Our Family

Our Family

Friday, August 2, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Legacy Documentaries

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 I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie on TV.   It was one of my all time favorite shows.  When I started reading chapter books, my parents bought me The Little House books.  I was fascinated to know that Laura Ingalls Wilder was a real person and to read the stories of her life. While the TV show was a good one, it didn't even come close to the greatness of the books and the real stories.  When my oldest daughter was in the 3rd grade, we spent a whole year studying The Little House Books using a unit study called the Prairie Primer.  She loved the books as much as I did as a child and we both gained a deeper insight into Laura and Almanzo's life through the study, activities, and even a field trip to their home and museum in Mansfield MO!  We have remained Little House fans and I was very excited to see that Dean Butler (who played Almanzo on the show)  with Legacy Documentaries has produced two new documentaries: Almanzo Wider: Life Before Laura and Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  We were thrilled to have the opportunity to review Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura.

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Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura is an all new documentary that was produced in partnership with the Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder Association in Burke, NY.  It is a look at Almanzo's early life growing up as a boy on his family's farm in Burke NY in the 1800s.  The DVD contains two sections.  Life Before Laura and The Wilder Homestead Today.  Life Before Laura is 41 minutes long and is narrated by Dean Butler.  The DVD shows illustrations from sections of Farmer Boy along with original footage that has been filmed at the Wilder homestead to recreate sections of the story. William Anderson, author and historian discusses Laura and Almanzo and things that were going on during that time period.  There is also discussions of Morgan horses, and a food historian to talk about the differences between food now and then and why Laura focused so much about food in the book Farmer Boy.  It focuses mainly on Almanzo's life before Laura, but does talk about Laura and Almanzo's meeting and courtship, and how the fist books came to be written.  The Wilder Homestead Today is 12 minutes long and is also narrated by Dean Butler.  This section of the DVD discusses the restoration of the Wilder Homestead in Burke NY and shows the activities that are going on there today.  Although the targeted age range for the book is 8-13 years old, this documentary is suitable and enjoyable for children and adults of all ages.

Here is an excerpt of the video.

You can purchase Life Before Laura for $21.95 by clicking here.

I mentioned in my introductory paragraph how much we loved Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie.  I was so excited to have an opportunity to review this DVD!!  As we were waiting for it to arrive, I decided it would be a great idea to read aloud Farmer Boy to the children.  Every night the boys 11,9,8,6 and the little girls 4 and 2 (Chelsea 16 was not here for several days and she has read the books numerous times) gathered in the boys room before bed to read several chapters of the read aloud.  I wanted the boys and little girls to wait until I finished reading the book before watching the DVD.  Chelsea and I watched the DVD together once and then we all watched it together after finishing the book.

We LOVED it!  It was so cool, for the children (and myself! )to have an opportunity to see the book come to life through Life Before Laura.  We loved to be able to see the real Wilder Homestead.  We loved the inclusion of the illustrations and sections of the book being read aloud.  We loved being able to see the real photos of the people we feel like we know and love through Farmer Boy.  I thought the reenactments with the actors playing Almanzo and his father were really well done.  The documentary encouraged the children to dig even deeper into the life of Almanzo.  When the DVD mentioned the older sister that we had never heard of who is not mentioned at all in the book Farmer Boy,  Chelsea was inspired to do some further digging in the Wilder Family Tree.

The section on the Wilder Family Homestead gives a great glimpse into what the homestead looked like in Almanzo's days after it has been painstakingly restored.  It also shows all of the fun and educational activities and special things that are going on for visitors today.  Sigh.  It made me really, really want to go and visit! Maybe someday.

I would highly recommend this outstanding documentary!  I am so thankful that Dean Butler and Legacy Documentaries are producing documentaries giving further insight to those of us who have loved Little House for generations and also for future generations to come.

To see what my crew mates had to say, click on the banner below.

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