My Book of Centuries Solution

I have really struggled with finding a Book of Centuries that works for us. For a year I searched and wondered. I even purchased the download from Simply Charlotte Mason. Nothing was working. Either they were too expensive, too difficult to bind, too…something. I was looking for something that I had imagined in my mind, and I couldn’t find it anywhere.

If you are starting to think this is all about me, I suppose there is a chance this is true. What I mean is, I try to set the example in these things. So all of this struggle has been that I’ve tried different Books of Centuries and I’ve not liked them.

Last year, we bumbled along with a century chart for the years pertinent to our study for the year. I had hand-drawn the chart in a cheap notebook. Miss Mason used cheap notebooks! I knew that Books of Centuries didn’t need to cost so much.

My husband tried to tell me I wouldn’t have the patience to continue to hand draw charts and though I let him know how wrong I thought he was, he turned out to be…right.

I searched online again, and still couldn’t find what I was looking for.

And so I made one.

Among other things, I really wanted a 2-page grid. I am keeping one myself, as I mentioned, and I really wanted to put more than one thing in a square. Yes, I still intend to try and pick the Single Most Important Even of Each Year, but I’d like to be able to note things–like major wars–in the background. The goal is to be able to put the picture of history together as we go along, and I wanted wars, darn it!


I know that the idea is that you have the entire century chart on one page, and then a blank page opposite with room to draw “artifacts” that the child sees in real life. Here is where my lack of gas money shows itself. It is highly unlikely that my children will see much of anything in real life, barring my winning the lottery which, incidentally, is very hard to win when one doesn’t play.
We don’t really have museums here, and it’d cost me almost a hundred dollars in gas to get to the nearest good one.

Yes, I drive a gas guzzler. You can’t haul hay with a compact car, people!

Now, I’m not saying they’ll never go to a museum, only that we aren’t going to be like Miss Mason’s students, logging plenty of museum hours throughout our education.

So, considering our situation, having a bigger chart and leaving blank pages in between (on the off chance that we really do go to a museum) works for us.
Here is how my BOC works: I didn’t print all the pages for all the years we’ll ever study. Noooo. Instead, I created a template. I printed the one century I needed at the time, and the template is easily updated for whatever years I’ll need in the future.
Because my chart covers two pages, I make sure they are facing each other when I hole-punch them.
I put them in a simple binder, which I found on sale when school supply shopping.
And I made a cover that I thought looked nice because…well, because I like it to look nice or at least interesting.
Today, I’m going to give you copies, in case you want to put together a similar binder for yourself or your children. I really think that keeping century charts while pre-reading the children’s school books enhances the whole experience and aids in understanding.
There are basically two approaches to pre-reading. The first is to view it as a burden, a chore that must be done. I’m not going to say I’ve never seen it that way. But the second way is preferable, I think. It’s to see it as a chance for self-education, to grow in understanding of God’s world, and how it’s gone for the past few millenia.
Anyhow, here are the two documents.
This first one is the binder cover sheet {with a place to write in a name by hand} and a title for the side. The title will fit a standard 1-inch binder {or bigger, but not smaller}.

This second one is the century chart template, the two-page spread I mentioned. Leaving the backs blank means there is still sketching room if we have the opportunity to See Something Interesting.

So…I suppose you noticed it is three pages? I don’t know why. Some sort of formatting error, and I haven’t the patience to fix it. So just print pages 1 and 3, and you’ll be alright. {This formatting error was fixed by my dear friend, Hayley. Thanks, Hayley!}

To make it extra fun, I purchased some Sharpie colored pens. I love these pens because they are brightly colored, but don’t bleed through the pages. I’m sort of color-coding my charts. So, wars are in red, for example. I probably won’t use all the colors, but I’m selecting colors for a few basic categories like people, events, and artistic artifacts {books, paintings, etc.}.

Do you keep a Book of Centuries?

Want to read more about keeping a BOC?

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  1. Michelle says

    Thank you for offering this. It is very helpful! I also have a question. After you accumulate lots of centuries, there will be lots of pages and it seems like it will be hard to locate the century you are looking for. Do you put some kind of markers or dividers in your note book?

    • says

      So far, I haven’t, but I think that is a fantastic idea! I’ve thought about just making my own tabs with cardstock and the Post-It sticky tabs. At the very least, dividing AD from BC would help! :)

  2. Catherine says

    Brandy, this is exactly what I’m looking for. My daughter is just nine and the bigger spaces would be perfect for her. And I want to add more than one thing per year if necessary :). I love the color coding idea! Wars in the background is perfect. I am confused, though. I only see one century. Do I use yours as an example and create the other years? Are you selling a premade one to download? I must be missing something because no one else has my question. Thanks!!

    • Brandy Vencel says

      You are *supposed* to be able to download it and then all you’d need to do is edit it to fit whatever century you are on. I didn’t make an entire binder at one time because I was being lazy. :) I just print off the centuries we’re covering each year, and then do extras if there is a request for one. Anyhow, I know some things have changed at Scribd since I did this post so if you need me to email you the doc, just use the contact form and I can do that. :)

  3. Betty says

    Hi Brandy, I’d love to see your Book Of Centuries with some entries in it! Maybe some pictures of your children’s work? I know my daughter is very visual and she will drive herself with perfectionism so I’d like to see how students can use the BOC in real life and make it their own. Thanks!!!

  4. says

    Do you think it’s necessary to do both the book of centuries and a timeline? I’m having a hard time doing either one. To try to do both seems a bit overwhelming, although I do understand the value of each.

    • says

      I am not sure if CM’s students were doing both or not! But I will tell you that I have my children do timelines *until* they move to a BOC. So we’ve done one and then the other. My hunch is that CM’s students were probably doing both, but at the very least I think it’s good to master one thing at a time. I mean, for MOM. Obviously, the PNEU students came into the classroom and did whatever the teacher had set out for them. But the *teacher* was not doing what most of us are doing, which is learning for the first time about all these different notebooks, narration, and even living books!

      For me, I find it useful not to throw myself too far into the deep end. :)

  5. says

    Your solution looks great, Brandy! I love seeing how you put together homeschooling ideas as your oldest is only a year or so ahead of mine. We recently purchased Michele Quigley’s Mapping History Book of Centuries, which comes bound but not numbered, so the child numbers it him/herself. It is a landscape design and the paper is really great quality, based on the Childlight article’s description. She is taking a break from selling during September, so unfortunately, I can’t provide a link. But she did make available an altered pdf version (for free!) in an 8 1/2 by 11 portrait form for those who wish to put it in a ring binder instead. scroll down to the bottom of the page to click on the link.

  6. Anthea in the UK says

    No museums … that would be really hard. Our son is a History nut. Mind you, old people know all sorts of stuff, sometimes going back over a century.

    I now feel much better about having no money for this or that book or whatever.

  7. says

    Thank you so much.
    Just the other day, I was doing my CM readings to prepare for my first ever Year 1 next January and was led to read this:

    The grids made so much sense. I have not extensively searched for samples of such via blogs. I only saw samples of drawings placed in 1 page.. but never saw the grid. At the end of the PR Article, I saw your name and wanted to ask you back at the forum if you’ve implemented it. And here it is :)

    **by the way, i learn so much from your blog posts :)

  8. says

    I WANTED to color code ours…..Silly me. Forgot to make a KEY to the colors. Son is very artistic. His book was splattered with timeline graffiti! Colorful and joyous! Daughter nearly cried if she used the wrong color. HAHA….just a memory!

    Note to parents: Make a “key” or color chart!

  9. says

    I printed timeline cards off for Story of the World 1, and I was cutting them out this week at the beach. But there are 86 of those little suckers, and now I’m wondering if I have the wall space. I’m tempted to glue them into a book, but I also think it might be better for the boys to have them out to see. Have you written about how to do timelines at some point in the past? :)

  10. says

    FYI people: Hayley the Great (homeschool mom by day, secretarial superhero by night…) really DID fix the template, so if you want to download an updated copy with only 2 pages for the “2-page spread” you can do so now! :)

    Thanks, Hayley!

  11. says

    Yay, someone else drives a gas-guzzler for the same reason I do! I made myself and my eldest a BoC (SCM’s), but I need to use it more. I love the idea of keeping it out when I preread.

    FYI, my son likes the drawing page the best. Museums aren’t going to happen often for us either, but my son drew a few things from the “Great Inventors” book in his BOC. He seems to prefer the blank pages to the grids.

    I just love seeing everyone else’s timelines & century books, they give me so many ideas.

  12. says

    Yes, Pamela keeps one. She does both the museum visits and PICTURES of artifacts. Seeing the real deal in real life is more inspiring. The scale of the thing and the rich details are inspiring. However, we can’t have everything we want and so sometimes going on VIRTUAL museum visits is the next best thing! :-)

    • says

      Tammy, I hadn’t thought about pictures of artifacts, but I am going to start encouraging some of that! This way they will also have some concept of drawing in their BOC’s when we actually go to a museum…

  13. says

    Yay!! I’m going to start this myself while he does year 3. The timeline on the wall got ripped up by various littles, and I was the one adding to it anyway… (pinning this!)

  14. says

    I have wanted to keep a Book of Centuries for years but could never figure out how to do it. Thanks for the advice and templates. Perhaps this is the year….

  15. says

    Brilliant, thank you. I just started reading Year 4 partially as prep for doing it with my kids and partially for my own personal benefit and realized quickly that keeping some kind of BOC or other timeline would be a very useful thing to do indeed.

  16. says

    Brandy, do you want to send your document to me via email and I’ll fix it. Is it just a word document? Even so, I’ll fix it and then I’ll write what I did. I don’t know exactly what it is (but I have a fair idea) and could tell you easily if I do it first then write out the notes. Unless of course, you fiddled and were able to.

  17. says

    I have also had a really hard time wrapping my mind around a Book of Centuries. This looks perfect! Maybe I’ll actually go ahead and add in a Book of Centuries for our Elementary Lessons after all…..

    I’ve had word processors do that to me, too, and I don’t know how to fix it, either. :(

    Those Sharpies don’t bleed?! Oh, I am so easily tempted by colored pens. :) I just got a set of 12 colors fine-tipped dry-erase markers for our new chore board. :) Color is just so fun.

    • says

      Mystie, you will LOVE these Sharpies. I read an ad saying they didn’t believe, so I bought some on a whim {with a coupon} and I was *shocked* that it was true. I really love how they write, too, so they are my new annual school supply purchase for ME.

      The BOC is also easy to do without lesson plans {ahem}. I basically put boxes on his spreadsheet where he can check off whenever he makes an entry. I told him he *must* make an entry once per week, but that he can do more if he likes. Once a week he’ll show it to me, and this gives me an idea of what sorts of subplots in history he likes to follow…