Little House On the Prairie Books Rich Literature and Unit Study
Named in the Top 20 of all time Children’s Books by Readers for good reason
By Emerson Sandow
Ms. Charlotte Mason was a British teacher of the late 1800s who developed a complete instruction method named after her. Many homeschooling families adhere to some or all of Ms. Mason’s precepts in teaching their own children with her very solid and sound approach. Among the Charlotte Mason guidelines are to use living books whenever possible and avoid textbooks and other forms of “dead” books as well.
As living books – about real people in real times and experiences – the Laura Ingalls Wilder series of Little House books serves as an excellent vehicle for the teaching of literature in an enjoyable and intelligent way. The thoughtful parent can look through each book and develop an outline of sorts to create a unit-study format covering vocabulary, spelling, reading comprehension, both physical and cultural geography, history, cooking and homesteading, creating shelters and further survival living, to name a few of the most obvious topics that Ms. Wilder provides.
Parent and child can discuss the rigors of packing up the family and moving to a new living location as the Ingalls family did regularly. Prairie life can lead to a wealth of writing and reading projects that will help your child build his/her composition skills enjoyably. The struggle against the natural elements and other humans provides dramatic bases for thought, discussion and writing. Health was always a concern, as accidents were more prevalent then and a minor injury could often become fatal.
The books also demonstrate real human traits that are interesting to discuss. The aspect of Pa Ingalls’ personality that made him feel that if he could see the smoke from the neighbor’s chimney, it was time to move on, is one that many of us may find today in friends or family members and it is interesting to note that this is not a modern phenomenon brought on by urban crowding or similar.
The activities mentioned in the books, such as maple sugaring and quilting, provide a deep and rich glimpse into the earlier history of America, between the Colonial Period and the 1900s, when many cultural aspects of life overlap, being not quite rural, but not urban, either. In some parts of the country, these activities still exist in small villages and towns, but for the majority of Americans, such things are long past. Homeschoolers find value in many of these almost-lost arts, as they still provide a sense of discipline and achievement to children who practice them.
Home teaching parents can easily assign essay writing of a general nature and in specific areas of knowledge contained in the books. You can also have your child write a paper comparing life in the 1800s and today, as mentioned above. For the slightly older child, you can assign a paper about the moral-spiritual values of Laura’s day and today. The sense of community is probably less in your community than it was in the Ingalls’ lives and this bears observation, writing and discussion. You can see that the Little House books provide a broad opportunity to study them literarily as well as a source of pure entertainment.
If you want to provide your children with an excellent source of literary resources and life knowledge, visit www.walnutgrove.org and partake of the Little House on the Prairie series. MjL