Monday, May 18, 2015

Why I Love Five in a Row

What is Five in a Row?
The concept of Five in a Row is so simple, yet brilliant.  Five in a Row is a a unit study curriculum written by Jane Claire Lambert that utilizes quality children's picture books.  You read the book aloud five days in a row, and each day you use the story to explore concepts in language arts, science, social studies, art and applied mathematics.  If you're using Five in a Row for preschool, you need nothing else.  If you're using it for early elementary school, you just need to add in mathematics, reading/phonics, and handwriting.  Older students may need grammar.  Oh, and you might want the Five in a Row cookbook if you like to work food into your studies!  Other than that, Five in a Row is everything you need for a delightful learning experience.

Why did I choose Five in a Row?
When I knew I was going to homeschool, I started researching.  I researched educational philosophies and styles and curriculum for a long time.  I kept coming back to a literature-based approach.  Using real books to teach?  Yes please!  I looked at Five in a Row, and I went back and forth, but decided not to buy it at the time.  Not until child two wanted to start Kindergarten did I get serious about finding a new curriculum that could work for both boys.

I chose Five in a Row for several reasons, and they are all reasons that I love it.

It promotes family learning.
Because of the nature of the program, I felt like Five in a Row would allow the boys to work together, even if at their own level.  I like that we can learn together most of the day, rather than be separated by age or an arbitrary grade level.  I've been rowing with a young Kindergartner and a Second grader, and lately even the 2 year old has been joining us too.  Five in a Row has something to offer for all of them, despite their age and skill difference.  Aside from that, it's about reading good books together.  The time cuddling and enjoying good literature is priceless.

It promotes rich literature.
The first thing I noticed was that all of the book choices, or at least the ones I recognized, were quality books.  I was actually using the book list as a general guide even before we started officially rowing.  As we started reading more of the books, I was continually impressed.  Some of the books are simpler, but all of them are living books.  They are beautiful picture books that my children have enjoyed.  Since I've always been drawn to a literature-based approach to educating the kids, the use of quality books was very important to me, and that is why Five in a Row was on my short list.

The lessons are rich and varied.
We've explored geography, world cultures, measurements, story setting, cooking, life cycles, silhouettes, holidays, the animal kingdom, families, weather, homophones, community, personification, cardinal directions, patterns, writing letters, birds, immigrants, origami, positive character traits, and so much more.  That's the tip of the iceberg, because we still have so many books to row!  The beauty of Five in a Row is that I can go as deep into a topic as we want.  Sometimes we use the lessons for exposure, sometimes for review, and sometimes we really dig in and explore it thoroughly, or follow rabbit trails into new topics.  No, it does not follow a typical course of study or scope and sequence, but Five in a Row offers a buffet of lessons, and we get to choose a platter to satiate our curiosity.  By the end, we will have a diverse and well-rounded foundation on which to build a deeper understanding of the world around us.

The flexibility works well with our homeschool style.
We are very delight-directed.  I'm not a Type A personality.  I don't need detailed lesson plans and check boxes.  I just need a general guide.  Five in a Row is laid out perfectly for someone like me.  We get to choose the order of the books we row.  I choose books based on their interests, or the season, and we go from there.  Then within each unit, I choose the lessons that meet our current needs.  Also, because each unit is short, we can pause the curriculum to follow a rabbit trail or study something else, and pick back up without feeling "behind," because it's not scheduled out to follow a traditional school year start-finish calendar.  Plus the nature of the unit studies also allows us to take a break when we're doing a review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew that needs more attention.  There's really no wrong way to use this curriculum.

The kids love it, and they are learning from it.
"What book are we doing next for Five in a Row?"  I find them perusing the books on the Five in a Row shelf talking about previous rows, and asking questions about new books.  "Can we learn about {insert topic of interest} next in Five in a Row?"  They want to use Five in a Row to follow their interests.  They make connections to books we've rowed to something new they've discovered.

Enthusiasm.  Interest.  A love of learning.  That's why I love Five in a Row.

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  1. I love Five in a Row. We used the Before Five in a Row, and I used a year of the regular program with my younger girls. It's a great way to have a literature based curriculum.

    1. I have Before Five in a Row waiting for my two littlest ones!

  2. I know this post is old, bug I just found it! I have been wanting to try FIAR for my three youngest. Still debating...

    1. I really love it! My oldest is asking for something different, but my 6 year old still enjoys I'm deciding if I should split them up, or work it alongside something different whenever it lines up.