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A Little House in the Woods Review by Dawn PetersonKatie Kubesh, Niki McNeil, Kimm Bellotto
In the Hands of a Child
3271 Kerlikowske Road
Coloma, MI 49038
If you've spent any time browsing homeschool supply catalogs lately, you've probably read about something called "lapbooking." If you aren't yet familiar with lapbooking, it's simply a student-created book that contains information on a particular subject of interest. This unit study, created by In the Hands of a Child, is based on Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It includes activities for a ready-to-assemble lapbook (also called a "Project Pack"), a file folder folded shutter-style in which the child will glue the many different activity sheets and clippings. Even if your child has never made a lapbook and you're not sure what it looks like or how to do it, this is a fantastic resource!
The unit study includes a helpful introduction, a Resource Guide that includes all the lessons, ideas and directions for hands-on projects (like making hasty pudding or a corn husk doll), a bibliography of resources, vocabulary words and definitions, a list of additional topics for further research if desired, related books and websites, and a short section on ideas for adapting the unit study to the needs of your child. An Activities and Instructions section follows, which contains information and directions on each Project Pack activity. The graphics in the book are intended to be reproduced for each child, and the authors recommend photocopying some of the graphics onto colored paper so as to make the completed book more visually appealing. There are even color photos of other Project Packs to serve as a helpful guide.
So, what does a typical lesson from A Little House in the Woods look like? Well, in the Resource Guide, you'll find a short explanation of the story, the setting, and the characters before you begin to read Little House in the Big Woods to your child (or have him/her read it independently). After that, each chapter in the book corresponds to a lesson in the unit study. Each lesson has a few discussion questions and a corresponding Project Pack activity to be found in the Activities and Instructions section (which is also broken down by chapter). For instance, after you or your child reads Chapter 11 of A Little House in the Big Woods, a few of the questions listed are, "What important lesson can be learned from Charley getting stung by the bees?" and "Why was it important to harvest the oats before the rain came?" There are also two vocabulary words listed (cradles, and shock of feed). These can be found in the glossary section of the Resource Guide. Once those are discussed, your child will move on to the Project Pack activity. For directions, you'll turn to the corresponding chapter in the Activities and Instructions section. Here you'll ask the child which remedies Ma and Aunt Polly used to treat the stings and fever and have the child list them on the beehive-shaped trifold (which you will have already photocopied). The child will then cut it out and paste it on the shutter-style file folder. Once the entire book is read and all the lessons and activities are finished, your child has made a wonderful Project Pack that serves as "an instant review tool, scrapbook, and a ready-made portfolio" (page 3).
It is really as simple as that. In the Hands of a Child has truly done just about all the preparation for the parent. What I love about it is that it helps the child to create a tangible, unique, and fun record of what they learned. My girls love to go back to those things that they've drawn (or colored, written about, or mapped out), look at them again, and re-tell the story to another family member. The Project Packs require only basic supplies--a manila folder, scissors, colorful paper of variable thicknesses, glue, tape, coloring tools like markers and crayons (no paint necessary!), and a stapler. How easy is that?
A possible drawback to this unit study kit, however, is that because the content, cut-out figures, and directions are all pre-determined, it might feel too limiting to some. While the Project Pack does give much room for the child's own expression to shine forth (for instance he/she will write a descriptive paragraph, write a brief biography of Laura, etc.), some prefer a less structured approach to lapbooking. With a little tweaking, though, I think it's adaptable for that goal, especially since it is not merely a lapbooking kit, but an entire unit study.
This unit study is truly a wonderful tool that will help deepen a child's understanding and enjoyment of the time and environment in which Laura Ingalls Wilder lived. If you want a study guide that does much of the work for the parent (but not the child!), and incorporates the fun of making a Project Pack in the process, I highly recommend In the Hands of A Child's A Little House in the Woods!