Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Staircase of Time

The Well-Trained Mind recommends that middle-grade students (that is, grades 5-8) should make a timeline each year in order to understand both the scope of history as well as the chronological relationship between historical figures and events.

Unfortunately for us eager parents who see homeschooling as a means to self-education, younger children can't comprehend the timeline. It's too abstract. Thus, it was a great surprise and delight to discover that there is an alternative to the timeline, one that's easier for younger children to understand -- it's called the Staircase of Time. You can find it at the beginning of V. M. Hillyer's A Child's History of the World.

I was going to buy one for Jem to use during his first trip through history. However, much to my annoyance, I discovered the one you can buy from the Calvert School is already filled out for the kids. That's not only not any fun, it doesn't help kids learn the basic facts of history. The kids don't get to decide what to write down, and too much much information is coming to them at once. Better to start with a blank Staircase and fill it in as you go. That way, the shape of history begins to take form in the child's mind. So I decided to make my own. It looks like this:

I was going to use ordinary poster board, but my wife encouraged me to use the thicker version (I can't recall the name off hand) because of its durability. We'll be using this over the next two years at least.

When I explained the Staircase to Jem, he immediately understood the concept. I pointed to the top and said, "This is where we are."

Then I pointed to the middle and told him this was the period we were going to be learning about next year, in the 1st grade.

Then I pointed to the bottom and explained that what happened down here is so old that we hardly know anything about it.

Each step equals 100 years. This will work fine until we start American history in two years, when Jem is in the 3rd grade. Thus, I plan to make a new one for American history. It will begin with the year 1400, and each step will equal 10 years.

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