Historical Timeline Study with Kids

by Sherri Chekal


Did you ever wonder what the rest of the world was doing while Christopher Columbus was busy discovering the New World? Or say, what was happening in China when we were studying the medieval time of the Middle Ages. Why of course, they weren't doing anything; they were simply waiting, right? WRONG.

Today's teaching of history tends to be very regional, or more specifically by well known ages, such as the Greek and Roman Empire, Medieval Ages, Age of Discovery and so on. Children learn facts and information from these periods and move on to the next. However, many are very surprised to learn that the rest of history is still moving on. There is little that we can do to teach all of the world's events as they happened chronologically, as that would lend to one very confused generation of children as they tried to experience the whole of the world's history, day by day.

Yet, by neglecting whole cultures and time periods we limit a child's understanding of the web of history, the connections that take place to create the very history we are studying. Very little happens within a vacuum, and history is definitely a study that needs the "whole" picture to make sense in the long run.

One of the most important tools for teaching an awareness of history as a multi-layered entity is the timeline. Children can see different cultures and the events that shape their history in relationship to other cultures. It can bring alive history as children learn that connections cross and weave through history and have very important ramifications. And a timeline that the student creates himself can be a valuable tool for teaching and experiencing history in all of its glory.

As the teaching parent, you may find a timeline of world history a bit daunting to create. Do not despair. As you will come to learn, a timeline book is a tool that will grow and adapt through your child's whole education. Simply start with the time period that you are currently working on and begin to add in dates that your curriculum offers for you. Be sure to leave room on the timeline for other time periods. As you come across interesting dates and facts, add to the book. If you think that your timeline will be finished within a month, three months or a year, then you are rushing the work. Consider it over a whole educational life span and you will come to find out how endearing this work will become to your child.

Be sure to add personal dates as well to your timeline. Children revel in seeing their parent's birth dates with historical facts. Even past family events such as great grandparents and family members from any genealogical study you do will help to bring history alive to your children. Imagine the delight when they learn Great Grandfather was a boy when the Wright Brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk, or that their mother was born when President Kennedy was assassinated. History as it relates to our own lives helps to create a vivid picture for your children. 

When you are reading a book unrelated to your historical studies and stumble upon interesting facts, go to the timeline book and add them. By focusing on the things that your children find fascinating, they will remember and retain them far more than simple rote memorization from some dry text. By using their creativity to draw and create images and write about the historical event, they will remember them well. My own children delight to work in their timeline books, sometimes finding clip art to include, but more often then not, they create their own images with pencil and marker. 

Neatness is important, but not to the point of being a hindrance to the work they are creating. For very young students of history, a parent or older sibling can do the writing of events with the child drawing their impressions for later recall. As a teaching parent, you might want to start your own book as you learn too, the interaction of chronological history study! I know that from experience, my own children will pout when Mom wants to draw in their books! They are cherished journals of study and a delightful way to augment any historical curriculum you are currently using. When your child reaches her final years of grade school education, their well-worn and used timeline book will be a cherished heirloom!

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