Our Living Timeline

When I was in school I hated, HATED, making timelines. They never turned out the way I hoped they would. There was just no way to cram the amount of information required in the space provided AND make it neat and evenly spaced. Especially when dates kept being added which would throw everything off. There were always big gaps of time with nothing in them and then all the important stuff would happen all at once and have to get all smooshed together. I don’t see how even the most well-adjusted perfectionist could cope with this kind of assignment.
Fast forward to the pre-homeschool years when I was reading stacks of books about homeschooling and developing my own plans for a curriculum (none of which included living on a tropical island with 4 rough-n-tumble little boys). My own college education was based on the classics and this is how I envisioned educating my future little-lectuals. One of my favorite books at the time was Bluedorn’s “Teaching the Trivium” in which they describe a permanent timeline wrapping around their schoolroom to which all significant dates relating to their studies were added throughout the years. In theory, this idea was beautiful to me, it’s execution however, I imagined could only be an unsightly blight to an otherwise attractive wall.
Fast forward to the present and the evolution of our homeschool to the crazy eclectic microcosm that it is and here is how the concept of a Living Timeline has become part of our day and it’s own little blight on a narrow band of wall across our schoolroom.
I am not a fan of the spiral approach to education; the repeated exposure to different facets of various subjects over and over culminating in subject specific classes at the high-school level, only to be repeated yet again, at the college level. With children, at least the kind I have, I am continually amazed how much knowledge they seem to acquire and retain when fully immersed in a specific subject for extended periods of time. Studying science by focussing on one day of creation a year has been perfect for us but eventually we will run out of days and corresponding subjects and we will need a new focus. Why stop at Genesis 1? Why not just keep going onto Genesis 2 and 3 and on through the whole Bible studying the history of mankind. My vision of a living timeline begins with first mapping out the whole scope of Biblical history as a foundation and framework for all other histories to be built upon. According to my calculations that would begin for our oldest child around the 6th grade. Not wanting to appear completely negligent though, I figured I better give them some kind of exposure to the “social sciences” prior to the middle-school years. But I didn’t want to take up valuable time and energies teaching things that they were going to have to relearn further down the road.
So we started our time-line project with a Jerusalem, Judea…ends of the Earth approach to History. First we learned about our own family: who they were, where they came from, we learned stories of God’s work in their lives and of His providential hand that has led us to where we are today. We used the green 3×5 cards from those multi-color packs to write down important dates including their own births. These were hung by little binder clips on a wire stretching at their eye-level across our schoolroom wall. I love how, just like on a family tree, they are able to see their own little card and recognize the important place they play in our family.
Next we began a study of our own neighborhood here on the Big Island of Hawaii. There are a ton of historical sites, markers and ruins literally right outside our door and we got to know those very well. Important dates in our local history we recorded on the purple index cards and added those to our timeline. This has expanded to include historical facts from all over our island though we have especially focused on the arrival and spread of the Gospel from here in Kona throughout Hawaii. Next year we will be doing a study of Hawaii as one of the 50 states which will include their very first official “State Report.” These dates will also be added to our timeline.
We have also been recording on the blue 3×5 cards all the important dates we have been learning about in our study of astronomy, starting of course, with the most important date in the history of the universe: it’s birth.
So what makes it a “Living” timeline?
1. The dates can all be moved around as needed because they’re just clipped on.
2. It’s elastic, like a “living document” and can adjust to changing subjects and circumstances (like if I needed to move it to a shorter or longer wall).
3. It encompasses a whole world of information not just snippets of historical fact.
4. It includes us and we’re alive!
5. Our God is a living God and this is above all a testament to His past, present and continued work, including each child’s place in it.


10 comments on “Our Living Timeline

  1. This is a great idea! We are using the trivium and every year I struggle with the timeline because I have only one empty wall. So I have to take down the last year’s timeline to put up this year’s and that is counter-productive, I think, to helping my children see the entire scope of the story if I have to remove chunks of it every year. Thanks for the info!

  2. Yippeeee! Thank you so much! I know others will enjoy this, too! I’ve actually learned about so much more than just your timeline reading this page. This is great!

    Because of the reasons you mentioned, I was a bit afraid to tackle a timeline on our wall! I also worried that it had to be “cute and crafty” (this is the mom-to-girls in me) and that the time it took to make cute little people and symbols wouldn’t be worth it! Instead, I started a Book of Centuries. I didn’t like it. There were lots of pages that were blank, making it difficult to find what we needed; and because it was in a notebook, it just wasn’t very effective. Your living timeline rocks! (Did I just say “rocks”?) It is easy to make, easy to read with your color-coding, easy to adjust, and easy to keep up with! Yay!

    Yes!! I’m sure your guys love seeing themselves and family milestones as part of the timeline! Perfect! A no-brainer… but I didn’t think of it!!! Ha ha!

    I have wondered before about your “social sciences”, but you are doing them in such a real and meaningful way! I am sorry to say that I’ve never thought quite as in depth as you about the “spiral approach to education”. I guess I am guilty of just doing what I know. 😦 Hmmm…

    Now I’ve got to go think about all of this… AND get some clips and index cards!

    Thank you! 🙂

    • Just a warning: your tidy little wire with clips might get highjacked for purposes other than index cards with dates on them. Right now, ours is also host to 4 Advent calendars, some not-quite-dry paintings, and a fake rubber mouse but, oh well 🙂

  3. We made a family timeline years ago when our oldest was homeschooling. Thanks for the reminder, I’ll unpack it from out project tote soon so the younger kids can update it.

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