Two hundred years ago, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned his secretary Meriwether Lewis and a co-commander, William Clark, to set forth on a bold and dangerous journey of exploration. These two men and their party of 31, known as the Corps of Discovery, would cover 8,000 miles from the mouth of the Missouri to the Pacific Ocean and back. Their lives would be threatened, their resources stretched, and their endurance tested.

 

The bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition offers home schoolers a terrific opportunity to share in what many believe is the greatest example of American exploration. Teaching aids abound to promote this monumental occasion.


Beginning in January 2003, events held along the trail will provide great hands-on learning experiences. Many groups are planning events during 2003-2006 to commemorate the amazing accomplishments of this team of explorers.

 

In many ways, embarking on home schooling is an expedition, requiring vision, preparation, and perseverance. Not only do home-schooling families have the unique academic flexibility to use the bicentennial as a springboard to learning, but we can uniquely identify with Lewis's and Clark's sense of leaving behind all that is familiar and setting out into uncharted territory. Like the Corp of Discovery, home-schooling parents have a mission that is bigger than the journey-they want to leave a legacy for their children's children.

 

Maybe that is why the Lewis and Clark Expedition Bicentennial is resonating with many home-schooling families. Think about the best character qualities and skills needed in your children's generation, or for that matter, in every generation-courage, loyalty, discipline, perseverance, vision, innovation, creativity, a spirit of exploration, organization, solving problems with limited resources, tackling challenges head on, following instructions, and inspiring followers. These are just a few of the lessons your children may find come alive in the story of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their men.

 

Historical background

 

In 1801, the map of our nation extended only to the Appalachian Mountain range, with territories west to the Mississippi River. We were a small, young nation. Not everyone agreed that expansion was prudent or even constitutional. When the Louisiana Territory was purchased in 1803, a Boston Federalist newspaper said, "We are to give too much money of which we have too little for land of which we already have too much."

 

Thankfully, visionary President Jefferson was not dissuaded. His foresight enabled our nation to stretch from sea to sea.

 

Meriwether Lewis spent many of his early years just seven miles from Jefferson's Monticello, in between the two worlds of the frontier and the educated east. The two men spent many hours sharing their mutual fascination with the natural world and the western expanse.

 

Lewis's preparation for the trip west, overseen by Jefferson, was thorough. His medical knowledge, excellent skills in land surveying and mapping, and familiarity with botany, geography, and natural history served both the country and the scientific community. Many new plants and animals were cataloged. His keen powers of observation and vivid writing helped communicate the new discoveries to an eager president back in Washington.