YWAM Publishing offered us several choices from their Heroesof History series of books and our family chose to review Heroes of History – Laura Ingalls Wilder. Heroes of History is a unique biography series that brings history to life with remarkable true stories of fascinating men and women who changed the course of history. In this book, Janet and Geoff Benge write a storybook life of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
The story begins with Laura at the 1937 Detroit Children’s Book Fair. The place was packed with people who had come to hear her speak and have her autograph their copies of her books. Laura, the family storyteller shares the Ingalls family saga of life on the prairie.
First the adventure at the Indian camp with Pa, then finding the shiny beads, and now, best of all, a new baby sister. Not many days after the birth of Caroline, though, Pa’s happy tunes were drowned out by the sound of drums, lots of them, and they were not far away. Finally news reached the Ingallses’ log cabin that the Osage Indians had decided to accept the offer of new land and they were preparing to leave their home on the Kansas prairie for good. Not long afterwards, Laura and her family were on the move, had Pa known the politicians in Washington were going to draw the Indian territory line three miles east of them, he would have never settled on the land.
Back in the covered wagon, Laura travels with her family to make a new life in the big woods of Wisconsin. But not long after her first Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa and her first Sugar Snow, Laura and her family are on the move. Pa had sold the house and land in the Wisconsin woods and the family would be moving to the banks of Plum Creek. The Ingalls family now has a new home underground, 172 acres of rich prairie land, and two oxen. The Ingalls kept busy and were happy with their life on the banks of Plum Creek; but too soon, their life is threatened with grasshoppers, for days the barrage of grasshoppers kept coming. Then one morning, not long after the grasshoppers had ravaged the land, Laura awoke to find Pa gone. Pa had gone to find work. Then at last, on a crisp fall day, Pa came home. He told of how he had worked the crops in eastern Minnesota and he had made a dollar a day while he was away.
Two weeks later Laura found herself sitting in a new covered wagon, the Ingalls family were on the move again. One hundred and sixty miles later, the wagon rolled to a halt in Burr Oak, surrounded by rolling hills and forests of oak trees. Here she witnessed firsthand the rapid transformation of the West as pioneers and covered wagons gave way to farms, towns, and railroads. Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up on a frontier steeped in both danger and great possibility. I encourage you to read more about her days in the town of De Smet, her days as a schoolhouse teacher, and her days with Almanzo Wilder.
Janet and Geoff Benge have created a unit study guide to accompany the Heroes of History – Laura Ingalls Wilder book. This digital download provides the schoolhouse teacher and homeschool parent with ways to use the book as a vehicle for teaching or reinforcing various curriculum areas.
Key Quotes – the authors have selected eight quotes that can be used alongside or as part of this unit study. These could be used in the following ways: memorization, meaning, or display.
Display Corner – many students enjoy collecting and displaying objects related to the times and places in which Laura Ingalls Wilder lived. Our family collects artifacts from history from the family field trips we have taken that are both educational and fun; and these artifacts help my girls remember their history.
Chapter Questions – there are six questions related to each chapter. There is one vocabulary question, one factual question, two questions to gauge the level of a student’s comprehension, and two open-ended questions seeking an opinion or interpretation.
Student Explorations – a variety of activities that are appropriate to a wide range of learning styles. These activities consist of the following: essay questions, creative writing, hands-on projects, audio/visual projects, and art/craft projects.
Community Links – many communities have rich resources of people and places to which students can be exposed to help them learn more about and appreciate other time periods and the experiences of other people. There are many ways to learn about the frontier life – whether you visit a museum or invite a musician to play some of the songs that Laura heard from Pa’s fiddle – it is well worth the effort to find out what your community has to offer.
Social Studies – the authors divided this section into six categories. You can teach your students more about history through places, journeys, vocabulary, geographical characteristics, timeline, or conceptual questions.
Related Themes to Explore – any unit study has natural links to many other topics that can also be explored. Our family has become more interested in famous authors from other historical eras.
Culminating Event – as the name implies, the culminating event marks the end of the unit study and gives a sense of closure to the topic. It also serves to put the students’ new knowledge into a larger context that can be shared with others.
If you are looking for a simple, short summary about the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I would recommend this book. But if you are looking for an in-depth look at the life and times of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I would recommend her boxed book set of Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years. After reading her own writings, nothing compares to this boxed book set.
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