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Setting Up for History: Timelines and Maps

August 1, 2017

Are you getting ready to start your homeschooling year? Then chances are you're in the midst of lesson planning and organizing. One of my favorite parts of a new school year is setting up a learning space for my kiddos. Our kitchen table is our homeschooling hub, which means my kitchen walls are covered with many visual aids. To get ready to teach history, there are two things I want to have up on my wall: a timeline and a world map. 

Many people like to use binders or notebooks for a timeline. That keeps things neat and out of the way, but that's not really what I'm looking for. 

Maybe it's obvious, but I like to go all out for history. I wanted our timeline to be big! Bigger than I could fit in my kitchen! Our timeline weaves through our house like some kind of nerdy border-paper. 

Keep reading till the end of this post, because I've made a downloadable version of Ted's timeline to go along with Snapshots of Ancient History that you can snag for free.

I think it's important that a timeline stays a consistent size, to help kids get a real handle on the size and scope of history. It might save space to squish ancient history together and spread out the modern era, but that distorts the relationship between events. So I didn't squish anything, which means this timeline is long! Each century is 10 inches long, so there's space to fit in all the awesomeness of history! Now I need to see if there's space to fit it on my wall. . .

The download also includes markers for all the major dates from the book. I know my kids are excited to start adding dates to our wall!

 

Now, I might be able to make my own timeline, but I'm not exactly a cartographer. So what to do about a world map? 

As this video shows, putting a round object onto a flat surface, doesn't really work very well. Ideally you would use a globe, but that assumes you have the space for one and that your kid would be able to stop spinning it long enough to do some school work. Since neither of those is happening at my house, which map to choose? 

 

 

As this West Wing clip points out, the map you choose has more than just aesthetic consequences. 

 

When you were in school, there was probably a Mercator Projection hanging on the wall, which makes Greenland look gigantic. Do you remember sitting there, wondering 'when are we going to learn about Greenland?! It's so big it's got to be important!'. Or maybe you were like my son. His favorite country is Russia, simply because it's the biggest. It's pretty normal to be fascinated by big things. So it's probably important we have an accurate view of how big things are. 

While the West Wing clip champions the Peterson Projection, as this article points out, it makes things the right size by distorting their shape. 

So what to do? In our home, we decided to go with the Winkle Tripel Projection, which is the one National Geographic uses.

 

Why did I choose this map? It's a compromise map. It doesn't prioritize any one thing and tries to balance all the problems map makers encounter equally. That means the continents are roughly the right size and shape and are roughly in the right place in relation to each other. If you look at it, Africa is significantly larger than Greenland and South America isn't dwarfed by North America. Those things are important in shaping your child's perception of the world. 

As a bonus, because it's the official map for National Geographic, high quality copies of this map are easily found on places like Amazon

 

So how about you? What are you doing for a timeline and map in your homeschool? 

 

Download your timeline now!

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