Thursday, March 01, 2007

Thursday: My Second Favorite Day

aka Welcome March! or Get Lost February!

Right, so, Little House on the Prairie.

Why do I never feel like it's the right time to blog about Little House on the Prairie, when Thomas (I'm sure) feels like I ALWAYS think it's time to talk about Little House on the Prairie?

When I was a kid, I hated those books. Boring! Boring! BBBOOOOORRRRINNNG. Seriously.
The only thing I remembered about them from being a kid was when the little boy got stung by all those bees. Cause that kind of freaked me out.

But two years ago I was having trouble finding something to read to my class in the afternoons that would be appropriate for all ages between 4 and 12. So it seemed long and educational, and not too freaky for my little guys, so I started reading it. And totally fell in love. Now it's a staple of my year. I plan it around the pioneers unit and the kids love it. They call it "Mary and Laura Time."

I'm just so fascinated by all that the Ingalls had to endure. And I'm not talking about farming or sleeping on straw ticks. I'm talking about blizzards that last 7 months when you have no food. I'm talking about crossing the country in a wagon having no real idea where you're going or how to know when you've gotten there. Lost crops. Tornados. Malaria. Diptheria. Scarlet Fever. Tell me, how did these people survive? And it makes me proud, in a way, at the ferociousness of those early Americans, that they were brave enough and sure enough of their own abilities to try to go and live where no one else was, to carve what is now our country out of open prairie.

But it's weird too for me as a teacher and as an American to remember that they did so by stealing all that land from the Native Americans. And I try to make my class aware of that. There's a lot of confused sentiment about the Indians in Little House on the Prairie and I try not to gloss over it.

Did you all play Oregon Trail in school? It was this really early computer game in which you picked your family and pretended to be on the Oregon Trail, but you'd be plagued by disaster the whole way. Members of your family would die of sickness and starvation. Your horses would go lame; your wagon would throw a wheel. It's partly that, I guess, that makes me so crazy about LHOTP, just the unlikelihood that they could make it at all, let alone record it so beautifully.

I hope that if there's any kind of afterlife, that Laura Ingalls Wilder knows that a class full of students in 2007 looks forward every day to hearing about her life and that their crazy teacher goes home to marvel at her on the internet.


laura said...

We played Voyage of the Mimi, which was sort of the same except you were on a ship and then a desert island.

I just finished reading The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, which is all about the dusters in the dirty thirties and makes me think about what you said about carving out and making it. In one Oklahoma town, after years of drought and dust storms and cattle dead on their feet and people having to eat salted tumbleweed and not a lick of green, not even a weed, FOR YEARS, the town motto was: Grab a root and growl.

I wonder if Laura Ingalls Wilder knows we're such pussies in 2007.

penelope said...

Did everyone ever WIN Oregon Trail? That's what I'd like to know. But I so enjoyed choosing how to cross the river, and then watching my little people drown. Fun!

I also enjoyed the LHOTP book where she wants to get bangs, and it's like this big deal, where she has to ask her father permission? I think they call it "fringe" in the book. And then she curls it with like, a hot piece of chalk or something, before going on a date with Alonso. Or am I making this all up? Clearly it was one of the later books.

Megs said...

No, you're not making it up and Ma calls it her "lunatic fringe."

Gina said...

Isn't "Lunatic Fringe" the title of a very cool song?

Anyhoo, I never got into the Ingalls-Wilder books, despite being a voracious reader. I blame the cover illustrations, which were BORING. I think I read somewhere that for the first time ever, they are updating those illustrations.

penelope said...

lunatic fringe!! that's right.

velocibadgergirl said...

I'm going to have to re-read all of those when I have kids. I read some of them when I was younger, and my best friend was named after Laura Ingalls Wilder. We used to watch the TV show, too, but I watched an episode a month or so ago with the little dude I kidsit, and it was a whole lot cheesier than I remembered! (Oh God...remember PA'S FLUFFY HAIR??)

Andrea Q. said...

I love, love, LOVE those books. I used to make my sibs (younger, of course) play "Laura Ingalls" with me, which involved, mostly, me bossing them around in some way. But it's so funny you should mention this, because I recently found my old boxed set for those books from when I was eight. They're all warped and dog-eared, and clearly well-loved. I'm so glad that your students are getting to experience them to... and that you're talking about the reality of the Indian thing. (Good call.)

ashley said...

When I was in third grade, we had a Laura Ingalls Wilder party and we dressed in our calico dresses and boots and had a picnic with lemonade and ate horehound candy. And just for the record, horehound candy is not as delicious as it sounds in the books.

If they like these books, Meg, and you want to further explore the relationship with Indians, I highly, highly recommend Sign of the Beaver. It's about a 14 year old boy who's left in his family homestead for the summer while his parents go to "town". But they get waylaid and he has to spend the winter alone and the Indians help him. It was one of my favorite books when I was in fifth grade.