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Children will pay closer attention to stories if they are
already familiar with the people and events.
contrasted the American and French
Revolutions. This conversation naturally
stemmed from a review of our history
timeline. Because the events were close
together in time, students naturally wondered if the two events were similar, if the
people fought for the same reasons, and
whether or not they had won the same
liberties. As they talked, I drew a comparison chart on the whiteboard, which
allowed them to see how these two revolutions were strikingly different.
Journey to the Center of the Earth. My
13-year-old son, his brow furrowed in
concentration, interrupted me to ask,
“What year did you say this was again?”
“Oh, so it was during the Civil War.”
“That’s what I thought. It seems weird
that they are going on a scientific expedi-
tion in the middle of the war, but I guess
it didn’t affect them in Germany.”
Even though my son is comparing
fiction to actual events, he has achieved
several important things. Because he has
memorized the timeline of world history
for eight years in a row, he can immedi-
ately place the events from this novel in
context. In addition, he achieved a new
level of understanding about Europe’s
lack of involvement in the Civil War by
comparing events that were taking place
at the same time.
Children will pay closer attention to
stories if they are already familiar with
the people and events. Recently, we were
reading aloud a biography of David Livingstone. As we read about how he encountered the Boers during his mission
work, my 10-year-old daughter sat up
straight: “Mom, is that like Boer Wars
We had a brief discussion about how
Europeans and African tribes spent decades fighting over the continent of Africa, and then we returned to the story.
If we had not memorized the timeline
of history, my daughter would probably
have skipped right over mention of the
Boers. However, because she had heard
that name before, she was curious to
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Should students do anything else
One of the common misconceptions
about a Classical education is that students do nothing but memorize. If this
were true, education would be both boring and unproductive. Instead, Classical
educators use the memory work as one
component of an education. Families
should still be reading exciting stories
from history, literature, science, art, and
music. When children encounter new
material, the timeline helps them organize the new information and compare it
to stories they already knew. As children
grow older, they read about the same
events but in greater depth so that they
continue to grow in understanding.
One of the blessings of homeschooling
is that we as parents get a second chance
at our education. Start building your
timeline of history today!
Finally, knowing a timeline allows students to make comparisons between
different peoples, cultures, and events
because they can visualize the events
that come before and after the event that
they are currently studying. One day
each week, I tutor high school students
in their core subjects. In our U.S. History class this fall, we had an interesting
discussion in which we compared and
Jennifer Courtney and her husband have
been homeschooling Classically since
2003. She currently serves as the Director
of Training and Development for Classical Conversations. She is the co-author of
the Classical Acts and Facts History Cards
series and of the book Classical, Christian Education Made Approachable.
Jennifer writes for the Classical Conversations Writer’s Circle as well as a variety of
homeschool and other education websites
and magazines. She and her husband Tim
live in Oklahoma, where they home educate their four children.
1. For our timeline, we use the Classical Acts and
Facts History Cards from Classical Conversations.