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'Frontier House' by PBS: Lesson Two

Lesson One

This is the second in a series of two lessons that you can adapt to use with the PBS Special “Frontier House”.

Important Note: a few of the episodes in “Frontier House” contain language and situations not appropriate for young children. Please be aware that some of the discussions are graphic, especially those dealing with hygiene and private relations between family members. With that in mind, my recommendation is to not use this series except with older children, unless you have the capability of editing out the areas you think are inappropriate for use with your children.

Episode 1: The American Dream aired on April 29th, 2002
Episode 2: The Promised Land aired on April 29th, 2002
Episode 3: ‘Til Death Do Us Part aired on April 30th
Episode 4: Survival aired on April 30th


These episodes are scheduled:
Episode 5: Family Affair on May 1st
Episode 6: The Reckoning on May 1st


The following lesson plans are available at the PBS website
“Free Land”
“Oh, Do You Remember the Clunes from L.A.?”
“Bring No Poor Articles With You”


To assist with these lessons, you may get familiar with the names of the families and their members by reviewing the Frontier House website.

The marital difficulties of the Glenns was one of the central plots in both episode three and episode four. Rather than focusing on why the Glenns are having marital problems, refocus on how the homestead lifestyle, and 1880’s mentality in general, could cause problems in familial relationships. Can you think of solutions to some of these problems?

Emotions seem to run so much closer to the surface in difficult circumstances. What are some ways that we can manage inappropriate feelings, or feelings that are in danger of getting out of control?

Isolation was a very real problem on the homesteads of Montana Territory. Its also a problem for the Frontier House families. What do you think they could do to help alleviate this problem? Do you believe that some people, just because of their personality type, would not have made a good homesteader due to the isolation issue?

In preparation for Nate and Kirsten’s wedding, the Frontier House families had outside guests. Tracey Clune especially seemed to be affected by seeing her parents for the first time in weeks. Do you think the homestead lifestyle would make people more appreciative of family? Support your answers.

Research weddings and wedding attire of the 1880’s. Design an authentic wardrobe for a wealthy family of the 1880’s, an average family of the 1880’s, and a homestead family of the 1880’s. What kind of events occurred during the wedding? Who performed the ceremony if there wasn’t a church nearby?

Kirsten got a surprise from Nate on her wedding day, prior to her arrival at the homestead. What was it? What was the significance?

How did Nate and Kirsten’s wedding highlight some of the problems the other couples were having? Do you think this would also have been true in a real homestead wedding?

Wedding cakes for the homesteaders were much different form the wedding cakes that we are used to seeing today. Research the menu of an authentic homestead wedding.

In episode four entitled “Survival” there was a great emphasis on food, both for the humans and for the animals. In fact, the episode opened with a hailstorm that endangered the gardens and livestock. How do you think the weather affected homesteaders’ ability to cope with their environment and survive the five years to obtain ownership of their homesteads?

Research the typical weather of Montana. Develop a survival plan so that you could survive a five month stay on a homestead.

All of the Frontier Home participants are losing weight. Do you think their weight loss is a bad thing? Support your answer.

The many, many Americans have weight problems. Also, our diets are much higher in sugar than those of the homesteaders in the 1880’s. Research what a healthy diet should be for someone doing physical labor similar to the Frontier House families. What would be the correct caloric intact and the types of calories they should have?

Gordon Clune in particular becomes fixated on his weight loss feeling it is a lack of protein in their diet. What kinds of foods does protein come from? What is the recommended amount of protein for a human? Did the Frontier Home families have access to adequate proteins? Support your answers.

Discuss what starvation is.

Discuss what dehydration is.

At Gordon Clune’s insistence, a doctor is called in to examine the problem. He is told that he isn’t starving, but is actually quite healthy in a muscle to fat ratio. The problem appears to be a lack of sufficient water intake. Why is water so important to the human body? What are the symptoms of dehydration?

The Clune’s begin breaking the rules that all the families agreed to before Frontier House began. How do you think this made the other families feel? Do you think they were justified, especially given the outcome of the doctor visit? Support your answers.

Kirsten Brooks, Nate’s new wife, is surprised at the lack of community on Frontier House. Do you think her view is true? What do you think this has occurred? Is there are remedy for this? Is this a good thing or bad thing? Do you think this is a result of the lifestyle or of the personalities of the Frontier House families? Support your answers.

What was the shock that the Frontier House families received that they only had a week to prepared for? [Answer: cattle moving through their valley]

Research the Law of Open Range. What is it? How did it affect homesteaders in the Montana Territory? How does it still affect people today?

Research the history and use of barbed wire. When was it invented and by whom? Why was it invented? What other uses has barbed wire been put to?

The stress begins to take its toll on the Glenn marriage. Do you feel that the Glenn’s are at blame for their own problems? Or, have the problems and stress that have arisen been strictly the result of their participation in Frontier House? Support your answers.

Do you think the Clune’s family wealth in the “real world” has given them an unfair advantage in the world of Frontier House? Support your answer.

Do you think the Clune’s should have been allowed to benefit from their moonshine business? What is your opinion of that whole plot? Do you think they should have been allowed to break today’s laws? Do you think the children should have been allowed to participate in the making of the moonshine? What do you think the consequences of all of this will be? Support your answers.

Kirsten Book goes into the business of making goat cheese. Try making your own cheese using one of the activities below.

Try some of these other pioneer-style activities:
Pioneer Cooking: Indian Cake
Pioneer Cooking: Doughnuts
Pioneer Cooking: Venison
Sourdough Starter
Pioneer Cooking: Hashed Hominy
Pioneer Cooking: Homemade Hominy
Homemade Ink from Nuts
Homemade Ink from Berries
Pioneer Cooking: Easy White Cheese
Pioneer Cooking: Homemade Yellow Cheese
Pioneer Cooking: Clabber Milk Cheese
Pioneer Cooking: Sausage Cake
Pioneer Cooking: Now That’s Different!

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