Curriculum Review: Five in a Row

Let me start by saying that I love reading books with the kiddo. With the exception of those nights where I am just so tired that my eyes are crossing, we are reading several books at bedtime. And then with homeschooling, we read a lot of books throughout the day. Throughout any given week, we will read and reread the same dozen or so books. This is probably why when I first read about Five in a Row (FIAR) on the homeschool forums this summer, I took note. The premise is simple – read the same book to your child for five days in a row (I’ve seen this referred to as “rowing” the book…). Each day you read the book, you find the location it takes place on the map and place a story disc – simply a circle with some identifying drawing on it. The curriculum book has several topics for discussion or little projects to use with each reading of the book, covering Social Studies, Language Arts, Art, Math and Science. For a given book, there might be several Social Studies topics listed. There is not a hard and fast rule on how to use FIAR – use all the topics, use only one, whatever. Some people use FIAR as their core curriculum, while others, like us, use it to supplement other studies. That is the beauty – you can use it as you wish.

I really like finding the location of each book on the world map, though. It really introduces the child to other places, and gets them familiar with using maps. We also use a Home disc (we designed our own – there are blank templates included in the appendix), so we find where we are and then where the story is taking place, so it really has more of an impact. It is clear that China (The Story About Ping) and France (Madeline) are across the world, while Ohio (Lentil) is relatively close to home.

Social Studies is the broadest of subjects covered: Geography, Cultures, Human Relationships – its really the catchall subject for FIAR. When I do my weekly planning, I try to pick a couple of topics if possible for the day we do Social Studies. Language Arts usually introduces a couple of new vocabulary, or literary terms that are used in the book. Art may point out the techniques used in the books illustrations, architecture of the time as seen in the illustration, etc. Math might involve counting, fractions, and other concepts along those lines. Science introduces topics such as weather and taste buds. For our age group at home (an almost five-year-old in kindergarten) I use a relaxed approach in how we cover the “lesson” portion. We start with the reading, and then find the particular location on the map (our daughter’s favorite part!). Rather than make a big deal of “now we are starting our lesson on such and such a topic…” I keep my curriculum book open while I read the book for quick reference, and then following the book reading and mapwork, I lead into a discussion with my daughter and cover the day’s topic. I try to plan ahead and have a book that I can show her about any corresponding country – she really enjoyed seeing pictures of Paris landmarks when we read Madeline – many were included in the illustrations so I tried to point out the pictures that went along with the illustrations.

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, we are involved in a small co-op which covers Social Studies and Science. With our other school reading, I realized after the first week that I was not always able to read our FIAR book every day for five days. So in our studies, I give us two weeks to cover our book rather than just one. That is one of the best parts of homeschooling – the flexibility! One thing I love about FIAR is the choice of books. These are classics, and while I am familiar with some of the selections, others are new to me. We are really enjoying our books so far! For us, I would not want to use FIAR as my sole curriculum, I would feel like I was lacking in math and science. Beyond that, though, I think it really is a great choice whether as a supplement or as a core.

Week 8 update

So we are in the middle of week 8 here, and while we have our share of bad days, and some days are definitely more productive than others, I have to say that overall, I am quite happy with our progress. I have had to scale back some of the expectations I had regarding scheduling and how much I thought we could get through in a day, week or our six week sessions. This is why I do my weekly planning sheet in pencil! I think Kyri is quite capable, but with house responsibilities, a 3-month-old baby, and well, the fact that Kyri is a typical almost-5 year old who can’t be expected to put in several hours of academics, I have realized that things are not going to progress at the pace I initially thought. But that’s okay, because we are still ahead of the curve! I forget sometimes that we are doing kindergarten, and we started her a year early at that (she has a late birthday so she wouldn’t start school until next fall if we were going through the school system). We are moving at a slower pace on certain things and really enjoying ourselves. I don’t want to push through material for the sake of covering it. I want her to really enjoy what we are studying and for her have some retention of the material we cover.

Like I said, we have our share of bad days. Some days our schooling just doesn’t get off the ground. I try to hold her attention long enough to bang out the bare minimum and then call it a day. Some days we get through everything and she is really eager to learn more. At first, the bad days were discouraging. But I have realized that this is just a natural occurrence, and that I need to just remain flexible. I salvage what I can of the day and shuffle material over the remainder of the week if possible. The important thing is that she is learning, and that she is ENJOYING learning!

We are involved in a small co-op and we are using Story of the World (SOTW) for our Social Studies. We spent two weeks learning about the Ancient Egyptians, and Kyri was FASCINATED with mummies! We read the same book covering the Egyptians and mummification for two weeks at bedtime. We would discuss the steps and order in which the body is wrapped – I was amazed she remembered all those details!

Reading is such a big part of our school day. We read our Story of the World book, History encyclopedia, corresponding literature suggestions for our weekly History topic, books for our Science studies that we are also doing with our co-op, our Five in a Row literature selection, and a fair amount of reading “just for the fun of it.” She has started to read to me almost daily. She knows a lot of the “easier” words and I help with the tougher ones. READING TO YOUR CHILD MAKES THE DIFFERENCE!

I’ll save more details of what we are learning about for later posts. I’ll close with this thought: home schooling is a lot of work and takes time, hard work and dedication. I did not envision this for our family AT ALL but I am so glad this is where we are. It is very rewarding!