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For more timeline ideas, be sure to see Timeline Helps from Homeschool in the Woods.

Thank you, KC, for a large portion of the advice on this page. KC manages the Eclectic Classical Homeschool site.


As I research timelines, I'm starting to think that there are as many ways of making a timeline as there are homeschoolers. Your choice of line will be influenced by your space. One thing's for sure: the more available it is, the more you will use it. That's why I prefer to put the line on the wall if possible. But if that is not an option, still make sure that whatever format you use is as easy as possible to access or you'll probably never use it.

Single Line Around the Room
If you have the wall space, I think this is the best method. By seeing everything at once, you get a better idea of the interrelationships of world history. You see it as a continuing process rather than individual segments. Also you're likely to use it more often if it's always out, not put away on the bookcase. We use freezer wrap (in the grocery store next to the aluminum foil) because it's good and tough, and easy to write on. See Scaling below for one suggestion of how to space your years. If you use that scale, your timeline will fit two wall sections, a 10' and 11' section. Or you could tack up one line above the other on one 11' wall. Then start adding Figures as you study time periods.

Sentence Strips
You can buy sentence strips at most school supply or stationery stores. They are about 24" x 3". Mark off time increments along sentence strips. (See Scaling for one approach.) Tape together several strips to form one time period. You could have one set for 1500 - 1750, one for 1750 - 1900, etc., and only pull out the one related to your present studies. I suppose that if one section of line became too crowded as you use it for several years, or if you wanted separate tracks for US vs. World history (especially during 18th and 19th centuries), you could even tape a second strip BELOW the first (use clear postal tape). That way certain strips would be 24" x 6" instead. It might make storing it a smidge more clumsy, but it would give you space to expand where necessary. You don't have that option with one of the wall or poster timeline methods. This approach is great for those who have limited space and/or are not into decorating walls with timeline! It fan-folds and therefore only takes up the space of one sentence strip. One possible negative is that you don't have as much space for figures as you do with a wall or notebook line. You could compensate for this by making your line longer which would allow more line inches for each time span.

KPzz in Nebraska does something similar with cardstock. She says, "I tape together pieces of card stock with clear packing tape on the back. The timeline stretches out across the floor whenever we want the "Big Picture," but it also page-turns like a book most of the time. And best of all, it folds up and sits on the shelf just like any other 8.5 x 11-inch book.

Wall Lines for Smaller Spaces
J & K Schooling sells a "snake" line made of sturdy blue cardstock for you to laminate and staple to a wall. Cost is $8.00. The finished line measures 7' H x 5' W. You could also either staple their line or draw a similar line on a table cloth, shower curtain, or very large poster you then hang on the wall. Crys of J & K Schooling has written out Complete Directions.

My favorite idea for a small-wall line involves sentence strips. Tape a few together and tack them vertically onto the side of your refrigerator or on a bedroom door. You might have three or four lines of vertical strips. You'd start with the ancients on the top left corner, go down that line, then jump to the top of the next line to the right. The present time would be at the bottom right corner.

Another approach: a science fair project board or white-spray-painted fabric cutting board is good because you can fold and stow it under the couch when not in use. You could even paint your line onto your sliding patio door! I've heard of people mmaking a timeline quilt.

Poster Style
Geography Matters sells a 2' x 3' laminated poster timeline. It is vertically oriented. Since it is laminated, you can write on it with Vis-a-Vis markers. It has horizontal lines. The years are included on the front. On the back there is a line without years noted, so you can use it temporarily to focus on different time periods. I found this approach too small for how we do timelines. For example, you have only 1' x 3" for the entire 1800's. But the smaller poster size is more convenient especially if you'll be noting only the most significant events in history.

Notebook Style
Book of the Centuries is available from This is a HUGE 7-ring binder (and I recommend just buying a 3-inch 3-ring binder if you like this idea) that has a time line (like number line) consistently across the tops of all the pages. There is a divider between BC and AD. Using this notebook timeline, you can put in Figures, narrations, illustrations etc. that your kids do. The nice thing about the notebook style timeline is that it's cumulative; every year's study can be added in. The downside to the notebooks is that it's harder for younger children to understand the continuum of time when in a notebook. (For youngers, you may want to start with one of the many ideas that are more visual re: the continuum.) For details of a do-it-yourself notebook timeline, I have found three good web sites: Timeline in a Book
Sonlight has a blank Book of Time. It's 122 heavy-gauge pages, marked with a line and date increments. You stick your figures in the book and add whatever else you like.

Time & Place Line
A Time & Place Line combines a map section and a timeline section with the times and places connected to each other. KC has written out Complete Directions.

Line with Removable Figures
From: Cheryl G.
I have seen some really awesome home-made ones too - but still not quite what I am looking for. I want to easily be able to add new things to our time-line without it getting SO busy that my boys (8 & 9) can't easily use. I don't want it "fixed". I want to be able to move the pieces in the timeline easily as we add more things.

I also want the ability to remove items - so my kids can handle them and play games with them. So I decided I would put the people, places or events on index cards - that way my boys can take them down, put them in order, and play card games with them.

The only problem I have had was how to hang them - so that they are removable but won't get ruined by repeated taking down & putting back up. What I decided to do was use paper clips to attach them to an actual line. The line will be sturdy seam binding tape (it's cheap & long), which I will tack to the wall in our hallway. Then each card can be paper-clipped to the binding tape & easily moved, removed and put back up.

We are planning to glue (or color) pictures to the index cards to match the event, write the date & person or event on the front under the picture and then on the back of the index card write the facts to go with it.

Index cards come in all colors now too - so I am going to come up with a color coded system as well.

Line Creation Software
Easy Timeline Creator lets you create timelines on your computer. I haven't seen the program, but it looks promising. Read one user's feedback at Honeypot Hollow.

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See a Comparison of Timeline Figures
Several companies sell figures to attach to your timeline. They generally include a person or event and a year. You can also make your own.

J & K Schooling
Check their timeline and figures. Theirs seem to be the most popular among the homeschoolers I've heard from. It's a good product for a great price, and the company was a pleasure to work with. You get 400+ pieces for $28 (unit price: $7/100). Expansion sets are available; they average 30 figures for $5 (unit price: $16.65/100). J & K Schooling

Geography Matters
They sell 340 figures on colored cardstock for $25 (unit price: $7.35/100). For only $10 more, you can get their Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide. It's 352 pages and includes reproducible masters of their 340 figures (though not on cardstock), 19 outline maps, and many, many other resources. Geography Matters

History Through the Ages
Adrienne in Canada told me about History Through the Ages figures. These figures are beautifully detailed with lots of information. Each set is for a specific time period (e.g. Resurrection to Revolution) and includes over 250 figures (2.5" to 3.5" tall) plus the line itself. A set costs $19.95 (unit price: $8.00/100). Their first two sets take you up to 1799. They're developing two more sets, one for America and one for World after 1800.

Note that the new Konos line provides one of the most attractive sets of figures, but a set (average 170 figures) costs $59.95 (unit price: $35.30/100), and you'll need three different sets to cover all of history.

Sonlight's figures are sticky-backed. Figures are more detailed and better drawn than most out there. They are coordinated to Sonlight's history, one set of figures for each level of history studies. They include events which are studied in Sonlight but are not commonly included in history study. For example, "1918, Standard Time Adopted by Railroads." Sets vary in size, but an average set would be 90 figures for $9.50 (unit price: $$10.55/100). If you're using Sonlight history, they're wonderful. If you're not using Sonlight, many of the figures won't mean anything to you.

One mom writes: "We do things a little bit differently than most other timelines I have seen. You won't find any pre-printed figures or pictures in Andrew's book. We use regular sized return address labels to record the information on and Andrew likes to draw a picture to help him remember the event/person. Take a look at our timeline."

Draw Your Own
We draw & write on a little slip of paper, then stick it onto the timeline. That way if you don't like how your picture looks, you can try again and stick up the one you prefer. You could also draw on inexpensive business card blanks, available from office supply stores. (The cards are good if you like to remove the figures to play games with, or you like the consistent size.) We also use the figures from Sonlight, but there are many more events for which there is no SL figure, so we make our own.

On-line pictures
University of Texas at Austin has a gallery of more than 300 portraits of people from history, arranged alphabetically. The pictures are of very nice quality. To find events, you can do an Image Search on Google. This will return any image it finds on the web, with your search field as the title. I searched for "Haymarket Riot" and found seven images, three of which were of the historical event. All things considered, I think I would only use pictures from the net as a last resort. I'll admit that the pictures are of better quality than the figure sets referred to above. But consider that you can buy them for about .07 cents per figure, and they're all there, just the right size already, ready to be cut out. On the other hand, if you copy them from the web, you'd have to take the time to find them, resize them, print them, etc. I'd rather pay the seven cents or have the kids make their own.

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If you use the following scaling, your timeline will fit two wall sections, a 10' and 11' section. Or you could tack up one line above the other, on one 11' wall. Or fit it all on one very long (20'5") wall. Note that I've left 2 feet for the time before 3100 BC. Different sources disagree on when to begin (4000 BC? 6000 BC? 11000 BC?), so you can scale that first two feet to match your preferred source. In fact, if you're putting it one above the other, all on one wall instead of two walls, you could even make the first section 3 feet so the lines would be the same length. On the following table, you may want to put the first two sections on one wall and the last two on another wall.

Line Scale Span
2' ????? Beginning to 3100 BC
7'8" 2"=100yr 3100 BC - 1500 AD
2'1" 2"=20 years 1500 AD - 1750 AD
8'8" 2"=5 years 1750 - 2010 AD

It is necessary to use different scales at different times in history. If you didn't change the scale, you'd either have a very blank timeline before the renaissance, or a VERY crowded one after 1750. So instead, use a few different scales.

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From The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide p.287):

Nothing puts history in perspective quite like a timeline. The benefits of using a timeline throughout your school year parallel those of utilizing outline maps. It's fascinating and sometimes shocking to discover familiar historical events occurred during the same time period or didn't occur as closely in time as you'd thought. It's common to teach history in neat, little packaged topics. Missing from the picture, however, is both chronology and a clear understanding regarding how one nation's events affected the history of another. Using timelines faithfully, fills in that gap.

Chat between Paula H & Cheri in WI
We have used the same timeline since we started homeschooling. Each year we are studying a different time period or part of the world, so different segments of the timeline get filled up in different years. I suspect it will be pretty crowded by the time we finish.

Cherie: Okay, when dealing with kids who are not really old enough to understand the passage of time in terms of years etc., how does this help them.

Benefit of a timeline: frame of reference. You see what happened before what, what happened at the same time, etc. For example, England beat the Spanish Armada in 1588, then settled Jamestown in 1607. Why'd it take them over 100 years from Columbus until they started colonizing? They had to beat the Spanish, first. Here's another example: mark all the Reformation movements. You'll see that soon after Luther, there was a flood of them. Also, I believe that it was soon after Reformation that there were many advances in science (Copernicus, Newton, etc.)(don't quote me on that one). Here's another: how much changed after Guttenberg. How did the printing press influence these developments? (example: would Luther have started the Reformation, if each monastery owned only one Bible?) So you see, even if the time periods are over their head, you still have the time relationships between events. Of course, some of the events I mentioned will be over the heads of your little ones, but translate the concept to things on their level.

Cherie: Do you make a timeline of their life so they can see how it works?

Paula: You might want to glue a small group photo of your kids, in the range of when they were born. Then a photo of a parent on his/her birth year, and one photo of a grandparent (or even farther back). It helps your kids to understand the scale of things.

JK Schooling recommends you put date added & child's name on back of figures, to see when you studied what. They also say to Xerox the figures, and store the originals. Give each child a set. They color and personalize their figures, and sign & date the back. One child attaches his to the wall line, the others attach theirs to their notebook line. Keep originals because as kids are bigger, they'll want to re-do theirs nicer.

"Chronology" game
You can purchase a game called "Chronology" in which cards are placed according to their place in time. In my family we do a mock version of this game with an extra set of timeline figures. Periodically we play the game, and the "cards" (figures) are color coded as to which year we studied that period and are cumulative. I know that some moms purchase the actual game and add their personal timeline cards/figures to the purchased set.

See Paula's Archives for further details on Chronology.

Silly Game
We played a very silly game with our homemade Chronology cards. You could also use loose timeline figures. I'll admit that this will work much better with older kids, at least 9 or 10 years old. Shuffle the cards. Give each person a big stack. The first person reads aloud the event on his first card, not including the year. The second player describes the event on her card, explaining it as if it happened concurrently to or immediately after the event of the first player's card. You just continue around the circle, with everyone trying to relate the event of his card to the event of the prior card. Since the cards are shuffled, and the dates are far apart and out of order, it becomes positively ridiculous. For example:

Arthur: Fulton builds the first practical steamboat.
Beth: Columbus used Fulton's steamboat on his voyage to discover America.
Carol: Later that year in America, the British surrendered at Yorktown, ending the Revolutionary War.
Arthur: The British king was further humiliated. Not only did he lose the American colonies, but he was also forced to sign Magna Carta.
Beth: in other parts of the world, rulers were faring better. Alexander the Great conquered the Persians.
Carol: This set off the Greek Dark Ages.
Arthur: Which were also caused by a massive labor shortage, since the British had just abolished slavery in their colonies worldwide because of the efforts of Wilberforce.

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How & Why to Make Timelines Pages of More Timeline Links Actual Timelines (dates & events)

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