One great way to study American history chronologically is to travel with the early American explorers. A Book of American Explorers by Thomas Wentworth Higginson is a great guide! In the public domain, A Book of American Explorers is part of the Young Folks’ series and was published in 1877.
The book begins with the Northmen in 985 and works its way through the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 1600s. Explorers encountered include:
- Leif the Lucky.
- Cabeza de Vaca.
- De Soto.
- Sir Humphrey Gilbert.
- John Smith.
- The Pilgrims.
The great thing about this particular title is that it draws on original sources:
It has always seemed to me that the narratives of the early discoverers and explorers of the American coast were as interesting as “Robinson Crusoe,” and were, indeed, very much like it. This has led me to make a series of extracts from these narratives, selecting what appeared to me the most interesting parts, and altering only the spelling…. One great thing which I have wished my readers to learn is the charm of an original narrative. We should all rather hear a shipwreck described by a sailor who was on board the ship than to read the best account of it afterwards prepared by the most skilful writer.
Another interesting takeaway is that the author aims to use this chronological history as a framework on which to hang further study — something that will feel very familiar to those familiar with Dorothy Sayer’s contribution to modern classical education:
What I most desire is, that those who have here acquired a taste for these old stories should turn to the books from which the extracts are taken, and follow up the study for themselves. Then they can go with renewed interest to the pages of Bancroft and Parkman, or at least to my own “Young Folks’ History,” for the thread on which these quaint narratives may be strung.
A Book of American Explorers is laid out in such a way that it is very easy to build a year’s worth of history lessons around the book which, with a variety of additions, will be suitable for the entire family.
Enjoy this great find!
- Because of the format of the book, it will likely be best suited as a read-aloud title or a spine for an older student.
- There are approximately 80 lessons. These can be covered in one year by covering three sections each week. However, there are so many, many ways to flesh this out as a history study you may decide to take a longer trip! In that case you can use the material as your history spine over three years by covering one section each week or over two years by covering two sections in a week.
- Create an explorers notebook. Decorate the cover. Include a notebooking page for each explorer.
- As you work through the history create a timeline.
- Add individual history reads including biographies or historical fiction.
- Have your child provide a narration after each short section.
- Add some type of interactive element.
10 Ways to Use Notebooking: #6 History
Lots of ways to build history studies around this spine!