How and When to Begin a Book of Centuries

I believe the idea of keeping a chronological record of history in notebook form is a very effective tool in helping a student assimilate and recall the major people and events in history. This, combined with narration, eliminates the need for quizzes, worksheets, complicated history projects and extensive planning on the parent’s part. It is not the same as notebooking, or scrapbooking— methods that produces a beautiful work of art but require a lot of time from the student and parent. The Book of Centuries is simple, only taking about 30 minutes a week of an individual’s time and a parent does not need to supervise. No two century notebooks are alike, as creativity is encouraged. The student may choose what to place in it and how it will look.

There seems to be quite a bit of confusion about when to begin a Century Notebook. In Charlotte Mason’s schools, The BOOK OF CENTURIES was not started until around 5th or 6th grade and was kept throughout the remainder of the student's education, being added to as each year progressed. It began with Ancient History, had divisions for major eras and also a division for simple, homemade maps in the back. Each two-page spread represented a century. All centuries were givien the same amount of space and no more. The student added small, hand-drawn sketches of items from that time period. (Further explanation)

In our home school, we do the same with just a few changes. I have found that a little variety keeps it interesting for the children so we do not just draw objects, but people and events, too. Sometimes, we use stickers we have found (e.g. a crown could represent a king, a sword or gun could represent a war) or we cut out pictures from old history textbooks. (and you thought we didn’t use textbooks in our curriculum ). We keep a picture basket for this purpose. It just has a hodgepodge of pictures and stickers we have run across and saved over the years. The children choose from this if they don’t wish to draw that day. You can also just do an internet image search and print it out. Charlotte Mason's students mostly drew their pictures.

(edited Aug 2011)  Our BOC used to be in notebooks and somewhat complicated, but recently, actual samples of Century books from Charlotte Mason's students have been made available for public viewing. After seeing how simple and compact they were, I decided to pattern my last child's notebook after Charlotte Mason's method.  I've never liked our notebooks being so large.  Miss Mason's students used thin, sewn 50 cent composition books, consisting of 96 pages. This is what we use, as well. Now we can take our Century Book with us when traveling and work on it with ease.  Here is a sample of a two page spread.

The name of the century is written at the top. Underneath, in the right hand column, each line represents five years beginning with 100, 95, 90 etc, moving down the page until 5. When you read A.D. you begin writing in the margin with 5 and move down to 100.  Events and people are briefly noted here in words or phrases. On the opposite page, drawings are placed for that particular century. Ten pages are reserved for maps at the back of the book. All centuries have only one page for notes and one page for drawings. Charlotte Mason insisted on keeping it simple and compact so children could view an entire century with just a glance.

If you would like to view actual samples from PNEU children, visit The Charlotte Mason Digital Collection at Redeemer College.

My children have a 30-minute block of time scheduled weekly so that they can record people and events that they have studied the previous week into their BOC. If they want to spend more time working on it, they certainly may, but this is done after morning learning.

Do not limit it to just your history studies, but include scientists, mathematicians, artists and musicians as well. The possibilities are endless. Even Mom could keep a century book of her own and then her children would REALLY be motivated.

one step at a time...