Homeschooling with Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie

Some of my most beloved homeschooling memories date back to the year our homeschool co-op studied Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series. We would read portions of the books on our own, and then get together for discussion and fun book-based activities.

Laura Ingalls Wilder was an author, teacher, pioneer, farmer, wife, and mother, who lived from 1867-1957, a very eventful period of American history. Her parents were pioneers in the Midwest, moving the family from place to place. Laura started teaching in one-room schoolhouses when she was only fifteen. In 1885, Laura Ingalls married Almanzo Wilder. They had one daughter, Rose, and one son who died soon after he was born. Laura witnessed great changes in America, and her eyewitness accounts are fascinating and educational.

Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder


Here are some activities you can do with your children as you read the books:

Make a corncob doll. After enjoying corn-on-the-cob at dinner, dry the cobs in the microwave. Glue beads and buttons for facial features (or use a permanent marker). Poke sticks or wooden skewers into the cob for arms. Glue yarn for hair. Wrap a small piece of fabric around the doll’s body and tie with a ribbon.

Drink buttermilk. Buy some buttermilk for your children to taste, to see what Laura used to drink. Your children probably won’t drink very much, so use the leftovers for baking.

Play with a pig bladder ball. I know this sounds weird, but Laura used to love playing with this homemade toy! When we did this when I was a kid, I was too grossed out to actually touch the ball, but the other kids seemed to enjoy it. I’m not sure exactly how to go about doing this, but somehow obtain a pig’s bladder, blow air into it, and tie it off.

Decorate a Christmas tree. To give your Christmas tree an old-fashioned look, deck it out with popcorn strings. Tie candy in mosquito netting bags and hang them on the branches. To make paper streamers, cut circles of colored paper into spiral shapes so that the paper hangs down in curls.

Make a clove apple or orange. Tie your fruit with a ribbon so that it can hang in your closet or on a doorknob. Stick whole cloves into the skin of the fruit (you may need to use a toothpick to make holes). The spicy scent is perfect for Christmas!

Make a button necklace. String lots of different colorful buttons onto thread or yarn to make a bracelet or necklace like the one Mary and Laura made for Carrie.

Eat homemade candy. Heat one cup molasses and one cup brown sugar in a large pot and boil until a drop of the candy forms a hard ball and cracks when dropped in cold water. Squiggle the hot candy over a pan of snow to harden. Then dry on a towel.

Sew a patchwork quilt. Piece together squares of different calico and other cotton fabrics. Quilt your top layer to batting and a backing.

Dress up in costume. Do research into period costume and make clothing for your kids to dress up in.

Cook or bake. Look up some recipes for gingerbread or johnnycakes.

Put on a play. You and your children can take different characters and make the story come to life! I remember reciting Carrie’s lines at a Little House seminar-type thing one time – probably one of my first public-speaking experiences.

Take a field trip. Laura lived in many different places throughout her life. If you live near any of the Ingalls family’s homesteads, schedule a field trip that the whole family can enjoy.

Pepin, Wisconsin – Little House Wayside (Laura’s birthplace)

Independence, Kansas – cabin replica

Walnut Grove, Minnesota – dugout along Plum Creek

Burr Oak, Iowa – Masters Hotel where the Ingalls family lived 1876-77

De Smet, South Dakota – home from 1879-94

Mansfield, Missouri – Rocky Ridge Farm, home of the Wilders

Malone, New York – Almanzo Wilder’s boyhood home

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Comments 24 comments

Godslittlechild profile image

Godslittlechild 7 years ago

I love the "Little House" series and books. I wrote a hub not to long ago on going back to an Old Fashioned Christmas. My husband and I are trying to ease into the simpler way of living and the traditional ways of doing things. Really nice hub!

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 7 years ago from Oregon

I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder books when I was homeschooled too. I remember imagining the snow whirling outside so thickly that we couldn't see the barn (more like the toolshed). We even made butter in a jar by shaking heavy cream for hours until our arms ached, then pushing the butter into molds, like the Ingalls would have done. These are some great ideas!

Rose West profile image

Rose West 7 years ago from Michigan Author

Thank you for reading!

Godslittlechild, isn't the simpler life the best? I'll have to read your hub about and old-fashioned Christmas. Could you send me the link? For some reason, I couldn't find it.

Jane Grey, the butter idea sounds like so much fun! And tiring ;) I'll have to try that someday...maybe when I homeschool my own kids.

Wayne 7 years ago

itakins profile image

itakins 7 years ago from Irl

I love this-

we've tasted the buttermilk-made butter--sometimes odd but much loved Christmas decorations from flour,salt and water dough.Brilliant

Rose West profile image

Rose West 7 years ago from Michigan Author

Thanks for the link, Wayne.

itakins, so glad you stopped by! Homemade Christmas decorations are always so much fun to make!

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

I love the 'Little House' books as well and one of my best memories is reading the whole series to my youngest. When he was in 3rd grade, and they started reading chapter books, the class had a 'Prairie Day' when they dressed in costume, and adapted ideas from the books. We made butter by shaking up whole milk (or was it cream?) in a jar, then drinking the buttermilk - that was quite a hoot and a lot of fun!

Rose West profile image

Rose West 5 years ago from Michigan Author

Hi Dolores! The Little House books really are great for parents and kids to read together. Prairie Day is a great idea - dressing up in costume is always fun :) We never made our own butter, but I'd like to try someday. Thanks for coming by!

janddplus4 profile image

janddplus4 5 years ago

Great hub. I homeschool my four kids while we travel across the country with my husband's job. We are reading the Little House books and planning a roadtrip to visit each of the Ingalls' homes. Now you've given me more ideas of things to do with the kids!

Rose West profile image

Rose West 5 years ago from Michigan Author

Hi janddplus4, that's great that you homeschool your kids and that your family sticks together. Sounds like a great roadtrip - I've never been to any of her homes, but I'm sure it's a lot of fun!

Isabel Heusaff 5 years ago

thanks for all the tips. i have now plans on how to have a quality time and to have a better relationship with my three sons who are into homeschooling. i sure will pass this to my friends.

thanks much

best regards

hanwillingham profile image

hanwillingham 5 years ago


Rose West profile image

Rose West 5 years ago from Michigan Author

Hi Isabel, you're very welcome! Field trips are great opportunities to spend quality time with your family! I'm glad you came by :)

Thanks for your visit, hanwillingham!

Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

I read all her books when I was growing up. I was fascinated by the stories (and asked my older sister, "are you sure Ma and Pa aren't in our family? They have the same name as mom and dad! LOL). Good ideas here to do with kids. Voted up

Rose West profile image

Rose West 5 years ago from Michigan Author

Danette, her books are interesting for both kids and adults - that's what makes them great to read together. That's really funny that you thought you were related :D

Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 5 years ago from California

My 6 year old is crazy about these books and has already read a lot of them. I am currently trying to read Little Town On the Prairie for homeschool purposes. She's having a hard time going chapter to chapter and wants to read it through herself as quickly as possible.

Rose West profile image

Rose West 5 years ago from Michigan Author

Learn Things Web, thanks for your visit. That's wonderful that your daughter is so excited about reading at so young an age!

Anaya M. Baker profile image

Anaya M. Baker 5 years ago from North Carolina

My mom homeschooled me for first grade and part of second, when we moved down to a very rural area in South Carolina. It was a great experience for me, and I remember very vividly reading the entire Little House series together.

Rose West profile image

Rose West 5 years ago from Michigan Author

Hi Anaya, very cool that you had that experience with sharing Little House with your mom! Those are times to treasure :)

Karen littler 5 years ago

Hello I used a book based on her series .a black and white cover I think spiral bound and about 2 in thick in 1994. I can't seem to find one for a friend. Anyone else ever heard of this companion to the series?

Rose West profile image

Rose West 5 years ago from Michigan Author

Hi Karen, I remember using a study guide in school too, but I don't know which one it was. I found this study guide on Amazon though - - maybe that's what you're looking for.

SJLA profile image

SJLA 3 years ago from Indiana

I enjoyed this, thank you, it took me back to days when I read these books. I truly love reading and Ingalls truly loved writing. If she could read your hub I am sure she would smile.

sillyconvalley profile image

sillyconvalley 2 years ago from Mountain View

The Chicken Whisperer: Laura Ingalls Wilder and family authorship

A new essay about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Almanzo Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane, is now available as a Kindle E-Book!

Based on a scholarly paper written for University of Connecticut, author Wayne Jebian examines the roles played by Laura, her daughter, Rose, her husband Almanzo, and her parents in the creation of the best-selling "Little House" series of books.

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