Christopher Columbus and the Age of Exploration for Kids by Ronald A. Reis offers a brilliantly illustrated and well laid out account of the exploration, discoveries, and culture of Christopher Columbus, as well as the many changes happening as the time period turned from the dark Middle Ages full of superstition and mythology to the Age of Exploration of seas, lands, and the sciences. As Reis points out in his introduction, our modern students are horribly unknowledgeable concerning the life and discoveries of Christopher Columbus due to our modern concerns of political correctness, and the fact that Columbus has come to be known as, “the first of many Europeans who, in coming to the New World, ravaged the land, plundered the wealth, and eventually introduced African slavery.” Unfortunate as the negatives may be, we can’t discount the fact that Columbus was an amazing man of his times, courageous beyond a doubt, and unwavering in his determination as he struck out on his voyage against all odds and with very few people (including his own crew) believing in his vision. For this reason, Christopher Columbus and the Age of Exploration for Kids is a much needed book, full of information and hands on activities to help modern students learn of the culture, personhood, and great discoveries of Columbus and other explorers of the time, as well as to inspire students that they, too, can beat the odds, make great discoveries, and do great things despite the doubts of others around them.
Christopher Columbus and the Age of Exploration for Kids is broken down into eight chapters that cover Columbus’s four voyages, the changes that they brought to the discovered lands, along with the changes that were brought back to Europe in the form of new resources, ideas, and people groups. Reis has also included vocabulary words, a glossary, bibliography, suggested web sites, and 21 activities sure to tempt all kinds of interests from arts and crafts, to baking (make your own hard tack), writing, knot tying, and building your own compass. It is a perfect history curriculum for a quarter or stretched over a semester, and could easily be made part of an entire year history course by leading up to Christopher Columbus with Marco Polo for Kids and following Christopher Columbus with Lewis and Clark for Kids by the same publisher.
As a homeschool educator, as well as a momma, I am very excited for Christopher Columbus and the Age of Exploration for Kids, and for the series it is a part of, and believe that it shares history with children in a way that captures their interests through the stories, illustrations, and activities. It is aimed at ages nine and above, but can be easily adapted for the “one room school house” that is the homeschool by letting the little ones color as you read and take part in what activities they are able, and by having older students continue in their studies by making use of the bibliography and suggested web sites.
Those who enjoy pulling together unit studies will also enjoy using Christopher Columbus and the Age of Exploration for Kids as a core from which to pull out other lessons in geography, astronomy, vocabulary and spelling, weather patterns, and map reading, just to give a few ideas. It also fits in nicely in a regular classroom as either the main history curriculum for the quarter or semester, or as a supplement when studying explorers. It would fit in well in summer enrichment classes, or can be used by your average parent, to keep children interested and learning, during those off months, in a fun, hands on way. I highly recommend it!
Alyssa Katanic is a wife and homeschooling mother of 6 children under 10 years old. She loves reading and collecting great books to share with others and knows that one can never have too many!
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Chicago Review Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.