Homeschool Confessions: I Don’t Like the Little House Books

There.  I’ve said it.  I’m in some sort of freak demographic of people who homeschool and love children’s books yet don’t love Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I haven’t even ever read them all.  I read the first couple as a kid.  I was a voracious reader, but they didn’t interest me.  That was the end of that.  Or so I thought.

Since entering into the world of homeschooling, I’ve discovered there’s a fanaticism for these books.  It’s not just among homeschoolers, but they certainly seem to lead the pack.  Here’s my very uninformed take.  I think the nostalgia for a forgotten way of life really appeals to some people.  The way the family in the books sticks together and makes a life for themselves really speaks to homeschoolers in particular.  A lot of homeschoolers like to see themselves as part of a tradition of home education that stretches back to the early days of this country and the Little House books help reflect that.  However, I’ve never had historical nostalgia.  I refuse to believe things were better once upon a time.  Every generation has different problems.  Even as I kid, I don’t think I bought that things were ever better before modern medicine.  Plus there’s the issue of the racism embedded in the books.  I know it was just part of the time period, but these aren’t just casual mentions.  The family got their land because they took it from Native Americans.

So I think that may be why this undeniably well-written series never appealed to me.  I just never caught that element of it.

So they’re not for me.  No one hate me.  Please.

9 thoughts on “Homeschool Confessions: I Don’t Like the Little House Books

  1. I once took part in a parenting board-based Little House book club. We were driven by frustration with the number of people who view the books with uncritical nostalgia for those “good old days,” and our book club was full of “Hey, remember the time they almost starved to death because of Pa’s reckless determination to haul a family of little girls onto the far west frontier?” and “How about that ruthless squashing of Laura’s emotions, hm?”

    I do like the books, but it’s not at all out of a warm fuzzy nostalgia. I’m trying to decide whether I should flatly refuse to read Alex Little House on the Prairie, the one with the incredibly objectionable Native American issues, or whether we should read it with a lot of explaining and editorializing. The books fascinate me with what they portray, but I don’t necessarily think that what they portray is good.

  2. I never read them. Never wanted to. I may get them *or check them out from the library* when we start talking about that time period, just for the historical component. I don’t forsee a big love for them anytime soon though. I doubt the boys will love them either. They would much rather read Harry Potter. LOL.

  3. I think it is quite fine to not like Little House even though it is a popular series with fellow homeschoolers. I remember liking it only because I enjoyed series with familiar characters. Nancy Drew, Little House, etc. My daughter hated Nancy Drew!

  4. I loved them as a kid, even dragged Eric to Laura’s birthplace in Wisconsin when we were in Minneapolis for a wedding some years ago. Then I tried rereading the books–and was dismayed to find that the writing itself (apart from its viewpoints, portrayals, etc., I just mean the actual writing) no longer appealed to me, wouldn’t be considered “good” by current kidlit standards. We grow up, move on; maybe our country does the same. But someday I’d still like to visit the other Ingalls family sites in South Dakota, just for nostalgia.

  5. I like the books and read the whole series as an adult, not as a child. I agree with you on not being nostalgic for the “olden days”. The part where the family comes down with malaria and they all nearly die, the long winter where they all became malnourished, Almanzo’s bout with diptheria that left him disabled for life… none of that sounds romantic to me.

    And then there’s the reality of Laura’s life. As if it wasn’t enough to struggle through her childhood, she then had it even worse as an adult. Rose Wilder Lane supported her parents until Laura and Rose wrote the books and Laura became more prosperous. That just makes me sad. They seemed like good, hard working people who were genuinely dealt a bad hand.

    What I enjoy most about the books? The descriptions of farm life, humble and meaningful chores, self sufficiency.. and salivating over the food! Especially in Farmer Boy, which isn’t depressing because the Wilders were wealthy, and they always ate tons of food! I also am a bit enamored with Caroline Ingalls. I admire her ability to be so knowledgeable and hardworking and also refined, feminine and kind to her children. Laura describes her as never raising her voice. And the Ingalls were definitely more gentle with their kids than their contemporaries. Yeah, the stuff about Caroline’s racism is troublesome. I’m surprised Rose left it in there since she was a libertarian. Caroline must have been deeply in love with her husband to go along with his travelin’ ways. The only time she had an emotional outburst was that time he almost died digging a well because his helper was careless.

    Well that was long! I guess you could say I’m conflicted. 😉

  6. I found this old post when I was doing a Google search for anything that might explain the generational appeal of the Little House Books. It’s for an article that I’m writing for an upcoming issue of Plains Magazine. I thought your post was interesting.

    I know the books appealed to me as a kid because of Wilder’s prose and descriptions of the prairie and of how things were done before we had electricity and all that. The TV show was airing in prime time and I preferred the books over the TV show. That just fascinated me to no end as a kid. Because of those books, I became not only an avid reader, but a writer and I fell in love with the Great Plains sight unseen just based off of her descriptions of the region.

    I still enjoy the books and I enjoy them for what they are, but there are some parts that trouble me now as an adult, like the minstrel show and Ma’s racism towards Native Americans. But I guess I look at those instances as teaching moments because I think it’s important for kids now to understand that this stuff used to not only happen, but it was common and socially acceptable for that time and why it is no longer socially acceptable now. And they need to understand that in spite of this, people still hold these attitudes.

    Again, I thought your post was interesting. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s