Thursday, May 12, 2011

Five in a Row

After I shared about our most recent school year and some of the resources we used, Allyson said:

"I thought that you had used Before Five in a Row with one of your children. Did you ever continue into Five in a Row? If so, what are your thoughts?"

I love when readers ask me questions and I'm always up for a little curriculum talk so this is right up my alley!

Yes, we did use Before Five in a Row...twice!  I used it the first time when Gavin was four and Maddie was two and the second time when Maddie was four and Owen was two.  Before Five in a Row is recommended for children ages two through four.  Each week, you choose a different book from the book list, in no particular order.  Each of the five days of the week, you read the book aloud and choose from the variety of activities to go along with the selection.  Five in a row is the idea, but sometimes (especially with the second go-round when I was also homeschooling a first grader) we would only have preschool time four or even three days of the week...and that was okay.  Some books were more enjoyable than others, too, and we choose to read those more often.  That was okay, too.  Preschool equals flexibility which equals fun. 

But Allyson asked about Five in a Row (FIAR), which is for older children, ages four through eight.  This was written in the same concept as Before Five in a Row, but the book selections  and the activities are more advanced.  Also because it is meant for grade school children, it covers aspects of social studies, science, art, music,  and math.  We used FIAR when Gavin was in kindergarten, though Maddie read most of the books along with us.  I loved that I could teach him by doing something that we would be doing anyway-- reading story books!  I also loved that since I borrowed the FIAR manual and the books were either already in our collection or borrowed from the library, this was a free or at least very cheap program.  Some of our favorite books were discovered when we meandered through Volume 1 and part of Volume 2 that school year...The Story of Ping, Cranberry Thanksgiving, A Pair of Red Clogs... delightful! 

I expected to continue through the rest of Volume 2 and move on to Volume 3 when Gavin moved into first grade, but we didn't.  You want to know why?  For no other reason than that I grew a little tired of it.  The kids still loved it, but I was ready for something different.  (I also knew Gavin could handle meatier fare and I knew he would enjoy the adventuresome beginnings of our country's history so we moved on from the literature-unit study approach of FIAR to the literature-history approach of TruthQuest For Young Students.)

Though we loved FIAR, there were also a few cons for me.  Number one: though I am an planner and an organizer, when it comes to school, I don't like to feel confined.  I don't make lesson plans because I like to have the freedom to take one day at a time.  With FIAR I felt as though if I skipped a day of reading or skipped a day of activities, I had to make it up and I didn't like that.  I wanted the ability to pick up again tomorrow without feeling like we were behind.  Secondly, I thought some of the activities were too structured and took away from the enjoyment of the great literature. By the time we got done looking at the shading of the artwork or defined a list of words, we sometimes forgot what a great story we had just read!  These things may not be an issue for you at all, but they were a factor for me. 

One activity that we all loved was the story disks.  For each story, there was a coin-sized circle with a tiny picture.  For Madeline, it was the Eiffel Tower.  For The Story of Ferdinand, it was a bull.  After one of the kids colored it in, we discussed where the story had taken place and taped it to that spot on the map. This fostered a love for geography in all of my children.  Even though we've left FIAR far behind, they still ask to tape pictures and faces to our wall map. 

Allyson also asked where she could purchase her own Five in a Row manual.  Rainbow Resource Center currently is the distributor of Five in a Row products.  Each volume is $35, but if you consider that the story books will be free from the library and most of the activities use materials you have at home, it is an affordable curriculum.  Ebay is an excellent source of used manuals, though!  On a quick browse today, I found Volume 1 ranging in price from $4.24 to $22-- a significant savings. 

Remember, I love some good curriculum talk so if you have any questions about this or another program I've used, fill the comments! 


  1. Thank you so much for answering my questions. I've since had a chance to look through manuals for both Before Five in a Row and FIAR. I think I may try BFIAR this coming school year with Emahry (4) and Jonathan (3). I'm hoping to find a used manual soon so I can start gathering books.

    Thanks again!

  2. My darling sister gave me both BFIAR and FIAR (as well as the Bible story guide thing that I can't think of the name of) to use this year. I plan to start with BFIAR since E won't quite be 5 yet when we start school (and I'm trying to keep things simple at first since we'll have a newborn) and then move into FIAR as the year progresses. Thanks for sharing your opinions of the curriculum!

    And on the curriculum topic...have you ever used Math U See? I plan to use it for E (primer level) and would love to hear your thoughts if you've used it.


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