Texas Adventure Week Two: Earliest Explorers-Cabeza de Vaca (In Our Classroom)

This was our second week working through a literature-based Texas History unit. As I explained last week, none of the prepackaged curriculums were quite what I was looking for, so I’ve been collecting books and putting together my own.

The first week we covered Texas in ancient times and what we know about the native people before any Europeans showed up. This week we spent time learning about Cabeza de Vaca and his companions, the first Europeans to set foot on Texan soil. Decades before the settlers arrived at Jamestown or the Mayflower sailed, this handful of Spaniards was wandering along the Texas coast and collecting pecans along the Guadalupe river, mere minutes from where we live.

Cabeza de Vaca’s route
Map courtesy www.texasbeyondhistory.net

Shipwrecked in Florida, they were attempting to make it to Tampico, a settlement in New Spain (Mexico) when a storm blew them off course and stranded them on Galveston Island. Weak from hunger and exposure and near death, they were rescued by Karankawa Indians. Cabeza de Vaca eventually became a trader, spending several years traveling between the tribes of the southern coastal plains. Later, he and three other survivors traveled across Texas and down the west coast of Mexico, earning a widespread reputation among the local people as healers along the way, and eventually making it to Mexico City. It’s amazing that they survived!

It’s a fascinating story not only because it’s a truly incredible tale of survival, but because his account gives us the most complete picture of the land and people in Texas before the Europeans arrived available. Before he was stranded in Texas, Cabeza de Vaca’s attitude toward the native people was the same as any other conquistador, but after nearly 8 years among them, his view was profoundly changed. He realized that they were human beings worthy of respect, and he did his best to advocate for them for the rest of his life, which ended up costing him dearly.

The Wreck of the 300
map courtesy www.texasbeyondhistory.net

We went over the six flags that have flown over Texas. Can you name them? (Spanish, French, Mexican, Republic of Texas, United States, Confederate)

We continued learning about different Native American tribes living in Texas at the time, and also briefly read about the Wreck of the 300, when three Spanish galleons laden with treasure went down just off Padre Island. We used to frequent a remote beach that’s literally right where the shipwrecks are…gold doubloons have been known to occasionally wash up on the beach in that spot!

The Karate Kid is really fascinated by these stories. He loves this kind of stuff, and the fact that they took place in locations that are close by and familiar to him makes it even more interesting!

Some of the resources we’ve used this week:
Texas map
US map
We Asked for Nothing: The Remarkable Journey of Cabeza de Vaca (Great Explorers)
On the Texas Trail of Cabeza De Vaca
Learn about . . . Texas Indians (Learn about Texas)
Texas (Eyewitness Books)
Story of Texas (Four Volumes in One)
Story of Texas: A History Picture Book
An Educational Read & Color Book of Texas

Texas Beyond History website

We Asked for Nothing: The Remarkable Journey of Cabeza de Vaca (Great Explorers)We especially enjoyed We Asked for Nothing. It does an excellent, thorough job of retelling Cabeza de Vaca’s story, with gorgeous full-page illustrations and quotes from La Relacion, his account of his travels. On the Texas Trail of Cabeza De Vaca was fun too, as the author traveled along the route taken by de Vaca, with lots of neat photos and information about how they used clues from  La Relacion to find different locations.

Next week we’ll focus on the La Salle expedition, Fort St. Louis, and the La Belle shipwreck, which are both within 20-30 minutes of us. Fort St. Louis was not only the first permanent settlement in Texas, it was also the earliest European settlement on the entire Gulf Coast, from Pensacola to Tampico, Mexico. 

I’m planning a field trip or two in the near future also, and should have some fun photos to share…

In other subjects…

We’re rolling along really well in all our other subjects! The Dancer has a short week coming up as she attends an out of town dance competition and the rest of us will probably have a light schedule too. I’ve ordered and am eagerly awaiting the brand new All About Reading program for Peanut. We’ve downloaded the two free activity booklets to use while we wait for it to come in. We’ve loved All About Spelling so much this year for both Karate Kid and Peanut that I’m really looking forward to the reading program!

What’s been going on in your classroom this week?

Linked with Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

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  1. Oh wow! OH WOW! I'm going to have to comb through these posts. Too cool!

  2. Wonderful posts about Texas. I'm bookmarking these for the future.

  3. What interesting studies!! Sounds like a very productive week!

  4. Fascinating information about Texas. Great post.

  5. I'm so glad you do this and write about it so I can use it with my kiddos when we do Texas studies again. THANKS! Your studies should include a trip to the Alamo, yes? Let me know and we'll meet you there!

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