Recipe for a Timeline Binder

Last year we began using a timeline for our history. It was supposed to be a one page per century, a la Charlotte Mason style. I do like that format, but being me, I needed to expand upon the idea.

We don’t really have the space to do a wall timeline (or the mental strength to not be bothered by it’s constant presence). So I figured out a means to have a timeline take up a little space but be able to added to, if necessary. And if desired, it can be all pulled out and laid out in a long line to allow the children to really visualize the passage of time.

To recreate this timeline in a binder you need:

  • 12 pastel file folders.
  • 31 bold colored file folders. (I had these on hand, but got them either at the big W, or BJ’s wholesale. You could use regular cream folders, these just are more fun & kid friendly IMO.
  • A big 3″ d ring binder
  • A good 3 hole punch
  • Scotch tape
  • Black sharpie
  • Photo paper & ink
  • Yardstick or long ruler

1. Take the 12 pastel folders & 3 hole punch each one. Sort the pattern — top, mid, bottom & by rotating colors if you, like me, need order & pattern to be calm.

2. The first one to label is actually the LAST in the pile, (it should have a bottom tab.) Label it 200 BC- Christ.

BC tabs

3. Then going backwards through your pile, each one is 200 years. (Middle tab is 400-201 BC. Top tab is 600-401 BC & so forth.) This is a little confusing, bc you are working backwards through time.

4. If you have done this correctly, the last/first folder will be Creation – 2201 BC. I figured that would still have enough space to mark most of the events recorded in early Genesis. As time passes more history is recorded & more space is needed to do the timeline well.

5. Sort the brightly colored folders into rotating tab/color order. Punch 10 of the brightly colored folders using the 3 hole punch.  (Here I started in the middle, not sure why).

AD tabs

6. Label these 10 folders by century, beginning at 0 BC, 100 AD, 200 AD etc, thru 900 AD.

7. Now take the remaining folders and put two of the same color with same tab position together. Then, punch these pairs.

8. Once sorted and punched, take the first folder in each pair & flip it inside out. Making sure the holes align, tape the pair together in the top of the middle seam. (By flipping the front folder, it aligns the tabs & center seams to be in the same spot.) These pairs of folders then should be able to lay flat. By doing it this way,  you can also open each folder within the binder without having to take them out. Nice!

taping 2 folders100 yr spread

9. Once all these pairs are taped, put them back in tab order & label these folder pairs by century. Then take a yardstick & draw a center line across the folders with the sharpie. I chose to mark out the main dates in 10 year increments (3.5″) to make it easier for the kids to mark correct dates later.

100 years x3

10. Mark all the other folders with a center line in a similar way, except in 20 yr (or 50 yr for BC) increments.  I only have one folder for 2000, which should have plenty of space, even if I just use it for a 20 -25 year span.

11. Now the fun begins! Draw or find pictures of the people and events you want to place on the timeline. For example, I used google images to find a portrait of a person. I then imported the portrait into photoshop, cropped to approx 1″x1.5″. I labeled the photos with the name, brief description & dates. (eg. Sara Coleridge, English Author & Poet, 1802-1852). You could use another photo editing program, this is just what I have & know. I put a bunch of portraits on one large page & printed them, but you could use photo prints for a few at a time.

pics detail

12. We place specific events such as Columbus discovers America in 1492, directly connected to the timeline. We put the people on top and bottom of the page near their lifespan. This keeps the timeline more manageable, and keeps the people in their century folder. I figured if necessary, we can add fold up sections to the later years if we need more space for more people or events.

timeline detail

I hope this is understandable & helps someone else to create an easy, portable timeline. Please feel free to comment or ask questions if you need clarification on how to do this. It was somewhat hard to explain!

I hope this will last through many years of homeschool, so we won’t have to re-do for each child.  It is working well for us so far, I’ll pray that it works for your family as well!



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