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Girls of American History Unit 13: Life in the USA During the 1950's (Maryellen) Review by Kemi Quinn

Justine Gamble
Girls of American History
A Literature Guide and Unit Study for Maryellen
An American Girl - Time Period 1954

The Girls of American History-Unit 13 Life in the USA During the 1950’s/Maryellen is a Unit Study Curriculum. It is the perfect unit study curriculum for those who love the American Girl historical dolls.

The Girls of American History-Unit 13 Life in the USA During the 1950's/Maryellen focuses on the 1950’s in the United States and on the BeForever doll Maryellen from the Pleasant Company. Girls of American History has no affiliation with the Pleasant Company who creates the 18 inch dolls.

To complete the Girls of American History Curriculum, Unit 13, you will need a copy of the two books by the American Girl CompanyPublishing. BeForever Maryellen: The One and Only and BeForever Maryellen: Taking Off.

The downloadable ebook for the Unit Study is 40 pages long and includes all the information and links (minus the reading books) you need to get started. Including a weekly suggested plan for using the study.

Midway through this review the Girls of American History Curriculum, Unit 13 was updated with a Digging Deeper section including resources for Notebook, making a Portfolio, and making a Diorama. The price for The Girls of American History Curriculum, Unit 13 is $7.95

When you purchase the Girls of American History Unit studies you are given a password protected file for use within your own family only. Alternatively you can purchase a Teacher Licensed file for $15.90 or a School/Co-op file for $23.85.

Girls of American History-Unit 13 Life in the USA During the 1950's/Maryellen is very flexible curriculum. Suggestions are made for the using the guide as a Literature Study, a Core Curriculum, or as a supplement to a History Curriculum you are already using.

There is a breakdown of the content by academic area so that you can cover several areas of your child’s curriculum with this unit. The only thing missing is Math but after digging in deep you are bound to come upon some areas where you can include math. We did. There is Social Studies, History, Language Arts, Arts and Crafts, Geography, Field Trips, Biographies, and Character Studies. The Unit includes a suggested 6 Week Schedule and a layout of how to plan, purchase, and prepare the items needed. Each week begins with reading several chapters in one of the Maryellen books. Then the following activities correspond with what is happening in the book.

There is also a lap book your child can put together while working through the book.

Also included are the following resources and activities:

Literature Guide

Vocabulary List (you could use a spelling list)

Crossword Puzzle

Character Study

Book Analysis

Time Comparison

Geography Worksheets

An example of a week of study includes reading a chapter a day Monday through Thursday. Begin creating the lap book on Tuesday, Craft on Wednesday, Character trait discussion on Friday along with making a craft and a recipe from the era.

Since my daughter loves the American Girl dolls, books, and movies I thought this would be a good Unit Study to do this past summer. We particularly enjoy the BeForever books which feature the dolls/girls in a historical setting. We ended up checking both of the books out from the library which happened to have both. It was faster than ordering them since our bookstores don’t have that much inventory.

I personally like things laid out so I really appreciated the Weekly Schedule and plan for using the unit. That being said we kind of took off on a tangent with this one. As we would get started on the week’s work I would get excited and kind of veer off. I think that is the intention though. Gathering all sorts of resources to learn about the time period.

Maryellen came from the 1950’s which I find kind of a fascinating time period. This was after World War 2 and a lot of things had changed worldwide.  And especially in the lives of women. It was also the era when my mother was a teen.  So she was good source for some more information.

For our review we focused on the history aspect of this unit study. My daughter really likes history and so do I so that was a no brainer. The Girls of American History Curriculum really gives you free reign to customize this curriculum. That can be good and bad. For someone like me I was left a little floundering at first but I went with it. Taking my daughter’s strengths into consideration I focused on a few things in the historical realm. Crafts, field trips, and shows or movies. We made 1950’s 18 inch doll clothes, played with paper dolls, took a train trip, and compared life back then to now. Some of the suggested activities were already regular activities in our home (roller skating, yo yo’s) so it was only a matter of researching and discussing the history behind them.

We also watched some movies and a documentary on what food was like during the 1950’s (it was in England but we still got an idea of the appliances available, clothing, etc.). Since we’re a food family this was pretty fascinating and now we are thankful for the food and knowledge about food we have today.

I’m going to be extra picky here and say I would have liked to have seen some of the worksheets scheduled in the weekly plan. Like I said I need a roadmap and finding where best to include them is an extra touch I appreciate.

I particularly enjoyed this unit study centered on something my daughter knows so well. I thought it rather ingenious really to use the American Girl dolls to keep the interest going while also delving back in time. While these unit studies are meant to be used with boys and girls alike I really think some boys may run from this just because of the doll aspect. That being said if you wanted to use it with boys who would not appreciate the dolls it would not take much work to omit the few doll crafts and use the book as a read aloud (because getting it out of my daughter’s hands took some effort).

Although we used Girls of American History-Unit 13 Life in the USA During the 1950's/Maryellen in a single family homeschool this is one unit study that I feel would fit in great in a group setting.

-Product review by Kemi Quinn, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2016