Monday, November 15, 2010

TOS Crew Review - Corps of Re-Discovery

When I began homeschooling my oldest son eight years ago, I went craft-crazy.  Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft, and even Sam's Club became my personal Mecca, their sales and clearance racks drawing me like a moth to a flame.  I bought kits; I bought materials; I bought paper and yarn, markers, crayons and colored pencils; I bought brads, glitter, beads and buttons.  I filled up drawers, bins, shelves and cabinets with my penny-pinching finds, eager for the afternoons that we'd sit around the table, making Christmas placemats, homemade Valentines and crafty cards for the great-grandparents.

Then I discovered the awful truth: Just because I started homeschooling my son, I did not magically become crafty overnight.  I've actually never been crafty.  In third grade, our teacher would have us do "Squiggle Stories" where she'd draw a squiggly line on a piece of paper for each of us, and we'd have to turn that squiggle into a picture, then write a story about the picture.  My story always started out "If I could draw well, then you would clearly see a...." and I'd go on to describe in amazing detail the SCRIBBLE that my squiggle had turned into. My elementary grades were all ++ (the highest you could get), except for one subject.  Art.  I always got a - in art; essentially the grade that meant "A for effort, F for execution."

All this to explain, that I LOVE the Corps of Re-Discovery Cornhusk Doll Kit that we got to try out, but given my complete lack of ability in anything crafty or artistic, there will not be any personal pictures accompanying this review.
Corps of Re-Discovery's Corn Husk Doll
In 1803, Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Corps of Discovery as a scientific and military expedition to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase.  The Corps of Re-Discovery is a small company run by a homeschooling family, whose mission is to provide products that inspire adventure and exploration in learning. Their project kits are designed to enrich your studies of American Indians, Frontiersmen and Pioneer Americans so you, too can "re discover" America. They want to help inspire imaginations and create memories.

Even though our project did not fare too well, we did have fun with it, and we had a great discussion about how Indian and Pioneer children would have worked on making their own Cornhusk dolls.  We've recently read through the Little House on the Prairie books, and my 5 year old, Megan, said "It's like Laura's first doll!" when she saw what we were going to (try to) make.  I went back and showed her the picture and read her the part where it explains that Laura's doll was actually just a corn cob wrapped in a piece of cloth, but that led into a conversation about what kinds of items could be made into a doll-like figure back in the 1800's when there were no Target stores to run to every time you wanted something new to play with.  Later in the week, the girls kept showing me things from the back yard they had deemed "dolls", including sticks, rocks and a leaf-wrapped bundle of grass.  Our project did inspire some great imaginative play and I think even though our cornhusk doll turned out more like "cornhusk abstract art" we created some pretty fun memories while working on it.

The Cornhusk Doll Kit is on sale right now for $4.50 (normally priced at $5.99).  The kit comes with cornhusks, twine, a small piece of fabric and the instructions to make the doll.  To make the apron and cap, you'll also need scissors, needle and thread.  This particular project requires an older child (teen) or adult to help (preferably a crafty adult!).  The instructions are pretty simple, though we ran into trouble when it came time to make the arms.  I'm not sure how much of that is simply my ineptness at crafts coupled with my inability to understand drawn diagrams, and how much is unclear instructions.  Even though we started out with a few extra pieces of cornhusks, we went through a few too many trying to get the arms right, and it was somewhat downhill from there.  I honestly think that was more me, and not really any problem with the directions though.
Girl and Boy Cornhusk Dolls
Corps of Re-Discovery offers a slew of other projects, including Pioneer, Frontier and Indian packages, with several activities in one kit.  These would be great to do simply as a fun project, or coupled with a study on early American history.  You can purchase through their website, or find many of the Corps of Re-Discovery projects at state parks and historical landmarks around the U.S., as well as in teacher supply stores and specialty shops.

Want to find out if others fared better than we did with their projects?  Check out what the TOS Homeschool Crew members have to say about their Corps of Re-Discovery experiences.

Disclaimer: As a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a complimentary Cornhusk Doll Kit in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased review. No other compensation was received.


  1. Those puffy sleeves caused quite a few of us to stumble a bit but it is doable. :0) SO it wasn't you.
    The beauty of it was that you all worked on it and had fun. Nice review and perhaps the coin purse would be a better fit? :0)

  2. Thanks Sheri! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who struggled with the arms.