Homeschooling with Timelines: Covering History, Science & Music

Last year, my son noticed something about the Studies Weekly papers that he completed each week. (In case you’re new to this blog, Studies Weekly papers are a brand of curriculum that meets most or all of the California State Standards for Science & Social Studies, which we use for our work samples for our homeschool charter).

He noticed that each week had a short article with biographical information about a Scientist or a person in history (depending on which weekly he was completing). At around the same time, I had been listening to a webinar by Julie Bogart, where she was explaining the paradigm shift from viewing writing work as projects rather than assignments. (I believe this is the lecture I had watched.) It was a much needed reminder about the various ways in which children can go through the mechanics of writing to convey information in formats other than a worksheet, a standard book report or essay, etc.

I also happened to have my copy of Partnership Writing hanging around. Admittedly, I hadn’t really used it that much. That’s why I don’t ever feel comfortable holding myself out as a “true” Brave Writer family, because while I admire the curriculum and I want to be doing all the things, due to my habit of over committing, and to be perfectly honest overbuying curriculum, I may have things around for some months or years before they actually get implemented or completed.

SO! One day I decided to page through the Partnership Writing for some inspiration, and I saw that one of the projects was a kind of timeline. Somehow or other, something clicked for me between the concept of a timeline and the biographical information that piqued my son’s interest (he likes to memorize the years when people are born, especially of the former U.S. Presidents), and I suggested that we sit down and make a timeline out of the Studies Weeklies!

et voila!

please excuse the water damage. 5 children.

I can’t recall if we did the History or Science timeline first, but I can tell you that my son was equally as interested and excited about both. He wanted to write all of the information right then and there, as quickly as possible, that instant. As you can see, I did the physical act of writing, but I had him find the information and relay it to me verbally. It was a really neat way to partner together to get a bunch of information organized into a legible format– the true goal of writing, to convey curated information to other people.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may know that this particular son is deeply interested in music. All kinds of music. Naturally, after we organized information about historical and scientific figures, we stumbled into music. I think it started because some of the historical figures listed were composers. So, we looked up the birth years of all of the musicians he could think of at the time, this was in early third grade, Fall of 2019. As you can see, he followed my encouragement and began to write some of the entries himself.

(why is Kennedy on here?)

Next, after we had shown these projects to our charter school teacher, she suggested that my son complete a timeline of his favorite musician’s life, as a form of a biographical report to meet certain state standards. So, I had to really partner with him on this one, since as you can imagine, setting an 8 year old off to research a rock star (David Bowie) no less, is kinda complicated. We soon learned that there were not really any children’s titles written about Ziggy Stardust– children’s authors take note of this niche opportunity.

Thus, we combed through some information on the internet, including trusty old Wikipedia, and my son wrote the things that he found most interesting about David Bowie, that were still reasonably age appropriate. (This task is no longer as easy now as it was then since my son has started checking out autobiographies from the library about his favorite musicians, which now centers on Led Zeppelin, the Beatles & Eric Clapton. Definitely not written for children! lol)

ripped & water damage. definitely a sign of being well admired in this house.

Anyway, my point here is to demonstrate that there are creative ways to teach our kids new skills, and writing doesn’t have to look a certain way in order to count– especially not for the lower elementary aged kids.

The other point in this exercise is to encourage you to start from a positive point: your child’s interest. If you start from a place of trying to get the kid to do something you know they aren’t going to do (and you don’t have a compelling reason) then there’s going to be a struggle.

If you instead come from a place of thinking about what skill it is that you want your kid to learn (in this case writing) and you try to think of a way to pair that desire with something that they are interested in (here dates and music) then you can think outside the box and really get going with a creative solution that is going to be infinitely more enjoyable for all parties involved.

There are many different ways to accomplish the goals that we have for our children, but in homeschooling (or distance learning) in particular, we have to let go of our notions of how things “should” be done. This is not school at home, nor should it be. Let’s find new ways to prepare our children for the future and make sure that we give them permission to be a part of determining exactly what that process might look like.

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