Monday, March 2, 2009

Five in A Row--Volume 3

I adore summer time. I love the ease of life, warm temperatures, and relaxed attitude everyone seems to share. When I was young I spent most of my summer days absorbed in a good book. To this day, in my mind, summer always equates with long, lazy days filled with endless reading adventures and imagination.

As I first considered home education I had romantic ideas of what it would look like. I imagined it allowing my family to keep the spirit of summer year round. I wanted my children’s childhood memories to be of long, lazy days filled with endless reading adventures and imagination.

I first laid eyes on Five in Row, 9 years ago and knew I had found a kindred spirit in author Jane Claire Lambert. According to Lambert, Five in a Row studies were “created to nurture, teach and inspire young learners. Each story is chosen to delight your children and continue to build the special intimacy that comes from learning together and sharing good books. Snuggle close and enjoy a great story as you keep on making memories for a lifetime”. Sigh…. Can you not feel the summer breezes?

Five in a Row is a perfect way to introduce quality children’s literature to young students. The premise of the curriculum is simple, but very rewarding. Parents and children choose a classic children’s story to read five days in a row. After reading the story aloud, time is spent exploring different academic areas through various activities that link back to the literature read. The joy of Five in a Row stems from its flexibility and ease of use.

Five in a Row offers curriculum for children aged 2-12 and older. Each volume of the curriculum retails for about $24.95, making it an extremely affordable resource. Before Five in a Row contains 23 mini-units for children aged 2-4. Five in Row, designed for students aged 5-8, is available in three volumes. Beyond Five in a Row, making use of chapter books, is written for children aged 8-12 and Above and Beyond Five in a Row offers the same high quality literature based learning experience for students 12 and older. In addition, Five in a Row Digital offers a multitude of products designed to accompany the three volume Five in a Row studies for 5-8 year olds. Samples, full product descriptions, a FIAR message board as well as helpful articles regarding home education are all available on the Five in A Row website, at

My first grade daughter Sierra and I happily tested Volume 3, the newest edition to the Five in a Row curriculum for 5-8 year olds. After reading through the brief yet informative 12 page introduction/teacher’s notes, Sierra and I chose to start with the third title listed in the curriculum The Wild Horses of Sweetbriar by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock. I intended to spend five full days with this book, but due to Sierra's enthusiastic interest in the subject matter we completed all of the activities in just three days spending between 45 mins.- one hour each day.

Day 1 we read the picture book and completed two social studies activities by discussing the realities of living on an island in isolation and learning a brief history of Assateague and Chincoteague islands off the coast of Virginia and their connection to wild horses. In addition, Sierra spent time coloring a small circle disk, provided as part of the 114+ page text of the curriculum, and placed it on a large map of the United States we had in our home. This activity introduced U.S. Geography to Sierra and allowed her to identify a location for this delightful work of historical fiction.

Day 2 began with another read of the book followed up with a language arts activity; discussion of similes and identifying those present in the text of the book. We finished day 2 with a discussion of triangular element of design looking at one of the books illustrations to identify it. Next, Sierra was asked to draw a picture making use of this design concept. She eagerly drew horses running on a beach with a hill behind them and a little tree at the top of the hill. I noted she really understood the design concept and worked very hard to copy it in her artwork.

Day 3 of our adventure began with a final reading of the story. Following the story, we completed a math activity; counting by 10’s since there had been 10 horses on the island. Next we dove into some science activities. We read the curriculum’s description of the terms flora and fauna and identified the various species of each in the books illustrations. I chose to have Sierra copy the words Flora and Fauna onto index cards and then illustrate them to help her remember their meaning. In addition, we spent time discussing the concepts of "weathering" and "erosion". I was amazed that Sierra, when asked a very specific question in regards to the story and the concept of erosion, remembered the exact words spoken by the father in the story. His words explained why the island was now separated from the main land which was evidence of the realities of eroison. Sierra's recollection demonstrated an important aspect of reading a story five days in a row, or in our case three. Repitition breeds familiarity with a story and words allowing children to truly absorb information and learn from the lessons it teaches.

When asked her opinion of Five in a Row Sierra said, “I liked it. I like how we can learn about the stories and put the story on the map. I liked the activities a lot. I liked the activity where I drew a picture of the island.” (Art: Line of Design, pg. 28)

As I was jotting down her thoughts Sierra suddenly came to life and began saying, “I can’t believe we are really near Virginia where the wild horses live! It’s all I can think about! I hope we can go there some day.”

I loved that! My seven year old daughter remembered her Day 1 geography lesson even though it simply consisted of a brief discussion and placing her story disk on a map. During our discussion we naturally found our state and noted how far away it was from the wild horses of Chincoteague. Her expression of interest over what she learned occurred a week after the initial lesson. Gentle instruction surrounded by a delightful children’s story spoke to Sierra and helped create in her a sense of wonder and excitement over what she learned. That is Five in a Row!

No comments: