Buffalo Bill and the Wild West (free journaling sheets + learning enrichments)

There are two things that I simply have adored throughout this academic year: the concentration and literature suggestions from A Gentle Feast for learning about the 1800s… and my time sharing some of those enchanting stories with our dear co-op, EspritGVL.

I’ve had the delight of teaching Language Arts for both primary (1st-2nd) and lower elementary (3-4th) grades this year, and our sweet primary class is finishing up our time with Buffalo Bill next week– and will be having our own Wild West show(case) to celebrate our learning. (I’ll be doing another post about our activities, Wild West poster replicas, and our party once it is all done.)

The book that we used to learn about Buffalo Bill was the d’Aulaire’s version of the tale. They have a whole series of beautiful books that are lovely to learn from. (Sidenote: as will many books that cover historical characters, you might find some political views that you don’t agree with in there. If that’s the case, take the opportunity of those moments to discuss and learn why we do things differently now.)

To help my little learners in guiding narration and storytelling, copywork, and even a touch of spelling, they got to work through these Buffalo Bill journaling sheets that I created for them. I’d love to share them with you as well! We split the story into two weeks-worth of reading, so had a set of 5 pages per week to work through.

Feel free to download these sheets for your own personal use and share this post with others that might like to use them as well. 🙂

As a part of this unit, our class loved learning about buffaloes! We found out something pretty amazing about them. Unlike cows, who turn and run away from storms because they are afraid, buffaloes turn west and charge right into the gale to get through it faster! I wrote a little poem for our class about this new buffalo fact and shared it with them. Afterwards, the kiddos drew prairies with buffalo on it and also role-played the poem with some stuffies and a storm cloud. 🙂

I made the little poem into an animated video , if you’d like to learn more about the remarkable feature buffaloes have of facing storms.

(It must be mentioned that I have no idea how to animate anything, so I just winged this. No judgement, ha!)

Our class time doesn’t leave room for a lot of clip-watching, so I often send extra enrichment links to the parents if their student wants to learn more at home. If you are reading about Buffalo Bill now (or soon), these videos are great ones to add to the facts (and fiction) behind the tall tale.

About Buffalo Bill
Real footage of Buffalo Bill from 1908
Enhanced footage of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show
The Legends of Wild West: Buffalo Bill (an animated biography)

About Buffalo
All about American Bison (aka Buffalo)
Buffalo and Native Americans

About Native Americans
(same link above under Buffalo)
Cultural Perspectives of Art and Native Americans

We have now reached the part of our story process that I love the most! Once we finish a book, the students get to spend a week creating something that connects back to what we learned in some way… and then they get to showcase it to the entire class!

The creativity and excitement I see from them is just so encouraging, especially as a communication teacher. Most of my communication students are high school and college-aged, and somewhere along the way, fear and intimidation takes root and many students just hate the thought of getting up and sharing anything in a “formal” way. To give children opportunities to share and present in the smallest, but most pleasantest of ways, does a lot to preventing public speaking from turning into something scary and intimidating.

I’m looking forward to seeing what all my students bring to share with everyone, before we have a fun Wild West party! (I’m making some Western-themed carnival-like games… so wish me luck!)

I hope these few tools and resources add extra enchantment to an already exciting character and story!

How to Choose a Value (plus sample value list)

In Lincoln-Douglas debate, we use values to judge, whether or not something is good, right, or of worth. Values can be an end in an of themselves, as an ultimate aim of existence such as peace on Earth, or a means of behavior to reach that ultimate end, such as sacrifice.

Values are belief systems or principles. Like attitudes, they are abstract and physically intangible, but they affect behavior and impact human interactions. Values such as freedom, justice, and peace cannot be touched, but people generally agree they know when those values are granted, denied, or restricted.

When building a debate case, students usually select one or two values which they consider to be more important or more desirable than all others based upon the resolution being argued. Although there is no rule that says debaters must select only one or two values, it becomes increasingly difficult to defend more.

If the resolution argued were, “Resolved: That the values contained in the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution ought to outweigh all other legal values,” debaters should first ask them what is being evaluated. What is it is that the First Amendment grants citizens? If the First Amendment grants individuals freedom of speech, press, and religion, and assembly, then debaters need to ask which values are at stake when judging the worth of those freedoms? Why can First Amendment freedoms be considered more important than other legal values?   Because they guarantee civil rights, liberty, freedom of choice, individualism, or quality of life.

If building a negative case for the same resolution, debaters might argue that equality or fairness ought to be of ultimate value because it is only when all individuals have equal access to these freedoms or receive fair treatment whereby all of society benefits.

Partial List of Values

Equality of Condition
Equality of Opportunity
Equality of Results
Ethical Egoism
Human Dignity
Law & Order
Majority Rule
Minority Rights
Natural Rights
Pursuit of Happiness
Quality of Life
Social Diversity

Definitions of Values

Altruism – a regard for the welfare of others that overrides concern for oneself. Ideally, altruism is regarded as a selfless behavior, although arguments against it sometimes claim that no behavior is entirely altruistic, that there is always an underlying, self-serving motive behind all actions. Altruism’s counter-value could be ethical egoism.

Cooperation – joint effort or association for a common purpose. A spirit of cooperation is generally called for when a scarcity of resources exists, when a team effort is needed or when the results can be mutually beneficial to all those participating. Cooperation usually takes coordination, communication, and agreement, so while a group effort can be time-saving and it can be argued that it is key to survival, individual choice and self-will may have to be subjugated. A counter-value to cooperation could be individualism.

Duty – moral or legal obligation or action that is required by one’s position, membership in a group or society, or by conscience. It can be argued that if people accept the benefits of membership, they also have a duty or responsibility to the group. Laws can be used to enforce a legal obligation, but they are generally followed to avoid penalty. Instilling a moral duty in people instead may promote voluntary, goal-oriented compliance. In this case, moral duty and legal duty can be counter-values, or the overall sense of duty to society can be offset with the counter-value of individualism.

Equality can be defined in at least three ways which can be used to counter each other, or used to offset numerous other values including justice and retribution.

Equality of Condition – fairness that grants the same rights, privileges and immunities to people similarly situated or in similar circumstances. Social welfare programs are designed to enhance equality of condition. Arguments against this are that by human nature, the
motivation and skills levels of people are different, so conditions can never be equal, or that government intervention to distribute benefits to the poor or elderly amounts to paternalism . . . government treating adult citizens like children-assuming they are incapable of caring for themselves and perpetuating dependence.

Equality of Opportunity – fairness that grants everyone the same chance to rise in the economic and social system regardless of circumstances of birth. This is the idea behind public education and a graduated income tax. A major argument against equality of opportunity is that it may be considered unfair to charge or tax everyone to support social services if they do not partake of them or directly benefit from them.

Equality of Results – fairness that occurs by assuring that the ends are the same for all, regardless of the means or conditions. By assuring equality of results, everyone achieves the same goal or end, regardless of the distance or effort it takes to reach that goal. The
argument can be made that this discourages individual motivation and leads to mediocrity or even communism.

Ethical Egoism – the idea that all actions should be taken only if they are good for oneself. Although this initially sounds selfish as it seems to disregard the welfare of others, it can be argued that ethical egoism is actually enlightened selfishness because people would never be motivated to perform actions against their own best interests. People would not harm others just because they felt like it because they know they might have to suffer legal consequences or social ostracism, and that would not be in their best interests. Counter-values could be altruism, human love, or moral duty.

Feminism – the principle that women should have political, economic, and social rights equal to those of men. This is not just a cause promoted by women, but by anyone proposing equal rights for all. A challenge to any argument for equal rights can be that rights have to be exercised and maintained to have substantial impact, not just granted. Counter-values could be ethical egoism, individualism, justice, majority rule, etc.

Freedom – a state where there is an absence of restraint, confinement or repression, or the quality of being free from the control of some other person or arbitrary power to exercise self-will. Because people do not operate in a vacuum, it can be argued that all freedom is subject to some form of restraint Freedom’s counter-values could be cooperation, duty, equality, or sacrifice.

Human Dignity – the idea that every human being is entitled to both the freedom and the responsibility to develop his/her personality with rights to life, liberty, property, political participation, security of person, and the fundamental freedoms of opinion, expression, thought, conscience, and religion common to all human beings without discrimination. It can be argued that there may be times when other compelling moral claims may require that each individual’s desires be subject to a duty to society or to cooperation for a common cause. For that reason, duty, cooperation, and law & order may be counter-values.

Human Love – tender feeling of affection or devotion to another person, or a feeling of brotherhood and good will toward other people. It can be argued that decisions based upon human love may be blinded by emotion rather than objectively evaluating all consequences. Human love’s counter-values could be ethical egoism, individualism, justice, progress, or retribution.

Individualism – the idea that individuals should have freedom of choice and freedom to make decisions that are subject only to the reciprocal obligation to respect the
rights of others. This proposes that rights should not-be restricted by government because self-interest is the proper goal of all human actions, and that the real security of every nation lies in its respect for individual rights, and that democracy would be meaningless and unworkable without guarantees for individualism. It can be argued that individualism may have to be subordinate to counter-values such as moral and legal duty, cooperation, law and order, progress, or sacrifice.

Justice/Fairness – the quality of being impartial, fair, correct and right John Locke maintained that without justice, each man is his own judge and executioner, and that natural rights could not be protected. Aristotle considered justice to be treating equals equally, and unequals in proportion to their relative differences. John Rawls advocated distributive justice based upon need, arguing that the less wealthy deserve more help. Although the principle that equal rights before the law is at the core of the U. S. system of justice, arguments about what is fair generally come down to two precepts:

1) If justice is not proportional to the situation, it can be considered unfair and vindictive; or    (continued)

2) If justice is not absolute, it can be considered arbitrary, situational, capricious, and inconsistent. It can also be argued that justice cannot always be achieved. Counter-values could be altruism, duty, individualism, progress, or sacrifice.

Knowledge – having an understanding or a familiarity with a body of facts or principles. Knowledge is necessary for informed decision-making, and is important when weighing all variables or predicting long-term effects and consequences. It can be argued that there may be times when ignorance is bliss or when access to knowledge needs to be limited for national security. Counter-values could be safety/security or trust.

Law & Order – a system of rules of conduct established and enforced by authority, legislation, or custom to maintain peace and serenity in a community or society by imposing limits on individual behavior. Law & order are considered to be the tools for securing individual liberty and protecting members from anarchy. A concern with granting so much power to government is that government itself can become tyrannical and oppressive, arbitrarily violating individual will and subjugating liberty. Counter-values could be ethical egoism, human dignity, individualism, and liberty.

Liberty – regarded as one of the three natural rights inherent in all humans, liberty is regarded as freedom from arbitrary restraint. Although individual liberty is considered vital to personhood, it can be argued that if individual liberty is not balanced with societal good, people will resort back to a state of nature. Counter-values could be altruism, cooperation, duty, human love, or law & order.

Life – biological state of existence generally regarded as necessary for any other human values to be of worth. Arguments can be made that under certain circumstances where freedom and liberty are restricted, or when survival depends upon a tortured existence, life is not worth living. The counter-value of life in a debate could be quality of life, which ranks the worth and condition of existence.

Majority Rule – where the laws are made by, or at least reflect the wishes of the majority of society, or rule by the choice of the majority of those who can actually vote. Unless there is unanimous consent or a dictatorship, without majority rule, every individual would act on his own. Majority rule rests upon superior force, a commonly accepted practice, and is considered a logical means for making decisions. Maintaining the social contract depends upon majority rule. Arguments made against rule by majority are that it can lead to rule by tyranny if it uses its numbers to oppress or silence minorities, or in some cases, if the majority is unreasonable in demanding uniformity and intimidating to those who dare to be different Counter-values to majority rule could be duty, ethical egoism, human dignity, individualism, or justice.

Meta-Rights – right lo waive ex- transfer basic rights to life, liberty or property. William Irvine, philosophy professor at Wright State University, wrote on page 486 of the December 1989 issue of The Freeman. “Basic rights are worth having because we can relinquish them.” On the same page he provided this example: “Even my right to life is more valuable if I have the meta-right to waive this basic right Those who would deprive me of my meta-right to waive my right to life have done me a great disservice: They have transferred my right to live into a duty to remain alive.”  It can be argued that nobody has the right to waive life itself because in doing so, society could be deprived of a valued member, a slippery slope might occur where respect for all life declines, and if this happens, civilization will be destroyed. Counter-values to meta-rights could be duty or life.

Minority Rights – a group with a smaller number of votes than the majority, or a racial, religious, ethnic or political group differing from the larger, controlling group in a community or nation. The voice of a minority serves as a Constitutional check on the power of the majority, and is considered crucial because it offers the criticism and alternative program suggestions that democracies thrive upon. The U. S. government has long attempted to operate on the principle of: “Majority rule, minority rights, and laws for the good of all.” An argument against minority demands is that they can be unrealistic. Counter-values could be duty, ethical egoism, human dignity, or justice.

Nationalism – devotion to one’s nation in a union formed from bonds of geography, religion, language, custom, race, tradition, or shared experience. Especially Nationalism is stressed and valued. This makes the “America first” type argument. Taken to extremes, nationalism can develop into a real or imagined fear and shared hatred for others. Arguments against nationalism are that it is isolationist and ignores the interdependence of nations, offering tunnel vision rather than a global outlook. Counter-values could be altruism, ethical egoism, or duty to a world society.

Natural Rights – John Locke referred to the rights to life, liberty, and property as natural rights, those basic rights with which a person is born.   (Thomas Jefferson substituted pursuit of happiness for property). Both rs.   n maintained that these were inalienable rights, not bestowed by any government, but issued at birth, and that without these, humans would not survive.  As with human dignity, it can be argued that there may be times when other, more compelling moral claims require that the rights of the individual be subject to a duty to society or to cooperation for a common cause. For that reason, duty, cooperation, law & order, and sacrifice may be counter-values.

Peace – state of harmony and freedom from war, public disturbance, or disorder. Arguments could be made from a Hobbesian viewpoint, that peace is against human nature, or that it simply does not last when resources are scarce. Counter-values might include justice, retribution, or safety/security.

Pleasure – state of satisfaction that avoids pain and is self-gratifying. Taken to extremes, or if it ignores societal consequences, this value can seem hedonistic and self-centered. Counter-values to pleasure could be altruism, duty, or sacrifice.

Privacy – the right to be let alone, to be free from unwarranted publicity, and to live without unwarranted interference by the public in matters with which the public is not necessarily concerned. The dilemma here is where a private issue ends, and a compelling public right to know begins. Counter-values could be justice, the right to know, law & order, or safety/security.

Progress – belief that human nature can be improved and that society is moving toward a better form of life. Arguments against progress are that it sometimes creates such substantial harm that its costs exceed its benefits, as in the case with atomic and nuclear bombs. Even if we can develop a new technology, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we ought to use it. Counter-values could be moral duty, knowledge, peace, or quality of life.

Property – considered by John Locke to be one of the three essential natural rights along with life and liberty. Property is an individual’s exclusive right to ownership and unrestricted use or disposition of objects and ideas that is protected by the government Arguments against property are that it may lead to an inordinate focus on materialism and may not be equitable. Counter-values could be altruism, justice, equality of condition or equality of results, quality of life, and sacrifice.

Pursuit of Happiness – the right to seek satisfaction and contentment in life. Although John Locke said all men were born with natural rights to life, liberty and property, Thomas Jefferson emphasized in the Declaration of Independence that man’s inalienable rights included life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In this sense, the pursuit of happiness meant people had a right to pursue any lawful business or vocation in any manner they chose that was not inconsistent with recognizing the equal rights of others. Obviously, if one person’s pursuit of happiness interferes with that of another, then conflict results, or it can be argued that there may be times when society’s needs outweigh an individual’s right to pursue happiness. This is why counter-values that emphasize societal rights or altruism, cooperation, duty, law & order safety/security, or sacrifice could be appropriate.

Quality Of Life – ranking or evaluation of a condition existence in comparison to others in a similar social or, civil position. Debaters can use this value in a dispute regarding topics such as euthanasia, (when a terminally ill patient is suffering) to determine whether biological existence has value without a dignified quality of life and whether or a not a patient should then be permitted to determine that value. Arguments against this are that all life should be considered worthwhile and that if a ranking can be assigned to the worth of life, this will result in a slippery slope to a devaluation of all life starting with the mentally or physically impaired, the old, weak, or different. The major counter-value to quality of life is life.

Retribution – a reward for doing some good or a pay back or deserved punishment for committing a wrong.   It can be argued that retribution is a societal check necessary to maintain law & order and a sense of fairness, and that it allows for feedback and realignment of goals. It can be opposed by insisting that individuals should be independently motivated to act from a sense of moral duty, rather than acting from fear or expectation of retribution. Counter-values could be altruism, moral duty, or sympathy.

Sacrifice – to forego something of value for the sake of a more pressing claim. For example, parents may sacrifice entertainment today, to put money into a bank to guarantee their children’s’ higher education. Sacrifice for future generations or deferred gratification is a common claim of duty. The argument here, as in that against altruism, is whether or not the sacrifice is wholly selfless in motivation or a wise choice. Counter-values could be quality of life today or pleasure.

Safety/Security – the condition of being guarded from internal or external danger, injury, or damage. Both individual safety and the safety of the nation tend to be highly valued as safety is one of man’s most basic motivators. Arguments against safety are that people can avoid risk-taking to a foolish extreme because of it, violate the sovereignty of other nations in its name whether a threat is real or not, or place a disproportionate emphasis on possessing the physical safety provided by having a roof over their heads and a bed to sleep upon (which they can have even in a jail cell), and forsaking the emotional safety provided by such values as liberty or freedom. Counter-values can be individualism, justice, the pursuit of happiness or progress.

Self-Actualization – the complete development of one’s ambitions, or in essence, “being all that you can be.” One of the easiest, most pragmatic charges to make against self-actualization is that very few people in the population ever achieve this state, and if they do, that it sometimes results after abusing others in society. Counter-values could be cooperation or justice.

Social Diversity – population made up of a variety of people from different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.   In the U. S., social diversity has long been regarded as strength, combining the best of multiple worlds and the talents of numerous people. Arguments against promoting diversity often center on the fact that highlighting differences sometimes breeds intolerance and impatience, and prevents acculturation. A counter- value could be nationalism.

Sovereignty – a government position that is independent from foreign control or intervention and has the power to regulate its own affairs. Arguments can be made that some governments are not capable of self-regulation, or that some do not deserve sovereignty if they violate the human rights of their own or other citizens. Counter-values under certain conditions can be cooperation and human dignity.

Sympathy – compassion, understanding, and pity for the plight of others. If sympathy extends to mercy, it can involve forgiveness for an offense or the lightening of a sentence that would normally result in a harsher punishment Arguments against sympathy could be that it may not provide the societal check necessary to maintain law and order or provide justice. Counter-values could be justice and retribution.

Tolerance – state of recognizing and respecting views or customs of others that are different from one’s own; being free of prejudice and bigotry. Although being tolerant is allowing others to coexist and have their beliefs, debaters can point out that under certain conditions, tolerance is abhorrent and criminal. Or wrongful acts can have serious and permanent consequences. Counter-values can be human dignity, justice, and retribution.

Trust – belief or confidence in the honesty, integrity, reliability, or justice of another person or an institution. Having trust that is not misplaced allows a spirit of cooperation to flourish, but if that trust is unwarranted, it can lead to dependence and rapid decline. A counter-value to trust could be knowledge.

Truth/Honesty – sincerity and genuineness, when facts are in alliance with reality; not lying, stealing or cheating, but rather adhering to ethical principles that are expected; an incorruptible soundness of moral character. Arguments against truth claim that truth is always changing, that truth depends upon a person’s perspective that it is often hard to verify, and that it can be brutally ruthless and have negative consequences on the people involved. Counter-values to truth/honesty could be ethical egoism, moral duty, and safety/security.

(The following information is adapted from Nolan’s Lincoln-Douglas Debate Resource Guide, which is currently out of print and unavailable.)

a day of love and learning: a free valentine’s day printable

(Let’s just not talk about the price of eggs currently, shall we? But let’s just say if my husband gets me a chicken coop and a starter flock for V-day, I won’t be disappointed. HA!)

As we all know, Valentine’s day is right around the corner! I’ve made fun little freebies for the day of love before, with ideas for the week of Valentine’s– including our “I love you fondue” dinner. It’s a special little tradition that’s evolved over the past few years, and now I couldn’t imagine February the 14th without it.

We like to take a few days to celebrate all things heart and love themed, and this year it looks like we will be starting tomorrow and bringing it through the whole week instead of stopping on Tuesday. We have a Valentine exchange in our co-op on Thursday, and then will probably do some love-themed fun in “cousin school” the next time it comes around.

We might even make a batch of these lovely red cookies for a Valentine tea!

In the meantime, I threw together a few little journaling pages for us to use this week, as we take time to look at 1 Corinthians 13, say “I love you” in a few languages, “find our heart” in a maze, and make love notes full of all sorts of food puns.

I’d love for you to download this freebie and use it in your home! You can break it apart over several days, or use it all on one; with a read aloud or two and narration, some heart math, and a science video about the heart itself … it could be a full day of “loving” school.

I hope this week is full of connecting and appreciating and loving the people who live with you. ❤

If you like this freebie and are curious about other journaling and homeschool resources I have created, please visit me over here and check this out.

jam thumbprint cookies: a 5-ingredient (valentine) treat

My mother-in-law grows her own raspberry bushes. Rows and rows of them.

The kids love going to Wisconsin in the summer and just walking out there and stuffing their faces with these brilliantly red sweet snacks anytime they want.

The fruit is so abundant, Mom makes pies and cakes and jam galore… and then sends us back south, coolers packed with ice and her famous freezer jam. Throughout the year, we pull out a jar at a time for bread and sandwiches and even ice cream topping here and there. It’s divine.

The other day, I saw a picture of some beautiful raspberry thumbprint cookies, and knew that that our jam would have yet another application. I used this recipe as a base, but did make some tweaks, and will use them here. 🙂

We made a batch of these cookies for our poetry tea time, and the kids loved making them… and eating them. Because they were so very cute and festive, they will definitely be a part of our Valentine’s week coming up. ❤

raspberry jam thumbprint cookies

4 oz soften cream cheese
1/2 cup butter (room temp)
1/2 cup sugar + 2 Tbs
1/2 cup flour + 2 Tbs (all purpose)
jam (to fill the thumbprints)

1) Blend the cream cheese and butter together well. (As in fully incorporated.)
2) Mix in the sugar.
3) Mix in the flour, a “sprinkle” at a time. (The dough is going to be dense and not like “regular cookie dough.”
4) Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer. (We were impatient and waited 30 minutes.)
5) Put parchment paper or a silicon sheet on a baking sheet before making cookies. (We use something similar to these.)
6) Take tablespoons of dough and roll them into little balls before placing them on the sheet. The won’t really rise/spread, so you don’t have to worry about spacing much.
7) Once the cookie balls are placed on the sheet, press your thumb in them to make a “pool.” Don’t go all the way to the bottom. 🙂
8) Use a spoon to place some jam of choice into the divots in the cookies.
9) Preheat the oven to 350*. While the oven preheats, place the cookies in the fridge.
10) Once oven is preheated, take the cookies out of the fridge and into the oven, baking them for 10-12 minutes, until they are gold around the edges. When you take them out, they will still be soft, but they will harden as they cool.

They are simple, taste amazing, and look impressive. Create this colorful cookie (with or without the kiddos!) and enjoy.

Freedom’s School: learning Black History through Living Books ( + free journaling sheets!)

“We want a wider range of knowledge than the life about us affords, and books are our best teachers.” – Charlotte Mason, Ourselves

Our family has been learning about and focusing on the 1800s in American History all this year. We’ve learned about wagons and Gold Rushes and have made our way smack into the Civil War in the past couple of weeks.

Our kitchen table and couch has been a series of good discussions about hard things and parts of our nation’s past that we aren’t proud of. In a time of history were it is easy to want to just look at timelines and learn about battles, we are stopping to step into the stories. We are allowing, as Mason puts it, “books to be our best teachers.”

There is a children’s book called Freedom’s School that has been on our shelves and read often with my oldest; but it was the first time my son (1st grade) really sat in on the reading and observed the pictures this year. And his questions came, just like my daughter’s did at his age.

Why didn’t white people want Lizzie and Paul to learn?
Why weren’t they ever able to go to school before?
Why didn’t they have the same things as the white school?
Why did their school catch on fire?
Why did they call it Freedom School?

It is such a thought-provoking book, and opens the door for discussions about prejudice + racism, hatred, emancipation, education, and what freedom is and how it comes. It became a bridge for us to talk about how the end of the Civil War didn’t mean that all was well and freedom and justice for all just magically happened.

Freedom’s School is a great one to add to your shelves at home, but if you can’t grab a copy or get to the library, here’s a video of the book being read aloud.

I also created some journal sheets to go along with the book for my 1st grader, and I’d love for you to be able to use them as well. Go ahead and download them and use them for your family. If you enjoy them, please feel free to pass this post along to your friends so they can benefit from the pages as well.

You’ll find a coloring page, drawing sheet, narration section, copywork from the story, and suggested spelling words (also from the text).

It is my hope that these pages will help document your journey through this fabulous story and others like them!

A Plum Creek Recipe: Dumplings

This little post is basically for my language arts class at our dear co-op… We are all reading On the Banks of Plum Creek together, and just finished the chapter where Ma makes duck and dumplings for Thanksgiving dinner. Because it is ohsofun to have things we read about come to life, I figured some of the students would love making and tasting some dumplings for themselves.

This recipe is taken from The Little House Cookbook, which is such a fun addition to use in your own kitchens while you step back into Laura’s world in the 1800 and early 1900s.

(I’ve only included the dumpling part of the recipe, and not the biscuit adaptation.)

White Flour Dumplings

Ingredients (makes 6 servings)
white flour, 2 cups unbleached all-purpose
salt, 1 heaping teaspoon
baking soda, 1 teaspoon
cultured buttermilk, 3/4 to 1 cup
cooked stew or 2 cups broth

bake-oven or skillet, 10 inch

For Dumplings
Have a kettle of stew or a skillet of broth simmering on the stove. In the bowl, mix dry ingredients well. Pour in 3/4th cup of the buttermilk and mix quickly with a fork. Your dough should be stiff but too moist for rolling; add remaining milk if needed.

With a soupspoon, drop the dough onto the boiling liquid, covering the surface. Let simmer on medium-low heat until dumplings puff and lose their gloss (8 to 10 minutes). Cover with a lid, reduce heat to low, and simmer another 8 to 10 minutes, until dumplings are cooked through. Dumplings in a skillet can be cooked uncovered by turning them halfway through.

If you aren’t a part of our fun group at EspritGVL this year and want a fun journey journal to use while you are reading On the Banks of Plum Creek yourself, check out this downloadable, printable Charlotte Mason-inspired resource. It includes activities, drawing sheets, narration pages, copywork pages, and spelling work suggestions and makes a great little keepsake of your time with Laura at Walnut Grove.

Winter & Christmas in the Big Woods (free download)

“They were so happy, they could hardly speak.”

Although we aren’t tucked away in a small cabin in the Wisconsin woods, I believe that this sentiment from Christmas in the Big Woods is exactly what we all still want, a couple hundred of years later.

The picture books of Little House in the Big Woods were new to our family this year– and I’m a little sad I didn’t discover them earlier! But better late than never, as they say.

The pictures in these excerpts from the chapter book are so great for little learners. My 4 year old and 1st grader love reading and re-reading these. I’m the Language Arts teacher for the primary grade in our Charlotte Mason-inspired co-op, and I included both Winter and Christmas books in the last couple of weeks to finish our semester up before our Winter break. They have been a perfect way to wrap up! In fact, our Pioneer Christmas celebration is this Thursday, and I’m so looking forward to it! (I’m thinking I’ll have a separate post, just for that!)

I created our some journaling pages for the class for both weeks, and I thought I’d include them as a freebie here! You’ll find activity pages, copywork, suggested spelling, and narration prompts for each picture book. Feel free to copy and use for your kiddos at home!

If you are looking for some guided time suggestions for the pages and the book, this is what we do at our co-op. 🙂

During the week at home, parents and their children enjoy the stories and fill out the sheets together at their own pace. Once we are all together, we read/review some poetry… and then jump right into the other 2 things per week: sharing our pages together and then the weekly literature-based activity.

For our Winter week, we borrowed from Ma’s Work Rhythm in the book… and since our co-op meets on Thursdays, we did the Thursday activity: butter churning! Each child got a chance at churning, and we watched the whole process of the cream turning into whipped cream before evolving into butter and buttermilk! They also observed how the closer to butter it becomes, the harder it is to churn it!

Last week for our Christmas day, we practiced our Poem Play that we will be performing for parents this week, shared our pages and showed off our stocking designs… and then went back to what we knew about the story to discuss how gifts were simple, handmade, and often made from ordinary things to create something new and beautiful. We then passed out brown paper bags, got some markers and crayons and ribbons, and used these few simple things to learn how to make gift bags! They are so simple and customizable… and are a perfect way to design gingerbread house and manger scenes as a gift bags to wrap small things or use to give away Christmas cookies!

Here’s a little snippet of the gingerbread house version I made as an example. I also made a nativity one in class itself, but cutting the back a bit shorter and makes the roof lower and steeper. It also turned out great!

The kids got so creative, decorating wreaths and snowflakes over their houses! Some even drew cats in Christmas hats in the windows.

I know that there are a lot of things to pull for our time and attention this time of year. Maybe you have the heart for all the Christmas things and 25 days of Winter Fun and Jesse Trees and a New book a day. Maybe you have the desire, but not the time or energy.

Maybe checking out these two books from the library, enjoying some free handouts and making memories around handmade, simple things is just what you need.

I hope this helps so much! ❤

Additional Resources:

Youtube read-aloud versions of the stories mentioned 🙂

Links to grab your own copies

Winter in the Big Woods

Christmas in the Big Woods

(sidenote: those links are affiliate links, which means if you use them to purchase the books, I get a small “thank you” from amazon.)

Other Little House lovelies

If you like these free Little House resources, please visit the Little House section of my Etsy store. You’ll find things for older ages, a piano books of Little House music, and more!

Poetry memory: The Months by Sara Coleridge

This classic poem from the 1800s is a great way to walk through the seasons with descriptive language. I currently have my 3rd and 4th graders in our co-op memorizing this. The rhymes bounce between common and unpredictable, and the imagery really creates a sensory experience with each month.

The Months

by Sara Coleridge

January brings the snow,
makes our feet and fingers glow.

February brings the rain,
Thaws the frozen lake again.

March brings breezes loud and shrill,
stirs the dancing daffodil.

April brings the primrose sweet,
Scatters daises at our feet.

May brings flocks of pretty lambs,
Skipping by their fleecy dams.

June brings tulips, lilies, roses,
Fills the children’s hand with posies.

Hot july brings cooling showers,
Apricots and gillyflowers.

August brings the sheaves of corn,
Then the harvest home is borne.

Warm September brings the fruit,
Sportsmen then begin to shoot.

Fresh October brings the pheasants,
Then to gather nuts is pleasant.

Dull November brings the blast,
Then the leaves are whirling fast.

Chill December brings the sleet,
Blazing fire, and Christmas treat.

My thoughts on Among the Forest People… and free narration pages. 💛

Let me start off by whispering an admission that I hope every Charlotte Mason, living book loving, nature studying person won’t hate me for.

I really don’t like Burgess.

There. I said it.

I tried.

I really, really did.

But when I noticed my own kiddo’s interest dissipating, despite my attempts to enliven the words with pleasant readings, I knew it wasn’t just me.

I believe it was C.S. Lewis that said “a children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

So for us, as a daily inclusion to our studies… it was not a good fit. For them, or for me.

(If you and yours love Burgess, PLEASE. CONTINUE. But if you don’t… here’s your permission slip to stop trying. 😂)

Meanwhile, I must say the Among the ______ Stories are, well, a different story. They are delightful (SHORT) reads that pass along curiosity and information about the habitat and creatures… as well as a bit of character training without being annoyingly didactic.

Because I’m starting afresh with my newest little formal learner, I went ahead and created some low-key narration pages for my buddy this time around. We all know worksheets are NOT a requirement… but some students do better with a visual and something for their hands to do that connect directly with what they are hearing.

So, here we are. 🙂

I’d love for you to be able to use and benefit from these sheets as well. They have a banner for the student to copy the title on to, and a handful of lines for you or your kiddo to jot down a brief narration. Some pages are just for coloring… others have a prompt or two. I deliberately choose black and white for ease of printing at home and cost effectiveness. (It adds up, doesn’t it, friend?)

If you like what you see, I’d love for you to check out my other Charlotte Mason-inspired studies and guides over on Etsy. Just click here!

Now… here’s your free Among the Forest People sheets! 🐿

Adapting for your kiddos… and free narration pages 💛

So my firstborn: she loves drawing. While I would read our stories, she’d draw away, creating portraits of her favorite characters and scenes.

My buddy joined us this year in formal studies… and he needs his hands busy. I’m totally fine with him doing his mad matter and blocks to listen, but he wants to “make a book” like his older sister (this “book” is a folder of all her drawings). I will welcome any and all drawings he decides to do, but in the meantime, I’ve made a way to capture his narrations and allow him to have his “book,” too.

The moral of the story: what works for one kiddo might not work in the same way for all of them. Their age, stage, and giftings might require some reconfiguring. But isn’t that the absolute beauty of learning alongside your children? 💛

Also, fellow #agentlefeast families, these sheets work with the history readings for cycle 3, term 1, form 1. You have the plans and will know what to do.