Keeping Company – First Grade Timeline

“We want to give reality to history by showing that it is not something remote, to be found in books only; we want to show that the life of each child forms part of history; then we may lead him on to see that the whole world is different for each man that has lived, better for each noble life, and to feel quite early that God has sent him into the world with some work ready for him, and that his business is to do that work. Not that I would put this into so many words, but endeavour, by bringing the child’s life into immediate relations with the history of his own time, to help him to realise this as the reflective powers develop.”

Dorothea Beale in Parents’ Review article, “The Teaching of Chronology”

One of the projects in first grade in a Charlotte Mason homeschool is creating a Personal History timeline that chronicles the child’s life. When children are young, they are unable to understand the concept long periods of time. A timeline of their own lives allows them to organize events them remember into an ordered series of events. As they get older and mature, they are then able to move onto century charts and eventually a Book of Centuries.

With my Year 1 student this year, we have been working on a simple Personal History Timeline. He draws a picture depicting events in his life, and then he narrates a few sentences to describe the picture.

He is not a fluent writer yet so I wrote down his narration for him. Then we put his timeline on the wall.

“I venture to think that a child who begins history thus–not at the Creation, nor even at the Christian era, but at his own ‘nativity’—will get to understand it better than if he tried to survey the world from any other ‘pin-point’ in time.”

Dorothea Beale

This simple timeline was one of my first grader’s favorite activities from the past year. He remembered some of the big events in his life, and I suggested some others to him. As he drew his pictures, his whole face was alight with the joy of memory. Each time we would add a new line to the wall, he would ask me to reread his previous entries. Again he would light up as we looked over the events of his life.

When he finished his timeline, I realized that in addition to serving the purpose of helping him learn about the passage of time and the chronology of events, I also know have a sweet remembrance from his first year of school. The narrations he had me write are filled with first grader humor. Even when he’s grown, I will be able to look back on this timeline and remember the sparkle in his eyes as he worked on this project.

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