When it comes to how books have influenced our life I cannot go pass the idea that Five in a Row (FIAR) has influenced our learning style, which influenced our homeschool years.
We were in our second year of homeschooling when I came across Five in a Row. I immediately connected with it. I liked that it was discussion based, that it gave room for hands on activities, but most of all I loved the picture books themselves.
So what is Five in a Row (FIAR)?
Five in a Row is a literature based unit study curriculum for ages 5-8 though we used it successfully for a few years beyond that. The idea is that you take one really good picture book (they have 70 to choose from in their lesson planning manuals); you read it to your children and from the story there will be things to learn. Five in a Row comes from the idea that you read the same story five days in a row – talking about different topics each day after you have read the story.
Initially it seems a bit tedious – reading one book five days in a row – seriously! But as we got into the groove of doing this the kids started to dig deeper into the story and into the illustrations. They would notice things they missed the first time, they would make connections that went beyond the story that they heard that first day.
After we read the story I would be guided by the Lesson Manual and we would do one general knowledge lesson. It would be Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, Art, or Math. To be honest we only did Math in the early years and then we would replace that Math day with Bible or Australian studies. As a curriculum goes, it is a complete general knowledge curriculum –you need to add a learning to read programme on the side if your children are ready to read. Most families also add a math curriculum.
I appreciated FIAR because it blended well with some of the Charlotte Mason and Ruth Beechick ideas I wanted to use. Particularly, short lessons, oral narrations, copywork and learning study skills as you were learning. I also liked that we could learn together as a family and that most of the lessons were based on conversations about the world. As a busy mum, I appreciated that I could do FIAR on days when I had put in very little prep, or it expanded for the days that we had more time – and both days gave my kids learning experiences.
The influence of FIAR
After we read the story, we would talk about the story and the lesson, we would often dig deeper using library books, and later years the internet. This soon became the pattern for our learning: We would read, ask questions and discuss, then we would research and write or do something with our knowledge.
Though we moved in from FIAR (reluctantly) the kids continued to learn through story throughout their highschool years.
Five in a Row gave us:
A love of story –
FIAR have very carefully chosen great picture books; books that tell good stories, stories that capture the imagination, stories that expand the children’s world, stories that engage their thinking.
An ability to learn from story –
FIAR showed us how to take notice of the story – the details the author and illustrator so carefully put in, layer upon layer. But because our mind and imagination were engaged we could ask questions that would take us beyond the story itself.
A love of picture books –
We have decided in our family that you are never too old for a picture book. Picture books open our eyes to the world – I still buy picture books!
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Even today, our kids talk about learning from story. They continue to ask questions and talk about what they have read (or watched in a movie). They continue to look for answers and though they are no longer lapbooking, they take notes so they can remember what is important for their context. Thank you to Five in a Row and the power of a great picture book!
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