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Index Card Timelines

Updated on June 11, 2015

Little Cards, Big Visual Payoff

Timelines offer a vivid picture for history -- both an overview of events as well as relationships among those events. If a wall timeline or a notebook timeline seems to require too much effort or cost, consider an index card timeline. With just a handful of index cards, you can easily organize events from history and create a wonderful learning tool for your homeschool.

Index Card Timeline In a Box

Index Card Timeline On The Wall

Timeline figures from the New Testament hanging from a ribbon with clothespins.
Timeline figures from the New Testament hanging from a ribbon with clothespins. | Source

How to Store Your Index Card Timeline

There are two main ways to use index card timelines.

Your choice will depend on the amount of space you have available in your home.

1. On The Wall Presentation

You can hang the cards along a line on the wall. This type of hanging timeline doesn't take up as much space as a wall timeline chart yet is clearly visible from across the room. For visual learners who need to see the big picture, the hanging timeline is ideal.

Attach hooks or drive nails several feet apart on a wall. Tie string, ribbon, or twine to the hooks. Make the line very taut because the cards will pull the line down.

2. In The Box Storage

If you don't have wall space or prefer not to have a timeline on your wall, you may opt to store the cards in a file box in chronological order. The use of dividers can help organize the cards into time periods.

To make the most of this file box timeline, be sure to pull out the card periodically and look at how they are ordered. You can use the cards as a quiz time at the end of a lesson or unit of study. Ask your child to arrange the events in chronological order.

Colorful Supplies for an Index Card Timeline

BAZIC 100 Ct. 3" X 5" Ruled Colored Index Card
BAZIC 100 Ct. 3" X 5" Ruled Colored Index Card

White cards are okay, but consider color coding your timeline figures. Blue for people and pink for events, for example. Or yellow for the Industrial Revolution and green for World War 2.


Getting Colorful

Studies have shown that the use of color can help students learn and remember. So when you create and organize your index card timeline, consider how you can use different colored papers, clothespins, or dividers to make the most of this learning tool.

Colorful Ideas

Use a certain color index card for people and another color for events. Or maybe you want to divide things by academic area -- blue for people and events from science, yellow for people and events from fine arts, and white for general history.

If your index card timeline spans several periods of history, you can use color to indicate that. Use yellow clothespins for events from ancient Egypt and blue clothespins for events from Ancient Greece.

The possibilities are endless, but be sure to keep it simple so that the colors become an aid in learning and not a complicated distraction. And it is best if you allow your child to help in choosing the colors and what they signify. The reasoning may not be logical to you, but the whole point is to help your child learn. So let him chose what makes sense to him.

Testimonial from a Homeschool Mom

Read what Stacey Crossley thinks about the index card timeline:

"Jimmie, thank you! This is JUST the thing I need, as I could not for the life of me think of a good way to include presidents, events, explorers, etc, into our history study. (We don't have room left in our Sonlight Book of Time, and I had hoped to create one we could refer to easily anyway). We'll be using this and incorporating the colors as well!"

Index Card Timelines for Unit Studies

Index card timelines work really well for unit studies that cover several weeks of homeschooling and have many events. You may have a wall timeline or a notebook timeline, but because of the importance of the unit (say WW2 or the American Revolution), you may want to isolate the events into their own timeline.

Or maybe you want to use an index card timeline for a particular subject. For example, you could arrange famous composers, Bible events, or mathematicians on a hanging timeline.

I recommend the Homeschool in the Woods Timeline figure CDs for use in making index card timelines. I have the complete set. Although it is a large initial investment, it is a resource you can use year after year with all of your homeschool students.


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    • mudpiemagnet profile image


      6 years ago

      Genius! I've been trying to figure out how to do a timeline in our limited space. Love these ideas, thank you very much!

    • profile image

      Helpful Hanna 

      8 years ago

      Flash cards have always helped me when I'm learning new things. Great ideas. Thank you.


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