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Little House In The Big Woods Study Guide Review

For the past several weeks my kids have been learning about the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder through the Little House In The Big Woods Study Guide by Progeny Press.  I was thrilled to learn that TOS was going to review a unit study based on Little House In The Big Woods.  I knew this was just the guidance we needed to maximize this learning experience.   
 

Little House In The Big Woods Study Guide
For Upper Elementary or Grades 3-5
Downloadable Interactive PDF Study Guide
Retails for $15.99
This is an interactive 56 page study guide.  You can fill in the blank on the computer, and save your work, or print it out and fill in the blanks and activities on paper.  It also comes with an answer key in a separate downloadable file.
Have you heard of Laura Ingalls Wilder?  Almost everyone has.  Little House In The Big Woods is on the library shelves of most homeschool families I know.  It is a mainstay in homeschooling, a right of passage so to speak for every homeschooler to read.  Last year we acquired our own copy of this wonderful book and I had big plans to use it for a unit study with our homeschool park group.  Then life happened, and we packed everything up and moved out of state. So our study on Little House In The Big Woods had to wait.
 
Laura lived from 1867 to 1957 and she wrote a series of stories about her life, and these stories were published in a series of nine books.  Her father was a pioneer and she moved several times as a child in the process of her dad securing food, areas to hunt, local work, or land to farm, until they eventually settled on a homestead.  Her stories have been compiled into books, a tv series, and movie.  There are several historical museums that honor her life in the towns where she lived.  I visited one of her childhood homes turned museum when I was growing up in Kansas.  She is an American icon.
This story shares the ups and downs of her family’s life on the frontier.  All of us can identify with growing up, and with relationship issues with family, friends, and neighbors.  But that is where much of the similarities end and a whole new adventure begins.  Laura grew up learning how to raise and hunt for food, trade and barter for things, bake, fish, travel by horse and buggy, and a one room schoolhouse, and other things most kids these days don’t experience on a day to day basis unless you are Amish.  
 
You can pick up a copy of her books at your local library, or find them online.  You might find them in used books stores too.  When writing this review I came across an audio rendition the book too.  If you have an audio learner, or just want to add another dimension to this learning experience by listening to the book being read outloud, here is a link to the audio of the first chapter. http://youtu.be/Svby9kpiWto and additional chapters are available too.
 
 
For the purpose of this review, I had both my 11 and 13 year olds read the book and study guide.  Sometimes the younger children would sit on their lap or nearby and listen to them read too.  Though this study guide is for grades 3-5, it is very adaptable for other ages too.   However, I was not as organized as I wanted to be to work with the younger kids on this project so I just let the older two work on it with assistance from me when needed.
 

 
In the 1980’s a TV series was also made based on the stories of Laura’s life called Little House On The Prairie.  This was one of my favorite TV shows growing up.  I am sure it has been the favorite show for many Americans, especially from my generation. I am so excited it is still around and my kids can enjoy it too.  This year is the 40 year anniversary of this program and there was a recent news broadcast of the cast reunion and new high definition blue ray technology that has improved the entertainment experience.  I sure would like to get a hold of the new dvd’s and be able to watch episodes with no commercials.  This is going to enhance the experience a lot when we re-do this learning adventure and include these too.


 
There are so many fun activities listed in the Interactive Study Guide to make this learning adventure lots of fun in a hands on way.  Besides reading the book, listening to the book, and watching the hit TV show or a movie, they have listed lots of great activities through out the guide.
 

 
The Interactive Study Guide corresponds to the chapters in the book.  It has summaries, questions, bible verses, vocabulary, word puzzles, writing prompts, and suggestions for activities.  It suggests field trips such as visit a local cheese factory, maple syrup farm, chicken farm and see eggs processed,
 

 
carve soap, visit a museum, make homemade butter, make pancakes and johnny cakes, graph the weather, make a seasons collage calendar, visit a beekeeping farm and also eat some fresh honey, give a speech, write a report, etc.  
 

 
Some of the fun activities we did similar to Laura’s childhood experiences included gathering eggs from chickens, 
 

 
hunted for animal tracks in the back field and found dear, racoon, squirrel, rabbit, dog, and bird tracks.  We found Indiana crawfish holes in the mud, and in the picture above we also found a 3ft long snake.   
 
We went out several times and hunted for wild food and found asparagus, dandelion greens, and wild strawberries, but we did not find any mushrooms.  The wild mulberry trees have green fruit that will soon be ripe and ready to harvest too.
 
 
My boys love to whittle, and the study guide suggested whittling or carving soap with a dull knife, but my boys just wanted to carve lots of sticks with their pocket knives.  We did several cooking projects and made butter in a jar from cream, ground oats into flour, made pancakes (we used the blender because we don’t have an old fashion grain grinder), and ate local honey on fresh homemade biscuits.   I really wanted to tap the maple trees in the front yard a few months ago too, but we could not locate the equipment to borrow in time.  We heard from several folks who tap that it was not a good year for maple sap this year due to the long winter weather we had and it messed up the season’s harvest.

 
I think this study guide is adaptable and you could easily add a lot more fun hands on options to help kids relate to Laura’s childhood.  I plan to do this study again with my younger kids and do things like: read the bible or other book by candle light or lantern, grow a historical garden or a kitchen spice mini garden, make beef jerky, preserve food for winter, listen to someone play the fiddle or try to play one yourself, go fishing and cook your fish for dinner, visit a horse farm and watch them shoe horses and care for them, take a horse and buggy ride, visit a dairy farm and milk a cow or goat, harvest and grind corn or wheat or rye (get some grain still on the stock or cob, thresh the grain and remove corn from cob, grind it into flour and make something with it), dye yarn or cloth and weave it or make something like a rug or scarf, sew an apron, set up a barter with a neighbor (trade tomatoes or something you grew in exchange for eggs or sugar or flour, or trade your labor or the scarf you made for sugar or flour), butcher a chicken and cook it for dinner, render lard or beef tallow, split and stack firewood, visit a living history farm and learn how things were done in the 1800’s, and make a scrap book or lapbook to record all the fun activities and store the worksheets and questions you answered in the study guide, etc
The study guide has lots of character building opportunities through in depth questions about the story and characters.  It also has bible study in a section called Dig Deeper.  I really liked how it related scriptures, dilemmas in the story, and real life for my kids to tie it all together with their faith.  Here is an example of the dig deeper sections of the study guide.  This one is dealing with the character trait of envy, jealousy, revenge, and choosing what is right to do :
 
This is a great hands on Interactive Study Guide that helps bring the book Little House In The Big Woods to life and I definitely think it is a great addition to our homeschool learning.  I plan for our family to redo this study this fall with all the kids all together, and either read it to them or have them listen to the audio of the book and then I will read the study questions to them and we can discuss as a family.  I hope to spread out some of the activities and begin them this summer so that they can relate more to Laura’s character in the book.  I want the younger children to have the opportunity to benefit from this learning experience and we will repeat many of the activities in the study guide.  We will also set aside a regular time each week to watch the reruns of the hit TV program to enhance our learning experience.  I am very excited and I am sure the kids will be too.  
 

 
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