When I made my spreadsheet of books for our US History studies this year, I originally stuck A Pioneer Sampler by Barbara Greenwood in the “activities and crafts” category. So when it arrived from the library a bit after we started our most recent history unit (focusing on the pioneers from 1815-1860), I just put it in the book basket and didn’t look at it very closely.
As our unit progressed I finally took the time to look at it. I discovered that A Pioneer Sampler does have some crafts and activities in it, but it has quite a bit of other content besides that.
A Pioneer Sampler follows the life of a fictional pioneer family (The Robertsons) on a backwoods farm in 1840. Each of the nineteen chapters in this fairly lengthy book (240 pages) tells a short story – a vignette if you will — about the life of the Robertson family over the course of the year. Following each story are one or more short informational sections discussing everything from weaving fabric to making fires to getting lost in the woods. Intermixed with these factual sections are directions for trying some of these activities at home — like growing a potato plant, making butter or painting with stencils.
In some ways this book made a great read aloud for a unit on the pioneers. Short chapters broken down into sections make it easy to read a portion each day. Since we started this book late in our unit, we felt a bit rushed to try and finish it all. By the time we were about three-fourths of the way through the book, Miss M and I mutually decided not to finish it as a read-aloud. We had already moved on to our next history topic, and we have too many other interesting books beckoning to us from the book basket. We’ll hang on to it for a bit in case Miss M wants to read a little bit more on her own.
As interesting and thorough as this book is about pioneer life, I did feel it was a bit redundant for us. Between the many book basket fiction and non-fiction selections we had for our pioneers unit and our previous reading about pioneer families (including the Little House on the Prairie Series, the Little House on Rocky Ridge series, Caddie Woodlawn, and Bound for Oregon, a book we recently read) I think I had already picked up many of the tidbits of information this book was presenting.
I would probably recommend A Pioneer Sampler for readers less familiar with 19th century pioneer life who don’t plan on reading an extensive list of books on this topic. You could read this book and call the general topic of pioneer living pretty well covered. An independent reader who is highly interested in pioneer times might also find this an interesting read. I’m sure it’s within Miss M’s ability to read on her own if she finds herself interested and motivated to do so.
I’m linking up with Read Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!