Christopher Columbus ~ Early American History


We always start off each unit with books as our prime understanding of history, then make it come alive with projects and other media.

America’s Story Part 1: A Living History of Our World
by Angela O’Dell

Living History gave us a brief overview of the story of Columbus, Ponce de Leon, Amerigo Vespucci and other early explorers. Incidentally, Vespucci’s map making explorations led to the naming of the new land after him.

by Ingri & Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
from Beautiful Feet Books

This is another winner from the D’Aulaire collection of children’s biographical books. It’s tell the voyage of Columbus in an incredibly detailed and engaging way. It tells the true story of Columbus and the greedy, selfish men who accompanied him on his voyages across the Atlantic.

In 1492
by Jean Marzollo

This book retells the famous poem of Columbus that we all learned in elementary school. “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”


Animated Hero Classics has a short children’s movie of Christopher Columbus to watch online for free.


The kids learned about the concept of navigating with a compass and using their steps to measure distance. Columbus used a method called Dead Reckoning to navigate his ship. The compass was used for direction, but the distance was measured every hour by measuring how quickly a piece of flotsam traveled between two marks on the ship. We didn’t have a boat to sail with, but steps worked pretty well.

First, I showed my little McQueen how to use a compass.

His task was to make a map around the church building. It had to have a starting point, several points along the back and meet up back where we started.

He used the compass, counted his steps and wrote the measurements on his paper.

The next day, his dad had to see if he could follow the map. We went over to the building and handed over the map. J was giggling behind his dad as he tried to follow it. The distance was a little off due to the little kid/adult step distance difference, but he was able to follow it just the same and returned to the starting point. Well done!

Sailing Ships

We also made and sailed Columbus’s three ships, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

We cut up an egg container for the boats, put clay in the bottom (you can also use play-doh), and attached toothpick and paper sails. To make them waterproof, they were wrapped in aluminum foil.

The kids made maps of Spain (starting place) and Cuba (ending place).

They were taped into the bathtub and we set sail!


Rachael and the TreeSchoolers (by the makers of Signing Time) has an Earth episode which they sing about the continents. My little McQueen has been going non-stop with that song. So, if you want to learn the continents, check out the TreeSchoolers: Extraordinary Earth.

See our other American History units:
The Vikings
Christopher Columbus & The Explorers
The Roanoke & Jamestown Colonies
The Plymouth Colony
The Revolutionary War
Slavery in America
The Civil War

Author: Olivia

I am a mom and a homeschooling teacher of two little ones. I am also a Biblical Studies major with a hobby in Creation Science. I love to research Biblical topics and how science and the Bible live in harmony with each other. I learn beside my children when we read, build, and explore with the help of our glorious classroom - God's green Earth!

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