As I mentioned before, I found Five in a Row (FIAR) at the end of Brian’s kindergarten year. We used it for three years and I loved it!!! My children and I have fond memories of books we rowed (used with FIAR) and my daughter looks forward to using them with her kids one day.
Five in a Row is kind of like a unit study and uses, sort of, a Charlotte Mason approach, if I had to classify it. Basically you pick a child’s picture book from one of the suggested titles (over 60). You get that book from the library, borrow it from someone else, or purchase it yourself. Read through the activities listed in the FIAR manual and pick several that you think will be interesting to your child, yourself or just needs to learn next. Some activities are geared towards the younger children and some towards the older. You’d be amazed at some of the concepts that a younger child can grasp though, so don’t be afraid to do some that you think are more for the older child.
So what you do is take the chosen book, get your kiddos together and snuggle up on a chair or sofa or bed or someplace cozy and read the book to them. Then casually talk about one of the activities you had picked. Maybe you were reading The Bee Tree so you talk about onomatopoeia which is simply words for sounds and this book is full of them. Squeak!
The next day you gather your children together as before and read the book once again. Today you do a different activity. Each book has a story disk which is a small circle with a visual representation of the book on it; place this disk on a wall map on the place where the story takes place. In the case of The Story About Ping, the story disk would be placed in China on the Yangtze River since this story is about a Peking duck on the Yangtze River in China.
Sometimes I found extra activities that I thought looked fun. We made some hand puppets to go with Papa Piccalo. I still have them today, waiting for my future grandchildren to play with them after I read them the delightful story.
Each day, for five days (or more if you choose), you follow the same procedure: cuddle up with your child/children and read the book and then do an activity with it. This along with your phonics/learning to read program and math program is all you need. Young children benefit from lots of play time, nature walks, and learning life skills helping mommy and daddy. This is Five in a Row in its simplest form.
When I used FIAR there were only three volumes. These volumes were written for ages 5-8 but could be stretched to 9 if you have younger children you’re including. Each of the books in these volumes was meant to be covered in one week. There is also a fourth volume which uses a bit more difficult children’s books and are designed to be studied for two weeks instead of just one.
I am a planner, so my first year I worked through the numbers of weeks and the number of books and such and had one planned for each school week (36 weeks). Let me just be the voice of reason here for you! Only plan to do 2-3 books each MONTH. This way you allow for anything that should arise and give yourselves a nice gentle pace. If you find that you have done all that you have “planned” and want another one to do, it is easy to do so.
I suggest that you decide what things are necessary to be accomplished each day. For us it was devotional/Bible story, phonics work, math practice, chores/life skills, and playtime. This way if things happen in the day and you have covered the essentials, you can feel that the day has been successful . . . when we covered FIAR we had a complete day. Many times, that just couldn’t happen because at the time we were rowing I had an infant/toddler.
I do have a warning though, so many extra activities can be found online to go with the delightful stories that you can get yourself bogged down, overwhelmed, and eventually burnt out.
This has gotten long, so I close for now and share why we left FIAR and what we used for the rest of the children’s education.
Until next time, God bless,