Big Woods - Week 1 {Prairie Primer}

Welcome to Week 1 of the Prairie Primer and Little House in the Big Woods!

Note: please keep in mind that some activities take more than one day to complete, but for the sake of sharing and documenting our journey on the blog, I will post them on the day we started the activity or on the day it is scheduled in the Primer. This will also help others who may be coming here for inspiration. See what we are using and resources we use for more details. 

Big Woods Book Basket

About a week or two before we started, I started looking online for living picture books at the library and put them on hold. When they trickled in, I put them in a basket. I had to renew them a couple times, but it was great to have a whole month's worth of books ready to go.

These are books that tie into themes and topics in Little House in the Big Woods. I will read these to the children, or they will read on their own as interest leads them. 

Then I gathered up everything we would need for Day 1, including our notebooks (that I covered with kraft paper), colored pencils, and books! 

Each unit in Prairie Primer begins with background information that is especially helpful to the teacher. This section contains information that is crucial to know for the time period, but not necessarily mentioned in the book. We learned some basic background info and some information on nutrition, including information on the "Little House" diet.

Note: please keep in mind that some activities take more than one day to complete, but for the sake of sharing and documenting our journey on the blog, I will post them on the day we started the activity or on the day it is scheduled in the Primer. This will also help others who may be coming here for inspiration. 

Day 1

Little House in the Big Woods

In chapter 1, we meet Laura, Mary, Ma, Pa, and baby Carrie living in the Big Woods of Wisconsin in the 1870's.

After the assigned reading and comprehension questions, we did the activities for week 1.  For literature, we covered fiction vs. non-ficiton & biography vs. autobiography. One of our vocabulary words was venison and our assignment to eat venison so I used ground venison to make tacos.

For science, we studied bears (could you imagine the shock of realizing you slapped a bear?!). We read from Land Animals of the Sixth Day, Every Autumn Comes the Bear by Jim Arnosky, and Usborne Beginners book of Bears (with Bo).

A Living assignment was to eat cracklings or put them in cornbread. Easy enough if you have a few pounds of tallow that needs rendering. :)

This is beef suet from grassfed/grass finished beef that I bought for rendering to make soap. I had no idea you could make cracklings with it (or what those even were until we were done!). 

We followed this recipe: How to Render Tallow in a Slow Cooker. Basically, we added 1/2 cup of water to the crockpot, chopped up the beef suet, and added it to the crockpot, cooked on low all day and strained out the cracklings. As I was chopping the fat, I figured the cracklings must be the cooked connective tissue. 

We used them later in the week to make Crackling Cornbread and served it with homemade butter from Day 2. 

We also read from Polite Moments and Oops Your Manners Are Showing for the lesson on manners and Eliana made a "corncob" doll (Laura's only "doll" at the time). I didn't have a dried corncob, so we wrapped corn husks around a dot marker before wrapping it in a handkerchief.

The last note for the day was to remember this week to schedule and make time for Generals. I was to choose a book on manners to complete by the end of the unit, memorize Psalm 91 with the kids, and begin reading a biography of Louis Pasteur to them. I tend to jump in and figure things out as I go, so back to the library I go. :)

Day 2

Chapter 2 - Winter Days and Winter Nights

Winter makes me shiver, but Laura was always so snug and warm in the cabin in the big woods.

This morning, we headed over to Buffalo to pick up a hog's bladder - needed for an activity from Day 1. Goes to show you that planning in advanced often doesn't work out, but make a phone call and the butcher happens to be slaughtering pigs the next morning? It was an experience that I hope to never repeat. We watched one pig die, two pigs be skinned, and one gutted, but we got a hog bladder (btw, that's not what the boys here in Wyoming call 'em).

Then we hustled back to town to attend our first day of co-op - IEW Poetry & Writing class.

Later, we blew up the hog bladder. Ew. It was just like a balloon - tight at first, but stretched when blown up. I used a thick plastic straw from a water bottle to blow it up. I tied a piece of jute around the neck of the bladder around the straw so after it was blown up, we could tie the string.

Yes, we wore gloves and no the kids didn't want to play with it. I said it was no different than passing around a pigskin football. :) But, ew.

Malachi and Eliana have an assignment:  Lesson 19 - America Poem from IEW's U.S. History-Based Writing Lessons. Here is their finished "America" poem.

Since we had a trip and then co-op this morning, our PP lessons and the rest of our school took all afternoon. It was a long day.

We read chapter 2 and did the discussion questions.

Then, we studied density and made a rainbow in a jar.

My eager science students:

Monarch Room has directions if you want to learn about density in a fun and colorful way. :)

We googled to find a picture of a brindle bulldog - like Jack.

We wrote down Ma's chore schedule in our notebooks and talked about our chore rhythm and the joys of our favorite chore day.

For literature, we studied metaphors.

We studied light and prisms and why fire burns different colors.

We played Yankee Doodle.

And finally we went over the steps for making butter and planned to make butter tomorrow.

Day 3

The Long Rifle 

In chapter 3, Pa makes his own bullets (my husband has wanted to do this for years, but our lives are so busy that he has never made the time) and tells the girls a story about a "voice in the woods." Whoo could it be?

We studied owls and dissected an owl pellet. 

We briefly looked at the topic of guns and later in the week viewed a local private collection of guns (King's) that included other historic items relevant to this week's readings including a butter churn and a rag doll. 

Lastly, we made butter to catch up on Day 2. We followed the recipe from The Little House Cookbook

Carrot for coloring the butter in winter when cow's milk is not as yellow. 

Lots of shaking going on around here! 

To take turns shaking, they shook and then rolled the jar to each other

Almost there! 

Then Elli washed the butter and pressed it into a silicone mold. 

While the older two were shaking and rolling, Bo did a Log Cabin Sticker Activity Book

Day 4

Chapter 4

One of today's assignments is to make Molasses on Snow candy - a special treat to Laura and Mary in chapter 4. This is another recipe from The Little House Cookbook. It has 2 ingredients - molasses and brown sugar.

It was yummy!

We used a Hawaiian Shaved Ice machine for our "snow." (These are a lot cheaper if you buy them in the off season).

Then we watched Old Yeller (to learn about rabies) and played with a Playmobil log cabin.




Day 5

Today is a catch up day, and because we worked so hard this week, Elli and I woke up early to sneak away to a local bakery to buy scones to treat ourselves. :)

Then we played.

We also watched the sequel to Old Yeller - Savage Sam, that we borrowed from the library.


For our book on manners, we read from Polite Moments - especially the part about interrupting since Laura was scolded for interrupting. Interesting how when we learn about a bad manner it seems to occur naturally throughout the week. That or we are just more in tune to it!

Our biography this unit is Louis Pasteur.

And we are memorizing Psalm 91.

My Little Primer - Making a Friend

Eliana and I started the rag dolls - one for her and one for Bo.

I had the fabric cut and ironed ahead of time and then we sewed and stuffed and sewed and stuffed and finished them in one sitting.  

And that was our first week of The Prairie Primer. :) 


AE Human Anatomy - Introduction to Anatomy & Physiology 

Elli is drawing a pregnant Playmobil mom for Psalm 139:13. :)

Making an apple mummy...

General Science - What is Life? 

Malachi is working in Module 9. 

Plant terrarium demonstration...

We used a plant clipping and put water in a half pint jar inside a quart jar. Two months later, our plant is growing roots in the air from the moisture in the jar and there is water in both jars. 

The top root grew into the air. I know this is normal where there is a lot of water vapor in the air, but I don't remember ever seeing anything like this in real life. Where I live the air is dry, so this was very interesting to me. This is one of the reason's I love homeschooling so much - I'm still learning and experiencing the wonders of the earth God created. 

Testing for starch with iodine...

Plenty of starch in that potato slice. :) 

And the long awaited for "edible cell," which was supposed to be done NEXT week, but the kids pleaded, so how can I say no? Especially with all this candy. :) 

Edible Cell

I made Trim Healthy Mama's lemon pucker gummies (page 387 of the new book) for our cells to cut back on the sugar. :) 

Well, it was a great week, but I'm thankful that I'm not trying to do all this plus LA and Math!

It does get easier as it goes, thankfully, and out of necessity, I'm learning to pace myself a little more by not trying to do so much. 

I'm quite a bit behind on blogging our journey - this week is March 14-18th.

Until next time...


  1. Michelle, your blog is amazing! Beautiful photos, well organized and so helpful to me as I'm starting the Prairie Primer with my children in a couple months! Thank you for posting your experiences!

    1. Thank you so much! ♥ How exciting that you will be starting Prairie Primer! It is fun to have a visual of what other people do, but if you make sure to do what feels natural while feeling inspired to make it memorable, you can't go wrong. Have fun! If you share on your blog, will you send me an invite? :-)

  2. I love all you've shared, I hope to do Prairie Primer with my 6, 3, 2 grader and my k child will sit in too. Where did you get those cute little white lab coats for them? And I'm curious, will you be doing any FIAR or just sticking with PP for now?

    1. Thanks Missy! How fun that you will be doing PP! I was hoping to do a few rows this year with Bo - like Warm as Wool and a few others that would tie in with U.S. History, but PP keeps us pretty busy. Bo is sitting in with our read aloud time and any activities he can do, but I'm also feeling the longing to have some school that is directed just towards him, so rowing would be a great option. Maybe between PP books during our off week? We'll see! Next year, I will be rowing around the world and FIAR will be our main curriculum with geography for the older two. So excited!

      I got the lab coats on Amazon - here's a link for your convenience: They are nice and soft! :)

  3. I love what your have blogged here about your daughters Science, what is the AE Human Anatomy - Introduction to Anatomy & Physiology? Her spiral notebook looks awesome and I would love some more information on it!

    1. Thanks, Amy, that is Apologia Elementary ~ here is a link to the series:
      And here is a link to A&p:


  4. Which IEW book did your co-op use? Was the poetry integrated in or was it a separate IEW book?

  5. I looked at the teacher's guide scope and sequence online, and I think the poem in this post might be from the Quality Adjective Poem from Lesson 10 in U.S. History-Based Writing Lessons.. ~Michelle

  6. Thank you! I love poetry. We’ve been doing the IEW curriculum written for Essentials/ Classical Conversations. There isn’t poetry incorporated so I was curious! Lee

  7. No problem! And, ay, I wonder if that is because the lessons needed to fit in a 24 week school year. Have you tried Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization by IEW? We have had a lot of fun with that one.