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.

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