The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews
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Girls of American History Review by Cristi SchwambJustine Gamble
Many families find the American Girl® historical fiction books to be a valuable addition to their regular history studies. The Girls of American History curriculum takes the American Girl® novels and adds multi-sensory activities to make unit study guides for elementary aged students.
Eight of the fictional characters are featured, covering most major time periods in American History. The American Girl® book series starts with Kaya, a Native American girl from the Nez Perce, and continues with girls from the American Revolution, Pioneer Times, Civil War, the Great Depression, World War II, and more. (Please note that two of the newest American Girl® dolls are not yet included in these materials; Julie from the 1970s and Caroline from the War of 1812.)
Each unit study from Girls of American History is designed to take about six weeks. Each of the historical dolls has a set of six books about their life, and each book is studied over the course of a week. The basic weekly schedule includes daily reading assignments on four days of the week. The fifth day of each week is set aside to have a group discussion and make a craft project. The author also gives field trip suggestions that can be added to the schedule whenever it is convenient.
The materials for each unit are roughly nine or ten pages long. There are a lot of ideas, but it does not include specific assignments. For instance, most units list Language Arts ideas to include vocabulary, spelling, and a research essay, but they don’t provide specific vocabulary words or a specific essay topic to write about.
Each study from Girls of American History costs $7.95, and the full set of eight studies is available for $45. All of the materials are delivered via email as PDF documents. In addition to the print materials, Girls of American History has online resources available to purchasers of their curriculum. I was able to find links to extra reading materials and free lap-book templates using the online resources. In order to use this curriculum, you definitely need the corresponding American Girl® novels. They can usually be found fairly easily at the library if you don’t want to purchase them.
Since Lauren, my younger daughter, loves anything and everything American Girl®, she loved using the historical fiction books as part of her schoolwork. The Girls of American History curriculum has a recommended age range of 2nd-6th grade, and even though Lauren is only a first grader, she enjoyed me reading the books aloud to her and to doing some of the activities.
The reading assignment for each day was one chapter long and took us about 15-20 minutes. On several occasions, we read more than one chapter and didn’t take a full six weeks for our study. The curriculum guide gave us several craft ideas to add a hands-on component to our study. One of Lauren’s favorite activities was to write a daily newspaper the way that Kit did in those books. For the Kit® books, the curriculum also suggests making a quilt, a kite, or homemade jam.
For each of the units, the curriculum guide offers additional topics that would be worth investigating. For an older student studying the Great Depression, they could research Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Dust Bowl, or the Hobo Code. Each guide gives ideas for character studies as well.
The Girls of American History curriculum guides would work well for a family that likes to use unit studies, especially for a parent that doesn’t feel confident enough to gather resources and ideas on her own.
Product review by Cristi Schwamb, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March, 2013