This explorer study is perfect for the Charlotte Mason homeschool. Included in this study, you will find people suggestions for explorers, what they are famous for, suggestions to study nautical things that will make the lives of those explorers to come to live. I have also included fun learning activities that the whole family can do together while introducing them to the history of explorers from years gone by.

Explorer Study - Learn all about explorers, their ships, where they explored & much more in this explorer study perfect for those using the Charlotte Mason way or unit studies.

Explorer Study

Study the explorers through living books, while finding their explored areas on maps. I hope you thoroughly enjoy this explorer study, and your children enjoy it even more!

Fun learning activity idea:

Have each of your family learn about their choice of an explorer. After a set time for the assignment, have them do a verbal narration dressed in costume. Be sure they know to include details of their voyage, the land they found and explored, and to be able to show where it is on the map.

For older children, require a written narration in addition to the above idea, along with some quotes from the explorer about the land or his experience.

Leif Ericson (970-1020)

Famous For: First man to set foot on North America – Vikings and Norse explorer Leif Ericson are forever linked to one another. Ericson is the first European to set foot on North America, even before Christopher Columbus who did it 500 years after Leif had done so. One of the earliest North America settlements that this Norwegian helped establish was on what is today Newfoundland, Canada.

Marco Polo (1254-1324)

Famous For: Explored Asia and first European to meet Kublai Khan – The name of Venice native Marco Polo is forever linked to the world of exploration. In a book entitled The Travels of Marco Polo, the adventures and journey of the man is detailed. Marco explored the continent of Asia where he met Kublai Khan.

John Cabot (1450-1499)

Famous For: Being the first European to explore North America – John Cabot does sound very Anglo, but this Italian explorer contributed to the Age of Discovery. His real name is Zuan Chabotto, and under the auspices of King Henry VII of England was instrumental in the discovery of sections of North America. Cabot was instrumental in exploring a Northwest Passage in North America.

Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)

Famous For: Discovery and colonization of the Americas – Although Italian by birth, maritime explorer Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and discovered the Americas under the Spanish emperor’s name. During his first voyage, he led three Spanish galleons, the Niña, Pinta, and the Santa Maria. All in all, between 1492 and 1503, Columbus sailed between Spain and the Americas.

Bartolomeu Dias (1451-1500)

Famous For: First European to sail around the southern tip of Africa – Portuguese explorer and navigator Bartolomeu Dias was the first man to captain a ship that sailed to the southern tip of Africa. King John (Joao) II of Portugal commissioned him to find a trade route that would lead to India. Following the coastline of Western Africa, and encountering the Cape of Storms, or better known as the Cape of Good Hope.

Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512)

Famous For: His name being translated to “America” – Amerigo Vespucci is the man from whom the word “America” comes from. Not only was this Italian man an explorer, he was a cartographer and navigator. He was able to show that Brazil was not part of Asia.

Vasco da Gama (1460/1469-1524)

Famous For: Role in the Age of Discovery – Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama was commander of one of the sailing ships that ventured into India from Europe. As one of the pioneers of the Age of Exploration, he became Governor of India in 1524.

Francisco Pizarro (1471 or 1476-1541)

Famous For: His conquest of the Incan empire – Another Spanish conquistador whose main claim to fame is his expedition to South America and the overthrow of the Incan empire. Francisco Pizarro ventured to cross the Atlantic in search of the riches that the “New World” promised, even to find the riches of El Dorado.

Juan Ponce de Leon (1474-1521)

Famous For: The search of the Fountain of Youth and discovery of Florida – Spanish conquistador and explorer Juan Ponce de Leon and the legendary fountain of youth have been linked to one another up to this day. He was the man who led an expeditionary journey into what is today Florida, and became Governor of Puerto Rico. In search of the fountain of youth, de Leon accidentally discovered Florida.

Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521)

Famous For: First circumnavigation expedition – Ferdinand Magellan was the first sailor to circumnavigate the seas from the Atlantic Ocean and cross the Pacific Ocean. He discovered the Philippines where we was also killed in what is known as the Battle of Mactan. His name has been associated to not just things explored during his voyages, but to the stars and galaxies above us as well.

Jacques Cartier (1491-1557)

Famous For: Exploring North America what is now Canada – One of the earliest French explorer’s, Jacques Cartier mapped and provided a description of the Saint Lawrence River. He claimed what is now Canada for France. Cartier attempted to find a crossing to reach Asia through the Northern passage and instead discovers Canada.

Hernando de Soto (1496/1497-1542)

Famous For: Being the first European to cross the Mississippi River – In search of gold and silver, along with trying to find a short cut to China, Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernando de Soto ends up exploring the Southeastern portion of the United States and thereby crossing the Mississippi River ending up in Texas.

Francis Drake (c.1540-1596)

Famous For: Circumnavigating the world the 2nd time – English Vice Admiral Sir Francis Drake is known for several exploits during his time. He is best known for being the second man to circumnavigate the world between 1577 and 1580. The other things Drake is known for other than being a captain, he was a navigator, politician, a privateer, and slave trader.

Henry Hudson (c.1560s/1570s-1611)

Famous For: Exploring New York area and has a river named was after him – The Hudson River English Commander Henry Hudson tried to establish a passage through the New World to reach China. The Dutch East India company financed his voyage in search of that route. Instead, he found himself establishing a Dutch Colony in what is today New York City. He and his son perished when some of his men mutinied against him.

Samuel de Champlain (1574-1635)

Famous For: Being the “Father of New France” – Samuel de Champlain explored North America in the early 17th century. Born in France and with his family being mariners, de Champlain helped found Quebec City and New France in what is today located in Canada. He was a skilled cartographer which allowed him to make an accurate map of the Canadian coastline that aided in the establishment of French settlements. This earned him the title, “Father of New France”.

James Cook (1728-1779)

Famous For: Discovery of the Hawaiian Islands – An English captain who circumnavigated around the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. James Cook made contact with the inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands, Australia, New Zealand, and around the Indian Ocean back to the Atlantic. He died while serving the Crown in Hawaii.


The History of Ships

It doesn’t seem right to study about explorers of days gone by without taking a look at their transportation of the day… ships. A lot has changed since the men highlighted in this study took the waters to find new land. Children may have a hard time understanding their sacrifices and hardships without a good study of the types of ships they would use for their voyage.

Fun learning activity idea: 

Have your children sketch a few of the ships that their favorite explorers may have used for their voyage, and add it to a narration page from their study.


Nautical Flags

Did you know that there were nautical flags for each letter of the alphabet, numbers and others to communicate from one ship to another? Imagine the fun it would be if you children learned how to communicate through nautical flags!

Check out Chapman Quick Guide to Nautical Flags, and explorer the communication of the seas.

Fun learning activity idea: 

Have each child create small flags for each of the letters of their name, and make a banner to display on their bedroom wall. They can even add their current age for a little added fun.


Nautical Knots

You can’t study about explorers and ships without taking a look at how they managed with nautical knots! I remember how much my oldest son loved to learn how to tie these knots. He practiced and practiced them. He even taught some of his friends how to do some of his favorite ones, as well.

His favorite book of knots was DK Knots: The Complete Visual Guide.