Thursday, February 18, 2010

Flirting with the Idea of a Book of Centuries

For Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, the book of centuries (or century book) is a core idea.  In case this is new information for you, a century book is a notebook with a two-page spread for each century.  On the two-page spread, the student should record important events of that century, sort of like a timeline.  Only better.

Why is it better?  For one, instead of merely listing events or people at a blip on a line, a century book allows -- even encourages -- other details, such as sketches and other artwork, narrations, maps, and whatever information a student would like to add.  In fact, Catherine Levison points out in More Charlotte Mason Education "that the earliest form of the century book was known as a Museum Note Book [that] served as a combination sketchbook/notebook with each page representing a century."  Students brought their note books with them on trips to museums and then sketched museum artifacts on their appropriate pages along with written entries about any noteworthy events.

I love the idea, but I've been struggling with the particulars.  Levison offers instructions for assembling a century book in More Charlotte Mason Education, so I thought I'd research the topic a bit more in order to make the best decision.  Here are some ideas I found online:

Lindafay has a wonderful post about century books with a different layout on Higher Up and Further In.  Her older children's century books divide the page into topics, such as Wars, Conflicts, Politics; Art and Music; and Religion and Philosophy.

On Ambleside Online, I found a Parents' Review article published in 1923 by G. M. Bernau entitled, "The Book of Centuries."  Levison references this article in her chapter.

Simply Charlotte Mason offers a free template and instructions for creating a book of centuries.  Free is good!  It seems that this is a popular format; I visited several blogs to check out posts about century books, and some mentioned this version by name.

Design-Your-Homeschool showcases a century book with a separate timeline at the top, so that users can turn the timeline independently from the century book pages.  Scroll down to number five under "Application" to see a photo.

The Tanglewood School curriculum features a century book with a different layout as well.  It's not free, but it's very inexpensive.  The site shows two sample pages and provides instructions for assembling the book.  Depending on your desires, you can make a "quick page" or a more in-depth page about a person or event.  It seems to me that this version is more detailed than a true CM book of centuries.  It's more of a notebook.

I found these sites very helpful (and others I didn't include; just Google "book of centuries Charlotte Mason" or simply "book of centuries" and you get quite a lot), but I am still undecided as to format, paper, binding, etc.  Perhaps I am being too picky; but when I consider that Charlotte Mason intended for her students to keep and use their century books for years, indeed, as Miss Bernau writes in her article, as "a life-long interest," then I'm naturally a trifle wary of making an ill-thought-out choice.

However, Catherine Levison's advice in More Charlotte Mason Education (can you tell I really like this book?) inspires me.  Why stick to two pages per century?  Some centuries had a lot going on.  Also, there is this crucial point:  additional pages per century provide "a way for the child to mature with the book. [...]  If the child is embarrassed by earlier immature entries, he can stop adding to the sheet and begin using a fresh sheet for that century."  But, she cautions, don't remove the earlier sheet from the book.  After all, it's still a record of their education.

Another tidbit of advice from Levison:  century books aren't just for the children you teach.  Keep your own book as well, and foster an even greater love of history.


  1. Homeschool in the Woods has a pre made one that looks nice....I am thinking about ordering it to start next year.

  2. Well researched and written. You know, I sometimes see the same when I want to do something, I see so many varying ways of doing it...Can I ask you a question, I have Andreola's CM Companion, and When Children love to Learn. I also have CM original series and love Ambleside. I saw you at the CM yahoo group too.
    I've contemplating buying Levison's books, specially the first one A CM Education, because my girls are only 5 and 3. You love the second one she wrote, so my question would be do you have the first one? Do you like it? Do you have Andreola's? Is it more of the same or is it a good addition to have for a CM convicted mom?

  3. Hi Silvia and Angela! Thanks for commenting. Angela, I will check out that link. Silvia, I have Andreola's CM Companion book, but I've only read it once. I also have When Children Love to Learn, by Cooper (although it's a collection of essays), and I've read it once, too. Both are books to be read and re-read, IMHO, and full of wonderful ideas.

    However, I still like Levison's books better. Perhaps it's the writing style, perhaps it's her take on things, I don't know. I just connect with the material better. I borrowed both A Charlotte Mason Education and More Charlotte Mason Education from my library and enjoyed them both.

    The second book, which I purchased, covers other material on a more in-depth basis, such as the BoC. Also, there's a chapter called "An Overview of the Charlotte Mason Method"; so the second book does not assume that a) you've read the first or b) you're a CM aficionado. The book stands on its own quite well.

    The first book explores the more basic (and important) aspects of CM (artist/composer study, narration, etc.) more thoroughly than the second. It's a VERY worthwhile book -- I just didn't need to buy it for my home library. I agree with you: I'd start with the first one since your children are young and you're beginning your CM adventure.

    I hope this is helpful!

  4. Thank you Ellen. In my library I've put a request for the first of Levison's books, but I'm position 15, and at I'm seeing it for not much, specially if I order both from the same seller.
    You also have a wonderful blog, you are so well read, maybe one day if I continue with AO I'll be able to tackle some of those difficult readings I never did because I grew up in Spain and because I missed many good classics.
    See you in the CM groups and blog and THANKS a million for answering the questions. I also have the feeling I'll enjoy Levison, reading from her website, her articles, I can see that she comes across as extremely practical in her advice, and able to paint you a picture of how this is done and what works. I'll let you know about the books (I believe I'll get them both soon).

  5. Typing fast is a recipe for disaster, I'm reading now that I wrote I've contemplating instead I'm contemplating. Excuse my poor "blogosphere" grammar.

  6. Silvia, I'm so glad you enjoy reading my blog and that you find it helpful. That's my goal! And don't worry about blogosphere typos -- happens all the time to me!


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