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Maybe your girls have read some or all of the American Girls books just for fun. If they haven't read them yet, what's a better and more reader-friendly basis for studying American history? That's what Cindy Sotelo must have been thinking as she put together this curriculum for her girls. The idea caught on with their friends, and a girl's history study group formed, eager to participate in all the activities of the study. The study is divided into seven units, each based on one American Girl, and arranged in chronological order of their time periods from Felicity to Molly. Each unit is designed to take about six weeks to complete, less if you would like to fit all seven units into a traditionally scheduled school year, or more if you feel you would like to spend more time on each unit and fill more of the year with it or stretch it over into the next school year. The primary reading material for each unit is, of course, the six American Girl books for the featured American Girl, although additional reading suggestions are included and there is plenty of room for your own as well. The American Girl Teacher's Guides, Welcome to ______'s World, as well as the American-girl specific Cookbook, Craft Book, Paper Dolls, Theater Kit/Six Plays, as well as selected Childhood of Famous Americans are also recommended for each unit. Unfortunately, many of the supplemental American Girl items such as the Teacher's Guides and Cookbooks are out of print, however, you may be able to find them at your library. The Craft books appear to be coming back as Color & Crafts, and the Paper Dolls have been republished as well. Internet resources are also listed for each unit, each with a synopsis of what you will find and use from each site. Each unit begins with a list of resources, both book, video, and internet, followed by a content overview for that unit. The week-by-week unit plans include projects for each day. Necessary forms are included throughout the unit, as well as on the accompanying CD-ROM. The daily projects include the approximate time required, materials needed (mostly arts/crafts items and household items you have on hand) as well as the skills covered, followed by detailed instructions. Along the way, numerous samples of student work is included, so you can see some examples of what other students have done with the projects, or have added to the rest of the study.
As far as subject content, the study covers quite a bit of social studies and history, some diverse science topics, biographies of famous people, U.S. geography through history, supplemental math activities, and character education. Language arts is also covered in some detail, including dictionary skills, literature, grammar/usage, general writing skills, creative writing and journalism. I should note the math included is not intended to provide a solid mathematical foundation but is included as a supplement. You will need to continue a complete math program during this study. If the child is an early reader, you may also need to supplement with further phonics and reading instruction, and unless you take an aggressive approach to the spelling/vocabulary found in the reading of this program, you will probably need to supplement a spelling program as well. That being said, the rest of this curriculum contains a solid social studies, literature, and language arts core that provides numerous avenues to more in-depth topics, available to you to wander through and research as you wish. The author has suggested numerous other ways to extend the subjects, including keeping a portfolio by time period and other projects her daughters and friends became interested in as they studied each era. She also arms you with lists of tips, helps, and adaptations for different situations (new or reluctant readers, children with attention difficulties, and older students), as well as multiple suggestions for using the study with boys. An appendix contains additional forms, along with suggestions for real-life writing, quiet/devotional time, and a sample schedule for a girl's history club meeting. While you can just pick up the book and use it with a set of American Girls books, a few supplemental books and a computer, the study will be much more well-rounded and beneficial if a little research and organizational time is put in up front. A great unit study that is sure to get your girls (and maybe even boys) interested in history and a variety of other subjects. This would also work well for a co-op class. - Jess