Learning History with American Girl – Kaya

Do you have an American Girl fan in your house? We are about to embark on our American Girl journey to study American history. Here’s our plan and what resources we will be using. As we go along, I’ll have more posts about our crafts, projects, field trips, and activities.

How We Started

First let me tell you, this was not all my idea. My friend and fellow homeschooling mom, Krista, is really the main brain behind this endeavor. We both have daughters who are fascinated with American Girl dolls.

When Krista mentioned she was planning to do history with her daughter this year via the AG historical character books, I asked if The Queen Bee and I could join her. She agreed, and we both clicked into Homeschool Mom Super Planning Mode:  “Look, I found this resource!” “Hey, let’s start a Pinterest board with all of our ideas!” “What if we did a cross-country field trip to Idaho to see where the Nez Perce Indians are from?” Kidding about that last one. Sort of.

Who is Kaya?

Chronologically, the first historical AG doll is Kaya. Her story takes place in the mid 1700′s. Kaya is a Native American Indian, in the nomadic tribe of the Nez Perce.

Our Plan

We plan to read a chapter a week at home to our daughters, then we’ll come together once a week to discuss the chapter and do a craft or activity. We’ll throw in a field trip here and there as well. If this pace proves to be moving too slow for the kids, we’ll step it up. Will we do all the books in the Kaya series? We don’t know yet. We’ll gauge the girls’ interest and our ability to continue to come up with crafts and activities that hold their interest.

Our Resources

Kaya Set of BooksMeet Kaya, Kaya’s Escape, Kaya’s Hero, Kaya and Lone Dog, Kaya Shows the Way and Changes for Kaya.

Welcome to Kaya’s World, 1764: Growing Up in a Native American Homeland  Details the life and traditions of Kaya’s family and the Nez Perce Indians with lots of pictures showing their homes, how they prepared their food, cared for their horses and so on.  A great visual accompaniment to the Kaya series of books. I believe this book is out of print, but it was easy to find used copies.

Kaya’s Magnetic Mini World Interchangeable background and magnetic figures of Kaya, her family members, and items for them to use like baskets, food, and more.  Also “out of print” but easily found used. 

More Than Moccasins: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life - Recipes, crafts and more about traditional Native American life.

History Pockets: Native Americans, Grades 1-3 Paper crafts to learn about Native American Indian life, with a chapter specifically about the Nez Perce tribe.

American Girl Crafts Historical Dolls Stickers to be used with a Timeline. You can purchase one or make one.

Map of the United States – to mark where Kaya is from in relation to where we live.

Do you need all of these things? No, it’s just what we happened to get good deals on via Amazon, yard sales and family gifts. If you are unable to find the out of print items on Amazon, try Ebay or Better World Books. I’ve seen a few of the items on these sites.

Check back to see our projects and activities. I’ll chronicle them here as we go along.  Are you learning history with American Girl? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to feature some of your ideas.

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Workbox Update: We’re On a Break

Workboxes continue to be a popular topic on various homeschool forums, websites and blogs and my workbox page is consistently visited on my blog.  So I feel obligated to tell you that my workboxes and I are currently taking a break in our relationship.

Actually, we’ve been on a break for some time now. I’m not really sure when it happened, although I do recall a week some months ago when I said to Firefly, “Mommy, didn’t get a chance to fill your workbox but here’s a list of what we are doing today.”,  hastily scrawled on a piece of paper.”

And he read the list himself and proceeded to get to work. It dawned on me that he no longer needed those task discs with little pictures on them any more.  His reading was proficient enough. And as long as he knows at the start of the day what he is expected to do, he transitions easily from one subject to the next, without whining, fussing or collapsing onto the carpet in a dramatic fashion.

Soon, this “list” morphed into a weekly calendar.  I print out a blank weekly calendar from iCalendar and write his assignments on it. That’s it. Nothing fancy. I do this on Sunday night or Monday morning, copying most of it out of my planner, which also contains stuff for The Queen Bee and general notes to myself on what I want to do that week, learning wise.

At the bottom of each day on the calendar, I write his outside activities: basketball practice, Lego club, a playdate with a friend, a drop off visit to Grandma’s. He looks forward to these things and it keeps him from asking me repeatedly what we are doing later in the day.

The Queen Bee, my 5 year old, never took to the workboxes much. She would pull out the stuff that looked fun and work on it, then refuse the rest. That actually was fine, as it helped me do some “research” into her learning style, what types of activities appealed to her, etc. For now, I just verbally let her know what I have planned for her that day and then we roll with it. She only has 2 or 3 tasks per day, we aren’t super structured since she is only in kindergarten. Plus she spends a good amount of time each day on educational computer sights, bringing me books to read to her and playing with math manipulatives. I think the workbox thing was more structure than she really needed.

When we were new to homeschooling, workboxes helped me to be organized, and to feel good about having a plan:  Yes, my children will learn something this week. I won’t be collapsing under the chaos of a shrieking toddler, a mound of laundry, endless preparations of snacks and meals, and so forth.

Now we have a definite rhythm to our days. I am much more relaxed about their learning. All of the learning doesn’t take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day, or whatever. It’s much more spread out. For example, a lot of our reading (both me reading aloud to the kids and Firefly reading himself) takes place in the evening.  Much easier to do that when my 3 year old has either gone to bed or can be entertained by The Husband vs. during the day when he interrupts for snacks, help with the potty, wanting Mommy to play with him, etc. ( I am speaking of the 3 year old here, not The Husband. Just wanted to clarify.)

So there you have it. No more workboxes, at least not right now. Perhaps we will return to them someday. Perhaps my three year old will be a workbox kind of guy when he starts doing schooly stuff. We’ll have to wait and see.

One more thing:  Having a little supply box for each child has been a lifesaver. I’m not sure how or why but my kids keep track of these things. They put their pencils, crayons, erasers, scissors, glue, etc. back in their boxes each day with little encouragement from me and this has made life so much easier when we set to work on an assignment or a project. So we will keep using these wonderful little boxes. So simple, but such a timesaver.

You can read more about my other workbox posts here to see how they evolved in our house.

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Coming Up Next on Creekside Learning

I have so many fun things planned for the Creekside kiddos and, of course, I’ll be posting them on the blog, but here’s a sneak preview.

My kindergarten-aged daughter, The Queen Bee, adores her favorite story characters, so I’ve been busy creating lesson plans around some of her favorite books and some new ones that I think will appeal to her. Our experiences with Five In a Row trained me well on how to extract language arts, math, science, social studies and art lessons out of a good children’s book. Here are some of the books we will be, as The Queen Bee says, “learning about”, as in, “Can we learn about Pinkalicious, Mommy?”

Yes, we can, my dear, and many more too.

Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes.


Browse Inside this book

 

Fancy Nancy, by Jane O’Connor.


Browse Inside this book

 

And of course, Pinkalicious, by Victoria Kann.


Browse Inside this book

 

The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats.

We’ll be doing some literature learning with some books that appeal to all three of my kiddos, such as:

The Mitten, by Jan Brett.

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For science, we’ll begin studying Astronomy. I couldn’t find a curriculum that quite fit our interests and learning styles, so I’m putting one together and I can’t wait to share it with you all.

It will have lots of hands on and experiential activities, including experiments, field trips and games.

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For history, we will pick back up where we left off with our Ancients studies.

Lots of fun projects are planned to keep the kiddos interested and engaged. We’ll be learning about the ancient Phoenecians, Greeks, Romans and more.

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We’ll also be doing a unit study on Australia.  This idea sparked by seeing how fascinated my kids were, especially my 5 year old, with all of the wonderful animals we learned about in Africa via our ancient history studies. I decided to use the plethora of unique and interesting Australian animals to launch us into learning about the continent of Australia. We’ll do some geography, read some wonderful books and and much, much more. I’m still gathering resources for this unit study so if you have a resource about Australia that you love, please share it with us.

We’ll also be re-constructing our Hot Chocolate Cafe from last winter, this time with math activities that mirror what we’ve been working on this year: recognizing coins and their values for my 5 year old, adding and subtracting money for my 7 year old.

I’m also trying to ready us for the long winter ahead. We all typically get stir crazy from being in the house too much. And we certainly had the mid-winter doldrums that many homeschooling families experience last year, our first year homeschooling: where everyone is grumpy and uncooperative and not really focused. Even the Mommy.

This year, I’m ready to (hopefully) recognize those mid-winter homeschooling blues before they hit full force and switch gears to include more field trips and more opportunities for indoor active play (think the indoor pool at Grandma’s retirement community, the gym and track at the community center, the play area at the Children’s Museum).  We’ll do more art projects and crafts.  And, I know I say this every year and then chicken out, but we’ll just go outside anyway, even if it’s cold, we’ll bundle up and go, even for half an hour. Hmmmm, maybe I should start with 15 minutes, though it seems not worth the effort of getting everyone bundled up to go outside.

I’ve started a Pinterest board to gather ideas for our Winter Bucket List and hope to turn this into something visual for the kids to hang on the wall or something, then we can pick weekly, or more frequently, as necessary, something to break up the monotony of winter.

All of this and more will be coming up on the blog. I’ll post the details of each of our projects and learning adventures with pictures and resources. Happy New Year to all of you and thank you for reading, for commenting and for helping this little blog to grow over the past year.

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My Homeschool Lesson Planner

I love technology, don’t get me wrong. I spend way too much time on my laptop and my iphone. I love discovering new ways to use technology to learn things and to help my children learn things. But when it comes to keeping my personal calendar and my weekly  lesson plans, I am a paper and pencil kind of gal. Maybe it’s something about being able to see it all laid out before me and jot things down in the margins, or maybe just having that book in my hands, with it’s colorful dividers and pocket folders.  Maybe it’s because I am forty-something.  Very early forty-something.  Ahem.  I try not to overthink it.  It is what it is.

While I do love the idea of having lesson plans in a software program in theory, I just haven’t been able to find anything I like.  The closest I’ve come to using lesson planning software is Skedtrack, a free product with lots of features.   The appeal is that you don’t have to re-enter things if you get behind or have a week where everybody is too sick to do schoolwork.  There is one major drawback:  You can’t print it out. Remember how I like to have things on paper in front of me?

So what I have found that works for me thus far in my very new career as a homeschooler are free printables from Donna Young. Isn’t it so nice of Donna to make all of these great printables and share them with us?  I think so.  I use her basic weekly planner and have tweaked it to fit our needs. Because I can download it as a Word file, I can add or delete columns and rows, change the font, type in info that is the same every day/week, etc.
Here’s how I’ve adapted it to use with two kids, one who is in preschool and doesn’t do quite so many subjects as her first grade brother.

On my first grader’s page, I’ve put the things at the top that we all do together, like Out and About activities, Five in a Row, and Science. My preschooler’s page is half the size and goes over top of my first grader’s page.  That way I can still see the things on her brother’s page that also apply to her.

I think this system also works because currently, I only plan two or three weeks at a time. We are still so new at this, that I have to see how things go week by week in order to know what will work next week or next month.

Have you found something that works well for your lesson planning?  I’d love to hear about it.