A “Book Of Centuries” is the fancy Charlotte Mason way of saying “Timeline In A Book”. The main idea of a book of centuries is that for each 2 page spread you open your book to, you are glancing at 1 century. You keep the book for your entire education, and add only the things that you personally learn about in History.
Keeping your own personal book of centuries helps you relate things you’re learning to things you have learned in the past, and it also serves as built-in review.
I was excited about the idea of putting a timeline in a book because I do NOT have the wall space for a big timeline as a homeschooler. I also loved the idea of keeping an ongoing record of all the things we learned. After not finding exactly what I was looking for online, I created my own book of centuries, and made it printable (to save all of you the leg work!)
Each Book Of Centuries is unique because each student adds only what they have personally learned and think is interesting- then it is added to the book with their own creativity and flair. It can be as complicated as being like a “scrapbook” or as simple as being just lists.
Charlotte Mason suggested giving each child their own book of centuries around 5th grade, but I have seen many homeschool families make a “Family Book Of Centuries” when the children are young. That’s what we have done. I suppose it’s really my book of centuries, because it will include everything I go over with my children for our entire homeschool span.
It’s really great for me because I’m super bad with History, so it’s helping me visualize and be a better teacher. When the kids ask me a question about when something happened, I can say “Let’s look it up!” and then we write it in on the timeline. It helps me not to feel totally lost as a History teacher. Then when I go to write in “World War I”, I say “Look! That happened right after the Titanic sank!”
Here are some things you can include in a book of centuries:
- People you learn about
- Events you learn about
- Book titles of books set in certain centuries
- Sketches of inventions from that century
- Sketches of clothing from that century
- Historical events you find interesting
- Important events and discoveries of the time
- Your own family History!
This book is kept throughout the child’s education, and added to continuously.
Some of my favorite features of adding a book of centuries to our homeschool are:
- The keepsake it creates for what we’ve learned
- The built-in review you get whenever using the book
- Being able to relate things you’ve learned to other things
- Not needing the wall space for a traditional timeline
- The kids being able to relate things they learn to things in the past
Once you have a book of centuries, here’s what you do with the kiddos:
Start with this Montessori lesson on BC vs. AD. This lesson is free to download and use, and I loved it! It focuses on how Christ is at the center of our calendar. I used our Christmas baby Jesus as a visual for this lesson.
When we were done learning about BC and AD, we turned the printable from the Montessori lesson into a page that be put as the front page in our binder. I made a printable page for this (included in the download) so you don’t have to assemble it yourselves. Also, go ahead and add Jesus’ birth in on the timeline when you do this.
The next thing I would suggest doing is adding your birthday and your children’s birthdays in on the timeline, and then the day you started your Book of Centuries (today). Then start adding history that your children remember and were interested in. We put in family pictures of visiting Laura’s house from our time with the Little house books. When we covered modern American history, I added a picture of Lydia sitting on the Rosa Parks bus. Anything that helps your kids relate to and retain what they’ve learned.
We have been adding plenty to the Jesus page this year! I love putting Jesus right on a timeline, and on a map. It just really speaks volumes to the children that he was a real person, who really came to earth, and went real places at real times. Not even kind of similar to the tooth fairy.
When you put Jesus on a timeline, it’s really interesting how easy it is to see that his public life happened in such a short amount of time! I printed pictures for some of the major events (Jesus’ birth, Baptism, death, resurrection, and Pentecost). I also put in pictures of Jesus at the temple, and Jesus working as a carpenter in Nazareth because we don’t know anything else about those time periods.
I clearly marked the few years of Jesus’ public ministry, and made a place for a list of things he did. We’re filling in the Bible stories only as we learn them. I also ended up squeezing in a list of things Jesus did after he rose from the dead. I forgot there were so many things! I liked the way this was set up in our book, so I made a printable page for this as well, leaving room for you to write in your the Bible stories yourself as you cover them with your kids. This page is meant to help you “jump-start” your own Jesus page.
Once your book is ready to go, it is so fast, easy, and fun to upkeep! Did you read a Saint story this week? Put the Saint in on the timeline! Did you watch a history channel documentary? Put it in there! Did your kids read a Magic Treehouse book about Ancient Egypt? Write the title in where it belongs! Did you visit a museum and see some cool stuff? Stick some pictures to your timeline! Did your kids learn about an artist, or a scientist, or a composer, or pretty much anything? Add it to the timeline! Did you spend some time in November talking about the first Thanksgiving? Write it on there! Such a great way to help the kids relate everything, and it’s a great way to remember what you’ve covered.
The true Charlotte Mason way is to give each century exactly the same amount of space. This way, your children can kind of “see” how much time it is. I know this will make for empty space in ancient history and crowded pages for more current, but I wanted to stick with the format. As I started getting into it, I found myself stressing out about adding things to our timeline and taking up “space” with drawings and family photos. I didn’t want to feel like I couldn’t write in what we learned, so I figured out a sneaky way to add more space when needed without lengthening the actual timeline.
We plan to add half pages when (and if) the time comes that we have filled up the other pages completely. In fact, in my final printable version, I have moved the printable timeline up a hair to accommodate these half pages. The half page template is available in my printable version.
After working the bugs out when creating my own Book of Centuries, I made 2 more of them as birthday presents for 2 of my best friends. (Yes, most of my friends are awesome, nerdy, homeschooling mamas.) 😉 So I have the system down-pat now, and I made it into one easy-to-use download for all of you. 🙂
Downloadable Book Of Centuries: $2.00
Features Of This Book Of Centuries Download Include:
- An actual timeline-style format so that everything you add can go in chronologically without having to leave “gaps” in your lists. (This means there’s an actual timeline running across the page rather than just filling in a blank page.)
- Easy printing set up to help with the confusing front/back printing that has to happen without having to write too much in by hand.
- Circles indicating where the hole punching happens, taking the guessing out properly printing the century page-spreads.
- A “sneaky” way to add more space to your century without lengthening your timeline, making it possible for all of the time to be represented on a standard amount of space. This way, you are representing an accurate scale of the passage of time to your students without running out of room on the more current pages.
- A list in order of the dates you’ll put at the top of the page, along with the number of the century it is, taking out the frustrating guess work of getting putting it together in order. (This is especially handy for those “BC” years that count backwards.)
- Suggestions for exactly which supplies will work best for actually utilizing your book, and making sure it holds up well over the years. All of the supplies are affordable and very standard/easily found.
- How to get your kids started on the timeline.
- How to keep going with your timeline.
- How to assemble everything.
- A cover page that features “Christ at the center of our calendar” and is a great introduction to BC and AD.
- A list of ideas for things to add to your Book of Centuries.
- Bonus timeline pages, including the presidents, and Jesus’ birth.
- Suggestions for color coordinating your Book of Centuries
- And of course, prinatble templates for all the pages you need to build your book, including 2 different printable covers and spines to choose from! 🙂