A Little Bit about our Five in a Row Journey
This review used to look a little different but I thought it was important to freshen up this space with more up-to-date thoughts on this very special program after a few more years of experience! I first published my ‘review’ of FIAR in 2013, which really isn’t that long ago… but, we’ve had 2 more years of enjoying Five in a Row and I really wanted to update the review – so, here we go!
I can’t believe how long we’ve been using and loving Five in a Row. What a seriously life changing program for our family.
We started our journey with FIAR when I scored an older version of Volume One for $5 at a used book sale about 5 years ago. I flipped through it and thought it looked interesting but wasn’t sure I’d ever use it. However, something compelled me to buy it anyways. I know now that it was undoubtably the Lord leading my path.
When a few Moms shared their experiences (mostly on blogs I read), I was inspired by their enthusiasm and decided to give it a try in 2011. (This seems like so long ago now!). That’s when we rowed most of Volume 1 in combination with a program called Galloping the Globe. We then continued with Five in a Row for the 2012-2013 year and really enjoyed our time with the program. I bought most the titles for Volume 1 as I went and invested in a new copy of Volume 3 with a Literature Pack for our 2nd year with FIAR. I then purchased a used copy of Volume 4. I was blessed to be gifted with both Volume 2 and Before Five in a Row (thank you Lord!).
We worked through almost all of Volume 3 in 2013-2014 and kept plugging along with Volume 2, picking up some of the Volume 4 studies this past year as well. We have quite the list of books we’ve “rowed”, that’s for sure! (I don’t have anywhere near all our completed studies on this blog, unfortunately!)
This year (in 2015-2016) we are rowing Volume 1 with Alex and Volume 4 with Simon and Audrey. We are also rowing some of the Volume 2 and 3 titles all together.
So, what is Five in a Row?
In a nutshell, Five in a Row is a literary based curriculum for children. It is a Unit Study style program using classic and popular children’s literature as the basis for each individual Unit Study.
Five in a Row Volume 1-3 are great for children anywhere from age 4 to 10, depending on the child and how deep you dig into the studies. Volume 4 is very similar to Volumes 1-3 but is a little more advanced with longer, more involved studies, recommended for children older than 7. For younger children, age 2-4 (ish) there is also Before Five in a Row. For even older children, there is Beyond Five in a Row and Above and Beyond Five in a Row. We only have experience with Volumes 1-4 up to this point. Although, I do own Before Five in a Row and anticipate using it with more young children at some point! (Lord willing!)
The books used in Five in a Row are beautiful picture books that children (and adults!) truly LOVE to read and study. All the titles can be seen on the Five in a Row website by clicking through the volumes.
More About the Program:
The name Five in a Row comes from the idea that we are studying the same book for five days in a row. Ideally, we are also reading the book five days in a row, though we have rarely done this. We usually get about 3 reads in, unless the kids beg me to read more, which they certainly have!
We have rowed books usually for 1 week, although, we have also easily stretched rows 2 weeks, and for Volume 4, even 3 weeks.
Each Unit Study is broken down into several categories for learning and exploring. This is comprised of little lessons, activities, and experiments that directly relate with the content in that specific book.
The topics/subjects for study include:
-Social Studies (includes History and Geography)
-Art (History and Visual Art)
-Bible and Character studies (these are included in BFIAR and Five in a Row Volume 4, for Volume 1-3, you would need to purchase the Bible and Character Supplement book which is a very worthwhile investment)
-I would add to this list Home Studies/Life Skills because of the amount of opportunities we had to cook, bake, go on field trips, and learn life skills and handiwork.
Although there are many suggestions, you do not have to cover everything in the teacher’s guide. You can pick and choose what works for your children and your situation.
The idea is this: take a classic book, enjoy it together as a family, then use it to learn interesting and applicable lessons and discuss interesting ideas together as a family. The learning is done in a natural, fun way that children don’t even realize how much they are truly learning.
Also included are the Story Disks which are round cut-outs that represent each book and can be placed on a map to show where the book is set. Our children have really enjoyed placing the Story Disks on the map of the world we have.
Something to consider:
There are a few questions that often come up when I talk to other Moms about Five in a Row. One of the biggest ones is this: “What do I need to add to FIAR to make it a complete curriculum?” It’s not a simple answer, but I’ll try to share my thoughts.
Five in a Row is a very comprehensive program for early learners. I would add absolutely nothing to Before Five in a Row. At age 2, 3, and 4 I believe learning is all about reading, play, and very gentle discovery, which is exactly what BFIAR offers.
For Five in a Row, it depends on the age of the child and the abilities of the child. Most people will add additional phonics/reading instruction and regular math. The math in FIAR is not comprehensive enough to be considered a ‘full program’. There is not reading or phonics covered in FIAR, so, I added that for my early learners. (We use All About Reading!)
The language arts, mind you, is actually quite advanced, often covering grammar concepts like adjectives, nouns, verbs, similes, punctuation, personification, creative narration and writing, and much more.
It is completely up to you what you add or do not add. If young children are working through Five in a Row, doing some light math and using a reading/phonics program, I believe they will have a very rich and varied educational experience in their early elementary years! (Ours have!)
A look inside the Teacher’s Guide:
The Teacher’s Guide is pretty comprehensive, but you still have to plan your days and organize your activities. The books are not included with the guides, so you will have to find the titles. I have found lots at used book sales and thrift shops as well as ordered some on Amazon, at Thriftbooks.com, and also through the Rainbow Resource book packages. Some people say FIAR is an ‘open and go’ curriculum, but I disagree with this idea. It has been imperative that I read through the teacher’s guide and fully understand the concepts being presented. I also plan which activities we will do, when it will flow most easily and productively, and what will click with our children. I then spend time creating a bit of a schedule and plugging in the various tasks from the teacher’s guide.
I find this program VERY rewarding but it is a bit more work intensive for me, both in planning and executing the program. There is a lot of scheduling, printing activities, organizing crafts and experiments, etc. I have heard this from many Moms, that they don’t know if they can ‘do the work’ required to make FIAR a success.
If you have an hour to plan your row, you can have great success with FIAR. To me, an hour is more than doable. On a daily basis, you will be very involved in the teaching and learning with your children as well, which is part of the fun.
Sometimes it takes me a bit longer to plan because I also add quite a bit to the studies based upon some of the ideas I see online, on Pinterest, etc. So, I beef up some of the units, which makes more work as well and often stretches them longer. This isn’t necessary, but we enjoy it so much that I figure, why not? This program is doable just as it is, but you will likely come up with many additional ideas and activities to add to the units.
Volume 1 Table of Contents (well loved, this is the first guide I bought for $5!)
Volume 3 – the basic Blank Lesson Planning Sheet provided (yep, you can keep it this simple!)
Volume 4 – this is a page from The Raft
Volume 4 – at the end of each unit, there are Bible Lessons tied in as well as some suggested recipes!
From Before Five in a Row
Before Five in a Row
This is a two-page spread of the Bible and Character Supplement book for Volumes 1-3
From the Character and Bible Study Supplement (I love it!)
Some of our Story Disks we’ve used to map our rows.
Here’s a peak at our current Five in a Row collection:
Volume 4 with various titles
Buying my first used copy of Five in a Row was by far the best five dollars I have ever spent.
If anyone were to ask me what the best ‘homeschool’ resource I’ve ever found is – my easy answer would be Five in a Row. The reasons are many but here are a few:
Five in a Row revolutionized the way I looked at ‘school’ and learning.
When we started, our children were just in their grade 1 and Kindergarten years (with baby Alex tagging along). I hadn’t really found a groove, but I knew the workbooks weren’t working and I longed for something more, something fun, engaging, and gentle to do with our children.
I found a really wonderful gem when we started ‘rowing’ (as many FIAR Moms call it!) these books. I was astonished with how much fun we were having, how much our children were learning (and retaining!), and how much I was growing as an educator. We were also falling in love with so many amazing books. Many of which I was not previously familiar with. These titles have now become like very special parts of our family!
Through Five in a Row I was led to explore more Literature-based learning and was eventually introduced to the Charlotte Mason Philosophy of home education. So, this program has been instrumental in shaping and moulding our homeschool and I am SO grateful!
Five in a Row helps us create wonderful memories as we learn.
With this kind of learning, there are no test, no boring time-fillers, no text books or multiple choice quizzes. We enjoy great living books, wonderful living tie-ins for all subjects, tons of meaningful notebooking and lapbooking assignments, and fun and memorable activities to do together as a family.
I baked my VERY FIRST apple pie when we rowed How to Make and Apple Pie and See the World, we baked our first home-made croissants with our study of Madeline, we sprayed whipped cream ALL OVER the kitchen table and played in it for our study of Katy and the Big Snow (our kids STILL talk about this 2 years later), we sat on the floor and enjoyed a traditional Japanese meal for our study of Grandfather’s Journey, fed birds out of our hands when we rowed Albert, and made huge snow forts for our walk through Snowflake Bentley.
We visited puppies for our study of Three Names, we built huge cardboard castles and Medieval towns for our study of The Duchess Bakes a Cake, we’ve explored rivers, lakes, forests, farmer’s markets, small towns, big cities – I could go on for ages!
We have gone on journeys all over the world right from our kitchen table over the past few years. China, Italy, Japan, the USA, Northern Canada, England, France, Morocco… We snuggled together and enjoyed hours of reading, we created beautiful books and projects together and made lasting memories through various field trips, art projects, crafts, and handiwork activities.
Five in a Row inspires real, engaging, challenging learning opportunities.
Even when the children were quite young, we were learning about things like the Renaissance, architecture in early 1900s France, life on the Yangtze River, and patriotism in the USA. This program is not only memorable and fun, it is incredibly enriching for young learners and Moms alike.
We follow the guides fairly closely and often I use Pinterest and various blogs to add even more to our rows. We have learned SO MUCH through our Five in a Row studies. And you know what? When we are using living books to learn – the children remember. They take in history, geography, science, nature study, and so many other ideas about the world around them through the ideas expressed in these wonderful books. When we looked at the Underground Railroad through Follow the Drinking Gourd, the children learned in wide-eyed wonder (and sometimes dismay) about the realities of our past (and present) struggles with slavery and sin.
PS. Since taking this photo I’ve found Grass Sandals, Owl Moon, A Prayer for a Child, Grandfather’s Journey, The Pumpkin Runner, and The Hatmaker’s Sign! *hooray!* The search continues…
So, you’re wondering, “Will my child like FIAR?”
In one word? Yes. I believe most children will love FIAR. I know this because I have three children that are all incredibly different, and all three connected with and enjoyed the program immensely. I have a highly analytical, facts-oriented son, an incredibly artistic and languages-focused daughter, and a very active young boy. I was able to tailor FIAR to fit the needs of all three children. They all came out loving the experience and learning a ton.
Some (hopefully) encouraging thoughts:
The thing that gets me most excited when I think about Five in a Row is how the program has influenced our learning style within our homeschool and developed a deep rooted love of reading in our children. Through this program, our children were exposed over and over again to the JOY of reading and now are avid readers who either have a book under their own nose, or are begging me to read to them constantly. Also, I really grasped so much about how to pull learning out of great books and how to use literature as a starting point for endless conversations that inspire growth and discovery.
The skills I learned as an educator will now follow me for years to come. We’ve also realized the joy of reading classics and using them as a platform for study. Surely, this program launched us into a great rhythm, especially since we used FIAR in the first years of our homeschool. I just wish I had of learned about it sooner! I would have started earlier with Before Five in a Row and really soaked in every ounce of FIAR I could with our children!
For those looking for some quick pointers, I thought this might be useful… I compiled my own 5 Reasons to use FIAR and 5 Reasons not to use this program…
Five Reasons to definitely USE Five in a Row:
- You love literature and want to spend a lot of time reading with your children and building your family’s love of reading.
- You don’t mind planning your days and organizing materials and activities, even if it takes some time.
- You want a more eclectic, hands-on, Charlotte Mason-ish style homeschool experience.
- You would like your family to learn together (mixing different ages/learning levels).
- You desire for your learning experiences to be fun, memory making times together.
Five Reasons Five in a Row might NOT be for you:
- You want a program that is completely planned out and all provided for you. (IE: “I don’t want to do ANY planning!”)
- You prefer a less literary program.
- You don’t want any ‘messes’.
- You want a grades-based, textbook style program.
- You want your children to work independently.
A couple Five in a Row Links you might like:
- One of the best Mom-blogs featuring Five in a Row studies (Delightful Learning)
- Free Lapbooks, many of which go along with Five in a Row are found at HomeschoolShare.com
- Put Draw Write Now with Five in a Row! There’s are detailed documents that link the two together within the FILES section of the Five in a Row Facebook group. Simply request to join then click on “FILES” to find all kinds of goodies, actually!
- Five in a Row’s website – subscribe and receive access to all the free “Fold&Learn” files for notebooking along with many of the studies
Using Lapbooks and Notebooks with Five in a Row:
We were introduced to the idea of Lapbooks through our experience with FIAR. We have had many enriching learning experiences through the use of various Lapbooks and still use them in our homeschool.
We have also ‘evolved’ into using Interactive Notebooks with Five in a Row and other Literary Studies which we also really enjoy. There is so much benefit to using Notebooking in our homeschool. I have found Notebooking easier than Lapbooking because instead of having a separate book (or folder) for each study, all the studies are placed consecutively into a larger notebook (or sketch book). Much easier for keeping and saving, as well as storage.
There are tons of free Five in a Row themed Lapbooks and Notebooks available. I have found many by doing simple Google searches. There are quite a few on Homeschool Share. There are also new ‘Fold&Learn’ files available right from Five in a Row! These are totally free if you subscribe to the blog and are beautiful print-outs to use along with the FIAR studies.
Lapbooks and Interactive Notebooks are a very effective way to engage children in a Charlotte Mason-style learning process. They use what they know and what they’ve learned to create beautiful, keep-sake worthy notebooks. These are filled with art, narrations, ideas, memories, learning through maps, vocabulary, written narration, etc. Notebooks are a joy that children take pride in creating and showing.
Just a couple photos of our Five in a Row Lapbooking and Notebooking:
|Lapbook for Clown of God.|
|From Volume 2 of FIAR – Ferdinand the Bull!|
|From our FIAR study of The Very Last First Time (we included Northern Canada in the study)|
Some Snapshots from our Five in a Row studies over the past several years:
|Studying the art of Monet with Clown of God and Papa Piccolo.|
|Baking English Scones!|
|Along with our study of Peter Rabbit – a trip to the British Shop!|
|Sketching and copywork from Madeline.|
|Making Gnocci with our study of Papa Piccolo/Clown of God.|
|Visiting a country market (How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World)|
|Studying and experimenting with gravity. (Clown of God)|
|Carving our own “David”… sort of. 😉|
|A trip to the Gelato Bar! Yum!|
|The FIAR Story Disks are part of the program. We place a Story Disk on every country where the books take place. Here, we see the disks for Madeline, Papa Piccolo, and Clown of God from Volume One.|
|Making PIZZA (before we went Vegan…)|
|Learning about color wheels and colors.|
|Enjoying a “Japanese style” dinner for our study of My Father’s Journey from Volume 1.|
|Printing and learning Japanese letters and numbers.|
|Learning about Volcanos for our study of Italy (and also Mexico).|
|Our Story Disk Map for FIAR.|
|More Asian cooking (My Father’s Journey, and Ping).|
|A trip to the Asian Market (The Story about Ping)|
|Making snow forts for our study of The Very Last First Time (Volume 2).|
|Finding animals tracks in the snow.|
|Making Snow Crystals!|
|Learning about and creating our own “Big Dippers” for our study of Follow the Drinking Gourd (Volume 2).|
|Learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for our study of Follow the Drinking Gourd.|
|A trip to a local Black History museum for our study of Follow the Drinking Gourd.|
|Ferdinand the Bull (Volume 2) gave us tons of opportunities for fun activities! Here is a measurement scavenger hunt based on the growth of Ferdinand in the book.|
|Dying carnations. (Ferdinand)|
|Learning about Olives and Spain! (Ferdinand)|
|Cork creations… (Ferdinand)|
|Learning about our sense of SMELL for our study of Ferdinand. (Our kids LOVED this!)|
|Studying Tchaikovsky and Russian Ballet for our study of Another Celebrated Dancing Bear (Volume 1)|
|Making Russian bread. (Another Celebrated Dancing Bear)|
|Learning how to “etch”. (Another Celebrated Dancing Bear)|
|Art history and St. Basil Cathedral in Russia. (Another Celebrated Dancing Bear)|
|Making Inuksuks for our study of The Very Last First Time (Volume 2)|
|Making Igloos! (The Very Last First Time)|
|Playing the “What Makes a Good Title?” game with our study of The Very Last First Time.|