Cover image for post about History Timelines in your Homeschool showing a commercially made timeline.

Using History Timelines in Your Homeschool

Do you use history timelines in your homeschool?  They can be a great way for children to visualize an abstract concept.  Time is a measurement that exists in our head.  For children to conceptualize time, it is important that they SEE the measurement in many ways.  This is why it is important for children to still learn an analog clock even though digital clocks are everywhere.  If you have a child with a learning challenge, it can be even more important to use visual representations of time.  Here are many ways you can incorporate history timelines into your homeschool with FREE printables at the end.

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Create Personal History Timelines

For You: A great way to introduce a child to history timelines is to have them make one for themselves by writing in events and drawing or gluing pictures about their life on to a timeline. We tend to be self-centered beings and personalizing a concept is a great teaching strategy!  One is included in the FREE printable to get you started, but you may want to get creative with this and make a larger one on butcher paper.

For A Friend or Family Member: Once a child has made a history timeline for himself, he may want to make one for someone he knows.  This would be a great time for him to practice his interviewing skills and ask that person about her life and fill it in on a timeline.

For Someone Else: A child may be more interested in creating a timeline for a historical figure or a sports star, musician or actor that she likes.  Get a biography out of the library or look-up a person’s bio online and use that research to create a timeline.  You can create one on a full sheet of paper or there are bookmark timelines included in the printable below.

Biography shown with a timeline bookmark

Create Historical Timelines

Wall or Floor History Timelines: A wall or floor timeline can be a challenge to work with as representing that much time linearly takes up a lot of space!  You can compact early years where there weren’t many ‘events’ and expand centuries where there are many things to add to a timeline.  Just be careful in doing this as it can confuse the idea of measurement of time to children when they are younger.

We have a timeline that is sheets of card stock that we lay across the floor periodically and place pictures on it of various events through time.  We could have glued the pictures and/or written in the events, but I feel having the children set out the pictures each time makes them think and recall information much more than if they just read what was already there.  When we are done, we stack it back up and slide it away in an expandable file folder. (Side note: expandable file folders are great for organizing homeschool papers and pretty inexpensive, too!)

Floor History Timeline with pictures

In the printable below, there is a timeline without the years filled in that can be used to make your own floor timeline.  If you start with 3500 BC and use the measurement of two inches per 50 years, you would need about 22 sheets of cardstock.  Your timeline will get crowded for the last several hundred years so you may want to change the measurement so that each inch represents 5 or 10 years.

You can also use this floor timeline to study a specific subject.  For example, if you have US President flashcards, you would lay them all out along the timeline.  Our Person of the Day cards can be used for this purpose, too.  Here is an example:

Women of the Day Cards set along a timeline


A History Timeline Book: An idea borrowed from Charlotte Mason is creating a timeline book.  You can purchase a book pretty inexpensively here on Amazon or you can make your own.  To make your own, you take a three-ring binder and put in a notebook page for each section of time such as one century.  Label the page at the top with the time period you have chosen and then whenever you study something in history over your entire homeschool career, you add it to the appropriate page in the book.  You could include pages at the end that cover only one year at a time and encourage your child to fill in personal events and milestones.

A timeline book showing 1600 - 1700 CE

We tried both the floor timeline and the timeline book with my boys.  They preferred the floor timeline because they liked to move around and look at and handle pictures rather than sitting and writing information in a notebook.  So, think about your children’s learning styles when picking your timeline activities.

Using Mini History Timelines

Mini history timelines are great when studying a specific subject.  They are often included in books about history, but helping your child make one will help them actively learn the information.  These are great for helping children understand cause and effect in history, another concept that can be challenging for children with learning disabilities.

For example, we made a mini history timeline when we learned about the Revolutionary War.  As we learned something new, we glued a picture to our timeline.  First, we started with events leading up to the war such as the Boston Massacre, passage of different laws and taxes and the Boston Tea Party.  This helped us learn the causes.  Then we glued on different major battles in the war.  Finally, we added the Treaty of Paris and the setting up of a new government.  These were the effects of the initial events on our timeline.

Adding each event when we studied it allowed us to review all the events prior to that event as well and talk about how they may have led to the event we were currently studying.

Revolutionary War Timeline

Purchase a History Timeline as a Reference

Even with all of these methods of teaching time, I wanted to have a quick, smallish reference timeline I could point to when we were reading a book.  I ended up buying one on Amazon, but it is no longer available.  This one looks really good, though:

The Big History Timeline Wallbook: Unfold the History of the Universe―from the Big Bang to the Present Day!
  • Lloyd, Christopher (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 24 Pages - 09/05/2017 (Publication Date) - What on Earth Publishing (Publisher)

Download Free History Timelines

I have included some free printables here to get you started including timeline bookmarks, personal timelines, and a timeline without the years filled in so you can create your own floor timeline.

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