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Teaching History with the American Girls Series
There are many creative ways to teach American history to the homeschool student, from using movies to good historical fiction. Pleasant Company’s American Girls series is an excellent resource that can bring history to life for girls ages 8 to 12.
Because there are so many books in the series, and additional items like dolls and accessories, girls tend to enjoy “getting to know” each character and her time period in history. The characters are realistic and likeable and the books are short enough to be easily read by younger readers. The dolls and other accessories allow the characters to come to life for your daughter. There are even a few movies available based on the stories in this collection.
You can use this series to beef up a boring history textbook or create a complete study based on the books.
Books in the American Girls Series
The American Girls books are about different female main characters throughout American history, starting in the 1700s. Each character has several short, easy to read books about an adventure she has or a lesson she learns. The books are historically accurate and include mentions and information about the different events and important people of the day.
The series and the time in which they take place are:
- Felicity - Colonial America/Revolutionary War 1774
- Addy - African American, Underground Railroad 1864
- Kaya- Nez Perce Native Americans 1764
- Josefina- Latina, New Mexico in 1824
- Cécile and Marie-Grace – New Orleans 1850s
- Kirsten – Pioneer life 1854
- Samantha - Victorian times 1904
- Rebecca – New York 1914
- Kit - Great Depression 1930s
- Molly - World War II 1940s
- Julie - 1970s
- Chrissa - 2009
Each book has a doll that is created to represent the main character. Some of the books have two dolls available; the main character and her best friend. Each doll is dressed in historically correct clothing and has accessories that would be a normal part of everyday life in her era. Many of the sets have included a cookbook with recipes for typical foods and a project book to allow your child to create projects that reflect the story.
Teaching History with American Girls
While Pleasant Company does not have a licensed history study, other people have created unit studies based on the American Girls dolls and books. The books are usually readily available at your local library but your daughter may enjoy them so much you’ll want to collect the whole series.
Portraits of American Girlhood
This seven part unit study will cover one year of American History at the elementary level (grades 2-5). While it is written primarily for girls the authors have included ideas for projects to get boys involved in a mixed group.
Contained in the 250 pages are:
- Tips and helps
It is written from a Christian world view.
Free Kirstin Unit Study
Homeschool Helper has a free unit study that you can try to see if unit studies are something you are interested in doing. The Kirsten unit study includes a variety of activities based on each book in the Kirstin series.
Some of the suggestions are:
- Trace Kirstin’s journey on a map
- Learn about cholera
- Make a rag doll
- Learn about tornadoes
- Learn a few words of Swedish
- Visit a museum
Create Your Own Unit Study
If you are a somewhat experienced homeschooler you can use the books to create your own unit study specifically tailored to your child.
How to Create Your Own American Girls Unit Study
- Begin with the first series, Felicity.
- Read through the books yourself to get an idea of the main events
- Choose 10 to 20 vocabulary words based on each book
- Choose several events to concentrate on
- Create a timeline and put each character in her proper decade
- Using a large United States map mark where each character lived
- Study the type of home the main character lived in (Victorian, sod, tee pee, log cabin, etc.)
- Rent any movies that are available from Netflix or Blockbuster
- Use the project books and cook books available for each character to get ideas for projects
- Read other books that are set in the same time period. For example, read a biography of George Washington or Betsy Ross when studying Felicity
- Create lapbooks
- Have your daughter dress up as her favorite character
A Clip from the Samantha Movie
Creating Lasting Memories
One of the most important parts about homeschooling is the ability to create lasting memories with your child. American Girls books celebrate the lives and contributions of women throughout the history of the United States. Because your daughter will, in essence, get to know each character she will be able to better understand the feelings, actions, and social climate of the era in which the character lived. Since the books are fun to read the information is more likely to be committed to long term memory and best of all, your daughter may well develop a lifelong love of history.
Teaching history with the American Girls series is a creative way to get important information in your daughter’s mind and homeschool experience.