William Tell
- Joan of Arc
- Martin Luther
- Queen Elizabeth
- William Shakespeare
- Thomas Wolsey
- Sir Edward Coke
- King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella
- Henry VIII breaking with the Catholic Church
- The War of the Roses
- Spain’s becoming a super power
- The coming of age of the czars of Moscow
- The Ottoman Empire
- Columbus discovers San Salvador
- Copernicus’ model of a sun-centered universe revealed
Besides being beautiful and fascinating to look at, Adams Synchronological Chart has been a great investment, because it can be used with all ages and revisited again and again. (My favorite homeschool resources are the ones that provide for all of my kids throughout the years.)
Big Book of History: From Creation to the Modern Computer
We use the Big Book of History for elementary (about ages 7-12) in addition to Adam’s.
- World Events
Ours is bound in a hardcover book, but the panels are also available from the publisher (Master Books) without the covers, so the timeline can be hung on the wall. The kid-friendly format garners a lot of enthusiasm with our son as he discovers things like why the yo-yo, and batteries appear on the same portion of the timeline as the Parthenon and the Great Wall of China.
The Big Book of History timeline includes:
- Birthdates of conquerors, kings, inventors, scientists, and famous men of God
- Wars and wonders of the ancient ad modern worlds
- The first ancient inventions and discoveries of things like chocolate, yo-yos, batteries, and movies.
This resource is a great way to introduce research into the young elementary classroom, as students want to discover more about the events, people, and places featured throughout the years.