Family Field Trips
Does your family love the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder? Have you ever imagined your life as one of those early pioneers? We do, and we have. The Little House books were one of the first series our girls read by themselves. Their set is one my grandmother had purchased for herself and then saved for our girls.
How do you make pioneer history come alive for your children? Have you made foods from The Little House Cookbook or watched some of the TV shows? What about a field trip? While there are several living history museums scattered across the Midwestern United States that can give you an idea of what life was like during Laura’s childhood, have you ever made a family trip to the site of one of Laura’s actual homes?
We recently took the entire family (dad included) on a family field trip to Mansfield, Missouri, to Rocky Ridge Farm. This is where Laura and Almonzo lived from 1894 until their deaths. This was their daughter Rose’s childhood home and the location where Laura penned all nine of her books. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum is located 45 miles east of Springfield, Missouri, or an hour and a half northeast of Branson, Missouri.
About 30,000 visitors, annually, tour the historic homes and museum in Mansfield. There is the farmhouse that Laura and Almonzo built, room by room, over several years, and a rock house that their daughter, Rose, had built for them as a retirement home with modern conveniences.
During their years of living in the Rock House, Laura penned Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, and On the Banks of Plum Creek.
Our family found it amusing that, after a few years in the rock house, Almonzo and Laura decided to move back to their beloved farmhouse. It was there that Laura wrote her other five books. When you tour the homes, you will understand part of why Laura loved her farmhouse so much. Pa’s nickname for Laura was Half-Pint and she never outgrew it. As an adult, she only stood 4 feet, 11inches tall. The counters in the farmhouse kitchen were purposely made to fit her shorter stature. There are also some amazing innovations in the farmhouse, including their cabinets.
When Laura and Almonzo moved back to the farmhouse, they took their furniture with them, and most of it still remains there today. It was wonderful to get to see the house displayed as Laura and Almonzo would have lived in the 1940’s. The docents give a wonderful guided tour of the farmhouse, and there is a self-guided tour of the Rock House, with a docent on hand to answer your questions.
The current museum center opened in 2016. It offers a movie, introducing the history of the farm, and telling some of Laura’s history, then leads you into the museum, filled with Ingalls and Wilder family memorabilia, including Pa’s fiddle. It is a wonderful presentation of the history of Laura’s family and their beloved Rocky Ridge Farm. The museum also houses a lovely gift shop and modern restrooms.
We visited the week after our daughters turned 20 and 18. Everyone really enjoyed visiting Rocky Ridge Farm and learning more about one of our favorite authors. Our not-so-little girl enjoyed it just as much as the 7 to 12 year olds we saw there that day, proving once again that you are never too old for a field trip!
Carol and her husband Kurt are in their 15th year of home education. With one graduate and one high school senior, Carol writes with a practical look at the whole journey of home education. Focusing on experienced based education and frugal ways to teach and learn well, Carol offers encouragement that anyone, even working moms, can homeschool successfully. Carol writes for her local newspaper, the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and reviews books for several Christian Publishers. You can find her love of nature, field trips, and lifelong learning on her blog: Home Sweet Life.