What Is A Pioneer?
Parents, work with your child on our Pioneer Learning lessons. There is never a timeline or a requirement to finish by a specific deadline. The classes are flexible and adaptable to work with your life and schedule.
Share your progress in our private groups, ask questions, celebrate accomplishments. We are a wonderful community all working together towards raising the next generation.
This lesson includes:
- Work on measurements with your child.
- Measure out the size of a covered wagon, weigh things to understand how much the food items the pioneers packed weighed.
- Let them weigh and measure things around the house, trying to find items similar to the sizes of the items the pioneers had.
Grade School/High School
- Figure the approximate cubic footage of a covered wagon.
- The wagon, with the cover, would stand about 10 feet tall.
- Measure this out in your yard or in the house if there is room.
- The lesson gives the weights of the foods carried for a smaller family (four people).
- Imagine your family was packing a covered wagon.
- How much of each food would you need?
- Have your child tell you a story about getting a wagon ready for the westward journey.
- Discuss with them how it would look to try to use our modern foods and possessions to travel in a covered wagon.
- How do we move to a new place now?
- Discuss the differences in the things we would take and the ability to obtain items we need when we arrive. Does your child think they would enjoy being a pioneer? Have your child write the word PIONEER and consider other words that start with each letter.
Grade School/High School
- Write a paper about the differences between packing to journey west as a pioneer and packing to move in modern times.
- What are some similarities? Differences?
- Which do you think would be easier and why? Which do you think would be more satisfying and why?
- Younger students write at least a page, older students at least two pages.
- Show your child the food items the pioneers would have taken along.
- If you don’t have them available in your house, show them pictures.
- Discuss with them how the pioneers would have used each item.
Grade School/High School
- You need to help your parents pack the wagon to journey west.
- What items does your family need to take?
- Make a list of items your family will pack and then determine if the wagon will hold it all. If not, what will you leave behind?
Get some ideas here
- Oregon Trail preparedness: What supplies did the settlers carry?~ Backwoods Home
- National Oregon and California Trail Center
- Talk about the lesson.
- Read Little House on the Prairie to your child and talk about the journey the Ingalls family made in the covered wagon.
Grade School/High School
- Read the lesson. Research the Oregon Trail in the encyclopedia or the sites mentioned in Pioneer Skills.
- Research the histories of some of the first settlers in the west and the hardships they endured.
What Are Pioneers?
What is a pioneer? Merriam Webster defines a pioneer as “a person who is one of the first to settle in an area”. The pioneers were the first people to settle down in the frontier of America. They were drawn west by the promise of the Homestead Act (see September Week 1 register to receive access to all of the lessons), sense of adventure, or the pursuit of a better life than the one in the crowded east.
Some were drawn by the fur trade or the possibility of finding gold. Many received letters from family or friends telling them how wonderful the west was, and they wanted to find out for themselves.
The pioneers who left the east for the promising west knew they might never see or hear from their relatives again. They knew the trail would be difficult and dangerous. They would face wide rivers and Native Americans that were unhappy with the pioneers because they were moving onto tribal lands. However, this did not discourage the pioneers. It gave them even more determination to try to settle out west.
Who Were The Pioneers?
Who were these pioneers? They were farmers and business people – blacksmiths, doctors, shop owners, ministers, and other professionals – ready to start a new life.
How Did The Pioneers Travel?
How did the pioneers travel? Most rode west in covered wagons – either by themselves or as part of a wagon train.
Before they embarked on their quest for a new life, they had to outfit a wagon with all the items they would need. This included household items, though most left the majority of furniture. If they had a wood stove they might take that along, but tables and beds could be built when they arrived.
Packing Food for The Trip
The pioneers also had to take enough food to eat. A smaller family would need the basics
- Around 700 pounds of flour
- 100 pounds of hardtack
- 300 pounds of bacon
- 100 pounds of cornmeal
- 150 pounds of rice
- 10 pounds of saleratus (baking soda)
- 50 pounds of salt
- 60 pounds of coffee
- 8 pounds of tea
- 100 pounds of sugar
- 200 pounds of lard
- rice was 200 pounds
- 200 pounds of beans
- 100 pounds of dried fruit
- whiskey for medicinal purposes
- vinegar, spices, and pepper.
- Other food items might be included according to the family’s needs.
Pioneer Cooking Items
The items needed to cook also had to be included – things like
- Dutch oven
- Coffee pot
- Coffee mill
- Bread pan
- Fire starters
- Rifle and pistol
- Fishing poles were necessary to provide for the family during the long travels.
A Full Wagon
Does this sound like a lot? Add to that farm implements, carpentry tools, seeds for planting, clothes, books, and personal items, and you can imagine how full the wagons must have been.
- A typical wagon was 4 feet wide, 8-9 feet long, 2-3 feet deep, and could be pulled by oxen or mules – most families could not afford horses.
- The wagon could only carry about a 2000 pound load, and the food alone was around 1500 pounds.
- The cost of outfitting a wagon, including the team to pull it, was $600-$800 – a whopping $19,000-$25,000 in current dollars.
- The pioneers sacrificed a lot for the dream of a better life.
The Daily Life of A Pioneer
The daily life of a pioneer had some of the elements of our modern days, but things were not as easy. Remember they did not have electricity – so no convenient washer and dryer or microwave. They did not have running water or bathrooms in the house.
The pioneers, while they could possibly get to a town to purchase necessities for the household, had to be inventive and creative in order to do their daily tasks. They had to use the items they had on hand, or create the items they needed from materials they had around their place.
One example was using gourds as containers and dippers for water. If they needed meat, it was not an easy trip to the corner store to grab some. The pioneers had to go hunt or butcher a livestock animal they raised.
They needed to carry their water to their house, either from a well they dug themselves, or from a nearby creek or lake. When children outgrew clothing or clothing wore out, sewing had to be done. Some pioneers needed to make their own fabric. It is hard to imagine how they were able to get everything done!
Everyone Pitches In
Pioneer families tended to be larger, so there were many hands available for all the work. The men and older boys had many tasks to accomplish. Working in the fields and tending to the animals were very demanding chores.
They also made furniture for the house, built fences, felled trees for lumber and firewood, hunted/fished, dug wells, built houses, and butchered livestock.
Younger boys were expected to feed the livestock, gather the firewood, and to fetch items for the men as they worked in the fields. As soon as they were able, they would also help clean out the barn.
The women and older girls were the backbone of the home. Household chores were numerous, some daily, others weekly or yearly. Women cooked the meals, baked the bread, cleaned the house, churned the butter, preserved the harvest and meats, did the laundry, gathered eggs, did the milking, sewed the family’s clothing (usually by hand), and tended to the children.
The younger girls would feed the chickens, wash dishes, set the table, sweep, and straighten beds. These were all just the most basic chores, of course. There were many, many others.
Modern day pioneers look a little different from the pioneers of old. Most don’t call themselves pioneers, but homesteaders.
What does a homesteader look like now? There is not one description that is fitting. Some live on lots of land, live off-grid (maybe with solar power), provide the majority of their own food, and/or raise animals for meat and other uses.
There are others that live in apartments in the middle of large cities and they grow some food on their balcony, preserving what they are able to. In modern times, homesteading seems to be more of a mindset – the desire to provide for ourselves as much as possible where we are.
One of the pioneer mottos was “Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or do without”. The pioneers that ventured out west led lives full of hard work and determination. We can still live by this motto and teach it to our children.
Teaching Our Children to Be Self-Sufficient
Many children now are not taught basic living skills. Doing laundry, balancing a bank book, cooking, and changing tires are no longer priorities. Computers and phones have become the mainstay of the modern home.
Join us to learn about how the pioneers accomplished their numerous tasks, and how these can apply to us today. Along the way, learn some basic life skills that are often overlooked in modern education.
Verse of The Week
Ephesians 5:20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
We need to remember that all things come from God and no matter what, we need to thank Him. There may be hard times when it is difficult to see what the Lord is doing, but we are to thank him for those times. We may see lots of blessings – we are to thank the Lord for them. Strive each day to find things to be thankful for
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We are thrilled you tried our FREE sample lesson of Pioneer Learning. These valuable life skills are lessons your child will use forever!
Here are examples of our other life skills lessons that are in this program.
- Preserving Food
- Canning: Water-bath & Pressure
- Drying Fruits & Vegetables
- Pickles and Fermenting
- Meat Processing
- Render Tallow and Lard
- Preserving Meats
- Salt Curing
- Guns, Gunpowder, Ammunition
- Hunting. Fishing, Trapping
- Map Reading
- and so much more!
Sign up for our course and start learning about pioneer and homesteading skills. Learning can be fun and everyday activities can be used as a lesson.
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