The Encouraged Mom

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Homeschooling Unit Studies

American Girl Kaya Unit Study – Week 1: Meet Kaya

This is my plan for the first week of a homeschool American history unit study using the Kaya books from American Girl. Kaya is a young Nez Perce girl, living in America in 1764 who learns some valuable life lessons. I am excited to be sharing these stories with my daughter and being able to call it “school” is one of the awesome things about homeschooling.

The spine of this week’s study is Welcome to Kaya’s World 1764 and the first Kaya book in the American Girl Kaya series: Meet Kaya. The remaining books will be covered in future weeks.

Week 1: Meet Kaya

Needed Books:



*Kaya’s Story Collection contains the same stories as the original 6 story books all in one volume. However, the Looking Back section is completely different than those in the chapter books (from what I can tell) and each of the chapter books has one (making 6 separate Looking Back sections), where the collection only has one at the end. I will try to note in my lessons which version I’m using so you will know, but all the activities should be appropriate no matter which version you choose to use. I say use whatever is available at the library or less expensive to buy.

Supplementary materials:

Optional Books (not scheduled, but might be fun to add):

Day 1 – Ch 1: Let’s Race


Nez Perce words: Nimiipuu, Eetsa, aa-heh, Toe-ta, Aalah, tawts may-we, tawts

Other words: boast, travois, tule mats, mischievous,


Meet Kaya ch. 1

Welcome to Kaya’s World p. 1 (Introduction), p 6-7 (Horse People)

Answer questions:

1. Eetsa told Kaya, “Our actions speak for us. Our deeds show our worth.” What did she mean by that? Do you agree?

2. What happened when Kaya raced Steps High? How did she feel afterwards?

3. What did Kaya forget about?


Meet Kaya

Watch how to make the tepee with string like Raven did (It’s called witches broom in the video, but it is the same string formation Raven made)

Fun Facts about Appaloosas

Nez Perces Horses

Nez Perce Creation story

Appaloosa Horses – neat old film about the history of these horses

 Websites: – Look at all the pictures and save this link for optional projects in future days.

Geography: Oregon

Kaya’s family traveled to Wallowa, which is the Wallowa Valley in present-day Oregon. Find Oregon on a US map. See if you can locate Wallowa Valley.

Science: Appaloosa Horses

Visit the Appaloosa Youth website and read about Appaloosa horses. Be sure to click on the link for the Guide to Identifying and see if you can identify which type Kaya’s horse, Steps High, is.

Watch Fun Facts about Appaloosas video.

Go here to print out an Appaloosa coloring page


Get a long piece of string and try to make the tepee like Raven did.

Color an appaloosa horse


Day 2: Ch 2 – Switchings


Nez Perce words: wyakin, Hun-ya-wat, Kalutsa

Other words: cougar, loomed, magpie, innards, skewer, tethered


Meet Kaya – ch 2

Welcome to Kaya’s World p 2-5 (How Coyote Created Nimiipuu and Ancient Homelands)

Answer Questions:

  1. Why did all the children get a “switching”? What did Kaya do to cause it? Why didn’t just Kaya get switched?
  2. What nickname did Kaya receive? Why did she get that nickname?
  3. What was Aalah’s nickname when she was a girl?
  4. Kaya gets frustrated because she lets herself boast again. What does she boast about this time?
  5. What promise does Kaya make to Steps High?


Listen to a Magpie’s song

Nez Perce Salmon Fishing – *shows killing the fish, so you might want to skip if sensitive to this. However, the videographer is interviewing the fisherman and a lot of good information can be gleaned from this.

Websites: Learn about the Magpie


Look at the map on the Audobon website listed above. Did magpies live where Kaya and her family lived?

Science: Salmon

Watch this Life Cycle of Salmon video

Watch the Salmon’s Life Mission video

Print out and color this Pacific Salmon coloring page or better yet, print this Pacific Salmon and Steelhead Coloring Book to read and color

Fill out this Salmon Life Cycle Worksheet

Tell someone what you learned about Pacific Salmon


Eat some salmon for dinner


Day 3 – Ch 3: Courtship Dance


hemp, moccasin, pockmarks, courtship, gleaming


Meet Kaya ch 3

Welcome to Kaya’s World p. 24-25 (Making a Match), p. 32-35 (The Art of Weaving, Painted Parfleches)

Answer Questions:

  1. What did the Nez Perce not have when Aalah was young that they have now?
  2. Aalah said, “The old days are gone. We can’t unravel our lives and begin them again, as Kaya is doing with her weaving.” What did she mean?
  3. How did Aalah get the pockmarks on her face?
  4. How did Speaking Rain say she could tell if Brown Deer really liked Cut Cheek?
  5. When Kaya and Speaking Rain went to look for Aalah’s knife, what happened?


Nez Perce girl dancing – not a courtship dance, but interesting to watch

Watch a video showing how to weave

Websites:  – Pictures of Nez Perce cornhusk bags

Science: Smallpox

The sickness that Aalah speaks of is called smallpox. Research smallpox and tell someone what you learned. Here are a couple websites with good information for kids:


Get a loom like this one and try weaving like Kaya. Remember to keep it nice and tight.

or weave a simple potholder with this loom

or make a simple loom from cardboard like at this website

Try dancing like the Nez Perce


Day 4 – Ch 4: Rescued from the River


Nez Perce words: Katsee-yow-yow

Other words: cradleboard, surge, sweat lodge, quirt, withers, admiration


Meet Kaya ch 4

Welcome to Kaya’s World p 12-19 (A New Baby, Play with a Purpose, Strong Minds and Bodies, A Prized Possession)

Answer Questions:

  1. How did Kaya rescue Speaking Rain from the river? Why did she do it that way?
  2. According to Toe-Ta, why did Steps High obey Kaya when she wanted her to go into the river?
  3. After Kaya rescued Speaking Rain, what did Fox Tail call her?
  4. What was the story of how the mountain came to be? What do you think the “shining rocks” were?
  5. What was Kaya’s name given at birth? What does it mean?


Nez Perce Children dancing


Do a Google search for “Nez Perce Children” and then pick images. There are so many interesting old photographs of Nez Perce children in traditional dress, on cradleboards, etc. It’s worth perusing just to get a good idea of what it was like.

Make it Yourself! Toys and Games 

Hands-On: History Pockets

Nez Perce activities from History Pockets: Native Americans


Day 5 – Looking Back


assimilate, missionary, hides,


Meet Kaya – Looking Back

Welcome to Kaya’s World p 8-11 (On the Move, Life in the Longhouse)

Answer Questions:

  1. Can you retell the Nimiipuu creation story about Coyote and the heart of the monster?
  2. The Nez Perces traveled with the seasons. Why do you think they did this?
  3. In the summer, what kind of home did they live in? What was it made of? How about in the fall and winter, what kind of home did they live in then?
  4. What kind of chores and work did they Nez Perces women do in the winter time?
  5. Where do Nez Perces live today? What is it like to be a Nez Perce child in modern times


10 Things You Should Know About the Nez Perce Tribe


In which states do most of the Nez Perce people live today? Locate this on a map of the United States.


Make a model tepee. Here’s one set of instructions. And here’s another one.  See if you can modify the instructions to make one out of pretend tule mats instead of a solid piece of material. If you live where there are long sticks available, you might want to try making a bigger one outside with sticks and a sheet or other covering.

Make a parfleche. Using painter’s paper ( large roll of kraft paper) or butcher paper and twine or yarn, make a parfleche and paint it like the women in Kaya’s family would. Use the template found here as a guide. (You’ll want to make yours bigger, but you can get the general shape from this template) Then see how many of your belongings you can pack into it and how sturdy it is. What might make it sturdier? How does a parfleche compare to a modern day suitcase? Does it work as well?


That’s it for week 1. Here’s the link for week 2. Please share what you are doing with Kaya’s books to learn about Native American history. I’d love to know!










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