My girls are having their best homeschool year ever using the American Girl history curriculum that I planned for them. I’ve been in education for 18 years and have planned out curriculum before, but I have never had so much fun doing it. The links to all of our finished units are at the end of this page.
I re-used some history spines that I have saved. This American Girl history curriculum also uses a lot of YouTube and other free internet sources.
We used American Girl history as a “gap year” so that my youngest child would have some extra time to mature into the next levels in our regular curricula (I use a mix of Sonlight and My Father’s World).
You may choose any one of these American Girl unit studies, or all of them. You may do them in any order. They will flow better with the 36 week plan if you do the units in historical order, but it’s fine to do them in any order. You can use them for 3 or 4 weeks, a summer, or for a whole school year. There are four days of scheduled work per week to allow for a co-op or other classes on the fifth day. There are a planned 12 units based on the historical dolls, each being 3 weeks long, with a 4th optional week to give you a chance to either catch up or go deeper. If you take 3 weeks for each unit, you can get through all 12 units in 36 weeks. If the reading schedule is too heavy for your child, you can use the schedule for 4 weeks for each unit. You would complete 9 units in 36 weeks.
We are still working through these units and re-checking them after we’re done, so not all the units are up.
The 3 week unit plan schedules about 70 pages per week from an American Girl book, plus some short poetry. You can read the books aloud to your child, or your child can read them on his or her own. There are also optional scheduled history readings from the books “The Last 500 Years” and “Story of the World Volume 4.” These vary in length from about 10-20 minutes per day and help your child understand what was going on in the world at that time. Those books should be read aloud by the parent. Art, Writing, Poetry, and other activities related to the era or story are also scheduled. The writing or art is scheduled about once per week, but it is not intended as a substitute for a full language arts program.
You’ll use your own materials to schedule in the 36 week plan for Science, Bible, Geography, Grammar, and Spelling. There is a space on the grid for you to add your own Math and other programs or activities. Use the blank grids to schedule in your own preferences for those subjects.
The units are not common core aligned. They are designed to help you and your children develop delight-directed learning. After working through these units you might be able to build your own units of study around another series of books. The units offer suggestions for increasing or decreasing the difficulty so that you can tailor the units to your children’s various abilities. There are no grade levels.
Each unit is designed around the first new version of the book, or the first three of the old versions of the books. This is because the older, short American Girl books were repackaged into the longer, newer editions. There are small changes, but not enough to make a difference when doing these units. You can read details about the changes, and about the general pattern of the American Girl books
The units are designed to be used with any version of the books, old or new. You can read a lot of the books for a character, or you can read just the first one. Specific versions of books and page numbers would make these units more difficult to use in the long run, unless you could find the exact same book.
Add a Language Arts program for your child if the American Girl Doll books are not enough for you (my children used Sonlight readers). Poetry is covered with The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems. Poems were chosen for each girl based on the time period when the poem was written, or the subject of the poem.
At the beginning of each unit, divide the American Girl book you are using into thirds. If you are using the vintage books, they’re already divided into three. Even if you are on the four-week unit plan, try to read each book within three weeks. If you fall behind, you have the fourth week to catch up. If you finish in three weeks, you have the fourth week to enjoy enrichment activities or other books.
Each unit covers a different theme or different period of history as it relates to the content in the American Girl books. The AG books are great, but not always historically accurate (like most books). Additional items are scheduled so that you can explore the historical time period.
For my American Girl year, I chose history “spine” books that my son has enjoyed:
The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 4: The Modern Age: From Victoria’s Empire to the End of the USSR Story of the World Vol. 4 became our American Girl spine.
What’s a curriculum “spine?” A curriculum spine is a history book that we keep referring to throughout the year. It gives simple explanations and overviews of the time period.
I also chose to use an Usborne book, Last 500 Years Usborne World History, to help fill in the concepts with pictures and short summaries.
I added two Draw and Write Through History books, because I’ve found that these are an inexpensive supplement that my kids really enjoy. Two of the books covers enough of the time period that the American Girl dolls span.
Napoleon to Lady Liberty: The World of the 1800’s (Draw and Write Throuh History, 5) and
Draw and Write Through History: The 20th Century
If you end up wanting to try a unit (rather than a whole year) and you don’t want to buy any books, just borrow what you can from the library and skip anything you can’t get. There’s nothing magical about any particular book. I mean, *ahem* except that book that I wrote about teaching your child a foreign language at home.
Additional experiences are scheduled. Most of these are
hands-on. They cover topics like cooking, sewing, science, technology, and
basically anything that relates to the stories that kids might be interested
You can print the schedule and add your own materials for these
Program, including phonics
This guide is meant for children who are already fluent
readers. If your child is still learning to read, you can follow a reading plan
alongside this guide. My own current first grader is using Sonlight’s Language Arts 1 during her first-grade year.
Math on your
child’s level (We use Math U See)
Bible on your
child’s level (if desired)
Music on your child’s level. We love Hoffman Academy.
Grades 1-6, we’re using the schedule in Simply Charlotte Mason’s Learning About Birds with Thornton Burgess. The bird study goes along well with the American theme, and the price is very cheap for a year of science because most of what is used is no longer copyrighted. There are 36 weeks of lessons included.
You buy some inexpensive books to go with the Simply Charlotte Mason study:
(I bought the kindle version with the color illustrations
for under $1).
A bird field guide or multiple bird field guides.
50 favorite birds coloring book – my girls loved this.
If you don’t want to do a bird study, you can choose any science course you prefer, or just read science books from the library. There are STEM activities and science in some of the units, too.
You can use any Geography course you prefer.
Use any spelling curriculum, such as Spelling You See or All
About Spelling. We use Spelling You See.
There are options to fit a wide range of budgets. All of my
curriculum plans are free, and I designed the history so that you can do almost
everything with just a library card and internet connection.
Buying even one American Girl doll might be out of the
budget of many families. There are no requirements to buy any dolls. You can
buy no doll, or all the dolls. Your child can have a great time reading the
stories and learning about history.
Because pretend play is educationally valuable, it is suggested that you buy at least one 18” doll if your daughter wants one. They don’t have to be expensive. My girls love their rag dolls as much as their American Girl dolls. They have dolls like this that fit the patterns of American Girl doll clothes we sewed.
If you get a non rag doll, it can be American Girl brand or a similar doll from Target or WalMart. In our experience the American Girl doll is much more durable than the less expensive options. If you teach your daughter to brush the hair properly, the hair stands up to repeated brushing and styling better than the cheaper dolls. The one doll that you buy can be your child’s partner in listening to the books being read aloud and other learning activities. American girl mini dolls are a cheaper option to keep in mind, especially if you can find the three-book packages with mini doll included. The mini-dolls have cheap hair that doesn’t last, unfortunately.
We buy some American Girl brand clothing and accessories as
we are able to or as they come on sale, and some of the less expensive 18” doll
clothing and accessories and clothes available through Amazon, Target, and Wal
Mart. The American Girl brand items are consistently better quality than
cheaper options, and on sale are sometimes similarly priced.
Sewing is a craft option. There are many patterns available
for 18” doll clothes. These are a great way to get started with sewing. The
cost of sewing clothes can be cheap if you already sew and have leftover
remnants and all the other bits and bobs that go along with sewing. However,
sewing clothing can be much more expensive than buying pre-made clothing from
My girl’s dolls don’t mind “dressing up” for a lesson with
paper masks or by holding a drawing of an outfit.
There is no need to spend a lot of money on large
accessories. My girls love their horse stable from Target. They love their
American Girl doll Tenney’s stage and dressing room set. They equally love
their “rainforest house” that they made from a cardboard box and leftover
wrapping paper. They love that we made the “rainforest house” together and they
do not care about having an expensive name-brand rainforest house.
You will need to purchase or borrow the American Girl books scheduled
as the primary part of the curriculum (usually just the first new version book
or the first three older version books).
Following my affiliate links and buying books, games, and
materials through Amazon helps support this free curriculum and does not cost
you any extra money.
All other games and materials can be substituted as you
I’m adding to these plans as my girls and I go through them. You’ll want to see the free American Girl Unit Study Teacher’s Guide for each girl, plus download the free planning calendar. The playlists are also saved on my YouTube channel, for your convenience. We binge-watched a lot of the playlists.