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Girls of American History Curriculum Unit 14: Life in the USA in the 1960's (Melody) Review by Rebecca Ray

Justine Gamble
Girls of American History

In our home, we tend to use unit studies to study subjects. It tends to be a fun way to delve into any subject, and I never know where each subject is going to take us. However, sometimes my oldest child will dominate our learning with his strong interests, and I will have a hard time working in the interests of my daughter. Because she is so used to following his lead, sometimes my daughter has a difficult time even describing what she is interested in. So, when I received the opportunity to review Unit 14 of the Girls of American History Curriculum, I was hoping that it would be an instant fit for our family.

The Girls of American History Curriculum is based on the very famous American Girl dolls and historical novels. Gamble has written a unit based on each of the historical dolls and book series that American Girl has created. As a way to study U.S. History, a family could theoretically start with Kaya and the Native Americans of the 1700s (Unit 1) and work all the way through Melody and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s (Unit 14), giving your child an excellent picture of American history through the lens of the American Girl books.

The PDF unit study that I received contained all the ideas and scheduling tips that I would need to complete a study of the Melody books. Books and supplies are not included, but are widely available, and easily purchased. Upon receiving the unit study, I purchased the Melody books for my e-reader and we were ready to get started.

The unit study is broken into several parts. First, there is an overview of the content that will be covered in the unit study, as well as several optional points of study. For the Melody books, this includes history content, arts and crafts, field trips and activities, character studies, language arts, science and music. Just from the overview, I realized that all I would really need to add in for the children while they completed this study was math. I was very excited to find that I would be able to use this study for our complete school day.

The second part of the unit study is resource list. This gives you the titles of the books that you will need to purchase, along with extra reading. I realized when looking over this section that the extra reading could spawn a couple of side unit studies or follow-ups to this study in our house. Following that are some of the recommended resources for completion of the unit study. In this case, some drawing books, games and field trips are referenced. When you purchase the curriculum, you also unlock a page on the author’s website where you are given specific recommendations of projects and materials with purchase links. That would come in very handy for easily ordering the projects to complete within the unit study.

The third portion of the unit study was my favorite. This is the section with weekly plans and a schedule. When I got to this section, I was thrilled to see the books and activities broken into six weeks of study. Even though I never complete a study on schedule (and this one was no exception), I enjoyed having the schedule so I would know which resources to purchase and prepare to do next on the list. As a box-checker I loved this.  Each day was placed into a grid for the weeks of the study, and then a detailed list of actual projects and assignments to correlate with the notes on the grid spanned the next three pages.

The fourth section of the unit study was a list of spelling and vocabulary words with their definitions for me. This left things flexible enough for me to be able to use the activities that worked best with my family. However, I do wish two things had been added to this section. I would have liked to see page numbers attached to the words and for there to be some additional vocabulary notebook page forms. I would also have liked to see some specific poems for study and directions for specific language arts assignments included.

The unit study also contains forms for character study, fact or fiction, chapter summaries, comparison of life “then and now,” and novel structure. In addition, there are forms for state and country studies along with a US map. The final section of the unit study contains some suggestions for a culminating project at the end of the unit study.

I really thought this was a great product. It is flexible enough to be easily adapted to individual families, but it is also structured enough to make it easy to implement. All the research and planning have been done for you as a parent. My children are sixth, fourth, first and kindergarten aged and they were all able to participate at an age appropriate level. Even better, my boys loved it just as much as the girls. In fact, they have already got our next American Girl unit study picked out.

-Product review by Rebecca Ray, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2016