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Classical educators are all about the timeline. I learned this when I began looking into the classical method, but I discovered what it looked like for real when my family joined a Classical Conversations community for the first time eight years ago. As my community sang songs and played games by sorting mixed-up historical events in their proper chronological order, the timeline song and accompanying timeline cards became foundational tools for my boys to establish the pegs on which their later instruction would rest. The thing that we didn’t embrace, however, was a physical timeline book. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it was because no one ever placed one in front of us and showed us the value of it. I knew they were out there, but I just didn’t take the time to do much research into how they could help.

Then my oldest son entered Challenge I and was encouraged by his director to keep a timeline that he would add to throughout his Challenge years. The only problem was that I hadn’t fully grasped what that would look like for him over time (how would it be used and when?), so we didn’t prioritize it and it fell by the wayside that year. 

The following year, in Challenge II, he did a better job of keeping a timeline but the medium he chose was a web app: he would add events to an Excel spreadsheet—with columns for links to images and lengthy descriptions of each entry—which would then be compiled into a gorgeously formatted interactive web timeline. The biggest problem with this was that it was difficult to share in class, which was something that he was asked to do a couple of times. 

So this summer, as I began to contemplate my second son entering Challenge I and being required for the first time to keep a timeline and my youngest starting fresh in Challenge A, I decided that I wanted to try and set them up for a more successful run with the timeline than their older brother had had thus far. And as I thought about how I could do that, I decided to create my own version of a timeline book that would feature divisions for each of the Challenge strands. 

Timelines are all about history, of course, but what thinking skill (or lack thereof) is at the heart of a particular event? Consider the:

  • Reasoning found within the stirring words of a speech or debate
  • Logic displayed by a mathematician or scientist through a formula or theorem
  • Exposition of any of the authors whose books are read throughout Challenge
  • Grammar of words that are associated with a given time period (what Latin derivatives do you see in history?)
  • Research that uncovers important facts about how the universe is designed and operates

Thinking through questions like these, I thought, would be a useful exercise for my boys as they created their own unique timeline, logging timeline entries for each of their Challenge years—not only across time but also among the thinking skills represented by the strand designations. Being able to look at a page and seeing all the integrations will be a pretty cool thing, I think. In fact, ask me again in 4 years and I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to show you exactly how. 🙂

Here are a few photos of the printed book and some of the stickers that you can make using the included graphics files:

The book is letter-sized (11″ wide, 8.5″ tall), oriented horizontally and meant to be bound on the left side if you choose to spiral bind it. You could also choose to print the pages one-sided and punch along the top for a binder, or tape the pages together to create an accordian-folded version. 

The graphics files are meant to be printed on label paper, and you can read all about those details below in the FAQ section (there are several different options). 

I hope my family’s need for a solid timeline solution will prove to be useful not only for my own family but for yours as well. And if you currently don’t have any kids in Challenge but would like to keep a timeline with your Foundations kids, I’ve produced a version of the timeline book that doesn’t have the strand designations and you can download it here.

Here’s to YOUR timeline!

P.S. If you’d like to share photos of your kids with their timeline books, I’d love to see them! Tag #challengetimelinenotebook on social media to see how other people are using theirs.

P.P.S. Any Happy Planners out there? Do you have the hole punch? If you do (I’m definitely not saying you need to go buy one just for this), check out what you can do instead of spiral binding! I just happened to think of this as I was waiting for some pages to print this morning, but this is exactly how I’ll bind my copy of this timeline book! I love the fact that it makes it super easy to add pages to it. Also, so many of my Happy Planner stickers can be used in the timeline book. Win win!

Check out the FAQ below for additional details.

Frequently-Asked Questions

Why doesn't each page represent the same span of time?

The way that the years are divided is based on recommendations to do-it-yourselfers from Homeschool in the Woods. There, they have a page that lists the divisions that they recommend based on the timeline figures they sell. Since they are pretty much the gold standard when it comes to all things timeline–and since my assumption is that there are very likely many CC families who have bought and would like to use those figures–I decided to take their recommendation and use those same durations. Because the durations are the same, if you are using their timeline figures, you should be able to use their placement guide with this timeline book, too. 

Is there a place for Bible history? What about events from the timeline song?

Historical events (including those from the Bible) will probably most often be put in the Debate section since that’s the primary focus of that strand in Challenge. However, the beauty of the Challenge program is that history is discussed in all strands so you could choose to put something somewhere else, too. A good example might be “U.S. astronauts walk on the moon.” This timeline event could go in Debate because of its historical context or it could also go in Research since it was a significant scientific accomplishment. 

There are so many files included. Where do I start?

There are essentially two components to the download: a book and stickers. 

BOOK

To print the book, choose the file you want and print it:

  • ChallengeTimeline_Notebook.pdf has sections for each Challenge strand but no lines for writing on
  • ChallengeTimeline_Notebook-Ruled.pdf has faint lines that will help students keep their writing straight if that is their preference

There’s a file titled ChallengeTimeline_PageExtenders.pdf that provides extra pages (no year) that you can tape to any other page to give yourself more room for writing and/or placing stickers. 

ChallengeTimeline_BlankPages.pdf is simply two extra pages that you can add to the beginning or end of the book to extend it backward or forward in time.

STICKERS

If you want to print and use the enclosed stickers in your book, see “How do you print the stickers?”

What kind of paper should I use for the book?

I recommend using cardstock for the book rather than regular paper because it’s more durable. It will hold up better over time as things are added to the fronts and backs of each page. Even if you don’t plan to use stickers, cardstock is a better choice to avoid bleed-through from one side to the other. 

Some timeline books choose to use a different colored paper for the BC pages, so you may want to keep that option in mind, too.

How do you print the stickers?

I’ve provided several options for the stickers. Obviously, they need to be printed on label paper so they’ll stick to your book pages, so the first thing to decide is what type of label paper you want to buy. I love letter-sized labels because they give me the most options for sizes, especially custom shapes, so that’s what I buy. This paper is very expensive if you buy from an office store (or even Walmart), so I buy these in bulk from Amazon. 

Option 1: Using letter-sized label paper, open up ChallengeTimeline_Stickers.pdf and figure out which pages you want to print (you probably won’t need them all). Print those on your label paper and then cut them out by hand. 

Option 2: I also designed some stickers using the very standard 1″ x 2 5/8″ address label that you will find in the Labels folder. As long as that is the size and there are 30 labels/page, these files should work with whatever brand label you buy. Because the size of this label is significantly different than the design of some of the stickers in ChallengeTimeline_Stickers.pdf, not all of those labels are available in this format. 

Option 3: Finally, if you own a die-cutting machine (Silhouette, Cricut), you may choose to use the files in the Cut Files folder. Within this folder is another folder with files specifically formatted for a Silhouette Cameo, but it’s my understanding that the .svg files can be used with other die-cutting machines. Use those files with your machine to create sticker pages that are perfectly cut around the outer edge of each image. 

 

Do you recommend printing this at home or through a store (Office Depot, Staples, etc.)?

Both are great options. I live out in the country without easy access to professional printers, so I print everything at home and this book is very easy to print yourself! If you aren’t a DIYer or maybe you want to print multiple copies (for your kids or your class, if you’re a director), then a store would be a better choice. Unless you have a friend with a binding machine, be sure to call and ask your local office store if they will be willing to spiral bind something you print from home. If they will bind what you print at home, then that would be a great way to get a truly custom book: you could print additional pages that you might want to add at the front or back, or maybe have your student create their own custom cover. 

Is there a placement guide for the stickers?

No, there is no placement guide. The timeline will be unique to each student since they will determine what they want to add to their book. Should your student discover that they need more room for a particular page, extra blank pages are provided in a separate file that can be printed and taped to either the long or short edge of a page. Simply extend the page to write on it and flip it back into the book when you’re finished. 

Help! I'm getting a message that says I've exceeded my download limit and I haven't printed the files yet!

Each purchased file has a download limit of three. If you’ve exceeded your download limit, the good news is that you have three copies of the file downloaded somewhere. The bad news is that it might be on your phone or iPad, which generally isn’t a good place to have the file unless you know how to save it to a cloud location from which you can later access it through your desktop computer (if that’s where you want to print from, for example). 

Search for a file titled MJO_ChallengeTimelineNotebook.zip and you should find the file. This is a zipped folder which will need to be extracted. Once the files have been unzipped, you’ll see two folders and several PDFs. The folders contain the cut files (most people will not need these) and the label files. See “How do I print the stickers?” for more information on those two folders. 

I'm a Challenge director. Can I print multiple copies to give to the students in my class?

Yes! I would love for Challenge directors to use these with their students and freely give them permission to make multiple copies for the students in their class. The only thing I ask is that if parents would like to use the stickers that come with the timeline book, please ask them to purchase their own copy of the digital file

Can I get a print release form? {Office Depot, et al} says they won't print this without one.

A print release form has now been added to the file’s download package so look there first to see if you have it. If you don’t, you can find a copy here