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    Educational Philosophy, Home Education, Mother's Education

    My Book of Centuries Solution

    August 16, 2013 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]I[/dropcap] 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 a Book of Centuries 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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  • Reply Aly August 22, 2021 at 10:10 am

    I love this! I just made myself an Excel version with formulas that update everything once you put in the beginning year of the century….because….lazy! I don’t want to retype all the dates each time HA! I love the grid style though. Question–do you use each grid square as one year, and just color code within that year as you add events?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 25, 2021 at 9:43 pm

      Brilliant! I love Excel. ♥

      And yes: I just use each grid square as one year.

  • Reply Mama Rachael July 11, 2020 at 7:18 pm

    Well, glad I found this via a google search! You’ll be glad to know that it was the 4th link in a search of “one page book of centuries pdf”. This is just what I need as I plan Year 4 for my oldest. I am planning to keep up the timeline and we will reference that to decide what to put on the BoC page(s). History is not his strong point as I realized today when we did Y3 Term 3 exams… he couldn’t remember who it was that climbed the cliff to win Canada. Nor could he remember who was holding Quebec at the time. Sheesh. We’ve only been reading about French vs English conflict for 3 years. Though I guess Year 2 was more about Protestant vs Catholic conflict…. Anyhoo, finding we need a bit of something in history.

  • Reply Carrie July 10, 2020 at 1:58 pm

    I just want to thank you for making these resources available. I have been using the cover and pages for several years now. I’m back to print another for my #3 child!

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  • Reply AD August 15, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Thank you!! While I was homeschooled for most of my growing up, I did attend a CM school my sophomore year of highschool. We did a BOC but having never encountered anything like this before I didn’t really feel confident in what I did. Now as a CM homeschool, I’ve been both looking forward to starting this with my children and dreading it because like you, everything I’ve found online hasn’t come close to what I would like to do, and also like you, I live in a very rural area, hours from anything. lol So really, thank you!

  • Reply Liv November 10, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Can you please give me a little clarification on how you mark down people? Do you put them in the year they were born AND the year they die? Or do you only put them in when they appear in historical significance? Or something else entirely? Thank you!!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel November 13, 2017 at 6:48 am

      We tend to do it whenever they have historical significance — so, for example, maybe when someone was crowned king, or became president, or invented something significant, or signed a peace treaty — something like that. There isn’t one right way to do it — if the birth and death stand out as significant to you, I really think you can do that, too! 🙂

  • Reply Laura W July 30, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    I never saw this post before! Do you still use this simple method now, or have you moved on to something else?

  • Reply Catherine March 18, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Brandy,
    its me again 🙂 I can’t get the above link for the timeline pages to open. The cover opens fine, though. I tried to open the version I downloaded from you ages ago, but nothing I have will open it. Not even Word 🙁 Any suggestions for me? I’m also a Mac person. I know, that doesn’t help.

    I have looked everywhere for a 2 page spread to buy in hard bound book for (I love pretty books), and have come up empty. Have you come across one in all your travels?

    Thank you so much for all you share of your wisdom and time. Those of us on the path behind you really appreciate it.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel March 18, 2016 at 3:06 pm

      Hmmm…well, I do see that Word converted it to a .docx file instead of .doc like it was originally. I converted it back. Try this link. If it works, I’ll switch out the link in the post for this one! 🙂

      If that doesn’t work, my guess is that it is a Mac/Windows compatibility issue. 🙁

      • Reply Audra September 5, 2017 at 7:42 am

        Yes, thanks for trying, but I have the same issue! Thanks for the idea though. I think I can replicate this pretty easily. Simple is best, isn’t it? Thanks for your resource!

  • Reply tash December 29, 2015 at 11:40 am

    I love this grid. I have a few questions though. I know you print off each century as you need it but I wanted to do it all at once so using your sample I am making many centuries. How far back do you use the grid though? After a while everything becomes ‘circa’ and it’s hard to place in a certain grid square.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 29, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      I think we went to about 1500 BC or so…because you’re right! Far enough, and we’re just guessing… We’ve done separate little timelines for earlier years where instead of dates we were more focusing on a flow within a century, and that worked well for super ancient history…

      • Reply tash December 29, 2015 at 2:15 pm

        Thank you. Looking at wiki the 4th century BC seems to be when they stop having exact dates. I think the grid format will be great for my daughter so she doesn’t have to wonder about where to put things, but it may cause problems when there is no exact spot for something. I might just switch to a more open format prior to then and dates can be just written down. 🙂

  • Reply Michelle July 27, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    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?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 27, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      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! 🙂

  • Reply Catherine May 22, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    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!!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 22, 2015 at 9:44 pm

      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. 🙂

      • Reply Shaina December 28, 2015 at 6:17 pm

        I’m completely not tech savvy! Can you, or anyone for that matter, tell me how to edit it? I downloaded it as a pdf and I have a mac. I can only highlight the numbers and not change them…. help, please… 😉

        • Reply Brandy Vencel December 29, 2015 at 9:10 am

          What program are you using to open it, Shaina? It was created in Word…

          • Brandy Vencel December 29, 2015 at 9:11 am

            Ah. I see. When I opened it, it was in something called “protected view” and I had to enable editing. It was just a little button that popped up at the top of my screen. Depending on what version of Word you are using, there might be a different way to enable editing, but either way I bet that is the problem… 🙂

          • Shaina December 29, 2015 at 11:49 am

            It opens in Adobe Reader. I don’t have any options to enable editing. (?) According to my 18 yr old, if it was created in word then I can’t edit it with my mac…. surely this can’t be true. lol

          • Brandy Vencel December 29, 2015 at 1:45 pm

            Hm. I don’t have a Mac, but usually teens know about these things. 🙂 I wonder if you could try opening it in Google Docs or something? That might work…

          • Shaina December 29, 2015 at 6:00 pm

            Update: I think the teenager was correct. lol But! I had her download it onto her pc and now I have successfully printed out over 2000 years worth of pages. …just 4000 more to go! Yipee!

            Seriously though, I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate you sharing this with us all!! I have searched for 8 years now for a 2-page century. You read my mind! 😉

  • Reply Betty February 21, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    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!!!

  • Reply Deborah Krug December 8, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    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.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 9, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      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. 🙂

      • Reply Danielle Long February 2, 2017 at 12:29 pm

        I know this post isn’t recent, but quick question. We are starting Y1 soon(ish). My kiddo would maintain a timeline (similar to your Edible Timeline) and I would keep a Book of Centuries as I pre-read? Then, when he can write, he switches to a BOC as well?

        • Reply Brandy Vencel February 2, 2017 at 12:37 pm

          The BOC was usually started around age 10 — and I *think* that at that point the students were no longer keeping timelines. That last part I’m not 100% on, so don’t quote me. 😉 If you really want to dig into the details of the how and why, Laurie Bestvater’s book The Living Page covers all the various CM notebooks and has a chart that explains what ages each one stopped and started.

          Ps. Edible timelines aren’t as yummy as toddlers think they are. 😉

  • Reply Amanda September 1, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Oh, here’s a little preview:

  • Reply Amanda September 1, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    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.

  • Reply Anthea in the UK August 24, 2013 at 11:44 am

    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.

  • Reply gina roldan August 21, 2013 at 7:26 am

    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 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 30, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      Gina, it is funny that you would mention that PR Article. It was in proofing it that I began to get more serious about some of this… 🙂

  • Reply Lisa August 20, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    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!

  • Reply Trisha August 19, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Thank you, Brandy, so very much!

  • Reply Kelly August 19, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    You inspired me to blog about ours — Our Book of Centuries.

  • Reply Ellen August 19, 2013 at 1:17 am

    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? 🙂

  • Reply ...they call me mommy... August 18, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    I love it, Brandy! Thank you!!! 🙂

  • Reply Brandy Vencel August 17, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    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!

    • Reply Hayley August 19, 2013 at 3:12 am

      Thanks Brandy. Such a pleasure to be able to do something helpful for you. Your blog has such great information for so many of us!

  • Reply Amy August 17, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    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.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 17, 2013 at 8:03 pm

      Amy, I ♥ that you haul hay, too. 🙂

      Have you posted photos of your century books? I would love to see them!

  • Reply walking August 17, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    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! 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 17, 2013 at 8:02 pm

      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…

  • Reply Laurke Denise August 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    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!)

  • Reply jlt August 17, 2013 at 11:10 am

    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….

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 17, 2013 at 8:04 pm

      There’s no time like the present, right? 😉

  • Reply Jen August 17, 2013 at 4:32 am

    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.

  • Reply Hayley August 17, 2013 at 3:54 am

    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.

  • Reply Mystie August 17, 2013 at 2:16 am

    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.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 17, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      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…

  • Reply Kerry August 17, 2013 at 12:31 am

    Brilliant solution!

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