BOOK OF CENTURIES – “pageant of history” OR pain in the neck?

Next year my daughter will start a Book of Centuries.  This was a tool Charlotte Mason employed to help students in their study of history.  It was usually a simple notebook, pages blank on one side, lined on the other.  Each two page spread represented 100 years (hence the name).  The students could record dates, names, battles, etc. on the lined side and use the blank facing page for sketching.

So a few months ago I began my search for the perfect notebook to use as a Book of Centuries.  I mean, how difficult could it be to find a journal with alternating lined and blank pages?  Very difficult as it turns out!

imageThis was the best option I could find, and it is what I am using for my Book of Centuries (yes, Mamma has her very own).  I love that it is small, and I can take it in my purse if we are traveling.  That is part of my intention for this book, that I can sketch in it while visiting museums.  I knew it wouldn’t work as well for the children though since they would appreciate more space for writing and drawing. Laurie Bestvater’s would have been my first choice, but it was not in our budget; and I didn’t want to spend that much money anyway, not knowing if it would be something my daughter would love and use.  After scouring the internet and looking at many examples, I ended up making one myself. 

click image to download
This is what I came up with, and you are welcome to download it to use for your family if it will spare you the hours I put into it!  (Be sure to print it single sided so the left hand side of each two page spread is left blank for sketching. Print on a nice thick paper so the sketches won’t bleed through.)

Some homeschoolers use the Book of Centuries as simply a timeline in book form, pasting their timeline figures in it each week.  However, I have a slightly different vision for how I would like to use this tool in our homeschool, one perhaps more in keeping with its origins.  We will NOT be recording everything we learn in history.  Instead, this will be a book my daughter will spend a few minutes with at the end of each week.  She will choose something (a person, invention, battle, place, etc.) that she found particularly interesting from her studies that week to record in her book.  Instead of documenting every date, every name…it will become a personalized history scrapbook of sorts.  I still plan to use a timeline to record major events we are learning about in history – a family timeline for all the children to share.  But each child’s Book of Centuries will be a place for them to make record of what they enjoyed or found fascinating.

Since C-Bear won’t start her BOC until next school year, I don’t have any sample pages of hers to show you, but I do have a few entries in mine that will help to illustrate my intentions for the Book of Centuries.  Please bear in mind I am no artist! 

I got a kick out of the “Time…” quote on the front (which was completely coincidental by the way).

  • One week we were learning about the first united Chinese Empire and how Shi Huangdi burned all the books.  We also learned how to write a few Chinese characters.  This was a memorable time spent with the children and something I wanted to put in my “closet” (as my 7 year old calls her memory).
  • One evening my husband and I watched a fascinating documentary on Netflix about the beginnings of the city of Alexandria.  It moved me as I learned about this great city and epicenter of wisdom and knowledge in the ancient world.
  • On a recent road trip our family listened to Mary Pope Osborne’s Tales from the Odyssey audio collection (ALL 6 CDs).  What a terrific introduction to Homer!  It was gripping, some parts even a little gory, but the kids were begging to listen each time we got into the van.

See how these entries embody some sort of special memory or experience for me? This really is a notebook of recollections that prompt a whole network of connections at work in my mind!

I know some homeschoolers scrap the idea of a Book of Centuries altogether, thinking it to be nothing more than “busy work”, and I may very well come to that conclusion after a few months too.  But I love the idea of it so much that I am willing to give it a try and see what comes of it.  Will it become for my daughter a beautiful pageant of history in her mind’s eye or a pain in the neck?  Check back with me this time next year, and I’ll let you know! 😜

8 thoughts on “BOOK OF CENTURIES – “pageant of history” OR pain in the neck?

  1. I do hope you will update on this! We’ve been doing a binder timeline for the past few years and it has been useful and easy but definitely a check-off-the-list task rather than something they delight in. But the connections are being made, it only takes a few minutes each week, and the kids don’t mind it, so we’re sticking with it for now. I really liked seeing your example! And I love your daughter’s “closet” reference–that’s a great way to describe it. 🙂


    1. Thanks, Celeste! I will have to do another post once C-Bear starts hers in the Fall. The binder timeline sounds like a good idea too. So much easier to add to or change out pages if the kids make a mistake or something. I made a folding timeline for this past year out of bristol board, but the thing is 20 feet long and only gets unfolded long enough to glue on the figures. Really wish I had something rigged up that could have stayed out and visible throughout the year. It’s a process to find out what works and we make do in the meantime, eh?


  2. Very neat! I ended up getting an inexpensive one from Michelle Quigley??? I think and I didn’t love it because of having to add in the centuries and dates etc. I don’t LOVE BCE and CE and that comes in some of the pre-dated ones. I’m not sure what I will do with my next child. Thanks for sharing! Amy


    1. Yes, I saw that one from Michele. I think she has it as a free download too. I also didn’t want to have to hand write in all of the dates. Funny, because typing them in probably took longer with formatting and such, but at least I just had to do it once, not for every child. I suppose I could have had the kids date it, but they’d probably enjoy that even less than I! 🙂


  3. I loved seeing your examples and choices!! We’ve been working through our BOC for years – and some of my older kids (graduated) have completed theirs…but I’m really looking for some inspiration and invigoration in our habits for this year! Loved reading your approach – it’s given me a few ideas! Thanks so much for sharing!


    1. I’m encouraged to hear you’ve kept one for years. It seems to be something I get such a mixed reaction on. I guess the key is to find what works for your kids. Keeping it fresh with new twists or ideas is the challenge I suppose from year to year! Glad you enjoyed a peek at mine. I really should be more diligent with it. I think it has the potential to be something really meaningful over the years!


  4. Yay! I think I found a fellow CM blogger! I also read Laurie Bestvater’s book, and have started a timeline notebook with my oldest 3 kids like you mentioned here. I used a composition notebook. It works o.k., but it is annoying to have lines on the page they draw their pictures. I’m enjoying browsing through your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

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