Friday, July 20, 2012

2nd Annual ABC Summer Weekly Report: L and V; Plus LIW Museum Trip Recap

For the past three summers, one or the other of my daughters has taken a little soccer class offered through our town's community services program. Because it meets every morning (except Fridays) for three weeks in a row, those weeks are predictably pretty light on ABC Summer activities. By the time we've gone to soccer, completed our requisite errands, done the housecleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, and laundry, and visited the pool on all the hot afternoons, there isn't much time for extra plans. Which is totally fine.

This week's letters for ABC Summer were L and V. Since half of our Walnut Grove trip occurred at the beginning of L week, and Little House on the Prairie begins with L, I'll start out by finally showing you some pictures of our visit to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum last weekend. If your family is into the Little House books, or even just pioneer-history in general, and you live in the Minnesota/South Dakota/Iowa area, I recommend a visit. Walnut Grove is tiny and scrabbly, and the museum is a bit shabby in a we-need-money sort of way, but it's fascinating and there's a lot to look at. Plus your kids will be utterly amazed at the thought of standing on the same ground as the Ingalls girls did if they've ever read On the Banks of Plum Creek (the volume that describes Laura's life during her family's time at Walnut Grove, MN).

Walnut Grove is a 3-hour drive from our house. We started off on Saturday morning, bright and early, with the girls in braids and wearing the prairie bonnets their grandma gave them last Halloween:

The drive was long and slow, but pretty. It was interesting to be driving on a small two-lane highway through farmland and prairie, imagining the Ingalls family traversing the same plains in a covered wagon. When we got to Walnut Grove, we had a picnic lunch in the little park, where a small festival/carnival was going on in conjunction with the museum.

Then we walked over to the museum, where we forced the girls to pose for photos and asked a stranger to take the requisite shot of us pretending to be Pa, Ma, Laura, and Mary.

The museum had oodles of things to see, including all sort of photos, documents, letters, and household objects of Laura Ingalls and the Ingalls family, information about their travels and difficulties, and facts about pioneer life. There were also rooms that showed aspects of life during Laura's time, like slates the children used in school and an old cast-iron stove.

The museum has several different buildings, designed to illustrate pertinent places in Walnut Grove, like a one-room schoolhouse, jail, and church. We spent a long time going through the different buildings and imagining life back then. On the schoolhouse wall, there was a framed copy of rules for schoolteachers in the late 1800s, which was fascinating and made schoolteaching back then sound like a hell of a raw deal--but perhaps better than many other options, and probably the only option available to unmarried women (you were forbidden to work as a teacher once you were engaged) and one of the few available to educated men.

On the way back to our car to drive to the "dugout site," we bought pony rides for the girls at the carnival in the park. Forgive me, animal rights activists. I admit these ponies looked pretty sad. But my daughters had never ridden a pony and were DYING to do so, and how can you resist, when given an opportunity like this? Sure, it was overpriced and sketchy in its own carny way, but....they were thrilled. to. death.

Each of the ponies had a little sun umbrella affixed to its bar. I couldn't decide if this was brilliant or just made everything all the sadder for the poor, restrained, hot, bored ponies.

Moving on!

After the pony rides, we drove about a mile into the prairie to the actual site of the Ingalls' family's "dugout house," the space in a hillside that was the family's home when they first moved to the area by Plum Creek. The roof of the dugout collapsed a long time ago, so you can't go inside to see anything, but the site is still there, and we stood right next to the collapsed roof and walked down the same path that Laura and Mary Ingalls walked down to wade in the actual creek they waded in 150 years ago. It was truly mind-boggling.

Because there's nothing built up around the dugout site, it's easy to imagine what the land around the Ingalls' home looked like when they lived there--probably pretty much exactly like it did last weekend when we were there. The land around the dugout has been maintained as native prairie, so all you can see are trees, prairie grass and wildflowers, and the creek.

About a year or so ago, I read the first four books in the Little House series to Julia and Genevieve, one chapter at a time, every evening. On the Banks of Plum Creek was perhaps our favorite; it's so full of drama, what with the dugout and the crop failures and grasshopper plagues and all. I've re-read certain chapters since, just to refresh my memory of some of the incredible tribulations the Ingalls family experienced. We might have to read it again, now that we've visited the actual dugout.

On our way back from Walnut Grove, we spent part of a day in the small historic German town of New Ulm, Minnesota, which was cute and interesting and offers many family activities, but I'll save all that for some other time, when we return to New Ulm to fully experience its charms. For now, let's move on to our ABC Summer endeavors for the week, such as they were:


* went to the Library, where we...
* checked out books on Lions
* colored Jan Brett Lions coloring pages
* did a story-ordering worksheet about growing Lettuce
* did Lemon/Lime print painting


* checked out library books on Volcanoes, Velociraptors, and Venus
* did a Verb word scramble worksheet
* plus one idea we have not gotten to yet, but still may do later today or tomorrow: make decoupage Vases using clean, empty food jars or cans, tissue paper, and mod podge

So there you go! I hope this post gives you some ideas for activities to keep your littles busy, and perhaps even a trip to take with your kiddos sometime. Enjoy!


Mom/Nonna said...

What a wonderful day you all had and what great memories made for the girls! You all make good-looking pioneers!

Heidi Mann said...

LOVE the Walnut Grove/Plum Creek pics! How amazing indeed! As it turns out, we're NOT going there this weekend, but I'd love to do so sometime. Interesting that neither the books nor the TV show ever mentioned the WG jail!!

Mnmom said...

LIW was my hero as a little girl! Sadly only one of my daughters shares that enthusiasm. I should loan you guys some of the LIW books I picked up in Burr Oak.