Native American History with Kaya the American Girl - Part 1: Organizing the Club

 So, I'm only four short years late in posting about the unit study course I offered at our home for my then-six-year-old daughter.  But like I've said before, better late than never.  Today I'm tackling this project that has been neglected for four years.  This is the first in a series of posts about the Kaya unit study we did. I'll be outlining why and how this club started in my home, the basics of operating the club and the lesson plans I developed for each meeting.

Why I started the Kaya American Girl History Club
When my oldest was 6 years old and it was our second year of homeschooling, I was still feeling really disconnected, isolated and pretty green.  I had a LOT to learn about homeschooling (I still do).  To help us bond with our local homeschooling communities, I took a huge leap of faith and decided to run a club from home.  I opened it up to anyone who was interested and then waited to see what happened!  I was so pleasantly surprised at the response I got. I advertised (more on that in a minute) 12 openings for the class and they all filled very quickly. I was happy that there were others out there willing to come meet us and be part of our homeschooling experience.

It turned out to be the best thing I could have done for our homeschool. I personally benefited from meeting so many fabulous LOCAL women who were doing their best, like me, to educate their little ones.  Some of the friendships I made in that first group are among the best and strongest I've ever had.  And yes, my kids did find people that they clicked with too so it was a win-win for all of us.

Organizing the club
I used the American Girl Kaya book series as the basis for this club.  At the time, in 2009, I was not able to find any prepared lesson plans to go with Kaya. I believe that most of the other American Girls have teacher guides that you can use to present a unit study.  But Kaya doesn't, or at least I couldn't find one back in 2009.  I decided I would have to read the whole series ahead of time and create my own lesson plans from the readings. So I'm going to share those homemade lesson plans with you in future posts.  But before I do let me just say that I recently did a brief internet search on Kaya and have already found several really good resources that were not available in 2009.  I'll share those with you now so that you don't have to rely solely on what I as able to dream up.
Creek side Learning
American Girl's Learning Guide for Kaya

No doubt there is more, but there's a start to your search.

I used a lot of information from

to help me organize the club. This book introduces what they call "mom schools" and I modeled our Kaya history club after them.

After reading the Kaya books and making rough drafts of lesson plans to go with each book, I drafted an "advertisement" for the class and posted it on several local homeschooling Google and yahoo groups that I belong to. I made sure to include the class schedule and the class syllabus and the cost so everyone knew what to expect before signing up.  I learned the hard way that  offering 12 openings was a mistake.  The group was much too large for my house and my patience ;).  Since then I have limited our clubs to no more than 6 additional kids. Because with my own 4, that still makes a group of ten.

As I received responses to the advertisement for the class, I asked moms to fill out a registration form so that I had everyone's names and contact information. I collected the  $25 materials fee on the first day, or shortly thereafter.  This amount turned out to be not enough to cover my costs and since then I've learned to charge $3/class per child, and that's much closer to covering costs for most things we do.

Schedule, Format and Forms
We met twice a month for a total of six months, which means we had 12 meetings. I started in October and finished in April.  this felt like good timing because we miss the "good" weather on both ends of the school year and we fill the dreary days of winter with something to look forward to.

We covered one book per month (two meetings for each book) and the girls were asked to have read or listened to each book before coming to class.  Each meeting was two hours long.  We set up a schedule for each child to give a narration at the beginning of each class.  This means they told us about their favorite part of the book we were reading at the time.  The narration could be as simple retelling part of  a favorite part or it could be some other representation of the book via art, music, poetry, etc.

I also asked moms to sign up to be my assistant once or twice so that I had a helper for each class. This proved to be my best idea ever!  I really needed extra hands.  And the child who had the narration was also assigned to bring  a snack to share with the group.  This took some pressure off of me since I was usually up VERY late the night before each meeting preparing.  I shared the narration/snack schedule as well as the teacher's assistant schedule with the whole group so that there were no surprises and things were planned out ahead of time.

On the registration form, I also gave the parents several options of related field trips we could take.  I tallied the votes and based our field trips on parent responses to the options I gave them.

Because we were a conglomeration of local families who only knew each other through online support groups, we decided it would be a good idea if we all met together for a play-date before classes started.   We arranged to meet at a park where moms could chat and kids could socialize in a relaxed environment before taking the plunge.  I kinda felt like some moms were sizing up other moms and their kids, deciding if they really wanted to be part of this group or not.  Turns out that everyone enjoyed everyone else very much and it was a fantastic group of moms and kids.   And I was ok with this "sizeing up" thing.  One huge benefit to homeschooling is deciding who you and your kids associate with, so I expect parents to be picky.  And it also turned out that several of the families already knew each other through other activities.  I was really the only total newbie to the group.  :)

So once I had the syllabus, roster, schedules and field trips all planned out we were ready to get started!  I will start sharing lessons plans with you in my next Kaya post.