As a child, I loved Little House on the Prairie. I loved the books. I loved the television show. In addition, I read a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I even used the atlas that was in the last volume of my Britannica Junior Encyclopedias to locate all the towns where she had lived. (Yes, encyclopedias used to be real books. It’s hard to remember that long ago.) I memorized all the places that she had lived. I remember wishing that I could visit the museums that were in many of her old homes.
My nostalgia for all things Laura Ingalls Wilder continued into adulthood. I saved all my old books and collected a few additional ones. I took more than a few opportunities to watch a Little House rerun on TV too. I was understandably excited, when on a return drive from a family reunion in Kansas, my husband agreed to stop at Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, Missouri, the adult home of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
I mentioned all this so that you could imagine how thrilled I was to receive The Prairie Primer from Cadron Creek Publishing to review. The Prairie Primer is a unit study that is based on the Little House books. It is recommended for grades 3-6.
The study covers each of the nine books with 4 weeks of lessons for each book, or unit. Within each unit, there is a section of background information, general activities to do throughout the unit, and planning guides for each week. The planning guides give the teacher a list of suggested resources to gather for the week, possible field trips, and videos. There are 4 lessons per week. The lessons begin with reading the assigned chapters from the book. Then there are several comprehension questions from each chapter to discuss. After the discussion, there are a variety of suggested activities related to topics in the chapter. Often, there are more activities listed than could possibly be completed in one day. There is a 3-page index of the topics that are studied within this course. The broad topics include:
For a complete list of the sub-topics, go to Topics Covered page or click the image above to go to the sample pages on the Cadron Creek website.
I decided to try the unit for By The Shore of Silver Lake (Shores) with my 5th grade son and 3rd grade daughter. I was going against the author’s recommendation by not starting at the beginning, but chose to start at the first book in the series that we had not read together. Every unit has some projects that are meant to span the unit. In Shores, one of the unit projects is to grow bacteria in petri dishes. There are several lessons in the unit to study topics such as germs, disease, and vaccination. This is all related to Shores, because this is the book in which Mary’s blindness begins, as a result of having scarlet fever. We all enjoyed making agar out of chicken bouillon and gelatin.
The Prairie Primer was my first experience with a literature-based unit study. I was familiar with the concept, but had never actually tried it. We really enjoyed starting our day by cuddling on the couch and reading a good book. I thought the comprehension questions were very good and I really liked how the author found scriptures that were related to the chapters. I also liked how the history and writing assignments tied in with the book. I really appreciate the concept of tying all the subjects together so that the student can build connections between the different subjects and see that our “school subjects” are not isolated topics.
I don’t know that I could endorse a complete curriculum entirely of unit studies though. I guess my sequential nature does not like studying especially science in this manner. I am honestly torn about this. There are many reasons that I think it would be beneficial to allow my children more time to explore topics that they are interested in. I too often have over-scheduled our school-time so that the children don’t want to do additional learning on our own.
So, how do I plan to use The Prairie Primer in the future? I want to use it to to take “breaks” from our regular curriculum. It is a wonderful, gentle program, ideally suited to a Charlotte Mason style homeschool. I typically claim that we use a mixture of a Classical and Charlotte Mason philosophies in our homeschool. When I reflect on this however, I am seeing that although I have a great desire to use more Charlotte Mason methods, I have in practice implemented our homeschool with a more classical flavor. I hope that using The Prairie Primer periodically can help us to avoid burning out, to reignite the love of learning, and to remember to relax and cuddle on the couch with a good book.
The Prairie Primer is available for purchase from several homeschooling vendors or directly from Cadron Creek for $50. Cadron Creek also publishes unit studies on for the Chronicles of Narnia and Anne of Green Gables.
Disclosure: I receive a free copy of The Prairie Primer as a member of the Homeschool Crew. All opinions expressed are my own. I was not compensated for this post.