Around the World in 80 Books (Part 1)

Get our your passport and come take a literary and memorable trip around the world with me!  A little background info before we embark.   Our family loosely follows the classical approach.  I have always loved the idea of learning history in chronological order, so when we began our homeschooling journey, we started at the beginning.  However our very first year of homeschooling, I was inspired by My Father’s World:  Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum.

Before we embarked on learning about ancient history, I wanted to spend an entire year “traveling the world” and learning about the places and the unique geography of the places we would study in later years.  So during our first year of homeschooling, we embarked on an adventure to learn about the 7 continents, the major countries and cities throughout history, and the cultures, people, and landscape of the beautiful places found in ancient, medieval and modern history.  I made “Passports” for each of us, and we spent the year “traveling the world” through books, song, food, festivals, field trips, music, and art.  Our classical homeschool cycle looked like this:

  • Year One:  “Travel the World”
  • Year Two:  Ancient History (Creation to Christ)
  • Year Three:  Medieval to Modern (Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation & Exploration)
  • Year Four:  US & Modern World History (1700’s to current)

During our “Traveling around the world” year, we started in North America and focused on the United States first!  We learned about our home state, California, and then we worked our way across America.  (FYI- If you are looking for a comprehensive interdisciplinary literature-based curriculum for California History, check out CA Out of the Box!)The first time we did Year One, we focused on national parks as we traveled the US.  The second time we did Year One, we memorized the states and capitals.  The last time we did Year One, my son was taking a culinary art and cooking class as well as a few art classes, so we focused on the unique foods prepared and served in different parts of the United States.  Yes, we ate our way around the US!  Additionally, we also spent the year learning how to draw and label the United States from memory.

After a month of “traveling” the United States, we worked our way up north to Canada and then went south of the border to Mexico.  From North America, we explored the richness of South America and many of its culturally and historically unique countries.  We then moved across the pond to study Europe.  We often spent way too much time in Europe but some of my favorite inventors, artists, musicians, and political figures are from European countries.  Next, we crossed the Ural Mountains and explored Asia and the Middle East, which is the cradle to civilization (and the focus of most current event news stories).  We moved across the Strait of Gibraltar into Africa and then finished our travels in Australia and Oceania.  Some years we had time for Antartica and some years we didn’t.

This is how our Year One “Travel Around the World” was generally organized:

  • September:  United States
  • October:  North America (Canada, Mexico & Central American countries)
  • November:  South America ( Picked 4 countries to focus on)
  • December:  Learned about how Christmas is celebrated around the world
  • January:  Europe ( Picked 4 countries to focus on)
  • February:  Europe & Middle East  ( Picked 4 countries to focus on)
  • March: Asia & Middle East ( Picked 4 countries to focus on)
  • April:  Africa ( Picked 4 countries to focus on)
  • May:  Australia and Oceania Countries

Since we cycled through Year One every four years, we would focus on different countries each time we “traveled the world.”  For example, the first time we did Year One and Europe, we learned about Great Britain, France, Spain, Germany, Russia, and Italy.  The second time we did Year One, we learned about Scandinavian countries, Greece, Austria, Poland, Croatia, Czech Republic, etc.  By the time, we cycled through Year One three times, we learned about the majority of countries in Europe. As we “traveled” to different continents and countries, we read  A LOT of books!  Read alouds are not only a great way to learn together but a great way to explore the world without ever leaving the comfort of your home (and Pj’s).

This post is Part One of a series entitled “Around the World in 80 Books.”  Before we read our way around the world, let’s start with some great books to introduce maps, geography and God’s marvelous creation around the world.

BOOKS #1- #10 Atlases Galore

  1. The Travel Book:  A Journey Through Every Country in the World by Lonely Planet Kids
  2. The Scholastic Atlas of the World by Scholastic Publishing
  3. Children’s Atlas of God’s World by Craig Froman
  4. The Natural World:  Usborne Illustrated Encyclopedia (Animals around the world)
  5. Draw Write Now Series:  #4, #6, #7, & #8 by Hablitzel and Stitzer
  6. Geography From A to Z:  A Picture Glossary by Jack Knowlton
  7. The Baker Book of Bible Travels for Kids by Anne Adams
  8. Window on the World: When We Pray God Works by Daphne Spraggett
  9. How to Make Apple Pie and See the World by Majorie Priceman
  10. How to Make Cherry Pie and See the US by Majorie Priceman

Books #1-3 are “must have’s” in any homeschool library!  The Travel Book and Scholastic Atlas are divided into continents.  Then in each continent section, there are two-page spreads about each country located in each continent.  The two-page spreads have colorful maps with pictures, illustrations, and fun facts about each country.  If your child is a trivia buff or likes to read a lot of info in little bite-sized nuggets, he will love these books. They are great for research too!  Books #4 and #5 are great for naturalist and animal lovers.  Similarly, these books are divided into sections by continents and regions but explore the animals and ecosystems unique to each area.  Books #7 and #8 focus on Bible lands, ancient history, and missions around the world.  Finally, my two favorite picture books are #9 and #10.  My family read these books over and over and enjoyed the culinary connection to the cultures and countries mentioned in the books.  They are super fun and a great way to start any geography unit of study.

BOOKS #11-#20 United States

  1. A is for America by Devin Scillian (and its counterpart P is for Passport)
  2. If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern
  3. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  4. Ben and Me:  Astonishing Life with Ben Franklin by Robert Lawson
  5. Little House in Big Woods Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  6. Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates
  7. Carry on Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
  8. Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt or Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  9. American Tall Tales
  10. How Many Days Till America:  A Thanksgiving Story & Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say

**There are so many picture books, classics and Newbury’s to pick from and read.  I just listed some of our family’s all-time favorites that appealed to both my book-a-holic daughter and my super active son.  The following four books are wonderful books to read about the pre- and post Civil Rights Movement:  The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Bud Not Buddy, Ruby Bridges Goes to School, and Sounder (a favorite for dog lovers).***

BOOKS #21-30  Canada, Mexico, and Central America

  1. Count Your Way through Mexico & Count Your Way through Canada by Jim Haskins (Get the whole series!  There is one for just about every country!)
  2. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  3. M is for Maple:  A Canadian Alphabet by Michael Ulmer
  4. Dear Primo:  A Letter to my Cousin by Duncan Tonatiuh
  5. Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz
  6. Borreguita and the Coyote by Verna Aardema
  7. The Cactus Hotel by Brenda Guiberson & Cactus Soup by Eric Kimmel
  8. The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry
  9. Abuela’s Weave by Omar Castaneda
  10. Come Look with Me:  Latin American Art by Kimberly Lane

**Don’t forget to learn about a country’s culture, values, beliefs, and folktales by reading its version of Cinderella.  Mexico’s version is Adelita:  Mexican Cinderella Story by Tomie dePaola.  My daughter, who is a Disney freak, loved reading and comparing the different cultural Cinderellas.  Check out Yeh Shen (China), Rough-Faced Girl (Native American), Domolita (Mexican), Cendrillion (Caribean), The Irish Cinderlad (Ireland), Egyptian Cinderella, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters (African), Korean Cinderella, Persian Cinderella, and The Golden Sandal (Middle Eastern)**

Happy Travels and check back next month for “Around the World in 80 Books”  Part Two.  We will explore South America, Europe, and the Middle East – one book at a time.

Carrie De Francisco


***Mark your calendars for March 27-28th.  If you live in the southern California area, we would love for you to join us for our next homeschooling mom event:  Homeschooling Adventures:  A Weekend to Refresh, Rest and Rejuvenate.  It will be a weekend of encouragement, refreshment, and fellowship.  During our Saturday morning session, Passport to Learning, we will share more on the topic of how to travel the world (literally and figuratively) through books, field trips, games and family vacations.   Make sure you “like” and “follow” our blog for monthly topics on Christian homeschooling and for updates on our registration for our homeschooling mom event in March.***

Check out our Upcoming Events Tab for details of each session and links to register.  See you in March!

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