Slates, iPads, and an Idea

When we visited the Little House in the Big Woods, our trip to the General Store filled our arms with more than Pa would have brought home for Christmas. Settling down in the van, my daughter popped a root beer candy in her mouth while I started chapter one of our new book. Sierra was the same age as Laura in the book and was immediately hooked. 

Another of the items we hauled away from the general store was a slate board, originally intended for my older son. But one day, as my daughter (whom I homeschool) was going into convulsions over how much she hated handwriting, I saw an online video of someone teaching handwriting with a small chalkboard. We “borrowed” my son’s slate board, and it worked magic. Today, the slate board is one of our most-used homeschool tools. Well, it’s a toss-up, really, between that and the iPad. (Often it just depends on which one is closer to where I’m sitting.)

Though we also use the iPad for online research and educational games, a lot of what we do on it is simply write out math problems on the whiteboard ap. And when the iPad isn’t in reach, we do the same thing with the slate board. 

One day, it dawned on me as I was visiting a cutting-edge school and watching students work on their iPads, showing their drawings and puppet show creations to their teacher as they worked, today’s iPad is the modern-day slate board. 

As I continued reading through the Little House books (including the ones that tell us about Laura’s matriarchs), I was struck at how little waste there was. Old clothes were repurposed as curtains or doll clothes, barrels were used and re-used for shipping, and even at the county fair everyone drank from washable cups. 

If we can take the idea of a slate board and modernize it to make our classrooms virtually paper-free (as the school I was visiting had done), what else can we learn about the way the pioneers lived? Can we learn to, once again, live without waste?

To answer this question, my family is about to undergo our own pioneer adventure. I will be looking for research to tell me what are the 100 (or so) most commonly disposed of items. Then, for each item, I will do research to find out what was done (instead of disposing of that item) in Laura’s day. Finally, I will look for modern-day options that we could implement to apply the lessons of the past without going backward—such as using iPads instead of slate boards to save paper in the classroom. I am hoping that the result of all this research be a book. (Working Title: Little Landfill in the Prairie?)

In the meantime, and here’s the adventure part, my family is going to try each of these ideas for at least a month each. Since my family only got the hang of standard recycling (after several failed attempts) only a few months ago, this should be quite an experience! Through this blog, I will share our story as we try to become more environmentally friendly by learning from our pioneers.

In addition, I’ll throw in other reflections on how we can improve our modern lives by learning from the way the pioneers lived. I hope you enjoy this blog, and I do look forward to your feedback!



About Lori Futcher

Freelance writer and copyeditor
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3 Responses to Slates, iPads, and an Idea

  1. lfutcher says:

    By the way, if anyone is aware of any research on what the most commonly thrown out items are, let me know!

  2. Pingback: The number that made me an environmentalist | Prairie Green

  3. Sheila says:

    Hello! I found your blog through a Facebook friend. I like the concept, and look forward to reading more about your experiences. I have loved the Little House books since I was a little girl, and still read them over from time to time (was just reading one yesterday!). I was interested to hear about The Caroline Years. Will have to try and get my hands on that soon!

    I’m thankful that my community provides the bins and pickup service that makes it easy to recycle, Here in Japan, I think most places do, but not everyone take advantage of it. But at least you HAVE to separate your trash into burnable, glass, cans, and miscellaneous unburnables. They will also pick up newspapers and magazines, folded cardboard boxes, bags of household waste paper, PET bottles, and styrofoam food trays. Since I also compost food scraps, there isn’t a whole lot left to throw out! Just way too much plastic…something the pioneers never had to deal with! I’m glad your family has gotten into the swing of recycling – one less family that’s a part of the problem, and one more that’s a part of the solution! More power to you!

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