Saturday, August 11, 2012

Little House, Pioneer Life, and Using a Washboard

We school year-round, and I'm already regretting not scheduling more "summery" studies that are best done here in the heat and the sunshine. We did a flower study, sure, but how great would a whole botany study have been, right there in our garden? Or a solar power study? Or some engineering, done with PVC pipes and the garden hose?

Fortunately, our pioneer study has been pretty well-timed. I know that much of Little House in the Big Woods, which we've been reading out loud to each other as part of our school mornings, takes place in the winter, but all of the pioneer skills and crafts that we've been doing together to add context to our readings make for good summertime activities.

For instance, Syd has goofed around in the bathtub with the washboard before, but this time, with the girls REALLY using the washboard, outside is just so much better. Washboards are splashy and water is exciting, don't you know.

Since we're not exactly equipped to use a washboard exactly as the pioneers do, we first watched a video of a washboard being used at a living history park (there are actually a lot of good pioneer skills videos from Living History School, if you're interested--I'm going to be hand-grinding grain AND dying fabric using black walnuts, thanks to them). Then we headed outside with a plastic bin (what I wouldn't give for a big galvanized metal washtub!), our washboard, a chunk of Fels Naptha laundry soap, and, for the girls, one entire dirty outfit each.

Look at my hard workers washing their own clothes by hand!


And yes, Willow actually does SNARL at her sister in this video. My children are mostly feral, I'm afraid:


When each article of clothing was clean, the kiddo wrung it out, laid it flat on the deck and sprayed it down to rinse it, wrung it out again, and hung it on our backyard clothesline. When they were dry, we checked them out--Sydney didn't do a great job on her outfits and they were sent inside to be washed the conventional way, but Miss Willow found herself with a perfectly clean, spic-and-span, washed by means of her own muscle outfit to put on and pose in:
That's a Momma-made tank top there!

And later that day, when baking (and liberal tasting, apparently) caused her to get chocolate just all over her shirt, I sent her outside, where the washboard and bin and soap remained, to hand-wash that shirt all over again and hang it up to dry. 

It sort of made me idly wonder exactly how cruel and unusual it would be to have each child wash her own clothes by hand every day. I mean, just one day's worth saved me from having to wash the same shirt twice, AND stain-treating it for chocolate!

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