Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thoughts on YR4 and the Book of Centuries

With the next school year looming in the very near future, and an eldest daughter heading into YR4, I am scrambling to get my act together and figure out what all she is doing.

For those of you who may not be familiar with AO YR4, there are several new things to become acquainted with: Full length Shakespeare plays, Plutarch's lives, Grammar, Latin (we're trying this one), and the Book of Centuries.

This is not a year I'm going to get away with flying by the seat of my pants! There is planning and decision making to be done; which is probably why some find it a daunting year. So much so that AO actually has a YR3.5.

I've never had a child in YR4 and I don't really know how it will be for us, so I'm just going in with the attitude that, so long as we try our best, it's alright. I'm not measuring my success by 'getting it all done' because I also have a 4 month old, a son in YR2 and an almost 4yo to consider. Plus my daughter is still transitioning to reading her own books and writing, so if we don't finish it all, I'm not getting in a wreck about it. That would be missing the entire point, completely. Let's keep the main thing the main thing shall we?

Well, I spent a few hours on the phone with Kristine into the wee hours of the night (morning really) trying to figure out what to do for the Book of Centuries. This PNEU article says about the BOC:
Though "The Book of Centuries" as such has only been part of the P.U.S. programme since 1915, its earlier form of a "Museum Note Book" dates back to 1906. The late Mrs. Epps advocated in her "British Museum for Children" the keeping of a note-book, each page representing a century, in which one could draw sketches of objects in the Museums, and write notes of the principal events.
So, from everything I've gotten thus far, the idea seems to me to have a book where the child records one-word on a given person, thing, or event of significance on one side of a notebook, and a blank page on the opposing page they draw sketches of objects related to that century, whether from a museum or a book or a website anymore I suppose.

It seems simple enough, and it's in the details that I get confused.

Kristine and I had both thought of buying this one which we read about on a Childlight blog post here, but without a picture of the actual pages and limited information on the layout, we both hesitated to pull the trigger on it.

We also looked at Simply Charlotte Mason's 'My Book of Centuries', which included a 'brief narrative page' and a 'noteworthy page', which didn't appear to be mentioned by the PNEU or seen in Eve Andersen's BOC. I also wasn't too crazy about the categorizing of things on the noteworthy page ('Prominent Men & Women', 'Wars & Politics', Art & Music', etc.). It just seems too compartmentalized and directed to me. I like the simplicity of the 2 page spread, but that's just my personal preference. Another thing I don't like is having 'www.simplycharlottemason.com' on every page. A minor, I know, but I am just so petty like that! And don't get me wrong, they *should* have that on there because it's their product. I just don't want it on my daughter's.

As we talked, some things that came up were:

Where should a BOC start? Creation? 4000 B.C.? 5000B.C.? Laurie Bestvater's site doesn't say where her BOC starts. S.C.M.'s printable one starts at 4000B.C. The PNEU article here says:

...we must turn to the beginning of the book and head the first lined page "Prehistoric Periods." On this it is as well to write a list of the four periods—Palaeolithic or Old Stone, Neolithic or New Stone, Bronze, and Early Iron, explaining what is meant by each.
I have not seen any discussion on these time periods and whether there is no mention of them or how they are being dealt with in the BOC's now.

And what about B.C. and A.D. or B.C.E. and C.E. (Common Era)? I'd never heard of Common Era until I looked at Laurie Bestvater's Book of Centuries where she mentions using B.C.E. and C.E.. SCM's and Eve Andersen's uses B.C. and A.D.

Now this is the kicker that's got me - are the pages ruled or blank? Or is one side ruled, one side blank? Eve Andersen's is ruled on one side and blank on the other, which is what the PNEU article recommends. SCM's 'My book of Centuries' has a grid on one side and blank for the drawing page, their printable one is blank on both sides, Laurie Bestvater's - from what I've heard - has alternating shading grey/white on one side, blank on the other. 'The Book of Centuries and How to Keep One' PNEU article example here (link courtesy of Laurie Bestvater's post here.) is blank on both sides with one horizontal line drawn through the century, but vertical column lines are assumed, not drawn.

Although I like the way the PNEU article example looks, blank on both sides, my 9yo daughter is going to need some kind of lines to guide her writing.

Am I the only one challenged trying to figure this all out? More likely these are minors and you're not as concerned with it all. Yes, I know there are four letter words for people like me - NUTS!

Would you believe I spent no less than an hour looking on the Moleskin website looking for the right notebook?! I could not find one of those hardback notebooks with the elastic that holds it shut with lines on one side, blank on the other that had thick enough paper to prevent Sharpie finepoint pens from bleeding through.

I also checked on Tokyo Pen Shop's site - because I always loved browsing Japanese Stationary stores when I lived in Tokyo - but I didn't find one there either.

So as my search proved futile, I thought: "Forget it, I'll just make one and print it at Fedex Office."

I was going to make very faint grey lines to mark the rows and columns and have a really nice cover page with parchment type background. Well, two hours of attempting to format different headers and backgrounds in one MS Word file and I was DONE. I think I'd have a better chance of programming a simpler word processor before I ever figure that out.

So now I'm thinking I really NEED to find a notebook with lines on one side and blank on the other that is nice enough for her to keep forever. It's going to be a very special book. Once I find it, I think I'll hand write in all the centuries, leaving room for maps, etc. as detailed in this PNEU article here.

I know, don't major on the minors, but it also feels like such a big deal because it's a lifetime book; something that will hopefully be dear to my children that will sit on their bookshelves someday when they are grown men and women. And I really don't want to have to change books ever once we start, so I do want to get it right.

I do wonder though if many of us who are scouring the articles on BOC's aren't ending up very much like the lady who always cut off the ends of the ham. You know the story where she cuts the ends off the ham every holiday and when asked why she said because Mom did, so they check with Mom and she says she did because Grandma did, so they check with Grandma and turns out she did because her oven was so small she couldn't fit a ham in it!

So, I think I'm back to keeping the main thing the main thing. I'd love to hear what you're doing for BOC!


  1. LOL! Sorry for laughing at you. This post cracks me up!!! I feel like this ALL the time! Glad I'm not the only one...thanks for all the great info and the anxiety about the BOC book...LOL! Just kidding!

  2. Ran across this while searching myself for a BoC. So funny, I feel the same way about the SCM BoC as you do. I really like the way it looks, but also don't want simplycharlottemason printed across the bottom. I'm glad I'm not the only one! I have seen Laurie's BoC at a conference and it was very simple and looked lovely. I am pretty close to ordering this one.

  3. I felt exactly the same way a year ago! After reading the ChildLight USA article, I settled on buying a 9x12 leather like bound blank sketch book. I very neatly organized and wrote each century on the right page leaving the left blank for drawings. I made the very first page "Creation", then added the four periods mentioned (two per page), and then began with 5000 B.C. I have to admit that when I reached the 1700's I broke it up by half centuries (I knew there was a potential to just add so much here). I also left a few pages in the end for maps and such. My daughter has been using it for a year now and I'm so glad we waited to create this for her. It really will be a keepsake for her.

  4. I'm still YEARS away from this problem but I just wanted to offer an opinion. The B.C./A.D. vs B.C.E/C.E threw me when I recently went through college. I learned everything as B.C./A.D but now all the newer books and college textbooks use B.C.E/C.E. It wasn't hard to figure out the difference, but it proved to be a mild distraction for me at points, especially if it was a book I didn't really want to read :) I might be a good idea (especially if you end up writing the dates in yourself) if you go that route so your daughter learns it from the start since I think that's the way most academic books are now going.

  5. I was just looking through BoC info, thinking about starting one myself now. I decided not to yet, but it was good for me to do the research.

    A question: can you help me with the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection? All links (yours and others) just go to a kind of intro page for me. I can't get past that and find anything. I get the same thing when I try to search there for myself.

  6. Thank you for the input, it's good to hear I'm not alone and also to see what others are doing! Antonia, I read Common Era is used now because people had a problem with the reference to 'Christ' in B.C. and A.D. That makes me want to keep B.C. and A.D.
    Phyllis, in the digital collection, when I open it in Adobe Reader, there are visible pages on the left side of the screen that I can click on to get to the various pages. Also, if I move my mouse cursor over the bottom portion of the page, it brings up a navigation bar that lets me zoom or get to the next page. If that doesn't work, maybe you don't have the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader? That's the program that is used to read 'pdf' files, which is the format the Digital Collection is in.

  7. Did you see the new post at CMHelp about her new BOC idea?

  8. Hmm. No, that doesn't work either. I usually don't have any problems with PDFs. Maybe the collection is not accessible overseas?

  9. Mrs. H, I have seen CMHelp's page on BOC here: http://higherupandfurtherin.blogspot.com/2007/01/how-and-when-to-begin-book-of-centuries.html

    Is that the one? If not, can you link to it?

    If it is, I have seen it and thought it is like the SCM one where the page is compartmentalized for the child already. Also, she adds more pages per century in more recent times, which I believe she is doing to fit it all in, but I think according to the PNEU article I linked to in my post, that is not the idea of the BOC.

    "Naturally one page is a very small space in which to illustrate the whole of a century, and yet it is a mistake to leave two pages for some centuries, as I have seen done in some books, as it does away with the idea of the book; therefore each should choose what she considers the most characteristic events, planning out the arrangement of the page, as far as possible, before drawing. In this way no two books will be alike, and there is great interest in comparing them. It has been found a good plan for each to carry out one idea of illustration throughout the book, e.g., one will illustrate ships; another weapons, another musical instruments; another ornaments of the various periods; these over and above the usual illustrations of the different events in each century."

    I also read in another PNEU article somewhere that I am unable to find right now, that having the empty space in the ancient times give the child a sense of the vast amount of time that is there. They are able to see time and what we know about it in the correct perspective as it is.

  10. Phyllis, I can't imagine it wouldn't be accessible overseas in places like the U.K. Have you tried contacting Reedemer? You can reach them here: http://www.redeemer.ca/contactUs.aspx
    What browser are you using? I'm using Firefox, maybe your browser is causing some sort of limited access. Sorry I can't be of more help :(

  11. I got it! It was a Mac issue. (Sigh.) Thank you for your suggestions.

    By the way, you asked what others are doing. I said that I'm not starting a BoC this year, but I'm going to try the chronology chart from another PR article.

  12. For those who are looking for BOC books - we found some nice books at Hobby Lobby in the sketch book section. They are hardbound, with a plain black (faux leather) cover, an elastic closure, a satin bookmark, and a pen loop. They are also very reasonably priced. I think the 8-1/2 x 11 book was $10. We got everyone smaller ones for nature journals, and I'm happy with them.

    We're not doing a BOC yet (year 1), but we do have a simple timeline on the dining room wall. I like it more than the kids do, I think. :)

  13. In case you didn't know, myupdated article about the BOC is here:


  14. Thank you for linking Lindafay! Your posts are so helpful always :) I like that you set aside a weekly time for it and that it is so hands off for you. Are they drawing weekly or only sometimes? I read somewhere recently that the drawings and written entries don't need to correlate.

  15. i saw laurie and her book in person, and really really think it's lovely. but, i heard her talk, too. she's amazing, and i think that's what convinced me most of all. :)

    i did post about boc on my blog, by now, maybe you saw it? it's here: http://fisheracademy.blogspot.com/search/label/book%20of%20centuries


  16. I'm not even going to admit how much time, effort, and anxiety I've put into just CONSIDERING a BoC. It's too embarrassing. I even began one a few years ago and gave it up because it wasn't "right." Last week, I purchased bound sketchbooks from Blick that sounds very much life the Hobby Lobby ones mentioned above. But now I'm dithering about how to divide up the pages, etc. You'd think the fate of the free world depends on my decisions. But when I think the word "keepsake" and things like that, I freeze in fear.

  17. I gave up on the concept of a book for this... I have a big wooden box for index cards and we are going to use that instead. It seems infinitely more flexible and we can just carry a few blank cards when we are out and about.