With Columbus Day right around the corner, it’s a good time to think about explorers and how you can introduce your littles to the wonders of exploration.
This isn’t just about Columbus, though. He’s cool to learn about, but lots of people have contributed to the knowledge of our world and universe, and it’d be awesome to teach your littles about some of them.
When we think of the Age of Exploration around here, we heart the stories of Magellan and Hudson. I mean, it’s a little crazy that Magellan made it all the way to Asia by sailing west and died before he could get home and claim the glory. And Hudson? That dude went nuts. The boys have spent plenty of make-believe time being one or the other of those explorers (or both), and I don’t really know what that says about my boys. But they are, after all, huge Walking Dead fans, so obviously they like the gloom and doom stories. (Yes, fellow WD fans, we are also counting down the days until Daryl. I mean the season premiere.)
Today, let’s spread our wings beyond the usual suspects. Exploring isn’t only about sailing across the Atlantic, after all. Let’s look at some explorers that are often overlooked.
We have a very cool book called Five Brave Explorers from the Great Black Heroes series. It tells the story of Estaban Dorantes, a man born in Morocco, who traveled to Florida with the Spanish. With a few companions, he explored more the Gulf of Mexico coast than anyone had before. It tells of Jean Baptiste Ponte DuSable, who founded the trading post of Eschikago, which you know as Chicago. Mae C. Jemison, an astronaut from Georgia, who explored space on the Endeavour in 1991.
I mean, that’s the stuff. Heroes, all. And honestly, before we read this book, I had no idea that a determined black man founded the city of Chicago. So ultra cool.
Mae C. Jemison is an awesome role model for any girl (or boy, for that matter), but there have been plenty of other female explorers. We came across the Women Explorers series back when we first started homeschooling. We have Women Explorers of the Mountains, Women Explorers of the Oceans, and Women Explorers of the World. Each book contains 5 biographies of women explorers.
Florence Dixie, who lived in the Patagonia region of South America and traveled through the Andes Mountains before spending time among the Zulu in South Africa. In the late 1800s. Because she rocked.
Naomi James, who traveled around the world in a yacht—alone—in the 1970s. Talk about courage.
Nina Mazuchelli who helped lead an expedition into the Himalayas in 1870. The Himalayas, people.
There are a lot more books in this series, including explorers of the Americas, Asia, the Polar regions, and Africa. What a great addition to a geography study! Plus, they’re like a penny apiece on Amazon right now. Score!
For Learning About the Usual Suspects
Around the World in 100 Years was one of our favorite books for learning a bit about the explorers who started it all. It’s kind of funny to me that the first chapter is called, “Before the explorers,” because what? How is that even a thing. It means, of course, before the Age of Exploration and the European explorers who started it all. But the Vikings and the Japanese were exploring parts unknown long before that and, heck, anybody who decided to move on to unmapped territory or traveled to a new place was an explorer, right? Humans didn’t end up all over the world by Not exploring. But there’s a cool explanation of early maps in the chapter that sparked my boys’ imaginations and gave them plenty to think about.
The book starts with Henry the Navigator and covers some sometimes-overlooked explorers like Bartholomew Diaz and Amerigo Vespucci, along with Columbus, Ponce de Leon, Balboa and Magellan, among others. It’s very well-written and engaging and full of information about the dudes that changed the world. Or at least its maps.
Even more informative is the Great Explorers series by Colin Hynson. Set up very like a DK Eyewitness book, these books concentrate on just one explorer at a time and full of pictures and illustrations and more in-depth facts, like how the explorer prepared for his journey and a closer look at what he found. The boys pored over these books when we studied the Age of Exploration Seriously, they could spend hours with them.
The cool thing about studying exploration is that it reminds us that there are still plenty of places, both on Earth and beyond, to be explored. So get exploring. And happy Columbus Day.
What to Read Wednesday
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Our hosts will still share a themed selection of our favorite books each week.
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