One of my fondest memories of the time Ben got to spend with the kids during his years with cancer was his nightly ritual of curling up on the couch with them and watching Little House on the Prairie. I read them the first couple of books when they were in preschool, and they loved watching the series come to life with their dad. He and I both loved the books. And when Ben and I made a cross country trip a decade ago, we made a point to stop and see some of the Little House sites. I think he might have even enjoyed those stops more than me as they were a reminder of his childhood.
This summer the kids and I revisited the books in anticipation of a summer road trip to Kansas and Missouri to see some of those sites in July. The kids embraced watching the series (season after season) and reminding me what was the same between the books and the movies and remarking on all the differences. We were all excited about the opportunity to see where Laura sat to write the books, and the little house in Independence, Kansas that was like the one they lived in during their year on the prairie.
Our first stop was at the house on Rocky Ridge and the museum in Mansfield, MO. We went on a private tour through the historic house where we got to see the house and the furniture that has been meticulously preserved. The kids enjoyed hearing the history of it’s numerous additions where Laura and Almanzo spent much of their married life. After our visit to the house, we visited the Little House Museum next door. The museum is home to a timeline of Laura’s life and written works set up to let you travel through her entire life in pictures and memorabilia. Pa’s fiddle is even housed within the museum. We didn’t get to see the Rock House on this trip due to arriving close to the end of the day, but the museum and historic house were worth the trip all on their own!
We stopped to overnight in Joplin, and the next day we made a stop at the state line where Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas all come together. While there wasn’t much to see there, the kids enjoyed standing on the spot where three states meet.
Then we set out for Independence, Kansas. As I remembered from my visit there in 2009, the site was difficult to find, but it was worth the search. The site where the little house replica stands also houses an old one room schoolhouse, apothecary, post office, and several covered wagons. As always, we made a stop in the giftshop for souvenirs before we left. This time we chose a historical video retelling of Laura’s life that we could watch on the way home from Kansas.
Whether you are a homeschool family or just a family who loves literature, there is nothing like making history come alive for your kids through travel! If you have traveled somewhere with your children to share pieces of history and have recommendations from literature to go along with them, I would love to hear about it!
“The real things haven’t change. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder