Do you enjoy a good story with compelling and memorable heroes and heroines? This monthly column features homeschooled characters in literature and film. Wish you had your own copy of the book or movie? Just click on the product image or text links to go to the author’s site or Amazon to buy it!
By Tab Olsen
Laura Ingalls Wilder is well known for her Little House series of books. She wrote the heartwarming series based on her own experiences growing up on the Western frontier. The nine Little House books have been cherished by generations of readers as both an unforgettable story and a unique glimpse into America’s pioneer history.
Laura’s parents always saw to it that their children received a consistent education wherever they lived. Even so, Laura does not go to school in the first few books of this series. Back when Laura was growing up, it wasn’t unusual for parents to serve as their children’s first teachers. Ma Ingalls, a former teacher herself, taught her girls using her old primers.
It’s not until the fourth book in the series, On the Banks of Plum Creek, when Laura is eight years old, that she first goes to school. Still, Laura continued to be taught at home during times when school attendance was impossible because of bad weather or long distance. For example, when the family moved to new territory where there was no schoolhouse nearby.
Although these are children’s books for ages 9-12, you’re never too old to enjoy them. (Read them aloud to your siblings if you’re embarrassed to be seen reading them yourself.) I love them all, but I’d have to say my favorite is These Happy Golden Years because it’s such a sweet tale about teenage life, young love, and old-fashioned courtship. In this story, 15-year-old Laura lives apart from her family for the first time, teaching school in a claim shanty twelve miles from home. She doesn’t really want to teach, but she understands the importance of helping her family. So she does what she has to do in order to earn enough money to keep her sister Mary enrolled in the college for the blind.
Laura’s teaching job was a difficult one. She boarded with a family that was always arguing. The children she was expected to teach were nearly her own age, and Laura felt that she had little control over her pupils. Laura was also extremely homesick. So she was very grateful when a man named Almanzo Wilder offered to drive his horse-drawn sleigh through snow, blizzards, and freezing temperatures to bring her home every weekend.
Although Almanzo Wilder was ten years older than Laura, he seemed to take a special interest in her from the start. As time goes by, their friendship blossoms into a loving courtship. Their courtship continues, they get married, and in the romantic conclusion Laura goes off to Almanzo’s homestead to live in her own little house. Laura’s new life as a pioneer wife and mother begins in The First Four Years.