Saturday, September 20, 2008

Charlotte Mason's Table of Centuries, Century Charts, Century Books and Timelines

I have been thinking on what Charlotte Mason wrote about Century Charts and the Century Book and really trying to understand them.

Table of Centuries
She first advocated a Table of Centuries. This, as I understand it, was to be for the younger students. You made columns on a page, labeled each one with a century, then as the students read, they would put names on the table in the correct column. The order of the names in the column was not important. I get the impression this was a tool to help the students understand that things happened in different centuries only, but the students were not to be too worried about the details yet.

I find it interesting that she didn't write about this in volume 6, which is her final work written after years of experience. I wonder if she found the century chart and century book to be better ideas? I never did a table of centuries with my children.

Century Chart
I have had what I think is a breakthrough on my thinking of a century chart! See this earlier post, when I really starting mulling over these options.

My breakthrough came as we started our Plutarch study for this year.

It occurred to me to make a century chart for Plutarch!

But before I tried that, I wanted my girls to make a century chart for our family, as described in the article, The Teaching of Chronology.

Since 100 years is about the limit of man's life, and we generally speak of centuries in history, we take for biography, or for history, a square divided into 100 squares, thus, and it is read as a page of ten lines:--

<diagram 1>

Now this may represent the life of a man or that of a century. To a little child it should stand at first for the former, as we must proceed from the known to the unknown, for his own life. The first square stands for the time before he is a year old--i.e. The year "nought" of his life; the second square for the time when he is one year old, and so we mark the squares accordingly. The first line gives the first decade of life, in the second line we have all the tens, in the third all the twenties, and so on; whilst, looking vertically downwards, we have in the first row all the numbers ending with zero; in the second those ending with one, and so on. A child very quickly learns to read on a black chart the number corresponding to any square in the century of squares; a line somewhat thicker is given down the centre to help the eye, and it is easy to remember that the fifty comes just beyond the central horizontal line and five beyond the central vertical line.

I decided to make it just a little different for our family. We started with the year my husband and I got married. Children followed quickly, so they could plot their older brother's birth and then their births. They ended up being interested in presidents and Olympics (no doubt because of current events) so we put those in there. They will keep these charts and add to them from time to time. We will only put one or two events in each year. It is hard to decide what to put in and when you do a century chart on 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper, the squares are really small! My daughter really liked the idea of symbols (as described in the article above), but I much prefer words.

We each did one. We all wrote this on our chart, which is something I got out of the book, Facts Plus: An Almanac of Essential Information by Susan C. Anthony: "A century is 100 years. The first century was from the birth of Christ through 100 AD. The second century was from 101 to 200 AD. The year 2000 is in the 20th century. 2001 is the first year in the 21st century."

So back to the Plutarch Century Chart:

After some review, I determined that a five by five chart would do, with each square representing 100 years. Our chart starts at 1500 BC and goes to 1000 AD. Because the BC years can be somewhat confusing--we aren't used to counting that way--we numbered each square with beginning and ending dates. For example, the first square is numbered this way: 1500 -- 1401 BC.

I included enough centuries so that we could plot Plutarch's life and the lives of the Greek and Romans he wrote about (just the ones we will study). This will cement the knowledge of when he lived and how far back he was looking to write the biographies he wrote. Since we have just started with Plutarch (it took a year of inconsistent reading to finish Publicola) there are not many entries, but this is what I included:

Founding of Rome: 653 BC
Rome kicks out her kings: 509 BC
Publicola (in the square 600 - 501 BC)
Rome conquers Greece: 146 BC
Julius Caesar born: 100 BC (we will start will him this term)
Jesus born: about 1 AD
Jesus died: about 34 AD
Plutarch born: about 46 AD
Plutarch died: about 122 AD

Edited to add: here is the document that we started with, then we added the dates noted above:
Century Chart of Plutarch's Lives Century Chart of Plutarch's Lives leahintexas The beginnings of a centruy chart based on Plutarch's Lives.

Next, I thought a century chart for Shakespeare could be useful. The same idea will be used: enough centuries to include Shakespeare's life, plus the histories he wrote about. (The tradegies, romances and comedies cannot be pinpointed to specific times and even if they could be, that is not really useful or needed information.) I have done a little research with an encyclopedia to get these dates, but haven't actually made our charts yet.

When I make these charts for our use, I use the table feature and usually just print that out. We hand write in the dates and so forth. Or I may include a few key dates in the printed copy and then we complete the rest.

So what was the (for me) breakthrough idea? That students can create a century chart for any specific subject to help clarify the historical chronology of that subject. The article, "The Teaching of Chronology," (noted in my earlier post) gave this example:

Later, we should make such a chart on a larger scale, and with room for ruling and marking important events. We use charts coloured for various periods of English History--e.g., the Roman occupation, the various Royal Houses. * The four periods of five centuries each, form good divisions for Modern History. In the first line we have, roughly, from Augustus to the fall of Rome, and in England the period of Roman occupation. In the second line we have the period of barbarian settlements--tribes are changing into nations. In the third line we have, speaking roughly, the Mediaeval period. In the fourth, Modern History.

I made a century chart of what I think this example means. It is in the HEO yahoo group's file section.

Then I went back to Charlotte Mason's writings in Volume 6 and found this, which, although I had underlined it previously, I had missed part of its meaning:

The pupils make history charts for every hundred years on the plan either adapted or invented by the late Miss Beale of Cheltenham, a square ruled into a hundred spaces ten in each direction with symbol in each square showing an event which lends itself to illustration during that particular ten years. Thus crossed battle axes represent a war. Volume 6, page 177

What I now noticed for the first time was that the student in these forms (Form V and VI)--ages 15 to 18, are to "make history charts for every hundred years" they study.

What this said to me was that my students (who are younger than the recommended ages) could make century charts for the era they were studying.

Here is what the Ambleside Online students are studying in the various years:

Year 1 -- early history, focusing on people rather than events
Year 2 -- 1000 AD - Middle Ages
Year 3 -- 1400 - 1600 (Renaissance to Reformation)
Year 4 -- 1700's up to the French Revolution and American Revolution
Year 5 -- 1800 to 1920 up to WWI
Year 6 -- end of WWI to present day, then a term in ancient history
Year 7 -- 800-1400's Middle Ages (Alfred, King Arthur, Joan of Arc)
Year 8 -- 1400-1600's (Reniassance to Reformation)
Year 9 -- 1688-1815 including French and American revolutions
Year 10 -- 1815-1901 including the American Civil War
Year 11 -- 20th Century
Year 12 -- ancient history

from the FAQs on the AO website. (That link doesn't look right....)

So my AO Year 5 student could have two century charts, one for the one hundred years from 1800 (or 1801) to 1899 (or 1900) another for the next one hundred years. My AO Year 3 student would have three century charts for her time period.

I think many homeschoolers used a timeline instead of these century charts, but I find it interesting that Charlotte Mason never described a timeline as we think of timelines now; at least, not that I have read. I think many people assume that the modern timeline replaces the century chart and the book of centuries.

But I have to say that I really like working with these century charts. They are better than timelines in at least one way and that is if you want to clarify something specific, such as Plutarch or Shakespeare and their works. Timelines cover so many years that I think some of the details about these specific topics might not be so apparent.

Century Book or Book of Centuries
OK, what I found interesting about this was that it, too, was not a timeline like we do timelines now. I kept thinking about the idea of taking the Book of Centuries into the museum and drawing the everyday items from an era. Charlotte Mason did not talk about putting people in these books, at least not that I can find.

One day it hit me that these Books of Centuries are like the Usborne books that feature the everyday items of a particular time period. Now, I don't really care for these Usborne books, but if I had created one of my own (with my own sketches and notes) it would be much more meaningful!

Sorting this out has been interesting.

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