Monday, March 2, 2009

Five in a Row

I’m just going to say it right up front. This review is not going to be unbiased. I love Five in a Row and have been using it for years and I think you, whoever you are or whatever age your students are, should go out and buy it. Now.

When my boys were little we used another well known literature based curriculum. I was a first time homeschooler and thought in order to have a successful day we had to check off every box. My poor boys.

I was a little more laid back when it came time to homeschool the girls, and we did not check off every box anymore. But I felt guilty for not getting it all done.
I had a friend tell me about Five in a Row (FIAR) when the boys were younger so when I saw a copy of Volume 1 at a homeschool convention I picked it up and glanced at it. I am sad to say my reaction was “eh, nothing special. Just a bunch of writing to the teacher. How do I translate this into a school day? Where are the little boxes for me to check off?”

When it was time to school the girls I ran into Jane and Steve Lambert at the homeschool convention and had the opportunity to ask them. How does this work. How do I take this seemingly innocuous little teachers book and translate it into a school day?

What I heard changed the way we homeschool. FIAR is not a check-off-the-boxes kind of curriculum. It is relational. It is gentle.

I started with Volume 1 book 1, which was Ping. (It’s hard to break from doing things in order!) I still remember that week fondly. (Actually we did Ping for two weeks because we were having so much fun!) We read the book 3 times that week (you’re supposed to read it 5 times and we did work up to that eventually). We used sentences from the book for copywork which is a combination of handwriting practice and language arts practice. We read about China in age appropriate library books. We found China on a map. We learned why the Yangtze River is yellow. We talked about lying and how it’s always better to fess up and face the consequences. We learned all about the anatomy of ducks. We went to a duck pond and fed the ducks.

I still cannot believe how simply I was able to teach my then 4 and 5 year old daughters so very much with just one book, a little planning using the FIAR guide and a lot of conversation.

I know I’ve gone on and on about how much we loved FIAR and we did. But I was actually sent Beyond Five in a Row Volume 2 to review for you. BYFIAR is very much like FIAR, except if it is for, say it with me now…students who are beyond Five in a Row! It is the same concept, the same gentle, conversational teaching approach only with more age appropriate chapter books.

There are 4 chapter books in each volume of BYFIAR; two fiction and two nonfiction. In Vol 2 covers the books Sarah Plain and Tall and Skylark and The Story of George Washington Carver and Helen Keller. The beauty of BYFIAR is its flexibility. Some weeks you’ll get nearly a chapter a day done, including reading the chapter and doing the various activities from the manual. Other weeks there will be so many wonderful opportunities for further research and learning that you will spend a week on one chapter.

Honestly I could go on for pages regaling you with the benefits of using FIAR in your homeschool but I think I’ll stop there.

If you are at all interested in FIAR, I highly recommend you go the the website and the forums. Register at the forums and you will be able to see the archives were other FIAR moms have given their ideas and suggestions for each book.

Here are the things currently offered by FIAR. At this time, even though we on the forums have nagged incessantly, there is no high school program from the Lamberts.

The following links tell you about more about each product. You can go here to purchase.

Before Five in a Row – Preschool

Five in a Row Volumes 1-4 ages 4 to 8.

Beyond Five in a Row volumes 1-3 ages 8 to 12.

Above and Beyond FIAR ages 12 and up.

Digital Produces – Lapbooks corresponding with the books and various nature studies and whatnot.

Happy Homeschooling!

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